The Minnesota Timberwolves look likely to be fairly active during NBA free agency, with Pau Gasol trade rumors still swirling and purported interest in plenty of potential free agents. They reportedly offered guard Nicolas Batum a four-year deal worth around $50 million shortly after the official start of free agency Saturday night, and further speculation on Sunday suggests Minnesota is at the top of Batum’s preferred destinations.
Batum was originally drafted in the first round (25th overall) of the 2008 NBA Draft by the Houston Rockets, but was part of a draft night trade that sent him to the Portland Trailblazers, where he has spent his first four NBA seasons. He has improved his scoring average in each season of his career, culminating in a 13.9 points per game average during the 2011-2012 season along with averaging a career-best 4.6 rebounds per game. Batum also made just over 39 percent of his three-pointers and just shy of 84 percent of his free throws this past season.
The Trailblazers can match any offer sheet Batum signs with another team, as he is a restricted free agent and they made him a qualifying offer, but reports have suggested his agent told the team not to make contact during contract negotiations. That severed relationship may mean Portland will let him leave no matter what he is officially offered, reasonable salary or not. The New Orleans Hornets and Toronto Raptors also reportedly have interest in Batum.
Batum would fit well with the Timberwolves as a small forward/shooting guard and good perimeter shooter, and his signing may set the stage for the team to trade Derrick Williams for Gasol and make roon for Batum to potentially be the starter at small forward. He can sign an offer sheet with Minnesota or anyone else on July 11 if he chooses, at which point the ball will be in Portland’s court to match or let him leave.