Timberwolves' 2022 Free Agents, Targets and Draft Needs After NBA Playoff Loss

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistApril 30, 2022

Timberwolves' 2022 Free Agents, Targets and Draft Needs After NBA Playoff Loss

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    With the 2021-22 season now over for the Minnesota Timberwolves, the hard part begins for executive vice president of basketball operations Sachin Gupta.

    The Wolves posted their first winning record (46-36) since 2017-18 en route to a seventh-place finish in the Western Conference. However, they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs with a 114-106 loss in Game 6 against the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday. 

    Now, it's up to Gupta to make the kind of franchise-altering move or series of secondary transactions that can push Minnesota closer to the Western Conference's elite. Finishing in the top six in 2022-23 is likely to be the minimum expectation to represent progress.

    Karl-Anthony Towns' contract, which has two more years left to run, will continue to serve as a ticking clock for the organization. Gupta will have to approach the summer with some level of urgency because there's no guarantee Towns will stick around beyond 2024.

    This is also a great opportunity for Gupta to put his imprint on the roster. He only began running the front office last September following the sudden ouster of Gersson Rosas.

    Heading into the offseason, here's where things stand for the Timberwolves.

Free Agents

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    Jacob Kupferman/Associated Press

    Unrestricted Free Agents

    Jake Layman

    Greg Monroe

    Jaylen Nowell ($1.9 million club option)

    Taurean Prince

    Naz Reid ($1.9 million club option)


    Restricted Free Agents

    Josh Okogie

    Nathan Knight

    McKinley Wright IV


    One benefit for Gupta is that Minnesota basically brings its entire roster back for next year, and none of the team's free agents figures to command a king's ransom on the open market.

    Triggering the team options for Jaylen Nowell and Naz Reid should be relatively straightforward since they both occupied regular roles in the rotation. They combined to average 16.8 points and 5.9 rebounds, with Nowell shooting 39.4 percent from beyond the arc.

    Taurean Prince posed a consistent threat from deep as well, hitting 37.6 percent of his long-range opportunities. Assuming he won't be able to match the two-year, $25.3 million contract he's finishing up, re-signing Prince should be on Minnesota's list of priorities.

    Josh Okogie picked a bad time to have the worst year of his career. He averaged 2.7 points, 1.4 rebounds and 0.5 steals but shot 40.4 percent from the field. If push comes to shove, Okogie and the Timberwolves might benefit from going in separate directions.

Offseason Targets

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    One downside of the Wolves' level of payroll security is that they don't have much flexibility to pursue outside free agents. Per Spotrac, they're projected to have a salary-cap figure of $196.8 million, which would be the third-highest in the league.

    Miles Bridges, for example, would be a great fit in Minnesota's rotation. Were Bridges, a restricted free agent, to actually leave the Charlotte Hornets, though, there's little room to make a deal happen. The same could be said of Jalen Brunson, who would be a nice complement to Patrick Beverley at the point.

    Even Nic Claxton could be out of the Timberwolves' price range. Claxton's age—he'll only be 23 when the 2022-23 season tips off—and rim protection could earn him more than he'd collect from the $2.2 million qualifying offer.

    That's why a trade for Ben Simmons made theoretical sense before he ultimately landed with the Brooklyn Nets. Beyond the fact that Minneapolis isn't a marquee free-agent destination, there isn't much money with which the front office can significantly improve the roster.

    When it comes to Bradley Beal, the worst thing the Washington Wizards can say is no. Granted, a sign-and-trade will be difficult because Washington's appetite for D'Angelo Russell might be somewhat weak. Russell simply isn't the kind of star around whom you can build a franchise.

    From the Timberwolves' perspective, any trade that has to include Anthony Edwards should be a non-starter, too. Edwards showed his rookie year was no fluke by averaging 21.3 points and 3.8 assists.

    Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer reported in January that the Wolves were among the suitors for Indiana Pacers star Myles Turner. Indiana's leverage might be a little less since Turner is on an expiring deal, so Gupta could reignite that pursuit.

Draft Needs

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman pegged LSU power forward Tari Eason to the Wolves in his latest mock draft, noting that "mid-first sounds like a safe landing spot for a team that values his toughness and versatility at both ends, even if it's hard to identify any one specialty skill."

    Patrick Beverley is signed for $13 million in 2022-23, but adding another playmaker would be sensible. Beyond having a more traditional point guard to line up alongside D'Angelo Russell long-term, Minnesota could have the kind of cover that allows the front office to include Beverley in trade proposals.

    That could make a player like Ohio State guard Malaki Branham a logical fit for the Timberwolves if he falls to them. Branham averaged 13.7 points and 0.7 steals while shooting 41.6 percent from the perimeter in his only season with the Buckeyes.

    A defensive-minded wing could also be the choice in the first round, or more frontcourt cover. Duke's Mark Williams and Auburn's Walker Kessler would address the latter and give Towns a breather at center. Williams and Kessler averaged 2.8 and 4.6 blocks, respectively.