Timberwolves Get Younger and Free Up Cap Space

On the surface, it seems like Kevin McHale is blowing up the Minnesota Timberwolves as he trades away the greatest player the franchise has ever seen. However, thanks to John Hollinger of ESPN.com (who is great by the way), it’s becoming clearer to me that the Timberwolves might make out of this okay, although not for another two or three years. Then again, if they kept Garnett, there was nothing on the horizon that made it look like the next two or three years would be any better than the previous two seasons.

The T-Wolves are left with a foundation of Al Jefferson, Randy Foye and Corey Brewer (all under 24 years old), in addition to a solid supporting cast of Ryan Gomes, Craig Smith, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair and Rashad McCants. There are a number of veterans on the squad, like Juwon Howard, Ricky Davis and Mark Blount, but I could see all of them being traded to continue the youth movement. In addition, they also have two first-round picks in next year’s draft, though likely only one in the lottery.

But the real kicker came from Hollinger. The ESPN.com contributor said: “For starters, the Wolves took back about $4 million less in contracts than they sent out. Throw in the expiring contracts of Ratliff, Ricky Davis, and, if he doesn’t pan out, Telfair, and it will take over $19 million off Minnesota’s books after the season, putting the Wolves well under the salary cap next summer.” He goes on to argue that the possibility of playing in a rebuilding effort in Minnesota won’t attract potential free agents, but look at next year’s free agent class (which Hollinger says could be the best one ever) and try to tell me not one of them would take Minnesota’s dollars:

Gilbert Arenas
Shawn Marion
Elton Brand
Jermaine O’Neal
Allen Iverson
Baron Davis
Antawn Jamison

This doesn’t even include Garnett, who can opt out after this season, unless he signs a contract extension, and Tim Duncan, who might scream after a dunk before he signs elsewhere. Shawn Marion hinted that he would rather be the primary option on a team than continue to fight for shots with Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire. How about this starting lineup:

C: Al Jefferson
PF: Shawn Marion
SF: Corey Brewer
SG: Gerald Green
PG: Randy Foye

Not bad I say. Bill Simmons argues that Jefferson is going to leave Minnesota after his contract expires in two years, but with that young nucleus, as well as potentially Shawn Marion added to the mix, it might make it tougher to say no. But even if he did leave, you know he’d end up with a sign-and-trade, which only delivers more assets to the Timberwolves.

Do I think they are going to be good this year? No. The Western Conference was already too strong before it added Greg Oden and Kevin Durant. Do I think they will compete within the next two to three years? Yes I do. The Celtics and the Timberwolves will be moving in opposite directions in the next half decade. Boston needs to win now because they put the entire franchise on the line for the Garnett and Allen acquisitions. Minnesota doesn’t appear to be able to win now, but as the Celtics decline, the Timberwovles will be climbing up the Western Conference ladder.

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