Wolves still want to seal a deal

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 30, 2007 - 7:15 PM

The team will continue to pursue trades before turning its attention to free agency, which opens today.

Patience, Kevin McHale said.

McHale, the Timberwolves vice president of basketball operations, had just made the second of two draft picks Thursday night. In a few hours the Wolves had added two University of Florida teammates: Corey Brewer -- the quick, athletic perimeter defender -- and Chris Richard, a muscular inside banger.

So, with two needs addressed, naturally McHale is going to roll up his sleeves, take a gander at the free agent market and ...

Wait?

Wait a while, actually, he said.

Today was when NBA free agents and teams could officially start talking. Agreements can be reached but can't be signed until July 11, when the league and the players' association announce the new salary cap figure.

The Timberwolves enter free agency with two salary cap exceptions: a biannual and the mid-level. Last year those were worth $1.75 million and $5.215 million, respectively. So no, the Wolves don't have a lot of money to play with. But as McHale noted, neither do most of the other NBA teams.

So expect McHale to wait a while before augmenting his roster through free agency. There are other priorities to deal with.

Such as trades. While McHale continues to say Kevin Garnett will be a part of his team, he hinted strongly that the Wolves roster will continue to be restructured through trades.

"We've had a lot of different talks with a lot of different teams," he said. "So I think there is probably a few deals we're pretty far down the road on. But again ... there is a rhythm to the league. Deals you talk about at the trade deadline usually start happening now. And deals you talk a lot about at this time happen after the draft, after everyone knows who they've picked and at what position. ... So now my first priority will probably be to pursue a few more trades."

So if McHale is serious about not trading Garnett, who are the most likely to be moved?

Trenton Hassell is a name that will be mentioned, seeing as Brewer's strength is also Hassell's -- perimeter defense. Hassell has three more years left on his contract -- the third being a player option -- at $4.35 million annually.

Ricky Davis would be a tradable asset, given his ability to score and the fact that his $6.82 million deal will be wiped off the books after the coming season.

The agent for guard Troy Hudson has asked for a trade, but it seems unlikely the Wolves would be able to find a team willing to take on three years at nearly $19 million in salary.

Marko Jaric is another player on the Wolves' guard-heavy roster who has a lot of time (four years) and money ($27.35 million) left on his deal.

McHale will have a far better idea of what he needs after he finds out how much he can change his roster with trades.

That said, given their relative lack of money to spend, the Wolves aren't going to be in the market for the likes of Rashard Lewis, Chauncey Billups or Gerald Wallace.

But with patience a talented free-agent field might come back to the team later, and the Wolves might be able to fill a key need.

Or needs.

"I anticipate us still being very active, in terms of what we're trying to do and the pieces we're trying to add," Wolves coach Randy Wittman said. "Whether through free agency or making more [trades]. We have a lot of work still ahead of us."

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