May 2018 was arguably the most boring month of the year for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Having been eliminated from the playoffs on April 25 by the Houston Rockets, the only May “highlights” for the franchise involved rumors of a Hulk-like computer smash at Mayo Clinic Square (never proven by the way), a declined player option, and another irresponsible, unproven hot take centering around the team’s franchise center being available on the trade market. With that list of “news” being the only Wolves-related items to really surface over the last month, one could understand how the #kahntent surrounding this team could be dry.
But fear not! The arrival of June brings new life not only to Canis Hoopus but also the NBA in general, with the official start of summer (Thursday, June 21) signaling the unofficial start of what some think is the best part of the NBA — the offseason. The summer months in the NBA blend a beautiful combination of mock drafts, “sources say” rumors, and full-blown #NBATwitter chaos, turning a simple game played on the hardwood into a fantasy player’s wet dreams.
With that said, let’s take a quick look at some of the major upcoming events that will directly impact the Wolves:
While the temperature outside 600 Hennepin Avenue continues to rise, so too does the temperature within Wolves HQ, as the front office feverishly continues to scout and research potential players for the upcoming draft. Currently slotted to pick 20th overall, the Wolves have interviewed and/or worked out close to 40 players, including well-known names like Donte DiVincenzo, Grayson Allen, Gary Trent Jr., Wendell Carter Jr., and Joel Berry. Additional names that have been linked to the Wolves lately via mock drafts include PF Keita Bates-Diop (ESPN), SF Jacob Evans (The Ringer), and G Kevin Huerter (Bleacher Report).
The key theme here, as it is for almost every NBA franchise in today’s modern era, is finding two-way players who can shoot and defend. As it currently stands, with Jamal Crawford likely opting out of his 2018-2019 player option, the Wolves have zero, yes ZERO, backup wing players behind the starting tandem of Andrew Wiggins and Jimmy Butler. Unless Ronnie 2K discovers a way to turn off real-life fatigue, that roster construction seems far less than ideal, but it is only June 6 and a LOT can (and will) happen over the next few months.
In addition to the NBA Draft, the next major item on everyone’s calendar is free agency, which technically (wink wink) starts on July 1. While the Wolves currently possess multiple holes along their bench, they do figure to be one of a handful of teams to enter the 2018-2019 season with the same starting five as the previous season. That type of consistency and stability is something not seen around these parts in a long time.
On the other hand, with Andrew Wiggins about to embark on his 5-year/$146.5 million dollar extension and the possibility of extending both Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns, money in Minneapolis is becoming extremely tight. Add in the RFA status of Nemanja Bjelica and the (gulp) likelihood of re-signing Derrick Rose, and that already tight financial situation starts gasping for air. Depending on how the Wolves approach free agency will say a LOT about not only this upcoming season but also the future of the front office/coaching staff, but let’s shelve that discussion for another day.
While I am the furthest thing from a Larry Coon impersonator, all accounts suggest the Wolves will enter July with the full Mid-Level Exception, giving them the opportunity to be relatively active players in the upcoming free agency frenzy. This means popular names like Wayne Ellington, Will Barton, Tyreke Evans, and Avery Bradley are going to be popping up a lot over the next few weeks as the Wolves navigate the free agent waters.
As stated in the CBA, the “trade deadline” for all teams technically ends once a team’s season has ended, meaning teams like the Wolves are free to trade players right now. While activity like this is rarely seen in May, conversations do tend to heat up as the NBA Draft approaches.
Just think about it. At this time last year, Jimmy Butler was a Bull, Paul George was a Pacer, Kyrie Irving was a Cavalier, Carmelo Anthony was a Knick, Ricky Rubio was a Wolf, and Josh McRoberts was a Heat. Add in yet another stint of free agency for LeBron James, and the 2018 summer already possesses much of the necessary ammunition needed to outdo last summer’s anarchy.
For the Wolves, offseason trades could come in all shapes and sizes. Can the Wolves find a taker for Gorgui Dieng, allowing them a little more financial breathing room? If so, would that mean parting ways with their 2018 1st round pick (or their 2019 1st round pick)? Is Tom Thibodeau (and/or Glen Taylor) really ready to give up on 23-year-old Andrew Wiggins? If Derrick Rose is re-signed, does that signal the end for hometown hero Tyus Jones?
Those trade ideas, parlayed with the activity of the NBA Draft and NBA Free Agency, breathe much-needed new life into what has been a stagnant (and at times embarrassing) offseason thus far for the Timberwolves. As the franchise enters their third official year of the Thibodeau era, it will be fascinating to see how the front office builds upon their most successful season in over a decade.
It’s the calm before the proverbial storm… who’s ready?
(Hopefully not Derrick Rose).