Home Sports Timberwolves advancing further in NBA playoffs comes with cost

Timberwolves advancing further in NBA playoffs comes with cost

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Anthony Edwards Minnesota Timberwolves NBA

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards pauses on the court in the closing moments of a loss against the Dallas Mavericks during the second half of Game 5 of the Western Conference finals in the NBA basketball playoffs, Thursday, May 30, 2024, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)

MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Timberwolves have their entire core signed for next season and beyond, boasting two All-Stars and multiple award winners from this breakthrough journey to the NBA Western Conference finals.

Maintaining the continuity they’re seeking is going to cost them.

The Timberwolves — carrying mega-contracts for Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert — are on track to surpass the second apron of the luxury tax, a yet-to-be-determined figure above the salary cap that has become more punitive with the NBA ‘s newest collective bargaining agreement.

“Oftentimes, the final four table comes with a price tag that’s different than on teams that aren’t playing this late in the season,” president of basketball operations Tim Connelly said on Friday, following the team’s ouster from the playoffs the night before. “To be where we are, it’s going to come with a certain check, and I think by all accounts ownership has given us no indication we’re going to be anything but aggressive and try to get over one more hump.”

Approving a tax bill that could approach $50 million is far from simple summer business, considering the state of flux around controlling ownership of the franchise, with Glen Taylor’s halted sale to Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez sent to arbitration. But Connelly said he’s confident the roster won’t be affected.

READ: Mavericks oust Timberwolves, face Celtics in NBA Finals

“Ownership has been unbelievably supportive. Whatever happens is kind of a level up. I trust whatever happens will be the right path,” Connelly said.

Connelly, who was hired two years ago after building an eventual title-winning team in Denver, has an opt-out in his contract this offseason. Presumably, that will bring him a raise in Minnesota, not elsewhere.

“I’ve had a blast here. Feels like we have roots here. It’s pretty special,” Connelly said.

The Wolves had the second-best regular season record in franchise history (56-26), trailing the 2003-04 team (58-24) that was the only other one beside this bunch to advance past the first round of the playoffs. They flustered Phoenix stars Devin Booker and Kevin Durant in a first-round sweep, beat the defending champion Nuggets and three-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokic with a Game 7 comeback in Denver and had home-court advantage against Dallas before crashing hard against stars Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving.

READ: Timberwolves reach NBA West finals, overflowing with talent, tenacity

“Looking back, maybe we hit a wall,” key reserve Kyle Anderson said. “It just felt like we didn’t have the same juice that we had in the Denver and Phoenix series, and sometimes you don’t even realize it.”

Teams in this league rarely skip steps before winning a title, so with a superstar in Edwards who’s still 22 it would have been a stretch for these Wolves to hoist the trophy. Coach Chris Finch said he believes the players felt a mental and physical fatigue against Dallas that ought to shape their anticipation and preparation for the next postseason experience.

“When we come back to work in October, we’re not going to fast forward to the Western Conference finals,” Finch said. “We have to make sure that the lessons that we learned in the Dallas series and before in the playoffs are applied day one in training camp and every day up until that time, because there’s a lot of teams that have reached this point and gone backward.”

TOWNS ENTERS YEAR 10

Karl-Anthony Towns NBA Minnesota Timberwolves

Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns walks off the court after Game 5 of the team’s NBA basketball Western Conference finals against the Dallas Mavericks, Thursday, May 30, 2024, in Minneapolis. Dallas won 124-103, advancing to the NBA Finals. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)

Towns will make more than $49 million next season, his 10th in the league. If the front office were to shed salary, he would be an obvious trade candidate considering he’s still only 28 and has the type of offensive skill any team would want in a big man.

Towns made clear strides as a playoff performer, but his overall body of work this spring also left plenty of room for improvement. Both Connelly and Finch unequivocally said they believe Towns is good enough as a sidekick star to Edwards to be on a championship team.

READ: NBA: Karl-Anthony Towns treasures Timberwolves’ trip to West finals

“I’m confident I’ll be able to be here with my brothers and continue what I love to do here at home. So that’s the plan. Nothing’s changed on my side. I love this city. I love this organization,” Towns said.

WORKING HARDER

Edwards, who will play for the U.S. at the Summer Olympics, acknowledged there’s another level of offseason dedication he can reach.

“We trained this year as if we was going to just play 82 games, maybe one round of the playoffs. We didn’t know we was going to go this far,” Edwards said. “I think this summer is going to be huge for all of us, because we know what type of team we’ve got and we know what we’re capable of, so we need to train like it, like we know what we’re going to do.”

FIX-IT LIST

The Wolves must establish more consistency on offense if they want to return to the conference finals, let alone play for a title. That starts with becoming more efficient on the break.

“We don’t have the physically fastest guys, but we’ve got to make an effort and commitment to get easier stuff in transition, running, stretching the floor,” Finch said. “We were not a very good finishing team. Some of our transition plays this year, it was incredible that we weren’t able to score. The league plays so fast now, so when you aren’t fast and you’re struggling to get easy looks, that’s a good place to start and try to find them. We’ve got to be better there.”



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SLO-MO ON THE MOVE?

Anderson is the lone rotation player with an expiring contract. After finding his groove in the playoffs following a rocky regular season in which he played more at the small forward or “3” spot than he was used to, Anderson will be an unrestricted free agent. He sounded like he’s expecting to price himself out of the team’s plan for 2024-25.





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