The NBA draft is nearing, and the Timberwolves are in a position to add some young talent to their roster via that channel. But what about proven, veteran guys via free agency?
As a team over the salary cap, the Wolves will be armed only with the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, which comes out to a starting salary of $5.3 million, for a maximum of four years. This obviously limits the guys that Minnesota can pursue, but if they are indeed trying to build a contender around Kevin Love for one whole season, there are players available that could help.
Here’s an early look at five free agents the Wolves should consider adding this offseason in free agency.
1. Spencer Hawes, C, Cleveland Cavaliers
Hawes would be a great addition for Minnesota. His skilled offensive game would fit perfectly into what the Wolves will look to do under coach Flip Saunders. He also provides a scoring option in the event Love is dealt this season, which is a distinct possibility. If Love remains on the roster, he is a guy that can be paired with the All-Star, and it would probably lead to some pretty offensive sequences.
While not a great defender, Hawes sports a career average of a little more than a block per game, which is better than both Love and Nikola Pekovic (0.5 blocks per game, and 0.4 BPG respectively). The downside of a Hawes pursuit? They could be outbid, or Hawes could choose to go to a contender for similar money. Gorgui Dieng also would suffer from any signing as it would provide a roadblock to additional playing time for the second year big man.
2. Shaun Livingston, G, Brooklyn Nets
Livingston enjoyed a comeback year last season with the Brooklyn Nets, and was a catalyst behind their offense finally finding some cohesiveness in the second half of the campaign. Bringing him to Minnesota would provide another creator offensively, and flexibility defensively. The real question would be his role, with Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin firmly entrenched at the starting guard spots.
However, if Livingston is open to coming to the Wolves for the right price, they would likely work out those issues in training camp, and add the talent to make the roster more explosive offensively. Adding a player like Livingston off the bench as a pseudo-starter would be huge for a team hoping to contend this season.
3. Andray Blatche, F/C, Brooklyn Nets
This one is a Kevin Love alternative. If Love bolts, Blatche could be a solid presence at the four spot from a scoring standpoint. He’s had his immaturity issues, but if he’s willing to accept the mid-level to be a starter in the league, he’s worth taking a chance on.
If Love stays through the year, I do not think there’s even a conversation to be had between the two camps, but Blatche should be a priority target if they deal their star prior to free agency.
4. Patty Mills, G, San Antonio Spurs
This one checks off plenty of needs on the list. Shooter? Check. Ball handler? Check. Not J.J. Barea? Check.
Add in the fact that he gets instant credibility coming from that San Antonio organization, and Mills could play a real role for the Timberwolves. It could be hard to pry him away from the Spurs if they really want to keep him though, and it’s possible that he wants a shot at starting somewhere.
Lots of moving pieces to what happens with him, but he could be acquired in the later stages of free agency.
5. P.J. Tucker, F, Phoenix Suns
I love Tucker’s game, and he’s the type of player that every team needs if it wants to compete at the highest level. He does the dirty work, and not afraid to mix it up when he needs to.
This is not the signing that makes Kevin Love change his mind, but if you want to build a winning culture you need hustle players that are willing to work. He could be had for the right price, and you could do much worse in free agency.