Entering Wednesday’s NBA draft, Timberwolves President Gersson Rosas said he would take the best talent with the No. 1 overall pick, regardless of how that player fit with the current roster construction.
So it was also convenient that Rosas decided Anthony Edwards, who can play off the ball, was his pick, since Edwards figures to slot in easily playing alongside star guard D’Angelo Russell and center Karl-Anthony Towns.
In this breakneck week of the NBA offseason, free agency begins Friday, meaning the Wolves and 29 other teams have to act quickly to make their changes and acquisitions for the coming season.
A bit of news surrounding the Wolves surfaced Thursday, and forward James Johnson’s tenure with the Wolves is coming to an end. Johnson opted in to a $16 million player option, and the Wolves are sending him to Oklahoma City to complete the trade that is bringing Ricky Rubio back to Minnesota, a source said. Johnson arrived in a deadline deal in February in a three-team trade that sent Gorgui Dieng to Memphis. Rubio makes a similar salary to Johnson (about $17 million), but his contract lasts for two years. The Wolves are hoping Rubio can be a mentor for Edwards the way he was for Donovan Mitchell in Utah and that Rubio can help sustain the playmaking ability of the offense when Russell needs a breather or even when pairing with Russell.
The drafting of Edwards may look like it calls into question the Wolves’ long-term commitment to Malik Beasley, the shooting guard the Wolves acquired from Denver at the February trade deadline. Beasley is a restricted free agent, meaning the Wolves can match any other offer he may get. Rosas has said Beasley is in the long-term plans of the organization, even as Beasley is facing a legal battle involving charges of drug possession and threats of violence for an incident at his home in September.
A report from Yahoo said the Wolves have made Beasley available in trade discussions, but a source said the Wolves haven’t made Beasley available and still want to re-sign him even after drafting Edwards. The Wolves view Edwards as having position versatility given his size and strength. They envision him being able to play on the wing or at power forward given the NBA’s propensity to play smaller fours and Edwards’ strength at 6-5, 225 pounds to guard that position.
The Wolves also plan to re-sign forward Juancho Hernangomez, a restricted free agent who came to Minnesota with Beasley from Denver.
After that, there won’t be much wiggle room for the Wolves to avoid the luxury tax, which they had to venture into last season (albeit only by a bit) to make the Russell-for-Andrew Wiggins trade happen. They still will have their mid-level exception (around $9.26 million) and biannual exception ($3.6 million) to sign new talent. But beyond that there might have to be some creative thinking in terms of bringing in new players, such as finding a trade partner, if the Wolves wanted to go that route.
“I expect us to be busy, primarily around our own guys and then looking for opportunities to address needs,” Rosas said. “We want to be strategic with our spends in that we want players that either fit our system, players that [match with our timeline] or veterans that can help move us forward.”
If you include the February trade deadline and Wednesday’s draft, Rosas has made seismic changes to the roster already to get it where he wants it to be. Friday is another chance for more tweaks, but just how much activity there will be is still unknown.