Minnesota Timberwolves: FA Outlook, Durant’s Impact

Mar 31, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) handles the ball in front of Los Angeles Clippers center Cole Aldrich (45) during the third quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 31, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) handles the ball in front of Los Angeles Clippers center Cole Aldrich (45) during the third quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports /

Over the weekend, there was a lot of NBA Free Agency news. We will look at the players linked to the Minnesota Timberwolves, and how one team’s loss of a player affects them.

Over a long holiday weekend, filled with big NBA news, the Minnesota Timberwolves sat back and watched as other teams threw ungodly amounts of money at middle tier NBA players.

As NBA Free Agency started, and everyone waited for a decision from Kevin Durant, there were many players linked to the Minnesota Timberwolves. As we mentioned in a piece last week, the Timberwolves had been calling on a lot of players.

There were a couple rumored deals offered to players around the league from the Timberwolves. There were deals offered to Luol Deng, Courtney Lee, and Pau Gasol. Minnesota kept their wallets close though as other teams acted in desperation throwing out large contracts to players of all skill levels.

As most of the top tier free agents are now gone, the Timberwolves made one addition to their team in Minnesota native and former Jefferson Jaguar Cole Aldrich. Formerly of the Clippers, Aldrich verbally agreed to a three-year, $22M deal.

This was a nice team friendly deal that bolsters the Timberwolves front court and gives them insurance with an aging Kevin Garnett and an injury prone Nikola Pekovic still on the roster.

Aldrich has played for five teams in his NBA career, most recently the Los Angeles Clippers. Aldrich was a key piece on the Clippers when Blake Griffin went down last season. All though Aldrich played limited minutes, on a per 36-minute basis Aldrich averaged 14.8 PPG, 13 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.1 steals, and 3.1 blocks, while shooting almost 60% from the field.

Aldrich will be a nice addition to this team, especially on the bargain contract that the Timberwolves offered him. Here is a statement from Aldrich via Darren Wolfson.

Other than the Aldrich verbal agreement, the Timberwolves were quite quiet throughout the weekend. As many of the players they were linked to agreed to play elsewhere, a lot of Timberwolves fans were freaking out.

The knee-jerk reactions that were seen all over social media, and Timberwolves blog sites, were ridiculous. Now that this team has shown the smallest bit of promise, fans are setting the bar a little high. We must remember that this team won 29 games last year because the rest of the NBA and its players do.

Luring big name free agents has never been something that the Timberwolves have been able to do. Yes, we have a young promising core and a top tier coach, but most players want to see results before making the decision to jump aboard the Timberwolves bandwagon.

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We are not one player away from becoming a contender, and we must let this team develop at the right pace.

With the new NBA salary cap going up to $94M this year, the cap floor is set at $84M. If that floor is not reached there are harsh penalties. With that being said, there will be more additions to this team, but if you expected a big splash you were setting yourself up to be disappointed.

With the news of Kevin Durant signing with the Golden State Warriors, there were many ways to which this affected the Minnesota Timberwolves.

First off, the NBA Northwest Division’s perennial powerhouse has lost it’s biggest star. This will even up the playing field throughout the division. This gives the Timberwolves a better shot at gaining a playoff berth this upcoming season.

There are some things we can learn from Durant’s departure. If we look into the reason that Durant left, to chase rings, we can gather that we have two or three seasons to be competitive before the contracts of our young stars are up. Durant showing that stars should put themselves in the best position to win does not help the Timberwolves with their young core. Surely, most of the fanbase was hoping Durant stayed in Oklahoma City, showing young players loyalty to the team that drafted them and a team in a small market.

On the other hand, the reaction to Durant leaving for the Warriors could work in the favor of the Timberwolves. People calling Durant weak for moving on to a loaded team could show the young Timberwolves players something they do not want to deal with.

Some say a key reason that Durant decided to leave is that the Oklahoma City front office was not willing to spend the money to put the pieces around him to win a championship. If we look back a majority of teams that ended up winning an NBA championship as of late, most have spent the money to put the best team together, even if that means going into the luxury tax.

This goes back to 2012 when the Thunder made the finals for the first time and lost to the Lebron lead Miami Heat. In that offseason, the Thunder had to make a decision to spend the money on the final piece of the team’s big three, James Harden. In contract negotiations, they were said to be $4M apart on signing a new deal. They ended up trading Harden to the Rockets for absolutely nothing.

If we look back, to my knowledge, I can not remember a team that has won an NBA championship that did not have three stars on it. Letting Harden go now looks like a key part of the Durant/OKC saga. With those three stars, this team would most likely have won a title by now.

This is something that the Timberwolves can sit back and learn from. We will have to spend money if we want to keep this young core around. With Glen Taylor being known as an owner who has not been known for spending sprees in the past, maybe things have changed as he spent big money to hire a firm to find the best head coach, in turn spending big money to hire that coach in Tom Thibodeau.

For the first time in my life, I heard someone praising Taylor on the national media front. Last week on the Colin Cowherd radio show, he was talking about well put together franchises. He mentioned what the Timberwolves are building, and the three-time champion Minnesota Lynx. Hearing praise for Taylor was definitely something different, but maybe things have taken a turn. Let’s hope so because if these young players get one thought that they are not going to get paid, they will have options elsewhere and fast.

With the Free Agency period still going strong, all though all of the big names are gone, expect the Timberwolves to make some signings to help them get towards the cap floor and bolster their bench depth.

There are a few players I would love to see the Timberwolves go after. Gerald Green, most recently of the Heat, would be a great bench addition for this team. After a down year in Miami, Green should be able to be signed on the cheap. There were many times that Green took over games in Phoenix, and he has a nice outside shot and plays above the rim.

Dion Waiters could be a nice addition to this team, depending on the price tag. Lance Stephenson is another name to keep an eye on. He has shown glimpses of great play over the years.

Next: Interest in Rubio, Free Agency Report

The Timberwolves are putting themselves in a position to make moves next year when they will have proven their potential and NBA players want to come. They are also staying conservative with the contracts they are offering, and the years they are offering too. Some see the front office as being timid, but there is a plan behind all of this.