As was the case last summer, Day 4 of NBA free agency has significantly slowed down, with most of the available cap space being exhausted in the first handful of hours.
While most of that money was spent on upper echelon players like Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, and Kemba Walker, there were also some middle-tier players who cashed in as well, including Brook Lopez (4/$52 million), Harrison Barnes (4/$85 million), Bojan Bogdanovic (4/$73 million), and Malcolm Brogdon (4/$85 million). For those of you scoring at home, approximately $3.4 billion was handed out in the 24 hours, and while every franchise is currently thrilled with their summer spending spree, there will undoubtedly be numerous deals that we look back at in a couple years and think “What the [redacted]?”
With Kawhi Leonard still contemplating his summer decision (would it surprise anyone if The Claw didn’t even know he was a free agent?), all of the remaining premier free agents are now off the board, including one D’Angelo Russell. As my guy Derek James wrote about on Monday, there were many emotions emulating from Wolves fans Sunday night, most notably disappointment. I, too, found myself four or five Fireball shots in after Shams TKO’ed us all with the news of a sign-and-trade to the Golden State Warriors.
With the dust now settled on yet another swing and miss attempt to pair a second superstar with Karl-Anthony Towns, there have been a few great articles written on the Russell situation, including this piece from my buddy Dane Moore on who ultimately had the final say in the decision and this report from the great Jon Krawczynski detailing how the Wolves recruiting pitch actually took place.
The Athletic piece was specifically interesting to me, as it included a behind the scenes look at how Sunday played out, including the Wolves giving the coveted RFA a “helicopter ride over the city of Los Angeles,” which was backed up by this video posted to Russell’s Instagram story late Sunday night:
As Jon clarified later on, the helicopter ride was merely an expedited means of transportation during standard Los Angeles traffic, and not a fancy tour of the City of Angels (although, it would be totally Timberwolves for the recruiting pitch to be “hey look at how beautiful this other city is”).
Ultimately, Russell made his decision, and the end result meant that the All-Star point guard would not be joining his friend in the land of 10,000 lakes. With their free agent hopes no longer up in the air, the Wolves did well to secure a few minor assets for all their troubles:
Golden State is moving Shabazz Napier, Treveon Graham and cash onto Minnesota, league sources tell ESPN. Napier and Graham are part of the D'Angelo Russell sign-and-trade.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 1, 2019
Neither Shabazz Napier nor Treveon Graham is a lock to stay on the roster past this summer, and the cash considerations sent to Minnesota are presumably being used to cover the cost of the failed marriage proposal that took place high above the L.A. streets.
In addition to the two players acquired in the S&T, the Wolves also added FA big man Jordan Bell on Monday (1-year/$1.6 million) and Noah Vonleh (1-year/$2.0 million) on Tuesday. Bell seemed like a 2nd round steal back in 2017, but spent most of his young career buried in Steve Kerr’s doghouse. The forward out of the University of Oregon turned down similar offers from teams like Oklahoma City and Utah, which probably means he was promised an increased role with the Wolves this upcoming season. As for Vonleh, he’s been fairly disappointing since being selected 9th overall back in 2014 by Charlotte, but does have a familiarity with assistant coach David Vanterpool after spending three seasons in Portland together.
So where does that leave the Wolves going forward? While the team invested plenty of time into recruiting D’Angelo Russell, they technically didn’t invest any money, meaning they still have (practically) their entire mid-level exception to play around with. The list of remaining free agents is... um... interesting (the most notable names include Danny Green, DeMarcus Cousins, both Morris brothers, and my personal favorite JaMychal Green). Tyus Jones remains a RFA, and with the available money drying up all over the place, I’d be fairly shocked if the Apple Valley product doesn’t return to Minnesota for at least one more season.
Overall, the Wolves have been fairly quiet since getting left at the alter by Russell, and some would argue they’ve been too quiet. As we sit here today, the roster is still very much a work in progress — the team’s best outside shooter is probably a 7-foot center, their second best ball handler is probably an assistant coach (Pablo Prigioni), and their first-round pick can’t officially report to the team until Saturday. So yeah... there’s still some major work to be done.
However, while the remaining talent pool is fairly uninspiring, it would not shock me if the New Wolves Order is trying to conjure up something big and bold behind the scenes, despite the league-wide activity downshifting gears. After all, depth charts are finalized in October, not July, so there’s still plenty of time for Rosas & Co. to sniff out various transactions that can shape the roster more to their liking. With Sachin Gupta officially starting his new position with the team this past Monday, it’s possible that finally having access to the Trade Machine cheat codes will ignite some fresh and surprising ideas inside Mayo Square.