The NBA’s Trade Deadline is just around the corner on February 23rd. The Timberwolves have typically not been heavily involved in the trade process in recent years, although this has primarily been due to the team’s lack of tradeable assets.
This year will likely be no different. The Wolves only have a few pieces they could move in non-blockbuster trades. The core of Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, and Karl-Anthony Towns isn’t going to get moved anytime soon. The organization is also in a weird place where they are unlikely to make a playoff run, yet also do not have to work too hard to tank. A top-ten pick will simply fall to the team assuming the current rate of play remains the same. The Wolves are also not facing any immediate financial stress and have no need to offload contracts, although they could easily be a destination for a team to dump a bad contract.
Let’s also make the fair assumption that Gorgui Dieng and Kris Dunn are not going to be traded. There is absolutely no reason to trade Gorgui, especially midway through the season. Kris Dunn is also not going anywhere; he is Thib’s draft pick and they are not going to give up on Dunn halfway through his rookie year. We can also rule out Adriean Payne for health reasons, Jordan Hill because of course, and Nemanja Bjelica because no other team wants to give themselves an aneurysm.
That leaves only a few players that could get moved: Ricky Rubio, Tyus Jones, Cole Aldrich, Shabazz Muhammad, and Brandon Rush.
Aldrich and Rush are pretty simple cases. If a playoff team feels like they could utilize another big off the bench or extra three-point shooting, they could probably get the Wolves to part with either player quite easily. Rush is here on a short contract and has not made Thibs’ rotations outside of injuries. Aldrich can’t seem to crack the rotation either and will likely be an awkward long-term fit as the third center if the Wolves ever get around to acquiring a starting power forward. But his contract is cheap, so there is no pressing need to move him either.
Tyus Jones remains a possibility to be moved. There are certainly teams in the NBA that have inquired about his availability, such as the 76ers, but his future with the team likely depends on what Thibs and Layden are planning to do with Rubio. Tyus has shown that he is certainly a competent role player at the very least this year and could evolve into a great backup point guard or even a starter down the road. Assuming the plan is to let Rubio go, and that Dunn becomes competent, a point guard rotation of Dunn and Tyus, both of which are on rookie contracts for the immediate future, would be an interesting situation to be in.
All of the rumors and #WojBombs aside, Rubio probably won’t get moved before the deadline. It simply makes more sense for the team to trade him during the NBA draft time period when the Wolves have a better idea of how the draft and free agency will be shaking out, if that’s even the route they choose to go. Rubio has been playing excellent basketball in 2017 and trading him in February would only serve to let the Wolves effectively tank for the rest of the season. However, with how the standings look at the moment, the team would be hard pressed to catch-up with the Nets at the bottom of the standings. The Wolves are close enough to a good pick right now that they have no need to purposefully tank.
There is likely not a trade out there that would make the Wolves better by dealing Rubio. But with Zach LaVine out for the season, Thibs could always decide he wants to see Dunn start the rest of the way—maybe after the All-Star break—to continue to jump-start the young core’s developments. That might be the most likely reason to move Rubio, though, again, is there even a fair offer out there at the moment? As of now, there has not been a move that seems reasonable for the Wolves given their current situation, and it seems very unlikely one will materialize in the next 10 days.
Shabazz, in my mind, is the most likely player to get moved. Shabazz has caught fire in 2017, shooting over 50 percent from the three-point line. But he will be a restricted free agent next year and if the Wolves do not think they will off him a deal, or be the team to match whatever contract another team offers him, then he could be moved. It seems like the Wolves may already be thinking this way due to the trade rumor of the Shabazz for P.J. Tucker swap. If there would be any player on the Wolves who would vastly overplay their value just as they are about to get a new contract, Shabazzbuckets would be the guy to do it.
As far as guys the Wolves could target, that is really up in the air. It would be great if the Wolves went the Detroit Pistons route of last year and looked for guys who are about to become RFAs. It might be interesting to try to pry away Nikola Mirotic from the Bulls to see if the Wolves could revitalize his career, although that would mean the Chicago’s front office would have to answer the phone when he called.
There really aren’t a lot of guys out there for the Wolves to go after, not to mention they are not going to be parting with their best assets. The team will be probably have another quiet trade deadline, but it will be interesting to see how Thibs and Layden handle their first deadline now they are running the show. Maybe we will be surprised.