INDIANAPOLIS – Among the items on the to-do list for first-year Timberwolves President Gersson Rosas were to find players that fit the fast-paced, high-volume three-point-hoisting style the Wolves want to play, and to find a way to create some flexibility as it pertains to the roster and the salary cap.
The trade isn’t a flashy one. It involves a pair of high-priced veterans both on expiring deals in Teague, who is making $19 million this season, and Crabbe, who is making $18.5 million — deals worth more than they are producing. But with the move, the Wolves create a roster spot they can use in future deals before next month’s trade deadline, or perhaps to sign two-way player Kelan Martin to a full NBA contract. They also save a little money, which can be helpful for consummating more deals.
“We want to be positioned where we can take advantage of opportunities that present themselves where we can acquire a high-level [player] and give a team space if they need it,” Rosas said in a teleconference Thursday.
In the meantime, the Wolves are going to see what they have in Crabbe while moving on from players who didn’t quite fit what they are trying to accomplish.
Teague, 31, dealt with a variety of injuries last season before he had a left ankle debridement procedure in April. He exercised a player option on the third year of his deal, which he signed when Tom Thibodeau was coach and president, to rejoin the Wolves for $19 million. In a mutual decision between him and coach Ryan Saunders, Teague shifted to a bench role in November, and he has been there ever since.
He is averaging 13.2 points and 6.1 assists on 45% shooting, but his propensity to hang on to the ball while running the offense has clashed at times with the fast, heavy-ball-movement style the Wolves want to play.
“I’ll give Jeff a lot of credit for trying and doing whatever was asked of him, to try to be a good fit in our system,” Rosas said. “I think, big picture, it’s just a different game. And the way he plays, this system is maybe not as complementary in that we need our lead guard to be a guy who pushes tempo, is more of a creator than a scorer. … He’s been very successful in this league a long time playing the way he plays. But at the end of the day, I think as personnel develop you can either fit or not fit. Jeff did everything he could on his end.”
Teague returns to the franchise that drafted him 19th overall in 2009. He spent seven seasons with the Hawks, earning his only All-Star appearance in 2015.
Graham, 26, came from the Nets last offseason along with Shabazz Napier as part of the D’Angelo Russell sign-and-trade the Wolves facilitated between Golden State and Brooklyn. He was in the final year of a two-year deal that paid him around $1.6 million this season. He was shooting just 24% from the three-point line and averaging 5.2 points per game after beginning the season as a starter.
Crabbe, 27, is not unfamiliar to some on the Wolves. He played in Portland under associate head coach David Vanterpool and in Brooklyn under assistant Pablo Prigioni.
The Wolves are hopeful he will be a better fit for them, and if he isn’t, they can move on from him after the season. Crabbe is a career 39% three-point shooter, though he has played in only 28 games this season and is averaging 5.1 points per game.
“The combination of his skill set, profile, his age, those are areas that have been key parts of our approach with that position,” Rosas said.
“We feel like the ability to add a player who’s add some experience in those systems has an opportunity to improve our shooting and is at an age where we can get a strong evaluation.”
If Crabbe is a fit, the Wolves are open to keeping him around past this season. Having his Bird Rights, which allow a team to go over the salary cap to re-sign players, can help with that.
“We need guys that are two-way players that can shoot, guard, defend, or impact the system in other ways,” Rosas said
“But overall, shooting is always welcome. You just want to be able to acquire it in a way that it’s a player that can be in your rotation, and a player that can develop. Allen has that profile.”
This isn’t the only move the Wolves will be attempting to make ahead of the Feb. 6 trade deadline. With Teague’s departure, Napier is the only true point guard on the roster. Jarrett Culver and Andrew Wiggins have taken on that role at times, and they figure to see more time in those roles moving forward. Rosas said the Wolves are still looking at how to best fill that position.
“I’ve got a time line, unfortunately the 29 other teams are not on the same time line,” Rosas said with a laugh.
“But we’re working on that to figure it out. We’re going to be very aggressive through development of our guys. We’d love to see our guys take advantage of those opportunities.”