It's another theme day at SB Nation, and with December 15th being the first day summer free agents gain trade eligibility, the timing is pretty good.
Today's theme is one many Wolves fans and 2K14 fanatics have studied relentlessly. What trades are possible, what players could go, and what should we expect as we approach the February deadline?
This year, the Timberwolves were one of the first teams this year to make a move, trading Derrick Williams to Sacramento for defensive specialist Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. The trade not only parted the Wolves and their No. 2 overall pick from just two years ago, it also may have marked the end of the Wolves' trade aspirations this season.
Of course, that's never definitive in the NBA, especially with a team like that Wolves. At 11-12 and coming off a tough loss a night ago to the Boston Celtics, they could certainly use a pick-me-up in their rotation. The problem with getting that done via trade comes from the team's lack of assets.
It's fairly simple. In order to execute a trade in the NBA between two competent front offices (which, in fairness, doesn't happen all the time), you generally need to give up a player of value to receive one.
The Wolves will also be re-signing Ricky Rubio (clearly not a max player, but will still get paid), and will likely work to re-sign Kevin Love. The Wolves will need money for that, and will still want space to sign someone with the MLE in the coming offseason. It seems unlikely Flip Saunders will want to make any moves for another substantial contract, and odds are the only type of player that would make sense is an expiring contract.
Still, expiring contracts are dealt every year. The depth of the bench is what the Wolves need to improve the most on, but they'd likely need to move players from their bench to make that happen. In theory, it doesn't make much sense.
Dealing J.J. Barea could bring back something, but the Wolves' depth at the point guard isn't strong enough see Barea go in a deal without another point guard coming back. Some hoped that Alexey Shved could make the transition to point guard this season, giving the Timberwolves options at the position both on the court and in trade discussions. That has not happened, and the job will likely remain with Barea all season partially as a result.
At center, coach Rick Adelman doesn't seem ready to give Gorgui Dieng regular rotation minutes, and with Ronny Turiaf's date of return unclear, it has left a lot of situations where Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic seem tired at the end of games. When those two get weary, it's very hard for them to pull out a win, especially when Kevin Martin is off his game. It certainly would not hurt to make a move to add a player here.
The one player that could change things is Chase Budinger, both on the court and in trade discussions. Budinger likely wouldn't be trade bait himself, especially coming off his second knee injury in as many years, but his return would likely also mean less minutes for one of Luc Mbah a Moute or Dante Cunningham (who went down with what looked like a bad knee injury a night ago. We'll have more on that as it progresses).
If that becomes the case, it might provide the Wolves a chance to make a move to improve their bench. More than anything else, the Wolves need help in the paint. If Budinger comes back slowly, they'll need help with scoring off the bench, just as they have all season.
At this point, the only situation where the Wolves would likely pull the trigger on another trade would be in this scenario. It would likely include any combination Cunningham and Mbah a Moute, possibly paired with one of Alexey Shved or Shabazz Muhammad.
Stars will need to align to set the Wolves up for another trade. Keeping future signings in mind, it's going to be tough to take on a guy with the comfort of a multi-year salary. With very few assets to work with, it'll be tough to find another team wanting to part with a useful player for any package of players the Wolves would have to offer. On top of all that, the unknown return dates for Chase Budinger, Ronny Turiaf, and now possibly Dante Cunningham, make their ability to package players even more difficult.
Their best best would likely be to go for a team in the Wiggins/Smart/Parker sweepstakes, and try to get a useful asset from them. Names that fit that description, and are also expiring in the summer of 2014 include: Alonzo Gee (non-guaranteed contract in 2014-15), Marvin Williams, Trevor Ariza, Amir Johnson, and Epke Udoh (qualifying offer could be extended this summer).
It seems unlikely that they'll get much more talent for what they have to offer than guys like these. There are certainly other players that have been mentioned in Wolves trade talks in the past, but the odds of guys like Evan Turner getting dealt to Minnesota seem less likely following Williams' departure.
Even so, it's still the NBA, and unexpected moves happen all the time. For now, it doesn't seem as though any move makes sense. As we come closer to the trade deadline, odds are we will see some rumors arise. Whether they make sense or not, however, will be another story.
Any particular players you'd like to see in a Wolves uni?