The interest between the Timberwolves and Nets guard D'Angelo Russell picked up steam on Saturday, as the Wolves will reportedly meet with Russell at the start of free agency on Sunday, a source confirmed to the Star Tribune.
President Gersson Rosas, coach Ryan Saunders and center Karl-Anthony Towns, who is a good friend of Russell, will be a part of that meeting in Los Angeles.
Rosas has made no secret of the fact that he wants to be aggressive if a star player becomes available, and it appears Russell is that player.
Significant roadblocks to a deal remain, but Rosas and the Wolves' new-look front office aren't afraid to get creative to make a deal happen. Yahoo Sports first reported the meeting.
First, Russell is a restricted free agent, meaning the Nets have some say in where he signs. But the Nets are the reported front-runners to sign point guard Kyrie Irving — ESPN reported Brooklyn was meeting with Irving on Sunday to discuss a $141 million deal over four years.
The Wolves would have to make some room around the salary cap to bring in Russell, and that might require a trade and deft roster maneuvering. It might include a sign-and-trade involving the Nets and a third team.
The Wolves have $111 committed to eight players after the trading of Dario Saric and the drafting of Jarrett Culver with the sixth overall pick last week. The salary cap sits around $109 million.
Perhaps the Wolves can find a taker for Andrew Wiggins and the four years remaining on his maximum contract, which is worth $27.5 million next season. That's a tall order, but moving Wiggins could create the necessary salary space. The question for the Wolves would be: What would they have to give up to make that happen?
Another path to signing Russell includes packaging guard Jeff Teague's expiring contract at $19 million with assets, like multiple draft picks (and potentially multiple first-round picks) and using the stretch provision on the two years and approximately $33.5 million owed to Gorgui Dieng. Doing so would spread the value of Dieng's contract over five years, but provide more than $9 million in cap relief immediately.
Depending on how much Russell might cost on the restricted free-agent market, trading Teague's contract and stretching Dieng could open up enough space to land Russell or get within shouting distance of being able to sign him. But given the leaguewide interest, Russell may end up commanding a maximum contract.
There would then be questions about roster depth and the Wolves' ability to build a bench around Towns, Wiggins and Russell. But for the Wolves, those might be happy questions to have if they can get Russell in the door.