Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 7/9/13
MINNEAPOLIS -- The NBA's salary cap for the 2013-14 season is now set, and the Minnesota Timberwolves are sitting fairly pretty as free agency officially opens. The league Tuesday night set the cap at 58.678 million and announced a luxury tax level of 71.748 million. The league-wide July Moratorium ends at 11:01 p.m., when draft picks and free agents are allowed to sign contracts, restricted free agents can sign offer sheets from other teams, and front offices know exactly how much financial leeway they have to work with in finalizing their rosters for next season. For the Timberwolves, that means about 9.3 million of cap space, 5.1 million of which they can use and avoid paying any luxury tax, assuming all goes as planned the next few days. That figure includes the four-year deal shooting guard Kevin Martin and Minnesota have agreed upon, the planned re-signing of small forward Chase Budinger to a three-year contract, and the approximate 48 million over four years the Timberwolves reportedly offered to restricted free agent center Nikola Pekovic. According to multiple media reports that surfaced last week, Martin and Budinger are expected to sign in the coming days. Pekovic has the option to sign offer sheets from other teams if he pleases, but Minnesota can match whatever enticing deals may be out there. Pekovic's salary also won't count against the salary cap, as his three years in the Twin Cities allow the Timberwolves to apply the Larry Bird exception to his contract. President of basketball operations Flip Saunders has reiterated throughout the offseason that retaining Pekovic, who led the team in scoring last season, is of the utmost importance. Budinger, too, has Bird rights that came with him when he was traded from Houston. These allow teams to exceed the salary cap by up to a maximum contract amount for each player. Neither Budinger nor Pekovic is expected to receive a max deal. Per the rookie pay scale outlined in the league's new collective bargaining agreement, Minnesota will owe first-round picks Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng about 1.6 million and 1.1 million. Second-round pick Lorenzo Brown will make at minimum 473,604. All three selections are expected to sign this week before traveling to Las Vegas with the Timberwolves' Summer League team. After loading up on perimeter offense by agreeing to terms with Budinger and Martin and drafting Shabazz Muhammad, It's expected Minnesota will use its additional funds on a defense-oriented wing.
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