Free agency begins at 1pm CT today… so what should we do?

Zach Harper —  December 9, 2011 — 10 Comments

Our beloved Timberwolves are back in the saddle/Iditarod sled of shaping the roster and preparing for another hopeful season. And while it seems like this team is set with 13 players under contract and still two rookies (Derrick Williams and Malcolm Lee), the T’Pups remain heavily involved in the free agent sweepstakes. From what we’ve learned through various scribes (Zgoda, Spears, Stein, etc.) players like Jamal Crawford, DeAndre Jordan and Chuck Hayes are all being pursued like a canine chasing a rogue ice cream truck.

The shooting guard position for the Wolves is pretty weak. Between Wayne Ellington’s Wayne Ellington-ness, Wes Johnson’s inability to handle the ball or create off the dribble well enough to be a true shooting guard in Rick Adelman’s offense, and Martell Webster being slightly more adept at covering Wes’ offensive deficiencies, the Wolves could really use a shooting guard who can put the ball on the floor and create scoring opportunities in the halfcourt offense.

(Let’s just pretend Malcolm Lee will be brought around slowly, but I love his game and think he could eventually be an option for playing major minutes.)

Jamal Crawford does that and then some. He’s one of the best scoring 2-guards in the league. It may not be the most efficient brand of basketball. It may not be a consistent output when his shot isn’t falling. But he knows how to put the ball in the basket. Two seasons ago, Crawford had a career year, despite coming off the bench exclusively for the Hawks. He scored 18 points per game, had a true shooting percentage of 57.3%, and had the lowest turnover rate of his career at 9.9%. He was as efficient as ever. Crawford is also a human highlight reel waiting to happen.

But last year his productivity with the Hawks took a pretty dramatic dip. He wasn’t the consistent scoring threat the team saw the previous season. His shooting percentage was back toward his career rate, he was a below average 3-point shooter and he was turning the ball over a lot more while being involved less in the offense. When taking into consideration the idea of giving him a four-year contract, he’s going to be starting his twelfth season in the NBA and he’ll be 32 in March.

While it’s pretty obvious that Jamal Crawford is the sexier name of the free agent options, if the Wolves are going to find a way to work one of these guys into a pretty full roster then they need to make a concerted effort to sign DeAndre Jordan.

For lack of a better term, DeAndre Jordan was a bit spastic with the way he played his first two seasons. It was all dunks from accidentally being in the right place at the right time. He also seemed to be everywhere on defense but never in the right place. When he was around a shot, he usually tossed it in the other direction. He was active and showed determination to figure it out, but it was more awkward than anything.

However, last season DAJ broke out in a mini-spotlight next to Blake Griffin’s Epcot spotlight. He was defensively one of the best big men in the entire NBA from an individual standpoint. Jordan didn’t really have a defensive flaw last year. He played the post well, he rotated well, he played the PnR well, and he closed out on shooters well. While there were times that he was slow to see the play develop, after the first couple months of the season he was able to see things unfolding and respond quickly to it. If he has any real weakness defensively, it’s that he hasn’t completely filled out his lanky, broad frame. He could still stand to put on a few pounds of muscle while keeping his freakish athleticism.

In fact, freakish athleticism isn’t a term that does DAJ justice. When you watch him move around the court, he almost appears to be teleporting. He seems to instantly travel 10 feet at a time with his long strides. This helps him immensely when running pick-and-rolls with his point guard. As soon as he seals on the pick and turns his hips toward the basket, he’s already four-feet from where the screen was set. One step later, he’s gathered his balance and is exploding for the alley-oop.

Jordan was third in the NBA in dunks last season. Of his 234 made field goals, 158 of them were dunks. 205 of his 234 made field goals were at the rim and he only took eight shots beyond 10 feet (making none of them). This may seem like he’s extremely limited offensively, and maybe he is. But he also doesn’t try to do a whole lot on offense that isn’t in his skill set. You won’t see him posting up a lot and hold the ball on the block for long stretches of the shot clock. He knows his limitations.

The problem with acquiring DeAndre Jordan is he already turned down a five-year, $40 million deal from the Clippers and he’s a restricted free agent. With the stunning result of the Clippers already signing Caron Butler for three years and $24 million, they’re showing they’re willing to overpay players right now. With DAJ being one of Blake Griffin’s best friends, it seems they would match whatever it takes to keep this duo together.

The Wolves have roughly $5 million in cap space and 15 players under contract after they presumably sign Derrick Williams and Malcolm Lee. That doesn’t leave a lot of room to make something happen for Jordan, when he’s looking for eight figures on his contract and you have to push that to around $12 million or higher to make the Clippers blink at matching the deal. To make this happen, the Wolves would need to drop the amnesty hammer on one of their guy or trade one of the bigger contracts.

The problem is we don’t have big contracts to get rid of. Some people would say to amnesty Darko, but he’s only making $4.7 million this season and the Wolves need depth in the frontcourt. You could amnesty Brad Miller since he’s not really going to be able to contribute much after his knee injury anyway, but he makes roughly the same amount as Darko and could be a great mentor for young guys learning Adelman’s system.

So is the answer to deal Michael Beasley? Do we amnesty Martell Webster? Webster makes the second most on the team with $5.2 million hitting the salary cap. The Wolves wouldn’t be saving any money long-term because his salary for next season is only guaranteed for about $600,000 against the cap. They’d also be losing one of their few options at shooting guard.

With Beasley, it would free up a presumed headache within the organization (that could easily be saved and become an All-Star but that’s a conversation for another time), a logjam at the small forward, and about $6.2 million. That gives the Wolves a starting price tag of $11.2 million for Jordan. Would that price tag and acquiring Beasley in a sign-and-trade coupled with the suffocating guilt possessing the Wolves’ 2012 first round pick be enough for the Clippers to accept the deal?

This would be the best-case scenario for the Wolves in many ways. You free up a potential distraction by moving Beasley – as fair or unfair as that may sound. It would give the Wolves a fantastic, young interior presence around the rim on both ends of the court, and even if he doesn’t improve much past what we see now, four years and $44 million of this DAJ isn’t a bad thing at all. It’s not the best bang for your buck, but there are worse contracts for big men to have.

If it plays out this way, we’d be looking at a potential depth chart of:

PG: Ricky Rubio, Luke Ridnour
Wing: Martell Webster, Wayne Ellington, Malcolm Lee
Wing: Derrick Williams, Wes Johnson, Lazar Hayward
Post: Kevin Love, Anthony Randolph, Anthony Tolliver
Post: DeAndre Jordan, Darko Milicic, Nikola Pekovic, Brad Miller

There are a lot of options and versatility that comes with that depth chart. Sure, it leaves the Wolves pretty outmanned at the shooting guard position, and perimeter scoring would be a bit lacking. But Rick Adelman’s offense is designed to get different parts moving and having the ball swung to find them. This works out well for a young, athletic team like the Wolves.

It would be nice to acquire someone like Crawford or Arron Afflalo (also a restricted agent), but their asking price might be more than the Wolves should have to fork over to acquire them. I’d much rather put the money toward improving the middle of the paint and building outward.

Finally, Wolves have been in talks with Chuck Hayes as I mentioned above. Hayes is one of the best post defenders in the NBA, despite being just 6’6” soaking wet. He’s also a fantastic passer from the post and high-post. But I don’t know he’s exactly what the Wolves need, especially if they have a chance at an athletic big man like Jordan. And he’s fixed his free throw stroke so we wouldn’t get to live this roller coaster very often.

Thoughts on what you would like the team to do?

Zach Harper

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10 responses to Free agency begins at 1pm CT today… so what should we do?

  1. Agreed. DeAndre Jordan is the best possible outcome of free agency for the Wolves. Afflalo is my second choice, but less realistic. Crawford would also be acceptable. I feel like they need to add one piece…if they do that, the Clippergedon pick should be much less valuable, in my opinion. They should win 25-30 games, in my opinion. My prediction: 28-38.

  2. I say go ahead and amnesty Darko. I mean we want to use it, or it’s lost, correct? And we can resign another backup center of similar replacement value for probably league minimum.

    I’d definitely be trying hard for Jordan. But I’d just offer a $50 million dollar deal and if the Clips match, so be it. I would try to trade Beasley for a SG. And I want no piece of Crawford. I’d try to position ourselves as well as possible for Summer 2012. This year we’ll be better, but really the goal is sorting out via Adelman’s improved coaching who is a keeper. By the summer you decide who amongst Webster, Ellington, and Wes you keep, and trade the others. Build around the winner there and Rubio and Love.

  3. I agree that Beasley to the Clips for either DJ in a sign-and-trade (with the Clips amnesty-ing Kamen and pursuing another big man) or for Kamen (with the Clips re-signing DJ) made total sense a few days ago… but then the Clips signed Caron Butler and no longer have a need for Beasley. Too bad. Back to square one.

  4. Also, “6’6″ soaking wet” uhh I think that only applies to weight. Haha but otherwise really good read. DeAndre Jordan would be my dream but I’m afraid Kahn has said he wants to keep Beas, Love, Wes, and Randolph together and develop them together. Maybe he was just bluffing to get a higher value for those players but I like that there will be a competition at SF this year between Beas and D-Will, and I really think Wes has been working on his ball handling and will continue to be used at SG

  5. I don’t think Kahn is really in charge of player personnel anymore. All the guys we’ve been associated with are mostly prototypical Adelman guys.

    If we can get Jordan, great. If not, get Hayes. Webster is out with a back injury, so he might be amnestied. Make the best play you can for Jordan and then move on. I’d also be happy trying to trade Beasley and Pek to Houston for Martin. Another cheap scoring SG is Von Wafer. Or, if we’re staying with the clips, try to bring Randy Foye back! Ha! Seriously tho – he wouldn’t be the worst option in the world.

  6. I want no part of Crawford. You don’t overpay guys over 30 unless you are on the cusp of a championship. I am going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the T-Wolves are NOT on the cusp of a championship.

    Things I would like to see:

    Beasley traded for Kevin Martin or Chris Kaman. I have no problem throwing in another player like Peck, Elllington, Webster, etc… Whatever trash those teams want to make the trade work.

    An all out effort to sign DeAndre Jordan- 4 @ 54 with the contract front loaded so the Clips have trouble matching.

    Martell Webster jettisoned or Amnestied to create the space for the above Jordan offer.

    Bottom line is we need upgrades at the 2 and 5 to compete for the playoffs and give Love and Rubio a chance to mesh and show us what they’ve got.

  7. they are who we thought they were December 9, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    Trade Beasley. I agree with J that such a trade could be about pursuing Kaman or Jordan as I’d guess the Clips are more willing to part with Kaman. Even if the Wolves don’t re-sign Kaman, they’ll have the cap room when he goes somewhere next year to pursue other options at center…just like they would if they do nothing right now. Unfortunately, the Clips made the moronic move to sign Butler. Frankly, they’d had been better off with Beasley and his potential upside than a guy with questionable knees and on the downhill. Idiot Clippers.

    Finding a Beasley for Kevin Martin trade would be fantastic too, but who knows what’ll happen with this Chris Paul fiasco.

  8. You trade Beasly for Mayo, drop Webster he’s done and offer up whatever it takes to get D Jordan.

    1 Rubio
    2 Mayo
    3 Derrick Williams, Wes Johnson
    4 Love
    5 Jordan

    I’m a fan of that team

  9. It’s an interesting problem and many good suggestions. I like the mayo one. He can shoot and handle the ball. Hayes and crawford are out of the question by now. I think we need to get someone at C or SG and make sure Love likes it enough to resign. I think Adelman is going to be great as coach for this young team. Lets not run ahead and give someone a too big deal like we did with Darko and Pek.

  10. I really like the Mayo idea trade, but it’s hard to even consider. They wouldn’t be willing to trade him. In order to trade him straight up, you would have to hope they like Darrell Arthur so much they are willing to move him to SG.

    WE NEED DeAndre Jordan. I can’t stress that enough to get a good enough big man in order to let Love play his natural position of PF. I like the idea of getting rid of Beasley, however it happens, just make it happen. He is kind of a burden and not what we need anymore. D-Will would be good for SF. This is what I like.

    Rubio
    Mayo (if not, Webster)
    Williams
    Love
    Jordan

    The reason I don’t have Johnson at SG is because he isn’t a solid enough ball handler. And he actually shoots a lower percentage while at SG. If he can get his ball handling skills up to par

    Rubio
    Johnson (or Mayo hopefully if trade works)
    Williams
    Love
    Jordan

    …is a killer team. I know it’s a “Cardinal Sin” to love basketball in MN, but i’m over it.

    Go Wolves!!

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