The Timberwolves decision to let Tyus Jones go to the Memphis Grizzlies on a three-year, $28 million deal had to be difficult for owner Glen Taylor, head coach Ryan Saunders, and the rest of the club who have helped Jones develop into a fine young player after former Timberwolves executive and head coach Flip Saunders traded up to get him in the first round of the 2015 draft.
Whether or not Jones is worth that kind of money — he is slotted to be the 36th-highest-paid point guard for next season — is the sort of decision that’s left up to new President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas, but there’s no doubt that losing Jones, who made his name nationally as a prep standout here at Apple Valley before being named the MVP of the Final Four for Duke, is a public relations blow to the organization.
And losing Jones also opens up another big question: The Wolves now enter the 2019-2020 season with Jeff Teague as their only point guard of note, and he played just 42 games last season while posting the worst shooting percentage (42.3) of his career. That has to lower their playoff chances by a big margin.
And Teague could be off the team next season because his three-year, $57 million deal will be up.
So the question of who will be the Wolves point guard of the future remains hard to figure out. The free-agent class for next year has some quality point guards names such as Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic but they’ll be very expensive and at age 34 they won’t fit the timeline of Karl-Anthony Towns, which has been a big talking point of Rosas in the offseason.
Taylor on offseason
While Taylor couldn’t be reached for comment on the decision to let Jones go, he did talk earlier this week about how he views the first offseason under Rosas.
“I like him very much. I like the work that he is doing, and I like the staff that he is putting around himself,” Taylor said. “I think the only thing that didn’t work out the way that we hoped was we went after [former Nets point guard D’Angelo] Russell and thought that he was interested in us only to find out he made a deal with Golden State.
“Other than that these are the type of players we hoped to fill our bench with, guys that have big upside and that we can sign to contracts and keep them around.”
Is he worried about going over the salary cap?
“We’re over the cap but we’re not into the tax situation, yet,” Taylor said.
The Wolves have added some young players with upside such as center Jordan Bell (one year, $1.62 million), point guard Shabazz Napier (one year, $1.88 million), power forward Noah Vonleh (one year, $2 million) and small forward Jake Layman (three years, $11.5 million), but for the most part they didn’t make any risky moves.
But the fact is this club also lost some really key veteran players in Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson, Anthony Tolliver and Luol Deng to free agency.
And while there’s no doubt Taylor was not happy about the players leaving, it was mainly just a case of salary cap issues and former players getting bigger contracts, like Rose getting $15 million for two years from Detroit.
Saunders, Rosas work
When it comes to the coaching hires the club made, such as associated head coach David Vanterpool, assistant coach Pablo Prigioni and player development coaches Kevin Burleson and Brian Randle, Taylor said that Saunders and Rosas are on the same page.
“I know that they mutually agreed on these coaches. Gersson has contacts, too,” Taylor said. “I think he is helping Ryan meet these guys, and Ryan is interviewing them and in the long run, I have talked to both of them, ‘Are you satisfied?’ And both of them have come back and said yes that these are the type of guys I want on our team.
“As far as everything I have seen so far, they just work really close together in making decisions.”
What did Taylor make of some of the big free agent moves such as Kawhi Leonard going to the Clippers with Paul George and Anthony Davis going to the Lakers?
“As an owner I look at it two ways, we have what appears to be more and more movement to the [Western Conference], which will make it more and more difficult for us and our campaign to win. But on the other hand I think all of the movement and the talk that goes on really extends the basketball season, because we do have a great following,” he said. “All of these trades and activity that’s going on I just think heightens the interest in the NBA.”
Pleased with Culver
One move that Taylor really liked was the decision to trade the No. 11 pick and Dario Saric to Phoenix for the No. 6 pick, which landed the club Jarrett Culver.
“First of all we looked at where we would draft at at No. 11 and the players available,” he said. “There were a lot of players there that had potential but probably didn’t see them helping us immediately. We thought if we could move up to a higher level, in this case for Jarrett, that he could help us more immediately.”
He said that he believes Culver can be an immediate impact guy, much like Josh Okogie was last season when he played in 74 games and averaged 7.7 points.
Does he have any indication of how season ticket renewals are going after the Wolves ranked 28th in attendance last season?
“Well we’re plugging away, we hope that we can continue to get the people excited about our team this coming year, and we ask our staff to go out there and keep working on it and they’re doing it,” he said. “It’s a work in progress.”
Fleck redshirt ready
Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck said one of the most intriguing parts of his roster for next season, which will feature just 12 seniors, is a large number of redshirt freshman who will step into bigger roles.
Fleck said that the team is getting closer to having the kind of roster that can basically manage itself.
“We feel like a lot of guys who will be able to [play],” Fleck said. “Brevyn Spann-Ford, Curtis Dunlap Jr., there’s a lot of [redshirt freshman] that are very talented,” Fleck said. “And our true freshman that we continue to talk about, James Gordon and Tyler Nubin’s, guys like that that we feel can help us, as well. I really like our football team right now. I like the way they’re working. I love the way they’ve come together.
“We’re doing everything we can to push toward this team-ran program. This team ran team. The players ran team. We’re getting closer to that.”