The Minnesota Timberwolves wrapped up their preseason this past Thursday with a comeback victory against the Dallas Mavericks, which signaled a small break from Wolves-related news between then and the start of the regular season.
Or so we thought.
First, it was announced minutes before Thursday’s preseason finale that the Timberwolves has finally re-signed fan favorite Jordan McLaughlin to a two-way deal, giving the team additional depth at the PG position:
Guard Jordan McLaughlin is signing a two-way deal (qualifying offer) to return to the Minnesota Timberwolves, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium. McLaughlin is betting on himself, will return to the market in 2021 free agency.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) December 18, 2020
While many fans (myself included) believed that J-Mac was worthy of a much stronger contract offer, the Wolves used something they rarely possess — leverage — to bring back a talented player on a deal that was extremely fan friendly. McLaughlin will slot into the third PG role for the team, but considering all of the variables heading into this specific season (condensed schedule, injuries, COVID-19), I would imagine there will be plenty of opportunities for Jordan to see the floor and (hopefully) help the team.
When news broke that McLaughlin signed a two-way deal, it signaled that the team would not have to make any additional roster moves prior to the start of the season this upcoming Wednesday.
Or so we thought.
The Timberwolves are waiving forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, sources tell me and @JonKrawczynski.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) December 19, 2020
Real talk — this was a massive head-scratcher. RHJ struggled to find a competitive offer in the shortened offseason, which led to him signing a training camp deal with Minnesota. He balled out in a blowout loss to Memphis last week, and showed the type of grit, energy, and defensive prowess that this franchise has lacked for as long as I can remember.
Why did they make this move (when technically speaking they didn’t have to), well, I’m still pretty stumped. As Jon and Dane mention below, the overall strategy here is roster flexibility (as well as financial flexibility), so that’s probably the best explanation we will get for the time being.
This is a flexibility play for the Wolves. Allows them to keep an open roster spot in case a 2 for 1 or 3 for 2 trade materializes, or they suffer a big injury. There is a possibility that they bring back RHJ later as well, sources said. https://t.co/w7PMhWVW28— Jon Krawczynski (@JonKrawczynski) December 19, 2020
To add to this from a cap perspective — Rondae Hollis-Jefferson would have a growing cap hit by the game, and the Timberwolves have little space below the luxury tax line.— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) December 19, 2020
If RHJ wasn’t going to be in the 10-man rotation (which he wasn’t), the growing cap hit came at a cost. https://t.co/3064vh7sl9
Both of these tweets make perfect sense, but from an on-court perspective, it’s hard to argue that this move did anything but make the team (slightly) worse. While I agree with Dane that this was always a numbers game and that RHJ was going to struggle to find rotation minutes (which is a separate topic in and of itself), making a move that isn’t all that necessary simply for future roster flexibility is a tough (albeit small) pill to swallow.
Again, the NBA is a numbers game, and playing time is often tied directly into how much a player receives in their direct deposit. While RHJ showed far more than a guy like Juancho Hernangomez did during the shortened preseason, the Wolves are financially committed to the recent movie star, which means he will get multiple opportunities to show that his performance after the trade deadline this past spring was not a fluke.
Switching gears for a second to something far more important, I just wanted to take a moment to express my sincere condolences for the loss of a true Minnesota legend — Tom Hanneman. As many of you know, it was announced yesterday afternoon that Tom passed away at the age of 68. Hanneman was truly one of the good guys — not only in sports media, but in the world in general.
There were some really fantastic articles written about Tom yesterday by members of the local media, and I’d like to share them below.
- Kyle Ratke with a Tribute to Tom Hanneman
- Jace Frederick with a touching homage to the broadcasting legend
- Jon Krawczynski with this beautiful story about his long-time friend
- A Wolf Among Wolves with this great piece remembering Tom Hanneman
Many of you have your own stories about Tom Hanneman, and I strongly encourage you to share them below. 2020 has been one of (if not the) most difficult years for so many of us, and this latest loss is just another severe gut punch to the entire Minneapolis community.
On behalf of everyone at Canis, I want to send our sincere thoughts and prayers to the Hanneman family. And to all of you reading this, please continue to be well, stay safe, and do whatever you possibly can to continue to express your love for the people you hold dearest to you in your lives.