Things just got very interesting for the Timberwolves only a few days into free agency. On Tuesday, Minnesota got things started by coming to terms with RFA SG/SF Chase Budinger on a three year, $16 million pact and made some noise later that day by agreeing to a four year, $28 million agreement with UFA SG Kevin Martin.
Budinger, 25, was originally acquired by the Timberwolves in a draft day trade last summer that sent Minnesota’s 18th overall pick to the Houston Rockets. The Arizona product had trouble staying on the court during his first season for the Pups, as he missed all but 23 games after tearing his meniscus just 6 games into the 2012-13 season. When healthy, he brings strong perimeter shooting and a very high competence of Rick Adelman‘s corner offense, of whom he played for in Houston for two seasons before ultimately landing in the land of 10,000 lakes. He will likely be the starter at small forward with F Derrick Williams and SF Shabazz Muhammad also seeing time at the 3.
Chase is capable of playing both wing positions and was a bargain for only roughly $5.3 million per season. In comparison, SG/SF Martell Webster received a similar deal that will pay him roughly $5.5 million for four years. Washington made a bold decision in handing over so much money for the opt-injured swingman who was a total disaster during two seasons for Minnesota prior to signing a league minimum contract with the Wizards last summer. He was able to stay healthy for the entirety of the 2012-13 campaign and found a niche in Washington’s offense draining corner three-pointers, leading the Wizards with 42% shooting from behind the arc.
Following positive reception from Timberwolves fans for the re-signing of Budinger, it was soon learned that the team had also come to terms with Martin, a 6-foot-7 shooting guard who averaged 14.0 points per game while shooting 42% from long range playing in a sixth man role for the Oklahoma City Thunder last season. Martin brings an extensive knowledge of Adelman’s offensive strategy, having played for the coach in both Sacramento and Houston. He will be penciled in as the uncontested starter at the 2 guard position heading into next season. Martin, 30, could very likely finish out his career in Minnesota while playing for his favorite coach.
The signing of Martin symbolized the end of any sign-and-trade negotiations with the Dallas Mavericks for SG O.J. Mayo, and likely will be the final significant free agent addition until the team is able to figure out what C Nikola Pekovic‘s restricted free agent offer sheet is going to look like. Pek will wait until C Dwight Howard makes his decision on his future team before seriously considering opposing offer sheets, and he is looking at potentially earning somewhere between $10-$12 million annually in his next contract. Both Pek and the Timberwolves have expressed mutual interest towards coming to a fair agreement, and I have little doubt that the Montenegrin big man will wear anything but a Timberwolves jersey next season.
Minnesota was on the verge of signing SG J.J. Redick to an identical four year, $28 million deal before ultimately coming to terms with Martin, but he instead decided to a sign-and-trade deal to play for Doc Rivers as a new member of the Los Angeles Clippers.
As a fan of the Timberwolves, I am wholeheartedly satisfied with the two signings and I really like the direction that the franchise is going following the draft. With Martin and Budinger now aboard, here’s what next season’s lineup is beginning to look like:
- Point Guard: Ricky Rubio, JJ Barea, Lorenzo Brown
- Shooting Guard: Kevin Martin, Luke Ridnour, Alexey Shved
- Small Forward: Chase Budinger, Derrick Williams, Shabazz Muhammad
- Power Forward: Kevin Love, Dante Cunningham
- Center: Nikola Pekovic, Gorgui Dieng, Chris Johnson
Not too shabby, right? If this team can finally manage a season that is not marred by injury, they should have a legitimate shot at returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2004. Flip Saunders deserves a lot of credit for being so expedient in positively re-shaping the roster through both the draft and now free agency. Minnesota’s front office appears to be in much better balance since the dark ages of David Kahn.