Treveon Graham

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Jarrett Culver enlivens Timberwolves’ otherwise-quiet offseason

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NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

The Timberwolves are the only team with two max-salary players under age 29. Heck, they’re the only team with two max-salary players under age 25.

But Minnesota isn’t set.

Far from it.

Though Karl-Anthony Towns (23) is already a star and sometimes looks like a budding superstar, Andrew Wiggins (24) has stagnated on his max extension. Add expensive contracts for Jeff Teague and Gorgui Dieng, and the Timberwolves have limited cap flexibility. With veterans too good to allow deep tanking, Minnesota also has limited means to upgrade through the draft.

New Timberwolves president Gersson Rosas was likely always bound to limit his impact this summer. Minnesota faced few clear pressing decisions. Any big moves would start the clock toward Rosas getting evaluated on his prestigious job. In one of his main decisions, Rosas retained head coach Ryan Saunders, an ownership favorite.

Yet, in this environment, Rosas still found a simple way to add a potential long-term difference maker.

The Timberwolves entered the draft with the No. 11 pick – right after a near-consensus top 10 would’ve been off the board. They left the draft with No. 6 pick Jarrett Culver.

All it took to trade up with the Suns was Dario Saric, who would’ve helped Minnesota this season but probably not enough to achieve meaningful success. He’ll become a free agent next summer and is in line for a raise the Timberwolves might not wanted to give.

Culver is not a lock to flourish in the NBA. But Minnesota had no business adding a prospect with so much potential. This was a coup.

Otherwise, the Timberwolves remained predictably quiet, tinkering on the fringe of the rotation. They added Jake Layman (three years, $11,283,255) in a sign-and-trade with the Trail Blazers. They took Shabazz Napier and Treveon Graham off the hands of the hard-capped Warriors, getting cash for their trouble. They signed Noah Vonleh (one year, $2 million) and Jordan Bell (one year, minimum). They claimed Tyrone Wallace off waivers.

With their own free agents getting bigger offers, Minnesota didn’t match Tyus Jones‘ offer sheet with the Grizzlies (three years, $26,451,429) and watched Derrick Rose walk to the Pistons (two years, $15 million). For where the Timberwolves are, the far-cheaper Napier should handle backup point guard just fine.

Minnesota is methodically gaining flexibility. Teague’s contract expires next summer, Dieng’s the summer after that. The big question is how to handle Wiggins, but that will wait.

With Towns locked in the next five years, Rosas has plenty of runway before he must take off. Nabbing Culver was a heck of a way to accelerate from the gate.

Offseason grade: B-

Report: Kevin Durant wouldn’t participate in sign-and-trade until Warriors sent Nets first-rounder

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Kevin Durant openly pondered whether the Warriors were taking advantage of him with his discounts, might have resented how they handled his injury and reportedly felt disrespected in Golden State.

Did Durant get his revenge, not just by leaving for the Nets, but by demanding Brooklyn get more return in a double sign-and-trade for D'Angelo Russell?

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

First, Durant initially balked at being traded for Russell straight up, multiple sources said. He didn’t think it was a fair deal, and in this case, the Warriors had to not just satisfy the Nets, but also Durant.

Leverage was applied by the player, and Golden State had to include a first-round pick before Durant would agree to sign off. The Warriors begrudgingly gave it up and did so with a heavy condition: If the pick falls within the top 20 next year, they don’t have to send it, and instead will only give Brooklyn a second-round pick … in six years.

This characterization seems unfair to Durant.

Was he pettily trying to stick it to Golden State? Perhaps. I can’t rule that out.

But I wouldn’t assume his motivations.

This could easily be spun into Durant helping his team, which at that point was the Nets. The only way Brooklyn getting an extra draft pick helps Durant is helping his team build a winner. At that point, he no owed the Warriors no favors in building their team.

The Warriors badly enough wanted Russell – the youngest All-Star ever to change teams through fee agency – that they agreed to the trade (and to send Andre Iguodala plus a first-round pick to the Grizzlies and to get hard-capped).

Acquiring Durant in a sign-and-trade rather than signing him directly was also an important aspect of the Nets’ offseason. They dealt $30,479,200 of salary* to acquire Durant and his $38,199,000 max salary.

Cap room goes only as far as its actual amount. Teams can acquire 125% of outgoing salary plus $100,000 in a trade.

That extra spending power was key to signing DeAndre Jordan.

*Russell’s $27,285,000 max salary plus $1,597,100 guaranteed to each Treveon Graham and Shabazz Napier.

There were other workarounds if a sign-and-trade didn’t go through. Durant could have taken a discount, as initially reported. He could have put unlikely incentives in his deal, as Kyrie Irving did.

But a sign-and-trade worked well for both Durant and Brooklyn.

Whether Durant was acting on his own or as a conduit for the Nets, the extra pick makes the arrangement even better for Brooklyn.

Warriors reportedly keep ‘foundational piece’ Kevon Looney on three-year, $15 million deal

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“[Kevon] Looney has become one of our foundational pieces.”

That was Steve Kerr on the night Kevon Looney had 12 points and 14 rebounds in the Warriors’ Game 4 Western Conference Finals win over the Trail Blazers. Kerr went on to say multiple times through the Finals how much he wanted Looney back — and it was obvious why, when Looney was at the five the Warriors offense just flowed better (much smoother than when DeMarcus Cousins was in).

Kerr got his guy, and the Warriors got a good deal. Shams Charania of The Athletic broke the news.

Houston was among several teams that had reached out to Looney, but the Warriors always planned to bring him back if at all possible.

The trade earlier today that sent Shabazz Napier and Treveon Graham from the Warriors to the Timberwolves helped free up space for the Warriors to make this happen (remember they are hard capped at $138 million).

Looney moved into the Warriors starting center role by the end of last season, and in the playoffs he averaged 7.1 points and 4.5 rebounds a game. In the Finals, he tried to play through a fractured collar bone to help the Warriors, but the walking wounded — and an outstanding Raptors team — was just too much for them.

This is a win for the Warriors, who will take a step back next season with all the injuries and changes, but will not be bad. At all.

Report: Warriors trading Shabazz Napier, Treveon Graham to Timberwolves

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Brooklyn sent Shabazz Napier and Treveon Graham to the Golden State Warriors in the D'Angelo Russell sign-and-trade that the teams worked out. The trade made in the wake of good friends Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant deciding to play together in Brooklyn.

Now Napier and Graham are on the move again, this time to Minnesota, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

How much cash is not known, but the Warriors are essentially paying the Timberwolves to take these guys on.

Those guys may not stay in Minnesota, this could be about saving money for the Timberwolves.

Don’t be surprised if the Warriors and Timberwolves get together and make another trade in the next year. The Warriors are going to see how Russell fits with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, but if it goes as most observers expect — which is to say poorly — then the Warriors likely trade Russell for players they do want. Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns have talked about teaming up in Minnesota. Not saying it’s happening, just saying it’s something to watch.

Speaking of that sign-and-trade with the Nets, the Warriors also are sending a future first-round pick to Brooklyn.

We’ll have to see what the protections are on that pick, but the Warriors expect their picks to be in the 20s for years to come.

Nets come out ahead in busy summer

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NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

Timofey Mozgov, Dwight Howard, Jeremy Lin, Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur, Isaiah Whitehead and Jared Dudley are real people with real thoughts, real feelings and real basketball abilities. But to Brooklyn this summer, they were mostly just contracts to be shuffled. After all their wheeling and dealing with that group, here’s where the Nets stand:

  • Draft picks (give or take): +1 first rounder, -1 second-rounder
  • 2018-19 salary: +$13,697,024
  • 2019-20 salary: -$16,720,000

That’s right: Brooklyn cleared more 2019-20 salary than it added in 2018-19 salary while still coming out ahead in draft picks. That is incredible – especially because the Nets’ cap space should go further with desirable free agents next summer than it would’ve this year.

But just because stars aren’t ready to consider Brooklyn doesn’t mean Brooklyn is ready to punt the season. The Nets, possessing their own first-rounder for the first time in five years, refuse to tank. They’ve already come too far building a culture to intentionally plummet in the standings now.

To that end, Brooklyn re-signed Joe Harris to a two-year, $16 million contract. That might be a little steep for him, but he’s a glowing example of the Nets’ player-development program, and his salary descends. This was a deal worth doing.

Brooklyn also signed Ed Davis (one year, $4,449,000 room exception), Shabazz Napier ($1,942,422 guaranteed this season with the minimum unguaranteed next season) and Treveon Graham (minimum guaranteed this season with minimum unguaranteed next season). I doubt they lift the Nets significantly, but those three are all worthy pickups. Napier and Graham, with those unguaranteed seasons, look especially valuable. Napier is just finding himself as an NBA player, and Graham has potential as a 3-and-D wing in a league starving for players like that.

The Nets also drafted Dzanan Musa No. 29 and Rodions Kurucs No. 40. There are a lot of pieces here.

The next step is evaluating which are keepers.

Brooklyn projects to have more than $61 million in cap space next summer. Some could go toward keeping D'Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie and/or Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, but that still leaves plenty to add a star or two.

The Nets endured years of pain – losing without reaping the rewards of a high draft pick. The light at the end of the tunnel is finally in sight.

Thanks to this summer, it’s brighter.

Offseason grade: B+