The Minnesota Timberwolves are officially parting ways with small forward Andrei Kirilenko due to the tenured veteran opting out of the final year of his two year contract, giving up $10 million that the Wolves would have owed him.
With this somewhat surprising move, the Wolves now have a chunk of cap space that they didn’t intend on possessing this summer. Kirilenko was thought to have wanted to stay his final year in Minnesota, especially because he likely won’t get that kind of money elsewhere.
The Wolves have already extended the qualifying offer to their free agent center Nikola Pekovic, making him a restricted free agent at this point. With the money freed up from Kirilenko, Minnesota could now go after a fairly decent name via free agency if they so chose to.
Their biggest need at this point is at the shooting guard position. With Kirilenko leaving, it opens up a spot at the three as well even though they drafted Shabazz Muhammad out of UCLA in the first round. Muhammad will likely get some time, but Minnesota will definitely need to grab another small forward to get into the rotation.
It is not clear whether they intend to bring back Chase Budinger, who spent most of last season on the bench with an injury. If they do, they will probably have a couple of teams to contend with in the running to bring him back.
A couple of intriguing names Minnesota could try to bring in are that of O.J. Mayo, Tyreke Evans or J.J. Redick.
Mayo has been very inconsistent throughout his career and hasn’t hit his potential quite yet — many doubt that it will even happen at this point. He would be a good option for Minnesota especially with somebody who can help create offense for him like Ricky Rubio.
Evans is likely done with the Sacramento Kings, but his market is interesting because it hasn’t been established just what kind of pay teams will offer him. If some team out there offers him what he has been making, the Wolves are probably out of the running.
Redick is one of the better options out there because he brings pure shooting to the table. The Wolves have lacked a good shooter for quite some time now — outside of Kevin Love — and Redick would definitely fit the bill. With having enough to offer him now that Kirilenko is gone, he would be a very high possibility.
Regardless of who the Wolves sign, it will be better than starting Luke Ridnour at the two guard like they did all of last year. Minnesota will miss Kirilenko’s defense he brought to their team, but will more than likely be just fine considering he had some health concerns as well. Free agency is just about upon us, and I expect Minnesota to make some noise.