Thursday is one of the most exciting days of the NBA season: the trade deadline.
This is the day when we’re all glued to Twitter feeds or televisions hoping to get trade news as it happens. One piece of advice, go to your favorite NBA reporter and turn on your notifications for them. This way, you won’t be duped by fake accounts and you’ll be alerted when news breaks.
We’ve already seen one major trade ahead of the deadline. Blake Griffin was sent to Detroit in exchange for Avery Bradley and Tobias Harris. The Clippers will be one of the teams to watch as DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams are available.
Nikola Mirotic was sent to New Orleans to fortify the Pelicans’ frontcourt after DeMarcus Cousins was lost for the season.
Another team to watch will be Cleveland as they try to stabilize their season.
As for the Timberwolves, they could be looking for the piece that can catapult them ahead in the standings. The Wolves are currently in fourth place in the West but sit just 0.5 games back of the third-place Spurs. It’s not unthinkable that it could be done.
You don’t need me to tell you this but the glaring needs for this team continue to be shooting and defense. The starting lineup has been strong, which is good because starting-caliber shooters and defenders are pricey and rarely available at this stage of the season.
The Timberwolves are 25th in defensive rating right now. Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins are starting to figure things out on that end but are still a work in progress. Jeff Teague is susceptible to falling asleep on defense. Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson are the smartest defenders on the team but they can only affect so much.
I took a deep dive into their lack of 3-point shooting last week but nothing has changed. A lack of shooting keeps them from competing with the best teams in the NBA, like the Warriors and Rockets. The Wolves are on a 50-win pace as the seventh-worst 3-point shooting team in the league. As good as they are, imagine what they could be with a better deep ball.
The Timberwolves technically have two first-round draft picks: their own and Oklahoma City’s. However, there is a catch. The Timberwolves owe their pick to Atlanta this season when they make the playoffs. The Thunder pick is also lottery-protected, which means that the Wolves will likely have that. Since the Wolves are all but certain to give that pick to Atlanta, they will be more reluctant to part with the Thunder pick.
Player-wise, they’re not exactly teeming with desirable attractions.
Shabazz Muhammad reportedly asked the team to trade or waive him. Muhammad is having arguably his worst season after re-signing last summer. He’s fallen out of the rotation for much of the season but has emerged recently in garbage time. Muhammad peaked in 2015 as a bench scorer who drilled 39 percent of his 3-pointers but his game hasn’t grown much since he entered the league in 2013.
The frontcourt is where the team’s depth lies. Behind Towns and Gibson is Gorgui Dieng. Dieng is still in his prime and is owed a reasonable $48 million over the next three years. He’s also a productive player who can start or come off of the bench. Sacrificing Dieng and some frontcourt depth in the name of improving the wing depth may be a good idea, especially if Justin Patton can return soon, but it would likely have to be for another player of similar quality.
This is it for assets. Cole Aldrich has a $7.3 million salary that could be used to match salary if necessary. This is crucial since the Timberwolves are capped out so they couldn’t take on more than 125 percent of incoming salary.
Tyreke Evans has been made available by Memphis. So available that they’ve sat him not to risk injury or harm his value. Evans has had a great season for the Grizzlies, averaging 19.5 points, five rebounds, and five assists per game. Additionally, Evans is hitting 39.2 percent of his 3-pointers and could provide another bench ballhandler. The problem is that he may not be thrilled about a smaller role and doesn’t exactly satisfy the defensive need.
I’ve seen Wolves fans clamor for Lou Williams. Having Williams and Crawford on the same bench is inviting trouble. Both are score-first sixth men types and are redundant, stylistically. Fit issues aside, the Clippers would likely want a draft pick, something the Wolves likely wouldn’t go for.
Brooklyn’s DeMarre Carroll might fit the mold of what they need. He’s no longer the shooter they need with a salary similar to Dieng’s but he knows how to play defense and is a capable shooter. There have been no rumors surrounding Carroll so we don’t know what the Nets would want but this could be an idea.
There just aren’t a ton of attainable names in the middle class that are particularly desirable. Veterans like Jared Dudley or questionable contracts like Jeremy Lamb are available. You may be able to get J.R. Smith or Iman Shumpert but their values have arguably never been lower and the Cavs would want someone who could help them now. Without moving the Oklahoma City pick, you’re out of the market for a DeAndre Jordan type player. Heck, Lou Williams might command a first.
To be clear, the Timberwolves don’t have to make a deal that they don’t love. They will still make the playoffs and may win 50 games. Passing San Antonio is still possible with the current iteration of the roster. Would an upgrade be nice? Sure, but there’s no need for them to do something dramatic.
What’s most realistic is for the Wolves to wait until players are bought out after the deadline. That way, they don’t have to give anything up for a player another team didn’t want. The Celtics got Greg Monroe for the minimum because the Suns released him. Deals like this make the most sense for this team.
With that said, you can’t rule out surprises. Every now and then there’s a trade that catches everyone off guard. All it takes is one phone call and the right circumstances for something to fall into your lap. But being in the position the Wolves are in is advantageous. They don’t need to do anything, which means negotiating from a position of power.
Even if the Wolves don’t do anything, Thursday should be an exciting day for basketball fans.