The Minnesota Timberwolves have not made the playoffs since Flip Saunders was coach, and now he will get a chance to help turn around the fortunes of the franchise as president of basketball operations. There is some talent in place on the roster, but the need for capable perimeter players stood out this past season and all potentially available free agents that fit that bill should garner some interest.
The Boston Celtics face an offseason of uncertainty after a first-round playoff exit, and most of those questions surround the future of veterans Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Garnett could be traded of simply choose to retire at age 37, but Pierce’s case is a bit more complicated than that. He is entering the final year of his contract, in the form of a team option worth $15.3 million, but the Celtics can buy him out for $5 million on or before June 30. Boston could also pick up the option and attempt to trade Pierce, but that looks like an unlikely scenario. In any case, assuming he becomes available, could Pierce be a fit for the Timberwolves?
Pierce had another solid season in 2012-2013, averaging 18.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.1 steals per game in 77 games played. He also performed well in Boston’s first-round playoff series against the New York Knicks, averaging 19.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game, though he went just 10-for-37 from the floor over the final two games of the series as the Celtics bowed out in six games.
Pierce has of course spent his entire NBA career with the Celtics since being drafted 10th overall by them in 1998, and has been one of the best players in the league for much of that time. But he will turn 36 before next season starts, and it’s worth wondering if he has any interest in playing for another team if Boston does not bring him back.
It is notable that Saunders, after being fired as coach of the Washington Wizards, served as a consultant for the Celtics during the 2012 playoffs. There’s no way of knowing if he and Pierce forged any sort of close relationship during that time, but there could be some interest on both sides if the veteran finds himself looking for another team.
Teams that could contend for a title in the next few years should become Pierce’s top suitors if he becomes available, and he is likely to have interest in joining those type of teams as well. The Timberwolves are clearly not on that level right now, but the prospect of playing for a coach like Rick Adelman and sharing the floor with Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio could appeal to him.
Pierce’s financial demands, real or perceived, will likely dictate the interest level the Timberwolves, or any other team, have in him. Saunders is sure to solicit input from Adelman, and the price has to be right, but Pierce still has something left and I like how he might fit with the Timberwolves.
Brad Berreman is a contrinbuting writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.