Fresh off of the NBA Draft and the subsequent Shabazz mania, NBA free agency is upon us. Here’s what we know so far:
The Wolves have already talked with OJ Mayo’s camp. Mayo, in fact was Flip’s first stop in his free-agent shopping.
Reading the tea leaves on stuff like this is never easy, but it appears that at the very least, there may be some “there” there to the earlier RUMINT about Flip & co.’s interest in Mayo. Like it or not, Mayo is a professional, starting-caliber shooting guard who would bring veteran experience to the position that a rookie whose upside might be higher lacks (cough, C.J. McCollum, cough).
Still, given that an unhealthy Brandon Roy played in only five games last season and was replaced the rest of the way by Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea–point guards masquerading as shooting guards–it’s really tough to project how Mayo or any other traditional SG would fit into Rick’s offense.
Given what else is out there in free agency, I like Mayo the best of a bunch of imperfect possibilities to fill this area of need.
Tony Allen isn’t walking through that door. J.J. Redick probably isn’t either. Timberwolves killer Anthony Morrow is a great shooter but is otherwise very limited.
Now we need to figure out how Mayo and the Wolves’ salary cap situation jive. It currently appears they can only offer Mayo the mid-level exception.
As most of you already know, Andrei Kirilenko opted out of the remaining year of his contract, walking away from a guaranteed $10 million+ for next season to test free agency.
I have no idea whether the Wolves’ drafting Muhammad at #14 influenced AK’s decision, but what we know is that the likelihood of Kirilenko returning to the Wolves just got a lot smaller. Which is too bad. Despite his injuries last season (he missed 18 games), Kirilenko was probably the Wolves’ best player, averaging 12.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.5 steals.
The numbers don’t tell the whole story. Kirilenko fit great in Rick Adelman’s offense. At 32, he still played strong defense. He ran the floor like a deer. And his tattoos were pretty rad.
According to the Pioneer Press, AK wants a guaranteed three-year deal. Flip Saunders has shown no indication that he’s willing to sign Kirilenko for three years.
And so it goes; AK47 is probably no longer a Timberwolf. (For a ridiculously entertaining and insightful postmortem on Kirilenko’s time with the Wolves, see Steve McPherson’s write-up over at A Wolf Among Wolves.)
So there you have it. For each gap we fill, another opens up. The big question is whether the Wolves can address enough weaknesses in free agency to become the 48-win playoff hopeful that we’d all like to watch next season.