“Life After Love”

Well, here we are. Life without Kevin Love is a growing possibility, although, despite all the same rumors from the same sources, he remains with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Cast Love aside for a minute, let’s look at what’s been built around him. The Timberwolves are fighting to refrain from encroaching the Luxury Tax.

From www.cbafaq.com, question #21; The luxury tax is a mechanism that helps control team spending. While it is commonly referred to as a “luxury tax,” the CBA simply calls it a “tax” or a “team payment.” It is paid by high spending teams — those with a team salary exceeding a predetermined tax level. These teams pay a penalty for each dollar their team salary (with a few exceptions) exceeds the tax level. The tax level is determined prior to the season.

On June 30th, 2014, which the current [13-14] season technically ends, these changes are certain.

  • Dante Cunningham becomes an unrestricted free-agent, unless he is resigned [unlikely], his time with the Wolves has ended.
  • Robbie Hummel‘s contract turns into a team option, he’ll have to make the 15-man roster to earn $1,016,482 throughout next season.

Current pieces

  • Nikola Pekovic will make $12,100,000 through the 2015-2016 season, and is due $11,600,00 in 2017-2018.
  • Kevin Martin is owed $6,792,500 for his services next season, $7,085,000 during ’15-’16, and $7,377,500 through the end of ’16-’17, before his contract expires.
  • Corey Brewer is due $4,702,500 this season, and $4,905,000 through ’15-’16.

Expiring Contracts that will become Unrestricted Free Agents, after the 2014-2015 season, and what they’ll be earning this year. These contracts are tradeable, for the recipient would only retain the player[s] for the upcoming season before they become free agents. However, Mbah a Moute is a one-way player, Barea, well — he’s Barea — and Turiaf struggled to stay healthy and is entering his 10th NBA season. Old, or overpaid, these players aren’t coveted by many other teams. 

  • J.J. Barea – $4,519,500
  • Luc Mbah a Moute – $4,382,576
  • Ronny Turiaf – $1,500,000

Rookies Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng will enter the second year of their rookie contracts. [[Shabazz — $1,971,960, and Dieng — $1,413,480]] Terms of rookie deals are dependent on when each player is drafted, in addition to the position as they are listed.

Ricky Rubio and Alexey Shved will enter the final season of each of their first, NBA contracts, and will be dependent on the Wolves extended offers to keep them with the team beyond that. Rubio — $4,660,479, and Shved — $3,282,056.

Chase Budinger is contracted for the ’14-’15 season [$5,000,000] and can sign for an additional year at the same rate, next season, if he so chooses. He and Love have the same decision to make, assuming Love is with the Wolves for another year, at the end of next season.

Keeping things short-term, the Wolves will retain 11 players from last season — 12 including Love. Those 11 are due ~~ $50,325,051, collectively, through the ’14-’15 season. Throw Love’s $15,719,062 salary in there and you’ve got $66,044,113 in player-payouts. This leaves ~$5,703,887 to fill three roster slots and pay rookies acquired by way of the 2014 NBA Draft. So, assume those are fulfilled by Hummel [1,016,482] and two-draft selections.

The Wolves have the 13th overall selection, along with three, second round picks in the upcoming draft. Muhammad was selected at 14th overall, last season, and Dieng followed behind him in the opening round at 22. Together, those two were worth, a combined, 3,239,760 in their first year as NBA players. Because I can’t account for who the Wolves will elect in the draft, or future trades, signing Hummel and two draft selections for the noted prices would cost the team $4,256,242 next season — $1,447,645 under the Luxury Tax.

What if Kevin Love remains for the 2014-2015 season, only to sign somewhere else next Summer? There are a lot of variables involved here, so a lot of assuming is done when determining what the roster will look liking moving forward in the future. Love would be walking away from his one-year player option worth $16,744,218

  • Barea, Mbah a Moute, Turiaf all become unrestricted free agents. The Wolves drop $10,402,076 in salary
  • Budinger is retained, assuming he accepts his player-option [likely, very likely] +$5,000,000
  • Brewer, Martin and Pekovic are owed a collective $24,090,000 in ’15-’16
  • Assume Rubio is retained, but Shved is not offered a deal. The net of these two contracts in this scenario ~ +$2,621,160
  • Sign Shabazz and Dieng on rookie extensions + $3,531,360

We must account for the second year of the two, hypothetical rookies that have not been drafted — nor signed — to contracts as of yet. We determined their worth at $3,239,760 during year one. These contracts would pay each player more in their second season, but I’ll refrain from doing the math as the increase in their contracts will equal-out the salary cap expected increase.

If Love were to leave the Wolves next summer, he’d be leaving seven players worth ~$35,242,520. This number is $36,505,480 less than the current $71,748,000 Luxury Tax threshold. In this situation, Flip Saunders would need evaluate his remaining pieces and determine whether the plan is to structure around them — or go into rebuilding mode.

Assessing Assets. Let’s create a roster with the seven remaining players and determine needs.

PG – Rubio

SG – Kevin Martin

SF – Brewer, Muhammad

PF –

C – Pekovic, Dieng

With this $35,242,520, the Wolves may attempt to rebuild if free agency can provide competent pieces. Is this a potential core, assuming the Wolves are able to obtain a starting power-forward? For the sake of this hypothetical situation, looking at those who would be available (Current Age); Zach Randolph (32), LaMarcus Aldridge (28), Carlos Boozer (32) all pass the eye-test, but as mentioned earlier — a lot of assuming is involved. Yet, I’ll continue.

Realistically; Randolph is the most viable option of the three. Aldridge likely remains in Portland as a Blazer and Boozer will be amnestied by the Chicago Bulls this summer. Henceforth, he will likely be signed by a different team and will not be available. Randolph’s current contract is considered a $16,938,333 ‘Cap Hit’. That leaves $18,304,187 to bolster the roster with a backup SG and PG, and the 11th and 12th roster slots.

Considering the circumstances, it’d be unfair to speculate beyond where I’ve gone thus far. It’s also fair to assume that Flip Saunders has an abundance of things to consider moving forward, but the most significant decision will be the first shoe that drops. First, Saunders must determine the fate of Kevin Love.

There are 29-days until the NBA Draft, and Glen Taylor was quoted saying the Timberwolves wouldn’t trade Love before the draft — but much, much more has been said — so we’ll have to see where things land.