For days, the Timberwolves and their fans hoped they would be getting a big-ticket free agent in D’Angelo Russell. Sunday was a reminder that getting your hopes up can only lead to crushing disappointment.
The Wolves took a big swing at the start of NBA free agency, and it appears they have missed.
Russell, the Wolves’ No. 1 target, is on the verge of joining the Golden State Warriors, according to multiple reports.
The Wolves had met with Russell on Sunday in Los Angeles and tried to sell him on a future playing alongside his friend Karl-Anthony Towns, but the allure of joining the Western Conference champions pulled the Nets guard even farther west than Minnesota.
There was promise earlier in the day, in the form of a New York Times report saying the Wolves were at the top of Russell’s free-agent wish list, but it turned out to be fool’s gold.
The Wolves were determined to get creative with their salary cap to acquire Russell. It would have meant moving a combination of Andrew Wiggins, Jeff Teague and Gorgui Dieng’s contracts.
Golden State acquired Russell in a reported sign-and-trade, the path the Wolves were most likely to take. The Warriors sent Andre Iguodala to Memphis along with a 2024 protected first-round pick, ESPN reported. The Warriors also acquired Treveon Graham and Shabazz Napier in the deal, according to the Athletic.
Durant out, Russell in
Kevin Durant’s decision to leave the Warriors for the Nets earlier Sunday opened the door for Russell’s move to Golden State. He was a restricted free agent, but the Nets reportedly were willing to work with Russell on getting him to his desired destination. Towns had done his best to recruit Russell, and the Wolves had him with President Gersson Rosas and coach Ryan Saunders in Los Angeles to meet with Russell. But the Warriors swooped in to snatch him.
Now where do the Wolves go?
There aren’t any big-ticket names left on the market that are available and have interest in the Wolves. The Wolves have $111 million committed to eight players and the salary cap sits just over $109 million. They were willing to try and create the cap space to land Russell, but there might not be any viable targets that are worth the hassle of trading assets to accomplish that.
For all the speculation of Wiggins potentially being on the move, he is still a member of the Wolves after free agency opened and a flurry of deals were agreed to within hours. The Wolves still also have the expiring $19 million deal of Teague, the two years, $33.5 million owed Dieng and will now have to pivot their free agency plans. Perhaps this means Tyus Jones returns.
The Wolves were scheduled to have a Skype meeting with Jones on Sunday, sources said. He is also a restricted free agent and the Wolves can match any offer sheet that comes in for him.
Rose and Gibson depart
The Wolves did lose some of their best voices in locker room from a year ago. Guard Derrick Rose agreed to a two-year deal with Detroit worth $15 million while Taj Gibson got a two-year $20 million deal with New York, according to ESPN. The oft-injured Rose rejuvenated his career last season and got the security of a multiyear deal. The Wolves haven’t had much discussion with another respected veteran, Anthony Tolliver, about a return, a source said.
Any moves that happen are likely to be small consolation for losing out on Russell, a top-level free agent who had an interest in playing in Minnesota. That kind of player doesn’t come along every day for this franchise, and the Wolves were willing to go all in to get him.
The closer you get, the more you get burned.