Timberwolves free-agency primer: What I'm hearing on Kyle Anderson and more (2024)

Kyle Anderson’s second season in Minnesota was a difficult one to define.

On the one hand, Anderson’s numbers all plunged considerably as he came back from a significant eye injury. He shot a ghastly 23 percent from 3-point range, struggling so terribly that he practically stopped shooting them altogether. With Karl-Anthony Towns healthy at the beginning of the season, Anderson had to play more small forward than his natural position of power forward, and it hurt his effectiveness.

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On the other hand, Timberwolves coach Chris Finch trusted Anderson implicitly. The veteran’s basketball IQ, playmaking and ability to play and defend multiple positions were so important to Finch that he did not let the poor shooting shake his confidence in Anderson.

As he contemplated his future at the end of the season, Anderson was fully aware of both elements. He knew that the Wolves payroll was about to skyrocket, and that it would be difficult for the team to keep him on a new multiyear deal that would pay him near the $9 million he made last season. Anderson also knew that it may be difficult for him to find a coach who believed in him more than Finch did.

“A lot of coaches I came across in my career sometimes kind of don’t know how to use me or don’t know what to do with me,” Anderson said. “For as long as I’ve been here, Finchy put me in positions to be successful. He trusted me with decision-making, trusted me to play my game and allowed me to have the ball in my hands.”

When the Timberwolves acquired the No. 8 overall pick from San Antonio to take Rob Dillingham last week, they added more than $20 million to their already bloated payroll. Such is their new life as a tax-paying team with a payroll that will exceed the second apron of the league’s tax structure, meaning it is going to go over $189 million. That severely limits the team’s options when it comes to adding talent.

As it stands, the Wolves can spend whatever they want to retain their free agents, including Anderson, Monte Morris and Jordan McLaughlin. But each dollar spent carries a tax that makes it like spending four times that amount. Owner Glen Taylor has been aggressive in green-lighting president of basketball operations Tim Connelly to do what it takes to improve a team that made the Western Conference finals last season.

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But Anderson knew then, and he knows now, that there is only so high the Timberwolves can go to retain a player who will turn 31 in September and is coming off of the worst shooting season of his career.

Connelly and Finch have said they want Anderson back. But as teams started negotiating with free agents on Sunday evening, it became clear that the two sides were far apart, according to team and league sources. A reunion has not been ruled out, but there were little signs of progress in the early going.

Anderson also said at the end of the season that he would like to come back. His son is on the autism spectrum, and Anderson said he has been doing well in the schools in the Minneapolis suburbs. But as the season got further away and free agency closed in, there appeared to be less common ground between Anderson and the Wolves.

Anderson is one of the very best free-agent signings in Timberwolves history. He has been a vocal leader in the locker room and a do-it-all player on the court. If he departs, Finch will not have one of his most trusted players to lean on anymore. It may open up even more of an offensive role for Naz Reid. Josh Minott and Leonard Miller could see more than slivers of garbage time. Terrence Shannon Jr., the other Timberwolves rookie, might have more minutes on the wing.

Or maybe Anderson will test the market, see fewer dollars than he expected and return to a team and a coach that values him. That’s not how it felt on Day 1 of free-agent discussions, but things can change quickly in this league.

If Anderson does go elsewhere, the Wolves can only replace him with a veteran minimum contract. The young players that are already in their system will likely be relied upon much more than they have been.

The Wolves did not agree on any deals on the first day of the market opening, but now is a good time to look at where the roster stands.

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Point guard

Starter: Mike Conley, 36 years old

Bench: Rob Dillingham, 19

The skinny: Conley signed a two-year extension in February, a deal that would likely carry him to the end of his career. He is an essential part of what the Timberwolves do, and his physical limitations in the Western Conference finals were one reason the series was over as quickly as it was.

Conley is very much still a starter in this league, but the Wolves need depth behind him. That is one of the reasons they were so aggressive in getting Dillingham on the first night of the draft.

For all the flashy, bucket-getting highlights in Dillingham’s reel, Connelly made one thing very clear after trading for him. The Wolves see him as a point guard.

“He’s a 1,” Connelly said. “He’s a 1 who’s a bucket.”

Free-agent outlook: Morris and McLaughlin were backup point guards last season. Indications are that McLaughlin will likely land elsewhere. The Wolves would like to get Morris back to give them some more veteran experience, but it also seems unlikely given his limited playing time in the playoffs and the addition of Dillingham in the draft.

Shooting guard

Starter:Anthony Edwards, 22

Bench:Nickeil Alexander-Walker, 25; Jaylen Clark, 22

The skinny: Edwards emerged as a legitimate superstar in his fourth season after playing with Team USA in the FIBA World Cup. Now he heads to Paris for the Olympics, which is sure to give him even more juice as he comes back for Year 5, a special number for him. Alexander-Walker made a name for himself last season as a top-flight perimeter defender. The next step for him is getting more consistent with his offense.

Clark sat out his rookie season while recovering from a torn Achilles and will play in the summer league. He will have plenty of rust to knock off but he was highly thought of as a college prospect before his injury at UCLA.

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Free-agent outlook: With Dillingham’s ability to play off the ball as well, the Wolves have a lot of versatility in the backcourt. Do theyneedanother shooting guard? No. But adding shooting is never a bad thing. Delon Wright, a combo guard, could be worth a look if the market allows. Eric Gordon would have been interesting, but he was snatched up by Philadelphia soon after the market opened.

Small forward

Starter:Jaden McDaniels, 23

Bench:Terrence Shannon Jr., 23; Josh Minott, 21

The skinny: McDaniels was terrific defensively last season, building on his reputation as one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. But he had a disappointing regular season on offense with stats down across the board, including his 33.7 percent 3-point shooting. He was much better in the playoffs and needs to build on that going into his fifth season.

Shannon was chosen 27th overall and the Wolves love his aggressiveness attacking the rim and getting out in transition. He will turn 24 at the end of July, making him older than a lot of “veterans” on the roster.

Minott has played 187 minutes in his two seasons. With so much at stake in the regular season as the Wolves jockeyed for playoff position, Finch just did not trust giving Minott consistent playing time. If Anderson does leave, Finch may not have a choice but to give Minott a real chance. He has intriguing physical tools. It’s time to see if he’s ready for real action.

Free-agent outlook: There is a lot of youth at the position. Even though Anderson was more of a power forward, he could handle the ball and move to the 3 if needed. Joe Ingles, a player who drew interest from the Wolves in the past, would bring a veteran presence and a shotmaker. Connelly would have had interest in Gordon Hayward had he hit the buy-out market last winter, but I haven’t heard any rumblings about his name in free agency. Torrey Craig has hit 39 percent of his 3s in his last two seasons.

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Power forward

Starter:Karl-Anthony Towns, 28

Bench:Naz Reid, 24; Leonard Miller, 20

The skinny: Towns was an All-Star again in 2023-24 and played very well against Phoenix and Denver in the playoffs. He struggled against Dallas, renewing calls in some corners for him to be traded. But the Wolves will not be making a trade to save money this summer. Owner Glen Taylor is committed to spending big to keep the team competitive.

Reid won NBA Sixth Man of the Year for his play last season and has improved measurably each season he has been in the league. He likely has real trade value around the league, but the Wolves see him as an essential piece of their team going forward.

Miller is a captivating talent, big, strong, athletic and with a nose for rebounding. He is still quite raw and will likely see a lot of time in Iowa again. But the Wolves are high on his long-term outlook.

Free-agent outlook: Point guard and wing seem to be more likely targets for the Wolves, but they could look at old friend Robert Covington as a possibility. He has struggled with injuries and could just stay in Philly, so it may be unlikely. Doug McDermott is a career 41 percent 3-point shooter. His defensive shortcomings may not be as glaring with this group of Wolves and his ability to hit open 3s would be helpful.

Center

Starter: Rudy Gobert, 32

Bench: Reid and Towns

The skinny: Gobert returned to form as one of the dominant defensive players in the league, winning his fourth NBA Defensive Player of the Year award. The image of Luka Dončić hitting the 3 over him in the conference finals will linger, but the trade to get him has already been validated by their success this season and the playoff experience it provided for Edwards, Reid and McDaniels.

The Wolves have the best three-big rotation in the league. KAT and Naz’s versatility allows them to play both frontcourt spots, and all three can play in two-big or one-big lineups.

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Free-agent outlook: The Timberwolves reached an agreement Monday with Luka Garza on a two-year, minimum deal, league sources confirmed to The Athletic. The Wolves very much want to bring him back. He hasn’t been able to play a ton, but he is a gifted offensive player and does offer insurance should one of the main bigs get injured.

(Photo of Kyle Anderson: David Sherman / NBAE via Getty Images)

Timberwolves free-agency primer: What I'm hearing on Kyle Anderson and more (1)Timberwolves free-agency primer: What I'm hearing on Kyle Anderson and more (2)

Jon Krawczynski is a senior writer for The Athletic covering the Minnesota Timberwolves, the NBA and the Minnesota Vikings. Jon joined The Athletic after 16 years at The Associated Press, where he covered three Olympics, three NBA Finals, two Ryder Cups and the 2009 NFC Championship Game. Follow Jon on Twitter @JonKrawczynski

Timberwolves free-agency primer: What I'm hearing on Kyle Anderson and more (2024)
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