It’s officially free agency season. Before the moratorium has even begun, rumors have been swirling around the Minnesota Timberwolves organization. D’Angelo Russell is set to meet with the team as soon as the gates open and Andrew Wiggins, Jeff Teague, and Gorgui Dieng have been involved in trade speculation.
How the craziness unfolds remains to be seen, but it is clear there are going to be some new faces around the Mayo Clinic over the next few weeks. However, with the refreshed front office intent on making moves, it won’t just be the big moves that are settled. There will be a few around the margins, too.
One of the best ways to move the needle without a ton of cap space comes by using the Mid-Level Exception (MLE). The MLE is essentially a present handed to teams by the league, which varies depending on the league salary cap number and whether a specific team is over or under the luxury tax apron. This season it is predicted to be around $9.2 million and can be either split and used on multiple guys, or completely dedicated to a single player.
Position: Power Forward/Small Forward
Previous Contract: 1-Year, $4.3 Million
Traditional Stats: 17.7 MPG, 5.8 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 0.8 APG, 40% FG, 39.9% 3PT
Advanced Stats: 52.8% TS, 108.2 ORTNG, 106.4 DRTNG, +1.8 NETRTNG, .053 WS/48, -0.2 VORP
Analysis and Fit
Unlike some of the other targets in the MLE range, Mike Scott won’t be one that grabs a lot of headlines. Although with the way the Timberwolves roster is constructed, it may be one that provides a snug fit.
The 30-year-old is a borderline elite shooter from the power forward position, which is ideal for Ryan Saunders’ squad. With the addition of Jarrett Culver on draft night, the Wolves have an overabundance of wings and a shortage of power forwards. They have also been disastrous from behind the arc for a while now, finishing 23rd in 3-point makes and 26th in 3-point attempts last season.
With a quick trigger and a stay-ready shooters mentality, Scott thrived for both Los Angeles and Philadelphia in a spot-up shooters role, especially in the corners. He shot 43.3 percent on corner triples last season and created countless opportunities at the rim for his big men and ball handlers by dragging a man out the paint.
With an offense revolving around Karl-Anthony Towns and his ability to have his way with defenders inside the arc, having a catch-and-shoot specialist (41.9 percent on all catch-and-shoot 3-pointers) like Scott would provide a new wrinkle to Saunders’ offense.
With the ability to slot into the small forward position, he also fits Gersson Rosas’ mantra of the new age NBA. In his post-draft presser, the new president of basketball operations laid it out for the media.
“For us, positionally, it is a different game. We talked about where we’re at in the NBA now. You have four perimeters, point guard, three wings, and a big. That could be a center, that could be a power forward, it’s just the game is played differently now.” he said.
If he could maintain the hot shooting he has shown over the last two seasons, the former second-round pick would quickly become a fan favorite in Minnesota. Unfortunately, he doesn’t provide a whole lot of value outside of his long-range stroke.
Inside the arc, he can often be a disaster. He uses a nifty pump fake to navigate around defenders that close out too hard on his 3-point shot and is a fairly smart cutter, but he struggles mightily to finish at the rack.
Over the course of the 2018-19 campaign, Scott converted just 40.2 percent of his shots from within five feet of the hoop, almost 17 percent lower than the league average. Overall, he made just 39.9 percent of his 2-point attempts, a ghoulish sight for any player.
Defensively, he isn’t going to drop any jaws either. His decent 106.4 defensive rating shows he isn’t going to actively tank a team defense, but that’s about as good as it gets. His -0.52 defensive real plus/minus ranks 77th among all power forwards, which gives you a fair indication of how his individual defense stacks up.
Outside of a short spell when Robert Covington was doing Defensive Player of the Year things, Minnesota was a train wreck again last season, especially during Saunders’ tenure. Although it’s unlikely Scott would play big minutes if he were signed, adding another minus on the defensive end might come back to bite them.
One of the more positive factors of a Scott signing is that he would be unlikely to command the full Mid-Level Exception. If they could sign him for around half of the $9.2 million that is allocated, they could still sign another player of similar quality with the leftovers.
Warts and all, Scott certainly fills a positional and on-court need. If the front office brass could scoop him up cheaply, it would be a low-risk maneuver that could certainly benefit a team looking to get back into the playoff picture.