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Wolves Wednesday: Calm Before the Storm

We’re officially one week away from all chaos breaking loose in the NBA. What role will the Wolves play in the summer insanity?

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

As the clock ticked down last Friday night in Cleveland, Ohio, the latest chapter of the NBA Finals was officially written, providing fans with one new answer while simultaneously breathing life into a slough of highly anticipated, heavily debated new questions. Yes, the Golden State Warriors solidified themselves as this era’s dynasty, clinching their third championship in four years and giving Nick “Swaggy Champ” Young more rings than Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, and Allen Iverson...combined.

But the Warriors’ latest accomplishment on the court simultaneously kicked off what will be another fascinating summer off it. With potential player movement expected to mirror that of the frenzied 2017 offseason (where players like Paul George, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving, and Chris Paul saw changes to their mailing addresses), the NBA is set up yet again to produce more story lines in June through August then September through May.

Whether or not that’s a good thing for the league is still up for discussion, but nevertheless it provides fans with a beautiful blend of kahntent, #WojBombs, and video game-like transactions that keeps the league in the front of our minds despite the arenas being empty.

As for the Wolves, they may not be able to top their activity from last offseason (a summer that saw over half the roster get overturned, including three new starters), but the franchise still faces a plethora of questions that will re-shape their fortunes (and roster) entering the 2018-2019 season. While the NBA universe waits for the LeBron news to break (no pun intended), let’s focus on another significant transaction decision that could have serious ramifications:

Cole ‘Em or Fold ‘Em

For most teams in the NBA, the first major date on their offseason calendar is Thursday, June 21st - the NBA Draft. However, for the Wolves, their calendar includes a significant date exactly one week from today (Wednesday, June 20th) - the deadline for the team to decide on the future of Cole Aldrich.

The Burnsville, Minnesota native has one-year and $6.9 million remaining on his contract; however, only roughly $2 million of that contract is guaranteed, meaning that the Wolves can save almost $5 million in cap space if they waive (or trade) Aldrich on or before June 20th. If not, his contract becomes fully guaranteed for the final year on June 21st.

Considering how financially strapped the Wolves are going forward (and that’s before we discuss possible extensions for Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns), freeing up roughly $5 million in cap space is a significant deal. Do the Wolves want to fully guarantee Aldrich’s contract? Absolutely not, but finding a trade partner in the next seven days may be extremely difficult, even if the asking price for the former Kansas Jayhawk is simply a second round pick.

Rough Drafts

As for next Thursday, the Wolves continue to perform due diligence in regards to draft prospects, including Jacob Evans (Cincinnati), De’Anthony Melton (USC), and Zach Lofton (New Mexico State). Both Evans and Melton are intriguing and present the opportunity to add a combination of youth and shooting/defense to a roster that lacks plenty of those things on the back end.

Narrowing in on who exactly the Wolves are interested in (if they do indeed keep their pick) has been nearly impossible, as the team continues to work out prospects privately and very little info is leaked to the public. Providing a little access to these workouts would be a nice, strategic maneuver to build up some much-needed rapport with the media and the fanbase, but I also understand the desire to run a tight (and private) ship, especially if the Wolves do find their own version of Donovan Mitchell.

Regardless, the Wolves possess a valuable asset for next Thursday that could help bolster a bench that as of now looks extremely depleted heading into next season. While the draft isn’t necessarily star heavy at the top, it does possess a laundry list of intriguing players that seem to fit the mold for where the NBA is going (specifically wing players who can shoot and defend multiple positions).

Since taking over as pack leader, Tom Thibodeau has injected plenty of Wolves-related drama into the NBA Draft, and this year looks to be no different. Stay tuned!

Minimum Qualifications

Speaking of players looking for work, the Wolves also held a free agent camp over the weekend, according to Darren Wolfson:

While none of those names move the needle in one direction or the other, guys like Thompson and Wright have flashed just enough shooting and defensive ability to stick in the league for 5+ seasons.

With the Wolves likely to have multiple roster spots to fill going into next season, finding players willing to accept the minimum will be hugely important. However, if the Wolves roster was a Thanksgiving meal, the priority should/will be finding side dishes to pair with the main course, rather than loading up on dinner rolls and side salads (like the players listed above).

Summers in Session

While the Wolves front office continues to work feverishly to unearth supporting talent to pair with their foundational pieces, one of the team’s core players continues to live his best life during the offseason.

As he continues to recover from the knee injury that dogged him during the end of the regular season and throughout the playoffs, Jimmy Butler appears to be working hard...

the grind don’t stop.

A post shared by Jimmy Butler (@jimmybutler) on

...and playing hard:

Working out and catching up with old friends can be time-consuming (by the way Carmelo Anthony is totally rocking the “34 going on 45” look in the picture above), but Jimmy appears to have also carved out just enough time to travel and find true love:

No word yet on whether or not #Invisibae will be making regular appearances to the Target Center this upcoming season, but then again one could argue she’s been there the whole time.

After a slow month of May and fairly uneventful NBA playoffs, the 2018 offseason is just days away from providing another unhealthy dose of all-out chaos. Buckle up in your gondola, folks!