On Thursday, the Timberwolves agreed to trade Ricky Rubio to Cleveland for Taurean Prince, and in so doing, they saved about $4.8 million against the salary cap. The move appears to be a table setter for the Wolves in the season of free agency, which begins Monday at 5 p.m. with the open negotiation period between teams and players.
President Gersson Rosas has said trades or sign-and-trades will be the most likely vehicle for revamping the Wolves' roster in coming days, and that process began with the Rubio-Prince deal.
As always Rosas has aimed high, as the Wolves have had interest in Atlanta's John Collins and reported interest in Philadelphia's Ben Simmons. But throughout the process with Simmons, league sources were skeptical the Wolves could drum up the kind of trade haul the 76ers were looking for in exchange for Simmons, and reports in recent days have mentioned other teams like the Heat and Raptors over the Wolves in serious contention for Simmons.
That comes with the caveat that situations can change quickly, especially as the craziness of free agency begins.
In the case of Collins, who is a restricted free agent, veteran NBA writer Marc Stein reported that teams wondering about Collins' availability have grown pessimistic they can lure him away from Atlanta.
Those fans hoping for the Wolves to land a big name may have to dream a little smaller. The Wolves also have been reportedly linked to Indiana's Myles Turner and JaMychal Green, who played with Denver last season.
The Rubio trade created a void at backup point guard for the Wolves, and it also created room for them to sign 2020 first-round pick Leandro Bolmaro while still adding pieces to the team.
Bolmaro was the 23rd pick of the 2020 draft and would be making a salary around $2.3 million his first year if he were to sign, and that would still leave the Wolves with around $8 million below the luxury tax. They could use that to take on salary in another trade, should Rosas find one that he likes, or sign another player using their midlevel or biannual exceptions.
Rosas has made complementing Karl-Anthony Towns at the power forward slot a priority, and Prince, if he isn't flipped in another deal, can play that position while shooting 37% from three-point range. But in recent days Rosas said the Wolves are also on the lookout for a center who might aid Towns in rim protection.
"We're open minded, because it comes down to options," Rosas said after the draft Thursday. "Sometimes it might be a center with KAT's versatility that would allow you to add a center who's more of a rim protector, rebounder, a defensive impact big that we can put next to KAT."
The Wolves extended a qualifying offer to Jarred Vanderbilt, who played the four alongside Towns last season, to make Vanderbilt a restricted free agent. They also gave a qualifying offer to point guard Jordan McLaughlin.
Rosas also said the high number of players in this free agent class who re-signed is likely to lead to more activity in the trade market, and deals can materialize in surprising places.
They have a little more flexibility to make those deals after the Rubio trade, but so far the big-name splashes don't seem likely for the Wolves to make in coming days.
The Wolves have a core of players they like in Towns, D'Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Jaden McDaniels and Anthony Edwards, while a player like Naz Reid showed growth from year one to year two.
That being said, Rosas would like to acquire big-name talent any time those kind of players become available. Just how available will they be for the Wolves?