Entering NBA free agency, the Timberwolves had most of the high-minutes players locked into contracts for next season. The moves they made as the chaotic frenzy began at 5 p.m. Friday were largely going to be about shoring up their bench.
Alexander signed a two-year deal worth $9 million, Brown signed a two-year deal worth $8 million and Milton signed a two-year deal worth $10 million. Brown’s and Milton’s deals each contain team options for year two. With these deals, the Wolves appear to have filled out their roster while coming in under the $165.3 million luxury tax threshold for next season.
Even after the Wolves didn’t tender Alexander-Walker a qualifying offer of just over $7 million, which made him an unrestricted free agent, there was still optimism they could bring him back after a strong finish to the season. The Wolves were able to bring him back for less money per year than the qualifying offer.
Alexander-Walker, who came to the team via trade in February, was their best perimeter defender in the playoffs after forward Jaden McDaniels broke his hand on the final day of the regular season. Alexander-Walker averaged 5.9 points in 23 games after coming over from Utah in the Mike Conley-D’Angelo Russell three-team trade.
Alexander-Walker started for the Wolves in their play-in victory over the Thunder, in which he helped limit his cousin, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and then started games against the Nuggets in the first round, when he was assigned to follow fellow Canadian Jamal Murray around the floor.
He said multiple times how thankful he was to play in Minnesota after struggling to find a consistent role and fit with the Pelicans and Jazz.
Milton, a 6-5 combo guard who’s 26, joins the Wolves after spending five seasons with the 76ers. He averaged 8.4 points last season while shooting 38% from three-point range, and the Wolves have valued adding shooting to their bench, especially after waiving forward Taurean Prince. The 76ers were also a better team defensively (110.2 points allowed per possession versus 112.7) when Milton was on the floor last season versus off it.
Brown comes to the Wolves from the Lakers after the Lakers signed Prince to a $4.5 million deal. Brown, a 6-6 forward, will likely help replace some of the shooting that left with Prince’s exit, after the Wolves declined to guarantee a $7.5 million deal for Prince next season.
Brown, 23, will be on his fourth team in five seasons. He played in 76 games last season and averaged 7.1 points on 38% three-point shooting (3.7 attempts per game).
The Wolves, who added former NBA standout Corliss Williamson to their coaching staff on Friday, also had a pair of contract options to decide upon by 11 p.m. Central for point guard Jordan McLaughlin and forward/center Nathan Knight.
The Wolves were likely to guarantee McLaughlin’s deal worth just over $2.3 million, sources said, while likely declining Knight’s contract at just under $2 million. McLaughlin, 27, struggled last season as a calf injury limited him to just 43 games, and he wasn’t the same player after the injury as he was before it.
But bringing him back on a team-friendly deal seems like a logical move for the Wolves, who are in need of backup point guards and will hope McLaughlin can return to form with an offseason to put the injury fully behind him. The Wolves will also look to spread ball handling duties around between Anthony Edwards, Kyle Anderson, Alexander-Walker and Milton when Conley isn’t in the game.
McLaughlin has averaged 4.7 points and 3.5 assists in four seasons with the Wolves and has been the prototypical point guard in running coach Chris Finch’s rhythm offense off the bench when healthy.
With Thursday’s signings and McLaughlin likely back in the fold, the Wolves appear to be at the full 15 roster spots secured for the upcoming season with three two-way slots available. Matt Ryan and Luka Garza remain two-way restricted free agents and could return to the team in that capacity.
Besides rounding out next season’s roster, the Wolves will be looking to ink Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels to lucrative contract extensions. Edwards is likely to sign a maximum contract in short order while McDaniels’ negotiations could take longer. But the Wolves have prioritized keeping both around for the long term.
Look for McDaniels to get a deal that pays him in the mid-$20 millions, perhaps higher by the end of the deal.
“The minute we’re allowed to, those guys are going to have really, really nice offers with a lot of money in their inbox,” Connelly said of Edwards and McDaniels in May.