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Canis Hoopus Slackchat: Spending the Max?

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A pretty raw transcript of one of our slack conversations.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Toronto Raptors John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

In the transcript below, Canis Hoopus writers Dane Moore, John Meyer, Josh Clement, Eric in Madison, Drew Mahowald, and Tony Porter debate the idea about pursuing max-level players in free agency and what that means for the future of the Timberwolves. The following conversation has been lightly edited. This conversation was unprompted and organic (i.e. that is why it doesn’t follow trains of thought nicely).

Dane Moore: WARNING: I’m about to go down a Paul Millsap/Kyle Lowry rabbit hole and going to regurgitate it all here.

Option A: Say Millsap/Lowry would sign for contract starting at $28 million, the Wolves would only need to move Cole Aldrich and Nemanja Bjelica.

John Meyer: But how is the $$ going to work out long-term? I don't see how they can have four max (or almost max) players two years from now.

Dane: They would then only have the room exception (2 years with $8.6 million to spend on the bench). Option B: Sign-and trade for Millsap/Lowry at same figure.

Eric in Madison: Wolves don't have much of interest in S&Ts.

Dane: Wolves would need to send out about $22 mil in sign-and-trade. Rubio/Dieng + Aldrich. This is why this is good. Wolves then operate above the cap and have the full MLE. That's a real nice bench piece. ALSO…

Tony Porter: We got Daryl Morley over here ^

John: Maybe I'm wrong here but I don't see Glen Taylor paying the luxury tax for multiple years down the road.

Dane: The Wolves would have the Bi-annual exception to dole out. 2-years, $6.6 million.

Eric: I believe that would all have to happen today or tomorrow to get them operating over the cap.

Dane: Can't happen until July 1 with Gorgui Dieng as he is not considered at $14 million player until Saturday. I think that's a big reason nothing has happened, or at least slows things down.

Eric: Right, good point, so I don't actually think it's possible.

Dane: My more existential question assuming Lowry/Millsap are happening: "Is Ricky or Gorgui more valuable than operating as a cap team to be able to use MLE and BAE?”

To Eric's point, that's why Ricky's name has been bantered about more than Gorgui’s (also for other reasons). But Ricky in conjunction with Cole are the only ways to get that Max space (or sign and trade match) prior to July 1.

John: So the wolves are going have four Max deals? I just can't get past the unlikelihood of that. There would be very little flexibility for years.

Dane: Not true.

Josh Clement: I think the four Max players is more feasible if the Wolves would have their draft pick next year. That has really turned into a killer.

John: So the MLE and BAE are fine and all, and would give them options, but they would probably be stuck with those four no? What happens if the team peaks and can't ever get over the hump? I don’t know.

Dane: Even if you give all players $30 million per (actually impossible for Wiggins and KAT), that's $120 million, which is the cap in 2020. The luxury tax doesn't start until $140 million that year. So that’s $20 million more to use on other current players who are on the team or have been acquired. 2020 would be comparable to what the warriors have going on now.

John: Meh. I don't want to deal with awful contracts in two or three years when Towns and Wiggins are hitting their primes, to be honest. Just my opinion though.

Josh: If we have what is, theoretically, a bad Kyle Lowry at like $37 million a year a few years from now, there is absolutely no recourse for that decision. You just have to eat it.

Dane: You couldn't move it attached to the 2020 first? Similar to what the Lakers did with Timofey Mozgov or will do with Luol Deng? It's not ideal, but Lowry is still a very high caliber player, as is Millsap. Mozgov or Deng or Ian Mahinmi are not.

Josh: Hmm ... so my question then would be, and I have no idea what the answer is, do more teams have more free space to absorb these contracts right now than normal (due to the cap spike)? Will there be teams a few years from now that can absorb contracts of that size?

Dane: I just don't think Millsap or Lowry are worth $0 in 2020. Maybe not worth $35 million, but probably worth $15M. So $20M of negative value. That's a good point. Buy-out market a la Melo is another worst case example.

John: That's terrible asset management ... to dump picks just to get rid of bad contracts when they inevitably regress and aren't worth them. Anyways, I don’t think Lowry will age that well (not for the money we’re talking about) and Millsap will probably fall off a cliff on the back end of his deal. I'm thinking 2-3 years from now and signing them is paying for past production, not future. They are great players now but regression is in the distance and if the Wolves want to play that game than fine, but there's tons of risk involved and quite frankly the odds of us winning an NBA championship in the next two years are so tiny that it doesn't seem like the right path. Our timeline is not ready for those players imo. Yes, they would be amazing in the short term. I get the interest. But I'm sure we would be in for a rude awakening in 2020 when they aren't true game-changers any longer.

Josh: Just checked this out, but Mozgov was $17 million. So let's say we get Lowry at a max contract and three years later he is hurting the team at $37 million per year. Due to the plethora of young point guards, as well as all of the current greats who will be in that 30-31 year age range, who is going to take $35 million dollar Kyle Lowry? That cost would be enormous. I kinda think I agree with John, as much as I want Millsap. But, of course, this is probably the only time the Wolves can do this, as once Wiggins gets extended the cap space is gone.

John: It quickly becomes one of the most toxic contracts in the league and I personally guarantee Wolves fans would be complaining about how stupid it was three years from now.

Eric: Meyer has a fair point. I go back and forth. I think the "right" thing to do is not pay for the Lowry/Millsap guys. Problem is that I also still think they need more talent, and going after, I dunno, C.J. Miles, which I advocate, is probably not enough. It's the way the NBA is. Which, frankly, is one of the reasons I'm open to a Wiggins trade. You have to take some risks. Is the better risk spending all your discretionary space on Lowry, or is it trading Wiggins for a haul of good players and picks that will keep the talent flowing? I suspect they do neither, which is fine, and I'm not a championship or bust kind of fan, but that probably leaves you somewhat short.

Dane: I don't think there is value on any 4-year deal available. There may be the most negative value on a Millsap/Lowry deal, but they are also they best free agents. At some point, negative value is part of the cost of doing business in the FA market.

Josh: So, to Dane's point, is the potential negative value of a bad contract less "bad" than taking on players who really don't move the needle but rather just fill in the gaps. Or, do you just assume that KAT and Wiggins are enough and you find the role players around that.

Drew Mahowald: FWIW, I’m of the mindset that being patient and waiting for GSW's reign of terror to end is the best way to go about this. Jimmy Butler creates that winning culture and KAT/Wiggins will be reaching their prime as GSW starts to decline. Handing out extra max contracts now could cause issues when GSW actually does start to decline and that window opens. I'm not gonna act like some cap management expert but that's my mindset here.

Dane: I want to mention this was a free-flowing hypothetical conversation that does not, in fact, imply we hate each other.

Eric: Eff Golden State. Make the best decisions for your short and long term future.

Dane: I think that convo took a different direction than I was initially intending. I was defending the Lowry/Millsap deals while y'all were pointing out the (very real) holes in either deal (especially at the max).

What my initial question was implying was that either Millsap/Lowry are, in fact, going to be signed. It sounds like many of you think that is a long (and stupid) shot. Which is fair. But, it certainly could be real very soon. Again, the presumption I was making was both are willing to sign for 4 years, starting at $28 million.

Option A: Lowry signs as UFA. Wolves move Aldrich and Bjelica to create space.

Roster becomes:

Lowry
Wiggins
Butler
Dieng
Towns
Rubio (Likely just an asset to be moved for different pieces)
Jones
Patton
Room Exception (2 year contract, 4.3 annually)
3 or 4 Min. Contracts

Option B: Sign-and-trade for Lowry. Only Rubio out in S+T

Roster becomes:

Lowry
Wiggins
Butler
Dieng
Towns
Jones
Patton
Aldrich
Bjelica
Mid-level Exception (4 year contract, (up to) 8.3 annually), and can be split amongst numerous signings)
Bi-Annual Exception (2 year contract, 3.3 annually)
1 or 2 Min. Contracts

Option C: Millsap signs as UFA. Wolves move Aldrich and Bjelica to create space.

Rubio
Wiggins
Butler
Millsap
Towns
Dieng
Jones
Patton
Room Exception (2 year contract, 4.3 annually)
3 or 4 Min. Contracts

Option D: Sign-and-trade for Millsap. Rubio & Aldrice out in S+T.

Jones
Wiggins
Butler
Millsap
Towns
Dieng
Patton
Bjelica

Mid-level Exception (4 year contract, up to 8.3 annually), and can be split among multiple signings
Bi-Annual Exception (2 year contract, 3.3 annually)
1 or 2 Min. Contracts

*the last option is option D, switched to this emoji >>> :anguished: