Tom Thibodeau said he’s not done trying to make the Timberwolves better for the upcoming season. But fans frustrated the Wolves didn’t dive deeply into the free agency pool in the past week need to be patient.
Thibodeau, the Timberwolves president of basketball operations and head coach, talked with local media via telephone Saturday afternoon from Las Vegas, where he watched first-round draft pick Kris Dunn make an impressive summer league debut Friday night.
“We want to take everything step by step,” Thibodeau said. “So the first part was the draft. Then, of course, the free agency. We have a little room, and there will be trade potential. We have cap space. I think we have assets that are attractive to other people. We’re pleased. We feel we improved our depth.”
The Wolves reached agreements on a three-year, $22 million deal with center Cole Aldrich and with three-point shooting specialist Brandon Rush on a one-year, $3.5 million deal.
What the Wolves didn’t do in the past week was take a plunge with a big-money contract. At least two players the Wolves were reportedly interested in — Luol Deng and Pau Gasol — ended up elsewhere. Deng got a four-year, $72 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers while Gasol went to San Antonio.
“I think part of it, too, is it’s our first year [with the Wolves],’’ Thibodeau said, referring to himself and General Manager Scott Layden. “So it’s important for us to be patient and evaluate the players that we do have. But, when we see good opportunities for us to go after people, we will. It didn’t work with a couple we thought would be a good fit. But we like our young core a lot, and we’re going to work with them.’’
Thibodeau also seemed to indicate the process of building the Wolves into a contender will take time. So, perhaps, a big free agency splash might not have been the right move.
“I would say this,” Thibodeau said. “We’re also not fooling ourselves. We’re in a very competitive conference. We won 29 games last year.’’
That said, the Wolves do remain flexible. They are about $6.5 million below the salary cap floor and have more than $15 million before reaching the salary cap limit.
The team could dip back into free agency. But the cap space would also allow the team to make a trade that could absorb a good-sized salary.
“We like our young core a lot,” Thibodeau said, referring to players like Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and, it appears, Dunn. “We have to look at them. When the right opportunity presents itself, we’ll take advantage of that.’’
Here’s what Thibodeau had to say on a couple other issues:
On Dunn’s impressive, 10-for-18, 27-point summer league debut Friday. Thibodeau liked what he saw, particularly that it came against a Denver backcourt that included Jamal Murray and Emmanuel Mudiay. But he wasn’t ready to go overboard.
“You can’t get too carried away with it,’’ he said. “There’s a big difference between summer league and an NBA regular season game … But it’s a start.
On Aldrich: “I think he’ll fit well with us with his size, shot-blocking, his ability to finish around the rim,” he said. “I thought he had a terrific season with the Clippers. We’re excited to have him.’’
On Rush: “He comes from a winning organization,’’ he said, referring to Golden State. “He’s versatile … But the shooting was the main thing for him.’’