Damjan Rudez averaged the fewest minutes per game on the Minnesota Timberwolves this past season, and played the third fewest total minutes. He averaged the fewest points per game; he averaged the fewest steals per game; he averaged the fewest assists per game. And fewest rebounds, free throws attempted, 2-pointers attempted and second-fewest field goals attempted (damn you, Greg Smith) per game.
Next season, the Timberwolves have a team option on Rudez’s contract, which would pay him $1.2 million. Are you going to find more for that same amount of money spent on another player? Debatable, but that $1.2 million could also end up being the padding the team needs as they seek to leverage a decent amount of cap room prior to beginning Tom Thibodeau’s first season helming the team both on the court and off. The Wolves right now are expected to have between $24.8 and $27.1 million in cap room, which will be a little tight for something on the order of a max contract should the front office decide to push hard for a showcase signing. Additional flexibility provided by that $1.2 million could help.
Rudez is not part of the Wolves’ core, he’s not a promising young player, he is — perhaps at best — a very particular cog (3-point shooting) for a team that’s a couple years further along than the Wolves are right now.
Based on his production and the above financial considerations, there’s little reason to re-up on Rudez as a human who plays basketball.
But Damjan Rudez is not a human. He’s a dancer.
KG/Wiggins chatting during the timeout ft. the always prepared Damjan Rudez. pic.twitter.com/noY7KPzZl8
— John Meyer (@thedailywolf) April 12, 2016
Rudez has been stretching all game. Gotta be yelling "Put Me in Coach" pic.twitter.com/Y9bsScNTPh
— StreetHistory (@streethistory) March 9, 2016
Damjan Rudez keeping those limbs nimble. pic.twitter.com/4eBWFASgHN
— Tim Faklis (@timfaklis) December 6, 2015
— Todd Barin (@Todd_Barin) December 2, 2015
This is not, ultimately, a plea to retain Damjan Rudez next year because of the way his constant preparation belies his apparent lack of on-court value. Yes, that stuff has value for the team’s culture. He is a pro, the way that a lot of guys like former Timberwolves Robbie Hummel or Greg Stiemsma are pros. He and other guys like him are a needed and effective reminder that amid all the concern of how elite a team can be, of how slim the margins are between great and also-ran, of how small the windows are for real championship contention, there are guys making a living doing this, punching the clock and finding ways to enjoy their job. Granted, they make a better living doing this than most of us, but for the Damjans of the world, the opportunity to make something like a million dollars a year has a window as small as the one for whole teams to have a real shot at a ring.
Rudez may be with the Timberwolves next year if it makes financial sense, or it may be another guy at the end of the bench with his own routines and celebrations, his own way of making his own job and everyone else’s and even the fan’s experience of the game a little better. As we all know but often forget, it’s the little things in life, and Damjan Rudez’s timeout calisthenics — not to mention his epic lip sync of Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” — were a call to remember that.