First, let's talk about that contract. Cole is 28 now, so this deal locks him up for the rest of his prime, and locks him up cheaply at that. Timofey Mozgov and Ian Mahinmi are making 16 million dollars per year, are older, are signed for one more year, and had worse per minute numbers than Cole last year. Basically, compared to the market for good backups/average starters, Cole was bought at under half price. There are questions about his conditioning and usefulness with more playing time, but there is no doubting that he was extremely effective last year, and he should be just as good next year in Minnesota.
The issue then becomes, why didn't the Clippers re-sign him? Many of us thought Cole would cost at least 10 million dollars, a price that would have been tough for the Clips to pay. But 7 million? If it's true that Jamal is gone and the Clippers are signing Wes Johnson using cap space, then they could have signed Cole to this contract instead. They might have even had money for Wes after that, especially if Pierce retired. It's possible that Doc wanted to lock up a wing first before going after a big man. And that's probably the correct move. While Cole is a better player than Wes, his playing time is limited by the presence of DJ and Blake. The wing was barren before Wes' signing, and right now he is slotted in as a starter. So while it's possible Doc could have signed both of them, Wes was more of a priority.
"Passing" on Cole could also be a sign of confidence in the Clippers' rookie big men: Brice Johnson and Diamond Stone. While Doc will assuredly sign at least one veteran big man to stabilize the bench, it's possible he didn't want to tie up any real money in one because he has faith in the rooks. Even if he doesn't..... it looks like they will get their chance to play anyway.
Regardless, Cole is gone, and he was so much fun to watch on the Clippers this past year. He should be terrific in Minnesota, especially because Thibs could be the antidote to his conditioning issues. I wish him well, and am excited to see his return to Staples Center. He had better get a standing ovation.