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NBA Trade Deadline 2018: Will the Timberwolves Make a Move?

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Frankly it seems unlikely, but with the deadline still three weeks away, let’s discuss.

Minnesota Timberwolves Introduce Justin Patton during Press Conference Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

With the trade deadline approaching on February 8th, SBN NBA decided we should take a look at the state of our teams when it comes to making moves this season. As we know, there are a lot of factors involved in NBA trades, and they can be difficult to consummate. Contract and salary considerations, both for the present and future, are a major issue for teams looking to deal, as is finding a partner whose needs match up with yours.

Over the first 18 months or so of the Tom Thibodeau era, the Wolves have executed two trades—sending out Ricky Rubio to the Utah Jazz for the Thunder’s 2018 first round draft pick, and of course acquiring Jimmy Butler from the Bulls in the big draft night deal.

I would bet against the Wolves making a trade by the deadline this season. It’’s more likely they fill their open roster spot with a bought out veteran sometime after February 8th.

That said, to the extent they are either, the Wolves are definitely a buyer as opposed to a seller this winter. Having acquired multiple veterans over the summer to combine with their young talent, they are looking to win now, and of course are doing so to the tune of a 29-17 record and the fourth spot in the Western Conference.

The problem for the Wolves is their lack of real tradeable assets. Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Andrew Wiggins are their absolute untouchables (despite the Clippers apparently trying to extract Towns for Blake Griffin...) It would be almost as big a shock to see them move either of the other starters, Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson, both signed over the summer.

There has been talk about trying to move Gorgui Dieng, a real contributor. It makes some sense, as they have a lot of money tied up in the front court, with more to come when Towns signs his max extension this summer. But Dieng is both valuable on the court and probably tough to move for value given the length and size of his contract. It might be possible to exchange him for a similarly paid player at another position, something that might make sense but brings it’s own problems. It also might not be, as teams looking to move such highly paid players (think DeMarre Carroll of the Nets, Kent Bazemore of the Hawks, or Evan Fournier of the Magic,) are looking to get out of future salary, not add it.

The Wolves do have Cole Aldrich, who is making $7M this season but is only guaranteed $2M next season, which might be enticing to a team looking to shed salary. They also have the Thunder’s first round pick in 2018 thanks to the aforementioned Rubio trade, though they owe their own pick to the Hawks (a holdover from the lamentable trade for Adreian Payne.)

However, moving Aldrich for more longer term salary might not be too palatable to ownership and management, since the Wolves are already well over the projected cap for next season, and the team is not getting any cheaper in the near or medium term.

Nemanja Bjelica will be a free agent this summer and likely holds little value. Perhaps their most valuable potentially tradeable player is Tyus Jones, who has emerged this season in his back up point guard role, showing he could be a capable starter in the league while still on his rookie deal through next season. Of course, he’s also very valuable to the Wolves on the court. Given the Wolves appear happy with their starting lineup, it’s hard to see them trading their best bench player for a different bench player, leaving a hole at the point guard spot.

And ultimately, this is the issue for the Wolves. Tom Thibodeau likes to play his starters, and for good reason as it’s one of the top lineups in the NBA. So the value of a bench contributor is lessened because he is not inclined to play guys 25 minutes off the bench on a regular basis.

There is no question, however, that the Wolves could use additional wing depth for the stretch run of the season. Their starting wings are first and third in minutes played this season (with their starting center sandwiched in between in second.) This has been an issue all season, and with Shabazz Muhammad out of the rotation, it’s been even more acute. So much so that Nemanja Bjelica has seen most of his minutes at the small forward spot since his return from injury, which is far from ideal.

The kind of player they might be interested in is a three-and-D wing, preferably on the bigger side, though compromises might be necessary. The problem is of course that these sorts of players—guys who can guard the wing and make threes well enough to be a threat—are very valuable. The Wolves tried to get hold of one over the summer, when they attempted to engineer a sign-and-trade for C.J. Miles. But they weren’t willing to part with the necessary assets (mostly the OKC pick) and Miles wound up signing with the Toronto Raptors. Players who broadly fit this type and may be available in trade tend to either already have big contracts that the Wolves likely wouldn’t be able to absorb—Carroll and Bazemore are guys I mentioned above that fit this profile—or are too valuable to their current teams for what the Wolves have to offer.

A few players that might be obtainable that aren’t carrying huge deals are Jeremy Lamb of the Charlotte Hornets, Jared Dudley of the Phoenix Suns, Garrett Temple of the Sacramento Kings, and Vince Carter, also of the Kings. Lamb is the youngest and most valuable of these players, at 25 years old and under contract next season for $7.5M. It’s difficult to see the Hornets being eager to off-load him, as they have much bigger problematic salaries on the books, and moving Lamb isn’t going to create much flexibility for them. Still, he’d be worth a phone call.

Jared Dudley would add to the collection of guys the Wolves acquired five years after I wanted them, and hasn’t played much for a poor Suns team that is going young. He’s owed $9.5M next season, which is a bit much but could be worth it. He has become a quality team defender over the years, and can still make threes.

Temple and Carter joined a Kings team that appeared to be ready to make a push, but that hasn’t happened, and have now been told they will be in and out of the rotation as the team looks to get more experience for their young players. Temple has a $8M player option for next season, while Carter is a real buyout candidate as he is on a one year deal.

Any of these guys would be interesting, and probably of some use to the Wolves. The question is whether any of them move the needle enough to part with something of value and/or take on future salary commitments for a team that is expensive and getting more so over the medium term.

The bet here is the answer is no, but I’ve been wrong before.

What interests you at the trade deadline?