Tim Connelly and the Timberwolves added Monte Morris at the trade deadline, but they likely aren’t done searching for reinforcements.
The Minnesota Timberwolves made a splash at this year’s NBA Trade Deadline by acquiring point guard Monte Morris from the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Shake Milton, Troy Brown Jr., and a 2030 second-round pick. But that doesn’t mean President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly is done trying to upgrade what has the potential to be the best team in Wolves franchise history. The Timberwolves still have a clear shooting need, but another strong wing defender or big body to deploy if Rudy Gobert or Karl-Anthony Towns get into foul trouble wouldn’t hurt either.
Following the team’s move on Wednesday, Minnesota has two open roster spots, ample space beneath the luxury tax ($1.56 million), and enough mid-level exception money left over to pursue one buyout player without dipping into the luxury tax. That is, unless the Wolves make the NBA Finals; surely, incoming majority owners Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez would be fine paying a tax payment of less than $5 million if their squad did something never done before in franchise history.
This trade also now makes it mathematically possible for MIN to become a tax team. They’re currently $1.56M < the tax (w/o factoring unlikely bonuses).
– Conley = $750K for a Finals appearance
– Conley = $750K for a Championship
– McLaughlin = $50K for a 5.0+ A/TO ratio…
— Anil Gogna (@AnilGognaNBA) February 7, 2024
Before we take a look at which players might make sense for the Timberwolves to pick up, let’s get a few housekeeping things out of the way.
First, there are 14 teams with 1) and least one open roster spot and 2) who could feasibly be players in the buyout market; but they vary in spending power and whether or not they are subject to penalties for being over the first luxury tax apron ($7 million above the luxury tax line).
The most important rule to keep in mind as you think about potential targets is that teams north of the first apron cannot sign a player who was bought out from a deal with a 2023-24 season cap hit above the non-taxpayer mid-level exception of $12,405,000.
These teams are outlined in the table below:
Teams unable to sign a player who made more than $12.4 million:
- GSW, LAC*, PHX, BOS, MIL, DEN, MIA
(* currently does not have an open roster spot, either.)
Teams who can sign a player who made more than $12.4 million:
- LAL, MIN, OKC, CLE, NYK, PHI, NOP, DAL
For example, ex-Pistons shooter Joe Harris has a cap hit of $19,928,571 this season, so everyone in that first bucket is unable to sign him.
Now, for the next piece, the minimum a team can spend on a player in the buyout market is the veteran’s minimum rest-of-the-season salary, pro-rated by days on the roster ($11,675 this season). If the contract is above a minimum deal, even by a dollar, it needs to be paid out with mid-level exception money or bi-annual exception money (a rarity considering teams can only dip into it every other year).
If a player was signed on Saturday, February 10 (the soonest a player could be signed after clearing the 48-hour waivers), the cost for the rest of the season would be roughly $747,174 on a minimum deal. So the New York Knicks, who have $755,000 in their mid-level exception pool left, are barely able to afford a buyout player above the minimum — but that’s probably why their front office made sure they would have at least that much left over.
The Timberwolves have $3.4 million of MLE money leftover, but only $1.56 million in luxury tax space, so it is fair to assume they won’t be signing a player for more than the space minus $100k ($1.46 million) to account for Jordan McLaughlin’s incentives, which will count towards the tax if he hits them (refer to Anil’s tweet above). This is an advantage for the Wolves, because they can outbid a team like New York or Los Angeles, who have less MLE money than they do.
A common question is whether or not the Wolves will sign two buyout guys. Hypothetically, that $747,174 figure times two is $1.49 million, so they could technically afford it. But that feels unlikely considering Jaylen Clark (who is on a two-way contract because of his achilles tear and certainly is worth a roster spot) can be converted to a standard NBA deal on or before the last day of the regular season. Not to mention I don’t think the front office would want to go over the luxury tax for a $50k unlikely incentive for McLaughlin.
Now, with that out of the way, let’s dive into the candidates, ranked from 5 to 1 on fit, potential impact and signing feasibility. This does not include Kyle Lowry or Spencer Dinwiddie. Per multiple reports, Lowry is likely to sign with the Philadelphia 76ers, while Dinwiddie is likely to land with either the Dallas Mavericks or Los Angeles Lakers.
All salary figures are from Spotrac.
Potential Players Snapshot
Note that Cedi Osman, Evan Fournier, Otto Porter Jr., Delon Wright, Seth Curry and Patty Mills have not been waived (or seen a tweet go out from any of the reputable insiders saying they are likely to be waived), but certainly fit the mold of a buyout player.
Joe Harris, $19,928,571
The Timberwolves have a clear need for additional shooting and scoring off the bench, something Harris has a proven track record of doing as a member of the Brooklyn Nets from 2016 through last season. During his time in Brooklyn, Harris shot a blistering 44.0% from beyond the arc, was a pivotal role player on both sides of the ball alongside Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden. He shot 40.2% from 3 in 12 playoff appearances in 2021, but connected on just one of his 12 attempts in the four-game sweep at the hands of the Boston Celtics in 2022.
Given that Harris made $19.9 million this season, he would be ineligible to sign with that group of contenders mentioned earlier. That, plus the fact that most of the other teams eligible to sign him (OKC, CLE, NYK, PHI, NOP, DAL) don’t really need more shooting, potentially makes the Wolves a more appealing destination. But Harris, 32, played in just 16 games in Detroit this season after he was dealt to the Motor City last summer, and has been a very volatile playoff player in his career, so there are fair questions about how much he would have left to offer the Wolves.
Harris is represented by Mark Bartelstein of Priority Sports and Entertainment, who also represents Michael Porter Jr. and Torrey Craig, so he is plenty familiar with Connelly and Co.
Patty Mills, $6,802,950
Mills is in a similar situation as Harris, his former Nets teammate, in that he was a heavily relied upon player in Brooklyn and has been out of the mix for pretty much this whole season. The Canberra, Australia native is a widely respected teammate who has drawn praise from just about every star player he’s ever gone to battle with inside the four lines. He is a career 38.4% 3-point shooter across 95 career playoff appearances, and played with Kyle Anderson for four seasons in San Antonio. Mills certainly would bring high-volume movement shooting and, like Harris, unlock an element of the offense the team has missed since it parted with Malik Beasley in the Gobert deal.
The 35-year-old is just 6-foot-2, 180 pounds and doesn’t offer much on the defensive end of the floor on the ball, but can play in a team concept. Mills would fit right in as a respected voice in the locker room, something that is needed for a team with four of its top six rotation spots occupied by players with a combined 38 games of playoff experience.
Keep in mind that Mills’ agent, Steven Heumann of CAA Sports, also represents Mike Conley.
Danuel House Jr., $4,310,250
House is the first member of the “versatile wing defender” category. He makes an appearance because he offers some of the same things that now-Phoenix Suns wing Royce O’Neale offers, and the Wolves had noted interest in O’Neale leading up to the deadline.
Like O’Neale, House can guard multiple positions. At 6-foot-6, 220 pounds, he can defend bigger wings, but also has the length to make things tough on smaller guards that can’t consistently dart by him. Perhaps most importantly, he has experience playing with Gobert and Conley from the time he spent in Utah back in 2022, where he played the final 25 games of the season and performed pretty well. House averaged 6.8 points while shooting 41.5% from deep.
But since then, he has struggled while receiving somewhat consistent run in Philly. Across 90 contests since the start of last season, House put up 4.6 points on 46.4/32.5/75.5 shooting splits, 1.7 rebounds and 0.8 assists in 14.6 minutes per game. He would be an option that could potentially offer more spacing than Anderson without a steep drop-off on the defensive end.
#5) Seth Curry, $4,000,000
Curry is another well-respected veteran who is a pretty plug-and-play fit given the Timberwolves’ needs. He is a career 43.2% shooter from beyond the arc and is another member of the Nets who spaced the floor nicely around their Irving and Durant (and Ben Simmons!) in 2022 and has fallen out of the rotation on a new team in 2023. Like Harris, he mainly has struggled to find minutes simply because of the logjam of players in front of him (Tim Hardaway Jr., Josh Green, Dante Exum, and Jaden Hardy) behind the starting back-court of Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving.
The Duke product has played for eight different NBA franchises in his career, so he is used to having to adjust on the fly while maintaining ridiculously consistent shooting numbers from beyond the arc. Curry is great in the two-man game as a shooter, and is exceptionally skilled at using multiple hand-offs and re-screens to wall off defenders and get up open 3-point looks — just like we’ve seen Conley do with Gobert for the last year.
Of all the players that may have an interest in signing with Minnesota, Curry may be the closest to a “sure thing” in terms of how Curry in theory compares to Curry in reality. Even when scaling up his volume (Philly and Brooklyn in 2020 through 2023, he still performed at a very high level, shooting north of 40% from deep in each year, while averaging at least 9.2 points per game. Given his $4.0 million salary on his current deal (which he has not yet been bought out from), he would likely draw the attention of most contenders that are looking for reliable shooting and scoring off the bench. He would be higher on this list if not for the “feasibility” aspect of this equation.
Curry’s agent, Austin Brown of CAA, also represents D’Angelo Russell and Gary Harris, who Connelly drafted and extended in Denver.
#4) Delon Wright, $8,195,122
The Wolves were reportedly interested in adding Delon Wright leading up to the trade deadline, but ultimately went with Morris given their need for an offensive-minded guard was a more pressing one. But dealing for Morris shouldn’t necessarily stop their pursuit of Wright, who is an excellent perimeter defender at 6-foot-5 with a nearly 6-foot-8 wingspan. His mix of length, slender build and agility allow him to avoid screens at the point of attack at a high level, and have enabled him to consistently rank near the top of the league in steal percentage since entering the league in 2017.
This season in Washington, the Utah product is averaging 4.4 points on 39.7/38.9/81.5 shooting splits, 2.7 assists to 0.3 turnovers, 1.9 rebounds, and 1.2 steals in 15.1 minutes per game across 29 contests.
Wright has a good, stable track record of playmaking in pick-and-roll, while his 3-point shooting has waxed and waned throughout his career, having only shot better than 37.0% from deep in consecutive seasons once. But he is doing it for the third time in four years this season (38.9%).
Bringing in Wright to form a three-headed monster on the perimeter with McDaniels and Alexander-Walker would be arguably the best perimeter defensive trio in the Western Conference. It would answer the “why not make a strength stronger?” question, and give Chris Finch and Elston Turner several options in a playoff series against teams like:
- Golden State (Stephen Curry, Chris Paul and Klay Thompson)
- Dallas (Dončić and Irving)
- Sacramento (De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk)
- Lakers (D’Angelo Russell and Austin Reaves)
- New Orleans (CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram)
- Phoenix (Devin Booker and Bradley Beal)
- Oklahoma City (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jalen Williams)
His playoff experience (37 games) and consistently high assist-to-turnover ratio as a playmaker certainly don’t hurt, either.
Wright’s agent, Greg Lawrence of Wasserman, also represents Wolves guards Jordan McLaughlin and Jaylen Clark.
#3) Evan Fournier, $18,857,143
Fournier was unquestionably the hardest one for me to rank. He is a legitimately solid NBA player whose biggest strengths — off-ball movement scoring/shooting with the ability to create his own shot and score in pick-and-roll — would be welcomed in Minnesota. Not to mention that his cap hit prices him out from teams over the first apron, and he has a close relationship with his fellow Frenchman Gobert (on and off the floor), who could sell him on the idea of playing for the Wolves.
However, despite being healthy, he has played in just 30 games over the past two seasons in New York after falling out of favor with Knicks Head Coach Tom Thibodeau. Gobert called the situation “disrespectful” to Fournier after a preseason game against the Knicks at MSG, in which Fournier scored 15 points in 19 minutes off the bench.
He was last a member of the Knicks regular rotation in the 2021-22 season, scoring 14.1 points on 41.7/38.9/70.8 shooting splits, 2.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists to 1.3 turnovers, and 1.3 stocks across 29.5 minutes per game in 80 appearances. Fournier’s 241 made triples ranked fourth in the NBA, one ahead of Malik Beasley’s 240 for the Wolves.
That season came after scoring a game-high 28 points on 11/22 shooting for France in an 83-76 win over the United States during the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, during which Fournier and Gobert put the French on their back. They ultimately fell just short to the Americans in the Gold Medal Game, but the entire tournament was a good example of what the pair can do together in high stakes environments. Given how much Gobert plays with the second unit, some of that connection would be fairly plug-and-play.
The main questions about Fournier (beyond whether or not the Pistons will buy him out) are how much he would play over someone Nickeil Alexander-Walker or Kyle Anderson, presuming Morris will be that seventh man behind Reid, and whether not he can adapt his play to fit a smaller potential role in Minnesota. It’s hard to project, especially considering Fournier has been a healthy DNP-CD in all but three games this season (with a few absences mixed in for personal reasons or very minor injuries), and that defense hasn’t been a calling card of his throughout his career.
But bringing in a close friend of Gobert’s with a resume of nine consecutive rock solid seasons as a wing scorer that provides help in areas of weakness is certainly enticing.
Fournier also shares the same agent as Gobert — Bouna Ndiaye of Comsport.
#2) Marcus Morris Sr., $17,116,279
Marcus Morris Sr. would certainly fill a void in the toughness and playoff experience departments left behind by his ex-Los Angeles Clippers teammate Patrick Beverley. Morris played in 59 playoff games from 2017-2021 as a trusted member of the Celtics and Clippers, and played extremely consistent basketball as a quick decision-maker in a pivotal stretch 4/small-ball 5 role in spaced-out offenses. The North Philly native holds career playoff averages of 12.6 points on 43.1/40.7/77.3 shooting splits, 5.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists to 0.4 turnovers, and 1.0 stocks in 30.1 minutes per game.
But his last big playoff run was three years ago and he’s now 34 and in the midst of a steady decline since 2021-22, the second-best season of his career. Morris put up 6.7 points on 43.9/40.0/86.1 shooting splits, 2.9 rebounds, 0.7 assists and 0.7 stocks in 17.2 minutes per game across 37 appearances (seven starts) for his hometown Sixers this season.
While his role is pretty clearly not going to reach what it was at the peak of his powers in Los Angeles, he’s still spacing the floor at an effective clip as a spot-up shooter, rebounding well, can post-up guards and lighter wings, and is capable of switching onto 3s, 4s and smaller, perimeter-centric 5s. His playoff experience, toughness and intensity would all benefit a Timberwolves team struggling with holding leads that will almost certainly play a team in the playoffs that has more playoff experience than they do.
Morris Sr. also has a lot of respect for what Gobert can do defensively after getting to know him quite well in the playoffs.
“Yeah, they’re still the same team,” Morris said, via a Sports Illustrated piece from 2021. “Ain’t nothing changed. [Rudy] protects all of them. None of them really can defend. Just funnel it to him, and it’s tough to – he’s a great player, and he does a great job of, you know, anticipation, staying down, being real solid. So, you know who they are.”
Given his salary coming in north of the NTP MLE, he could see Minnesota as a pretty viable option among the pool of teams eligible to sign him.
Morris is represented by Chafie Fields of Wasserman. Beyond McLaughlin and Clark, Anderson is also a Wasserman client.
#1) Danilo Gallinari, $6,802,950
Gallinari takes the top spot here for a few reasons. First, at 6-foot-10, 230 pounds, he fits the Wolves’ ethos of gargantuan players who have multifaceted games. Gallo this season is shooting 35.5% from deep, but shot 40.6%, 40.5% and 43.3% in the three seasons before that, which of course came prior to him tearing his ACL during a FIBA World Cup qualifier in 2022.
He has only played in 32 games this season, averaging 7.3 points on 45.1/35.5/85.0 shooting splits, 2.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists to 0.4 turnovers and 0.5 stocks in 14.8 minutes per game. The Sant’Angelo Lodigiano, Italy native does not move well defensively at this stage, but the Wolves have enough defenders they could place around him to effectively insulate him. Given he has a 7-foot-1 wingspan, they could play zone in Gallo’s minutes as well.
If he found his pre-injury shooting form (possible given he is a 38.2% 3-point shooter for his career), he could feasibly play in massive lineups alongside Reid and Towns, filling in for Anderson in games that call for more shooting while maintaining size on the floor.
He can play in pick-and-roll and pass on the short roll, pop to the 3-point line, and make passes from atop the key, too. When Gallinari isn’t on the perimeter, he is still a very effective post-up scorer. He certainly is a more limited version of what we’ve seen in the past, but his experience in the playoffs (48 games), playing alongside a dynamic PnR duo (Trae Young and Clint Capela in Atlanta), and high IQ play would be an asset to the Wolves down the stretch of the season and into the playoffs.
Gallinari was expected to start taking free agency meetings on Friday, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania and James Edwards III. He has experience with Connelly, too, as he signed an extension with the Nuggets in 2015 while Tim headed the front office. The Nuggets also worked with Gallinari to facilitate a sign-and-trade with the Clippers in 2017.