Timberwolves: Implications of a Batum Signing

The Timberwolves began NBA free agency in frenzy as the clock struck midnight on July 1, commencing their quest for veteran additions to their current nucleus by scheduling meetings with SG-SF Nicolas Batum, C Greg Stiemsma, former Portland SG Brandon Roy, and PF-C Jordan Hill. The Timberpups also reached out to the likes of SG Jamal Crawford, SG OJ Mayo, while remaining extremely active in trade discussions with the Los Angeles Lakers in hopes of landing PF Pau Gasol.

It appears that the Pups are as dedicated as any team in the NBA to land multiple high-profile players NOW, greatly reflecting their urgency to “win now,” as Minnesota head coach Rick Adelman is 66 and is likely in the middle of his final contract of his life, while Pups owner Glen Taylor is 71 and wants to see how far his current core group of players can take him before he sells the team in a few years. Whatever the sole cause, it is very uncharacteristic of the Wolves to be so very active in free agency while placing such great importance on attracting marquee names to the land of 10,000 lakes, and the Minnesota front office and coaching staff deserves much credit for their persistent efforts thus far.

The Pups have been reported as to having offered contracts to Brandon Roy, Nicolas Batum, and international free agent Alexey Shved so far, with each player currently mulling multiple contract offers. Shved, most recently playing for CSKA Moscow, is a 6’5” combo guard who could potentially help out the Wolves at the 2-guard position. He is a good shooter from long range and is a fancy finisher around the hoop. As is with any international player, there is always a chance that the transition to the NBA would be too much for him. However, scouts are very high on Shved and believe that the 23-year-old could be a low-risk, high-reward signing. Shved is currently deciding between signing with the Wolves, Cleveland, or Memphis, and will make his decision based on which team he believes he will receive the most playing time.

Roy, an unrestricted free agent, most notably took this past season off due to the deterioration of both of his knees resulting from a lack of cartilage. However, Roy has been engaging in platelet-rich knee therapy, similar to what NBA stars Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum, and Dwanye Wade have had done, while training rigorously in order to get back into the NBA following his one-year absence. Why would Roy, a soon-to-be 28 year old, consider taking his talents to an immature team that finished a measly 26-40 last season, you ask? Well, before Rick Adelman shocked the NBA world (including most Wolves fans) by deciding to come coach our Pups, his now lead assistant coach, Bill Bayno, was then the lead assistant in Portland. During his tenure for Portland, Bayno was a large part of Roy’s development and has continued to remain close personal friends despite his move to Minnesota. While some teams remain concerned about Roy’s long-term health and ability to play despite having virtually zero cartilage in his knees, Bayno has convinced Timberwolves coaching and management that he would be worth the risk. Remember, the platelet-rich therapy has produced tremendous results for Bryant, Bynum (he finally played a full season), Wade, and even New York Yankees third basemen Alex Rodriguez, among others. Standing at 6’6” and 210 pounds, Roy has the potential of being a huge payoff shall he decide to sign with the team. A big-bodied SG, Roy possesses savvy veteran leadership and playoff experience that the Timberwolves so desperately need. He is also impressive as a ball-handler and has tons of experience running an offense, and he would allow added versatility to a group that possesses few legitimate ball-handlers. The Timberwolves have publicly confirmed their interest in the oft-injured guard and are set to offer him a two-year contract. Roy, however, will first meet with Dallas, Chicago, Cleveland, Indiana, and Golden State before making a decision. If he so chooses to come to Minnesota, he will need to pass an extensive physical that he is indeed suited to play and will likely not receive very much money.

Bill Bayno may be Minnesota’s key to not only Roy, but also to restricted free agent Nicolas Batum of the, you guessed it, Portland Trail Blazers. Bayno, also close with Batum, is currently renting out his Portland home to the French swingman. A former late first round pick, Batum has blossomed into a highly productive wing who excels as a ball-handler and three-point shooter. A restricted free agent, Portland has the final say on Batum, as they have the ability to match any offer that the 23-year-old shall receive. However, recent developments could make Batum increasingly available, as Portland is set to offer Indiana restricted free agent Roy Hibbert a maximum 4-year contract worth roughly $58 million. With Lamarcus Aldridge already making max contract money, Portland may not be inclined to tie up so much money in Aldridge, Hibbert and Batum, and instead choose to use the funds in order to address several needs as the team is in transition. While restricted free agents, under league rules, are not permitted to sign an offer sheet until July 11, reports have confirmed that the Timberwolves will be offering Batum an extravagant 4-year pact worth upwards of $50 million. While Batum originally had plans of meeting with multiple clubs at the start of free agency, he is apparently set on playing for only Minnesota or Portland and has cancelled all other meetings with any other ball clubs that expressed interest in him. Some reports have even come out that Batum prefers Minnesota and will attempt to convince the Blazers to not match the offer sheet during their three-day period after July 11th, arousing the potential of a sign-and-trade, which would relinquish the worries that Minnesota has of Portland matching their offer. Does Portland really want to pay a guy $12 million per season as they look to retool for the future? Doing so would hinder their financial flexibility in future years as they have many glaring needs and few players currently under contract.

It is almost certain that the Timberwolves would be overpaying to some extent in order to acquire Batum’s services, but his fit in Adelman’s corner offense could do wonders for Minnesota’s playoff hopes and future championship prospects. For one, Batum would bring versatility to effectively produce at either SG or SF, whichever position is more in need. On the defensive end, Batum is a lockdown defender and can legitimately cover the 1,2, or 3 despite his large stature of 6-foot-8, 200 pounds (he was the Blazer is charge of defending Chris Paul when Portland faced the Clippers). He also would fill Minnesota’s blatant need for perimeter shooting, as he shot nearly 40% from beyond the arc last season and is great shooting off the dribble or when spotted up. Agile and smooth, Batum is consistent on both ends of the floor and brings stability to an offense, and even has experience running an offense if need be. For $12 million dollars annually, the Pups would simply be filling so many needs, which would therefore justify the label of “overpaying.” Restricted free agency has traditionally led to NBA players receiving more money than they are worth and in some extreme cases, overpaying for a restricted free agent can cripple a team financially. However, overpaying is at many times a necessary action in order to allow a club to pry away a coveted player from another club.

In this scenario, it would make complete sense for both clubs to allow Batum to leave Portland to sign with Minnesota. David Kahn has had his eye on Batum for the past few seasons, and he now may have his chance to add a legitimate and young talented swingman to complement the talented core he has assembled.

Photo Credits: Bruce Ely / The Oregonian