The Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday afternoon announced that the club has exercised its team option for second-year guard Wendell Moore Jr.
This move comes ahead of the October 31 deadline for NBA team to decide whether or not to exercise team options for 2022 first-round picks on rookie scale contracts.
The former Duke star has played in 29 career NBA games, highlighted by his pair of starts against the Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder last season, in which he scored a combined 16 points, grabbed three boards, dished out three assists, recorded a steal and a block, and played strong perimeter defense. Moore Jr. averaged 19.4 points on 42.0/29.8/85.7 shooting splits, 5.1 assists, 4.3 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 0.3 blocks across eight regular season appearances for the Iowa Wolves last season. He turned in more efficient shooting numbers in the Showcase Cup, averaging 18.0 points on 51.6/47.1/62.5 shooting splits, 4.2 assists, 4.8 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 0.4 blocks per game across five outings.
Moore Jr. was selected by the Dallas Mavericks with the No. 26 pick in last year’s draft before he was traded to the Houston Rockets as part of the Christian Wood trade before Houston flipped him to Minnesota in exchange for the rights to guard TyTy Washington Jr., a 2025 second-round pick, and a 2027 second-round pick. He signed his four-year, $11.84 million rookie scale contract on July 7, 2022, and now is due $2,537,040 next season.
Why Does the Move Matter?
While the Wolves will likely not be a team that pays the luxury tax in 2023-24, they are in position to pay it next season. Based on current NBA projections of a $142 million salary cap for 2024-25, Moore Jr.’s cap hit is in between the veteran’s minimum salary for a player with five years of service and that of a six-year veteran.
This is important context, because when teams sign players with at least two years of experience to a minimum deal (whether that player is someone like Jordan McLaughlin, Austin Rivers, Nate Knight, etc.), that player’s cap hit is equivalent to the minimum contract cap hit for a player with two years of experience. That figure for 2024-25 is projected to be $2,108,574. The league does this to prevent teams choosing to sign younger players because of the minimum contract salary scale, according to NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement Expert Larry Coon. In other words, the Wolves could have saved over $400,000 in luxury tax space had they declined Moore Jr.’s option, let him enter unrestricted free agency next summer, and signed a player to minimum contract.
While that gap may not seem like much, it is something to keep in mind as the Timberwolves’ tax crunch inevitably hits next season. Counting only the eight guaranteed salaries for next season, which assumes Anthony Edwards does not make All-NBA this season and that the Wolves:
- Do not exercise team options on Shake Milton ($5.1 million) and Troy Brown Jr. ($4.1 million)
- Let Mike Conley and Kyle Anderson walk in free agency
- Waive Josh Minott and the final two years and $4.2 million in non-guaranteed money on his contract
... Minnesota would already be over the luxury tax by $2.3 million, and have only $15.1 million below the second apron to fill out the roster. In that case, the Wolves could stay under the second apron only if they filled out the roster with either seven minimum deals or six minimums and the rookie scale contract for their 2024 first-round draft selection.
If Edwards makes All-NBA this season, it all but assures the Wolves will be over the second apron next year if they bring back the core five of Edwards, Jaden McDaniels, Karl-Anthony Towns, Rudy Gobert and Naz Reid.
Although the cap hit difference between Moore Jr. and another minimum player is only a little more than $400,000, the difference in luxury tax money is closer to $1.3 million. So, the Wolves exercising the team option on Moore Jr. is one (or both) of two things: 1) a clear bet on him to follow the sophomore year jump he took at Duke with solid improvement as a second-year pro, and 2) that he could be a valuable asset to include in a trade given that the Timberwolves will not have a future first-round pick they can use in a trade until 2031, which does not become available to use in a deal until after the 2024 NBA Draft. The Wolves have draft picks in 2024, 2026 (but potentially not their own) and 2028, but they cannot move those until after they make the selection in those drafts because of the Stepien Rule, which prohibits teams from trading their own draft pick in consecutive drafts.
Time will tell how the Moore Jr. selection pans out, but the Wolves picking up their team option on his contract suggests they are interested to see how their young guard will continue to develop this season.