Faced with an offseason in which the Timberwolves will try to sign All-Stars Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns, coach/president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau said Monday he expects Andrew Wiggins to have a productive summer now that he has signed his max contract and won’t have that as a distraction.
“The big thing with this summer, it won’t be clouded,” Thibodeau said. “Last summer, he had his contract that probably took something away from him.”
Thibodeau called the experience gained during a five-game series against Houston particularly “huge” for a young player such as Wiggins and praised his improvement this past season, saying Wiggins learned to make “winning plays” even though he wasn’t as productive statistically with Butler playing the perimeter alongside him.
The Wolves could give themselves more flexibility to sign Butler and Towns if they can trade backup center Gorgui Dieng and his contract, which has three years and more than $48 million left on it.
But that’s a tricky proposition at best. Tricky, too, would be trading Wiggins, whose max contract doesn’t start until this coming season.
Thibodeau favorite Derrick Rose will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Reserve forward Nemanja Bjelica will be a restricted free agent, and he last week said he’d prefer to stay in Minnesota.
Veteran guard Jamal Crawford has, at age 38, a $4.5 million player option for next season and veteran center Cole Aldrich can be bought out of his nearly $7 million salary next season for $2 million if he’s waived by June 20.
With a rising payroll, the Wolves will approach luxury-tax territory and often will be limited to adding players on league-minimum contracts or salary-cap exceptions.
Thibodeau knows and trusts Rose from their five years together in Chicago, where Rose won league MVP and Thibodeau Coach of the Year in 2011 together. He said Monday he particularly liked a three-guard lineup that placed Rose alongside either Jeff Teague or Tyus Jones as well as Crawford. He often had Butler playing power forward as well in that alignment.
Thibodeau said Rose’s future with the team also will be addressed at that aforementioned appropriate time.
“We thought Derrick was a terrific addition,” Thibodeau said.