The NBA Finals is drawing to a close, the draft is just around the corner, and free agency is on the horizon. So it’s time for the NBA calendar, where we’re trying to fit every available player on every team, even with a small amount of space. Usually talking heads chat for weeks about what the Los Angeles Lakers will do and where. James Harden will sign. But now that the NBA is a year-round league, we sometimes have to talk about the little guys who make the league work. Today, that everyday player is the Minnesota native. Amir Coffey.
The former Mr. Basketball and Gophers player from Minnesota surged ahead for the Los Angeles Clippers in his third NBA season this year. Now the Minnesota Timberwolves, now a restricted free agent, must carefully and thoroughly consider bringing Coffey home. Wolves in a decent form of salary cap this off-season. They receive nearly $30 million in luxury tax with a $10.2 million intermediate non-taxpayer exemption, a $4 million bi-annual exemption, and a $4.75 million trading exemption that expires expires at the end of June.
With a bit of wiggle room, a new top manager in Tim Connelly, and flashy new owners running the show, names like Amir Coffey probably won’t put the Wolves on any free agent winning lists at the end of the summer. However, working on the edge will allow Minnesota to go from a first-round knockout to a deep playoff run.
After going undrafted in 2019 and signing a series of two-way deals with the Clippers, Coffey played little in his first two seasons before starting 30 of his 69 games this year. He averaged nine points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game while shooting nearly 38 percent of his triples. In his three years in the NBA, Coffey has gone from a talented but imperfect NBA minor prospect to a legitimate combo forward who could add depth to a team aiming for the playoffs.
After the best season the franchise has seen in decades, the Minnesota roster is in a healthy state. But even the best compositions can be improved. The Timberwolves only have one normal 3D wing of any real size, Jayden McDaniels. Coffey is 6’7″, weighs 210 pounds, and shoots 3-pointers 38 percent of his career. He is a capable defender, can handle the ball in a pinch and stretch the floor like Taurus Prince28-year-old Minnesota player this season.
There’s pretty little demand for big 3D wingers this offseason and the Wolves are just looking for someone to plug McDaniels’ back, making Coffey an attractive option at the right price. John Hollinger of The Athletic projects According to his BORD$ projections, Coffey is worth just over $5 million a year. If that’s the price Coffey will return to Minnesota, the Wolves should make an offer right now. $5 million might be too much to cover a two year exclusion or their trading exclusion created from Ricky Rubio trade, but they can use a portion of the non-taxpayer’s MLE to cover costs. Coffey for somewhere around $5 million a year is a hell of a deal compared to paying guys who are about to turn 35. Danny Green – $15 million or one of the Martin twins – $10 million a yearaccording to BORD$.
Why didn’t Connelly want Coffey? He may have seen Coffey’s small body of work as a reason not to sign him. Coffey played in just 131 games over three seasons in the NBA, with most of his minutes spent in sweeps during his first two years in Los Angeles. It’s very important for a new team leader to stake his reputation in his first offseason on a player who hasn’t had time to really shine in the NBA. $5 million a year is a drop in the bucket for the modern NBA, but no executive in this business would throw money away on an untested product.
However, the reward must be worth the risk involved in bringing on a 24-year-old 3D project like Coffey. He won’t make or lose the Minnesota season next year, but investing in players like Coffey will deepen the roster and help the Wolves advance further into the Western Conference playoffs. The Wolves will need to bring in Coffey as part of a more elaborate free-agent plan. I hope they bring another big player to play next to Towns. But adding a young combo forward who can knock down a three-timer in time is a step in the right direction for a franchise desperate to build on last season’s success.