The Minnesota Timberwolves would be wise to re-sign Chase Budinger as a backup forward and Nikola Pekovic as their starting center. If Andrei Kirilenko picks up his player option at just over $10 million, the Wolves will likely be over the salary cap for the 2013-14 season.
That is not a bad thing.
Minnesota needs to make the playoffs to keep fans interested—with new renovations coming to the Target Center, people will have reason to come—and contending teams often spend over the salary cap to ensure they have enough talent to make a playoff run.
This means that in order to address their needs, namely bringing in a shooting guard that can spread the floor, Minnesota must use the mid-level exception.
This clause allows teams to choose one free agent they want to sign and offer him roughly $5-6 million per year for four years.
That’s about the amount of money the Wolves want to spend in free agency, as they already have around $15 million locked up in Kevin Love, will have to pay Ricky Rubio eventually and Pekovic will probably command around $12 million. On top of that, Williams and Barea are owed around $5 million and are vital pieces of the puzzle, while Budinger could make as much as $4 million next year.
The mid-level exception is the way to go for the Timberwolves. Looking at the available players and their past salaries, there are a few ways Minnesota can go to address the shooting guard position.
All salary numbers are from HoopsWorld.com.
Mo Williams, Utah Jazz
People roll their eyes when they hear Williams’ name because he is associated with those LeBron James Cavalier teams that never won an NBA Championship.
The 30-year-old guard out of Alabama will be entering his 10th NBA season next year, however, and has proven to be a sound three-point shooter off the catch—a perfect backcourt mate for Rubio.
He will obviously move from the 1 to the 2, meaning he will have less responsibility in terms of running the offense and can spend more energy on ensuring he hits his threes or creates shots off the dribble from the field.
In short, they just need him to score. And Williams has proven he can do that.
With the Jazz last year, Williams made $8.5 million. But at age 30 he is entering the final years of his prime and is probably not worth more than $5-6 million. He may like the idea of knowing where he is going to finish up his career as well.
It’s a gamble, one that might not work out, but Minnesota should at least kick his tires and see where his interest level lies.
Daniel Gibson, Cleveland Cavaliers
I’m not intentionally going with a Cavaliers theme here, but it just so happens that Gibson, a safe backup if they can’t get Williams, has played his entire career in northern Ohio.
There's no doubt about it: Gibson has his flaws. At 6’2”, 200 lbs., he is an undersized 2-guard and a terrible finisher. He also can’t create his own shot off the dribble.
That’s not really a problem, however, because Gibson does one thing really well: shoot outside shots off the catch. He’s a perfect fit along Rubio because the Spanish point guard does not want to toss his backcourt mate a fancy pass, only to see him pass up an open shot to try and get to the basket.
His flaws also make him economical, meaning he’ll probably take the mid-level exception. (Gibson made $4.8 million with Cleveland last year.)
There are tradeoffs, for sure, but Gibson isn’t a bad backup option in this situation.
J.J. Redick, Milwaukee Bucks
If Gibson is Minnesota’s last-second hook-up, Redick is its Mr. Perfect.
He made $6.19 million last year, he moved to the Midwest after a tearful breakup with a longtime partner in Florida and, you know, shoots threes and defends well.
Landing Redick would be a pipe dream.
Not only can he lock down defensively and nail outside shots, addressing two needs the Timberwolves have for that position, but he has already been to the NBA Finals and can help the young players navigate through the trials and tribulations of the playoffs during their first go at it.
O.J. Mayo, Dallas Mavericks
Sometimes you can’t land Mr. Perfect and have to settle for an old beau.
In this case, the man that Minnesota traded for Love on draft day just needed a little time to grow into something special. Mayo was always a decent player on a decent Memphis Grizzlies team, but the former USC star really shined with the Dallas Mavericks last year.
He hit 40.7 percent of his threes, 44.9 percent of his twos and played 35.5 minutes per game in 82 starts after riding the bench for the Grizzlies in 2011-12.
The Beatles once sang that all you need is Love, but in this case Minnesota might also want a side of Mayo. By that I mean that they would love to have Mayo on the outside shooting threes to free up the middle for Mr. Love.
Unfortunately, like most scorned lovers, Mr. Mayo is going to be a little more expensive this time around. He would he have come pretty cheap as a rookie, but he’s going to demand a raise from the $4.2 million player option Dallas gave him this year.
It would be crazy if he accepted the mid-level exception, but crazy things happen with love, and because of that trade back in 2008, we’ve got Love on our side.
Honestly, all I want is for Minnesota to use the mid-level exception. In order to do so, they must re-sign Pekovic and Budinger and get Kirilenko to pick up his player option. My guess is that the latter will follow the first two actions.
Then, they need to go out and get a shooting guard. It will be expensive, but by going out and getting a capable 2-guard (especially Redick or Mayo), the Wolves will be ready to bring playoff basketball back to Minneapolis for the first time since the Kevin Garnett era.