Free Agents that Won’t Break the Bank

5 Free Agents Minnesota Should Target

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With Free Agency beginning today, here is a list of potential targets the Wolves should pursue if they don’t end up getting Kyle Lowry or Paul Millsap, who are both set to make around $30 million a year (roughly 1/3 of the team’s salary cap).

 

CJ Miles – Small Forward/Guard

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Since being drafted in 2012 by the Indiana Pacers, Miles has established himself as a viable perimeter threat. He has shot at least 35% from three-point range in every season. His defense has also steadily improved. in 2016-2017 his defense ranked in the 78th percentile, which would provide a HUGE upgrade to the current MN reserves. His contract is expected to be somewhere around $10 million per year.

Darren Collison – Guard

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After spending the last few years in the basketball wasteland that is Sacramento, Collison posted solid offensive numbers for the Kings. 2016-2017 had Collison post over 13 points per game, while shooting an efficient 47% overall. A great playmaker and shifty floor spacer, he would be a nice backup guard who can provide some instant offense to a bench unit in dire need. His contract will also be in the neighborhood of $10 million.

Amir Johnson– Power Forward

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Johnson had a down year in Boston. His rebounding and defense slipped a bit, and he lost some minutes toward the end of the season. His play in the playoffs may have boosted his value on the market. Known for being a physical inside presence, Johnson would add sorely needed toughness in the post. Also wouldn’t hurt to have his 41% from outside the arc either. Johnson will likely cost more than Miles and Collison, as he started for a top team in the East and will likely command $12 million, approximately.

Taj Gibson – Power Forward

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A Tom Thibodeau favorite, Gibson plays smart, two-way basketball and has no problem making sacrifices for his team. He played with Butler and Thibodeau in Chicago and became an effective role player. He can knock down open mid-range jumpers, set solid screens, play great interior defense, and most importantly, serve as another on-court coach for Thibs. His familiarity with Jimmy Butler and Thibodeau may also persuade him to take a pay cut.

PJ Tucker – Forward

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Another tough guy presence, PJ Tucker brings some more edge to the team. He can guard basically any position effectively, and knock down occasional jumpers. At 32 years old, he will be cheap in comparison to other wings on the market, commanding somewhere in the $7-$9 million range, on a short contract. Tucker would be another veteran perimeter defender to come in and stabilize the wing position.

Look for my post next week on completed moves in Minnesota (or lack thereof).

Free Agency Looming for Anxious Wolves

With one blockbuster deal already under his belt, Tom Thibodeau will head into Free Agency-eve with the Wolves in a position they’ve never been before; stocked with two All-NBA talents. Free agency in Minnesota sports usually entails sitting back and watching the big markets fight to overpay premium talent, and then sign whoever is left. Last year, Thibodeau spent $4 million on Jordan Hill (who played 47 minutes), and $7.6 million on Cole Aldrich (lost his spot in the rotation).

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Jordan Hill (right) and Cole Aldrich (middle) with KAT (left)
This year, numerous reports expect Thibodeau to “make a splash.” With just under $20 million in cap space, and two very team friendly contracts in Ricky Rubio ($15 million) and Gorgui Dieng ($16 million), there is financial flexibility. Players like Kyle Lowry, or Paul Milsap have been associated to the team, but there is no doubt that Rubio and/or Dieng would be moved.

Jimmy Butler and KAT have reportedly hopped a jet to LA to begin their recruitment pitch to Lowry. Last year, the Raptor Point Guard set career highs in points per game, minutes, field goal percentage, three point field goal percentage, and rebounds and is due a $35 million max contract from Toronto. While Lowry does fit the two-way Thibodeau mold, it may cost too much to bring him in. Even if he took a pay cut, Minnesota would have hardly any cap space left to fill the holes they created to make space for Lowry.

There are more dire roster needs than point guard. In 2016-2017, the Wolves had arguably one of the worst benches in the league. While Thibs isn’t one to use his bench very often, the talent drop off will be smaller and will keep the team in close games when the starters need a rest. The lack of shooting is also a concern. Minnesota ranked last in three point attempts, and makes last year. Floor spacing will open up lanes for slashers like Wiggins and Butler, and give KAT more room to operate in the paint.

Defense is the other glaring hole. Ranked 26th in efficiency, defense was supposed to be the calling card of any Tom Thibodeau team. Butler definitely helps this, but one defender does not make a good defense. Adding some experienced vets on the wing would help stabilize the perimeter.

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Avery Bradley (left) blows by Brandon Rush (right)
Tomorrow I will post a list of potential targets not named Kyle Lowry or Paul Milsap.