Kyle Anderson wants to be back in Minnesota. But can the Timberwolves afford him?

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Timberwolves coach Chris Finch was approximately midway through the second answer he supplied at his exit interview with the media Thursday when he first brought up Kyle Anderson’s name.

Specifically, Finch noted Minnesota could run more offense around Anderson and his playmaking skills to take some of the floor general burden off veteran Mike Conley.

“Assuming Kyle’s back,” Finch noted, “which I know I personally would love and we would love to have him back.”

That’s the crux of the issue. Anderson is the only member of Minnesota’s top eight players who is set to enter free agency this summer. And the Timberwolves are already slated to go well over the salary cap as extensions for Conley, Karl-Anthony Towns, Jaden McDaniels and Anthony Edwards all kick in.

Re-signing Anderson would likely push Minnesota toward the second-apron of the luxury tax, which would not only increase the financial bill for ownership — whoever that is come this fall — but that apron comes with rules that also greatly limit how the Wolves could operate regarding free agency and trades.

So the lower the contract number, the more likely it is Minnesota can keep Anderson in a Timberwolves jersey.

“We’d love to have Kyle back. He’s not just a great player. He’s a great guy,” Wolves president of basketball operations Tim Connelly said. “His voice and his toughness is hugely important to who we are, so again, you never know what’s going to happen, not going to happen, but we’d love to have Kyle back, and we’re not here without Kyle.”

Anderson was a major reason Minnesota survived Karl-Anthony Towns’ calf strain to still reach the playoffs a year ago. He was a perfect fit alongside Naz Reid or Rudy Gobert in any Wolves lineup. His strong play led many to wonder where he fit among the franchise’s all-time best free-agent signings.

But an eye injury stemming from an inadvertent strike from Anthony Edwards in Game 4 of Minnesota’s first-round loss to Denver in 2023 not only ended Anderson’s season, but he wasn’t cleared for basketball activities until midway through the summer. A few weeks after that, he was playing for China in the FIBA World Cup.

Anderson, who continued to struggle with his vision for a large chunk of this season, was essentially robbed of his usual offseason of development. It led to a level of play this season that was far lower than the standard the 30-year-old has established for himself.

“I wasn’t happy with the way I played this year. I think the key to having a good season is having that time in the offseason to put the work in,” Anderson said. “I just didn’t have that body of work, body of summer work behind me like I did in the past year. I was able to work out after we lost to Golden State when I was in Memphis (the year prior), I was able to work out that whole summer. Work on my shot, work on my handle, work on my game, and it showed. … I don’t think I played well this season, but that’s not who I am. Happy I made it to this offseason healthy. Gonna have a hell of an offseason, I’m in the gym all summer. I’m going to get back to the player I know I am.”

Will that benefit Minnesota, or Anderson’s next team? He said he hasn’t had any conversations about which team he’ll play for next season. He was entirely focused on the Wolves’ 2023-24 campaign until now.

He does know he likes a number of things about Minnesota, including Finch. The two have a clear affinity for one another.

“A lot of coaches I came across in my career, like you know sometimes kind of don’t know how to use me or don’t know what to do with me,” Anderson said. “For as long as I’ve been here, Finchy put me in positions to be successful, he trusted me with decision-making, trusted me to play my game, allowed me to have the ball in my hands. That meant a lot to me, because I came across a lot of coaches who haven’t let me do that, and it kind of gets weird at that point, but Finchy and Tim have given me the utmost confidence and put me in the most positions to succeed my two years here. I’m very thankful for those guys. It’s been really fun having the ball in my hands in the NBA.”

Finch trusts Anderson and views the forward as one of the team’s few true playmakers. Anderson showed his value in the West finals with his playmaking and defense. He gives Minnesota versatility on both ends of the floor, which can prove so valuable in the playoffs.

If he can regain the 3-point shot that was a weapon a year ago, Anderson will be a major asset for whichever team he goes to.

Anderson said he wants to be back with the Wolves. His family has settled in here. Anderson’s son is on the autism spectrum and is thriving in his current school system. That matters.

“That plays a part into it,” Anderson said. “But I don’t know where I’ll be.”

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Because contracts matter, too. This could be the last healthy payday Anderson sees in his career, should the market manifest itself for the do-it-all forward this summer.

“You know, I don’t even like to think about that stuff. Like, you know, when the time comes, you know, we make that decision,” Anderson said. “We cross that bridge when we get there. But obviously I want to be back here.”

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