Wolves: Three contract situations require offseason study

  • Updated: April 12, 2014 - 9:14 PM

Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Rick Adelman reacted to a call in the third quarter. Minnesota beat Atlanta by a final score of 107-83. ] CARLOS GONZALEZ cgonzalez@startribune.com - March 26, 2014, Minneapolis, Minn., Target Center, NBA, Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Atlanta Hawks

Three pending contract situations loom large for the Wolves heading into the offseason:

Kevin Love

Why don’t the Wolves just rip up his contract and sign him to a maximum long-term contract extension right now? Well, because they can’t.

Here are their options after they convinced him in January 2012 to sign a four-year contract that gives him an opt-out clause after three seasons and makes him an unrestricted free agent in 2015:

• They can sign him to a two-year extension in January 2015. It would keep him put until 2018, but he has no reason to accept that because he can sign for twice as much if he waits six months.

• When he opts out in July 2015 — a slam dunk, if you will — they can sign him to a five-year extension, one year longer than any other team. They also can give him larger annual raises, so he would be refusing an extra $26.5 million if he signs a four-year deal elsewhere.

Rick Adelman

Either he or the Wolves can choose to opt out of the final season of a four-year contract he signed in September 2011. Both parties say the issue will be addressed after the season ends Wednesday. There’s a two-week window at season’s end for either side to opt out.

If one side doesn’t exercise the opt-out for next season, the other side almost certainly will. Adelman is 67 and his wife, Mary Kay, has had health issues the past two seasons.

There’s a provision for Adelman to continue as a consultant if he doesn’t return to coach next season.

Ricky Rubio

The Wolves can negotiate a contract extension starting July 1 and they will make it a priority during a window that lasts through October. But this one could get complicated.

If former Wolves boss David Kahn insisted Love take a four-year deal so he could save his one five-year maximum “designated player” slot for Rubio, well, the third-year point guard hasn’t played nearly well enough to deserve it, even if he is finishing the season with a flourish.

Look for the Wolves to position themselves offering something less than the four-year, $44 million deal Stephen Curry signed or certainly the four-year, $48 million contract Ty Lawson received.

Both sides want a deal done, but the disparity between what each thinks Rubio is worth could create a situation similar to those involving Utah’s Gordon Hayward, Phoenix’s Eric Bledsoe and Detroit’s Greg Monroe. All three didn’t sign extensions last fall and this summer will test the restricted free-agent market. Their current teams will have the right to match any offer.

Replacing Adelman

A look at possible coaching candidates when Rick Adelman doesn’t return. So much will depend on Kevin Love’s uncertain future.

TOP POSSIBILITIES

Fred Hoiberg: The former Wolves player and front-office executive is a natural fit because of his history with Flip Saunders and the franchise. But would he leave Iowa State, his hometown of Ames and his beloved status as “The Mayor” just when he’s got it so good, especially after getting a $600,000 raise Friday? That depends on what the Wolves pay, how much he dislikes the cesspool that is college recruiting and his willingness to uproot his children. Expect the Wolves to try.

Flip Saunders: The Wolves president would almost certainly be the next coach if it were up to him, but owner Glen Taylor says he wants Saunders to focus on one job because a coach lives in the present and a good manager must think for the future. He still could change Taylor’s mind, particularly if he convinces Taylor that his coaching system and style will help keep Kevin Love in Minnesota.

George Karl: The winner of 1,131 games still wants to work, and he is still Coach of the Year. He also loves Love, Ricky Rubio and Corey Brewer, but health is an issue and so is Love’s future.

Others

Tom Izzo: Saunders’ buddy from Michigan State consulted with him on last summer’s draft, but he, too, has it really good in college.

Jeff Van Gundy: Another pal of Saunders, they talk daily and scouted this spring’s NCAA tournament together. Jeff’s brother Stan is available, too.

Sam Mitchell: The former Wolves player was considered at Taylor’s behest when David Kahn hired Adelman in 2011. There’s also a relationship with Saunders, for whom he played nearly 20 years ago.

Hamstrung ...

With Kevin Love signed to a max salary, Nikola Pekovic signed to a rich deal as well and Ricky Rubio contract negotiations starting this summer, the Wolves are well over the salary cap and approaching the luxury-tax threshold.

That means they will be limited in making additions this summer and will have to get creative trying to add a rotation player or two. They don’t have the money to sign a big-name free agent. Unless they can swing a meaningful trade or trades, they will be limited to their midlevel exception.

Will they be back?

Five players you might be seeing for the last times as Wolves: Dante Cunningham, J.J. Barea, Alexey Shved, Chase Budinger, Robbie Hummel.

And just maybe, Nikola Pekovic. It’s a longer shot but … rookie Gorgui Dieng’s late-season emergence could give the Wolves a trade chip to upgrade at small forward if someone is willing to take Pekovic’s big contract and injury history. At the least, Dieng’s presence will let the Wolves limit Pekovic’s playing time in an attempt to keep him healthier.

JERRY ZGODA





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