The Minnesota Timberwolves Would Be Insane to Sign Derrick Rose

A possible reunion between Rose and former coach Tom Thibodeau? Intriguing. Will it work? Not so much.

The 2016-17 season was supposed to be Minnesota Timberwolves' first step towards future NBA domination. Equipped with a new, respected decision-maker in Tom Thibodeau and a plethora of young talent that was the envy of the Association, Karl-Anthony Towns and the pups were all set to own the Western Conference...that is, once the Golden State Warriors decided they were done with it.

At season's tip, Vegas was on their side, having set the T'Wolves' over/under at 41.5 games. Our algorithms agreed, as they predicted a 39-win season for the franchise.


Aside from the growing pains experienced by any team in any sport with an average age of, according to RealGM, 25.7, Zach LaVine got hurt, prized rookie Kris Dunn underperformed, Thibodeau's defensive philosophy never took hold, and Minnesota finished the season with 31 wins.

With all those young'uns on the roster, is veteran leadership the answer? Maybe an experienced point guard? Maybe a dude like Derrick Rose?

ESPN's Ian Begley reported that there are whispers of a Rose/Thibs reunion, but would that be the answer? Would the former MVP drag the Wolves into the playoffs?

Paying for Scraps

Derrick Rose was 2008-09 Rookie of the Year. In 2010-11, he won the MVP. Since then, a whole heap of injuries have slowed him to the point that he's just another guard. Thing is, thanks to the Derrick Rose Rule, he's still being paid like an MVP. (Side note: If you can't justify a massive contract you earned because of a rule named after you, something ain't right.)

By taking a look at our nERD metric (a player ranking that measures a player's total contributions for a season, based on efficiency) alongside Rose's base salary per year (via Spotrac), we can see that the money and the production don't jibe.

Rose nERD Salary (in Millions)
2008-09 -3.1 $4.8
2009-10 -0.6 $5.2
2010-11 14.0 $5.5
2011-12 7.6 $5.6
2012-13 DNP $16.4
2013-14 -1.9 $17.6
2014-15 5.0 $18.9
2015-16 -8.8 $20.1
2016-17 -2.9 $21.3

The nERD/salary corollary for the past two seasons is, in a word, horrible, but Rose's people apparently don't think so. If earlier reports hold any water, he's in search of a contract somewhere in the range of five years and $150 million (or $30 million per season). With his injury history and mediocre play of the past two seasons, that's probably a pipe dream. Handing Rose a long-term deal would be a big mistake for any franchise, but especially one with as much young talent as Minnesota.

By looking at the Timberwolves' cap situation, that much is clear.

Timberwolves (Salaries in Millions) 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20
Guaranteed Salaries $73.7 $32.2 $16.2
Salaries: Cap $95.7 $115.6 $90.0
Salary Cap (Proj.) $101.0 $102.0 $111.0
Cap Space $5.3 $-13.6 $21.0

The same goes for their top young players.

Key Players (Salaries in Millions) 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20
Karl-Anthony Towns $6.2 $7.8 FA
Andrew Wiggins $7.6 FA --
Ricky Rubio $14.3 $15.0 FA
Zach LaVine $3.2 FA --

The Timberwolves are pretty tight on cap space for this coming year, and they'll probably let free-agents-to-be like Brandon Rush and Shabazz Muhammad walk -- therefore clearing up some much-needed room -- but they're likely to be around $10 to $15 million in space. Is that enough for Rose? Not even close.

The Wolves would have to move players and money in order for Rose to fit in, and that's just for 2017-18. In 2018-19, if we include the free agent cap holds ($62.7 million all total) for Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine, Minnesota has $115.6 million toward the cap. But those holds are for their current rookie deals, which will be outdated by the summer of 2018.

The same goes for Towns and Ricky Rubio, who, at 23 and 28, are both set to become free agents in 2019-20.

The Timberwolves are going to need a ton of cash if they hope to keep their talented core together. And if that's the case, Rose doesn't fit into what they're trying to do.

The Grass Isn't Greener

Money aside, is Rose a logical basketball fit? What do the Wolves do with Rubio, who Rose would presumably replace in the starting lineup, or Dunn, the theoretical heir to Rubio? When you consider Rubio's and Dunn's numbers, the prospect of bringing Rose aboard doesn't make one lick of sense.

2016-17 nERD
Ricky Rubio 0.9
Derrick Rose -2.9
Kris Dunn -5.6

In 64 games this season, Rose averaged 18.0 points on 21.7% shooting from three and an effective field goal percentage of 47.7%. He also added 4.4 assists and 3.8 rebounds in 32.5 minutes a game.

Overall, his game is nowhere near where it was in his MVP season, during which he averaged 25.0 points (on an effective field goal percentage of 48.5%), 7.7 assists and 4.1 rebounds a contest. His offensive (108 points per 100 possessions) and defensive ratings (115) are a big departure from that year, when Rose played to a net rating of 10 while producing 113 points and holding opponents to 103 points per 100. In fact, his defensive rating this past year marks the worst of his career by a margin of five points.

Meanwhile, Rubio was far more durable than Rose, as he played 11 more games and nearly 400 more minutes in 2016-17. In roughly the same amount of playing time (32.9), the silky Spaniard produced 11.1 points, 9.1 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 1.7 steals a night. He posted career highs in effective field goal percentage (44.8%) and offensive rating (115) as his nERD leveled off from where it was in 2015-16 (1.2). But that's a good thing for Rubio, whose earlier years were marked by inconsistency in both shooting and production.

For those doubting Dunn after just 78 games and limited minutes (17.1 per game), let's pump the brakes. While it's true that the Providence product shot just 37.7% from the floor and averaged a mere 3.8 points per game, remember that LaVine's absence forced Dunn into a heavier workload. It's likely that Dunn wasn't prepared for big minutes. So it could only be a matter of time before we see him excel under coach Thibs.

Even if the Wolves aren't willing to move forward with the point guards they have, it's likely that one of this draft class' second-tier options (behind Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball) falls into their hands at number seven. The group includes the likes of De'Aaron Fox, Dennis Smith and Frank Ntilikina, all projected around picks 5 to 10.

Rubio, Dunn and [insert random draft prospect's name here] all have one thing in common: they're younger and cheaper than Rose. So unless Minnesota is desperate for older players, why sign Rose?

Simple answer: They shouldn't.