After several failed attempts at a sign-and-trade deal for Portland SG-SF Nicolas Batum, the Wolves officially signed Batum to an offer sheet worth $46.4 million over 4 years. The deal includes incentives that could potentially push the total dollar amount to over $50 million, and the general consensus of sports minds believe that Portland will not allow Batum to walk for nothing. As a restricted free agent, the Trail Blazers now have until Wednesday night to match the offer sheet.
Minnesota’s amnesty of Darko Milicic, waive of Martell Webster, and trade of Brad Miller have given the Wolves plenty of cap space to fit Batum and his large contract into their payroll, and even gives them additional room to potentially sign a few free agents that most likely include Brandon Roy, Alexey Shved, Greg Stiemsma, Jordan Hill, Courtney Lee, OJ Mayo, and Ronnie Brewer, among others. Many free agents have held off signing with teams until the Batum situation plays out, and Roy and Shved have already verbally agreed with the Wolves until they can officially sign with the team as they await Portland’s decision on Batum. If Portland matches, the Wolves will shift their focus on signing Stiemsma and targeting free agent shooting guards Lee and Mayo. Lee previously played under Timberwolves Head Coach Rick Adelman in Houston, and would be a great fit on both ends of the floor.
Regardless of what Portland decides to do with Batum, David Kahn deserves a lot of credit for really putting the pressure on Portland GM Neil Olshey and owner Paul Allen to either pay a player who has never appeared in an All-Star game an annual salary of $11+ million or to let a valuable young piece walk to a division rival. Earlier this season, the Trail Blazers offended Batum and his agent when they offered an extension worth less than half of the one he just signed, and it is clear that Portland greatly feels that they would be overpaying to maintain the French swingman. Batum has made it clear that his first choice is to sign with Minnesota and has stated that it is the place where he wants his family to be. It is expected that Portland will take nearly all three days to match the contract, in order to keep Minnesota stalled in their other free agent plans in the meantime. Don’t expect to see Batum in a Wolves uniform next season, but man it would be a pleasant surprise if the Wolves finally got a versatile wing scorer that they have always been looking for.