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Offseason Thoughts: Team Sales

What the recent news of NBA ownership changes could mean for the Timberwolves

NBA: Washington Wizards at Minnesota Timberwolves Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

About a week ago, the NBA community was (relatively) shocked when this happened.

The market for NBA franchises continues to climb, as it was only in 2014 when Steve Ballmer purchased the Los Angeles Clippers for 2 billion dollars.

Tilman Fertitta had actually tried to previously purchase the franchise in 1994 for 81 million, but came up 4 million short. Fertitta was finally successful in this venture, albeit at a much much higher price than he would have paid way back in the 1990s.

As the TV deal skyrocketed salary figures across the NBA, so did the value of the NBA franchises themselves. As of now, everyone wants in on a piece of the action, even though the whole TV deal might be floating on some suspicious evidence that may become problematic as streaming services becomes a more viable form of watching sports.

However, there is an interesting wrinkle out there in the NBA ownership world that is rather familiar to us Timberwolves fans, which is Steve Kaplan and the saga with the Memphis Grizzlies. You can read The Ringer’s piece here, which details the events nicely, but the bare bones are that Robert Pera, the Memphis Grizzlies owner, is faced with a choice, either buy out Steve Kaplan and another minority owner and Daniel Straus, or sell his controlling interest of the team to them.

So there are two ways this can go, one of which could be quite interesting. If Pera buys out Kaplan, that could give him the working capital to be able to try to buy his way onto another team. Kaplan, as detailed in the article from The Ringer, was actually very close to becoming the owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves just two years ago.

Essentially what happened is that Pera would not let Kaplan out of his stake of the Grizzlies, meaning that he did not have the funds to be able to buy a minority stake, which would later become an ownership stake, of the Wolves. Kaplan had to walk away from the deal, Glen Taylor decided that he was not interested in selling the team anymore, and here we are today.

But if Kaplan gets bought out, the Wolves are not necessarily expensive right now. Per Forbes’ evaluation, the Wolves are worth approximately $770 million dollars. Forbes valued the Rockets at 1.65 billion, so these valuations are likely less than the sticker price, but it’s conceivable that the Wolves could be had if Taylor was open to someone coming on board.

Now it’s likely that Taylor has going to stick around for the Tom Thibodeau experience. However, the machinations of a team sale can grind slowly, especially with someone like Taylor who previously requested a sort of “shadowing” process of about a year or so before the team ownership was officially transferred over.

If Kaplan is bought out of the Grizzlies, it is entirely possible that we could see Glen Taylor revisiting his same thought-processes, perhaps with someone shadowing Taylor for a year or so and then taking over in year four or five of Thibodeau’s contract with the Wolves.

If the NBA is plausibly living in a bubble of team sales, then Glen Taylor might realize this could be the time to cash out. Of course, he might just want to see if he can get a championship or two first.