December 15th has come and gone, and now all of the league is eligible to be traded. We’ve all been under the impression that Gersson Rosas and the rest of the front office was going to be active at pretty much every turn, so we should expect nothing less from now until the trade deadline.
Let me preface all of these rumors and reactions with this: if your name isn’t Karl-Anthony Towns, you are (and should be) very available in any and all trade talks. The start of the season was nice, but it’s been made obvious that this is a one-year roster. Because of how bad the middle/bottom of the West is this season, the Wolves are technically still in the playoff race, but it would be foolish to chase the 8th seed instead of focusing on building a winner moving forward. If they were chasing at something like a mid-40s win total, I’d be all for it, but that just isn’t the case.
I’m also of the opinion that Minnesota should be making their first-round pick in the upcoming 2020 NBA Draft available in almost any scenario that would net them a difference-maker. Holding onto that pick should not be the deal-breaker in any deal that would net them a good player. Generally, getting young, cost-controlled talent is important, especially for a capped-out team like the Wolves. The issue, however, is that the top of this current draft class looks like it could be a real stinker.
Even the tier below the Race for No. 1 is pretty rough:— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) December 17, 2019
-Tyrese Maxey shooting 38.2/28.2/88.9 through 9 games.
-Deni Avdija: playing 10 MPG in Euroleague.
-R.J. Hampton: out til mid-January.
-Theo Maledon missed a month due to a shoulder injury.
The 2020 NBA Draft is WIDE open
Some of that will sort itself out. For instance, I wouldn’t expect Tyrese Maxey (big fan; adheres to John’s PKP philosophy) to shoot that poorly from everywhere other than the free-throw line all season long. However, the consensus among draftniks seems to be that this draft, well, kind of stinks.
If the Wolves hold onto the pick and get someone they view as a difference-maker, good for them. While there are a lot of guards at the top of this draft, it seems shaky at best to assume any of them will be good enough to be that second star alongside KAT, which is what they are undoubtedly hunting for. This would be a good opportunity to use that pick as trade bait, although I understand other teams will feel similarly about this draft class.
Additionally, being active in the trade market should be on the agenda due to the upcoming free-agent class. There’s a pretty real chance that Evan Fournier and Fred VanVleet will be the most coveted players this summer. Those are nice players, but again, not really what we’re necessarily looking for alongside Towns.
Anyways, to the rumors...
Wolves remain interested in D’Angelo Russell
As reported by The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski, Minnesota remains interested in Russell, which comes as a surprise to no one. I’ve given my thoughts on the idea of Russell in Minnesota, although I realize I came off a bit more negative than I intended to. Dane Moore of Zone Coverage went through a very clean, step-by-step process of why trading for Russell will be complicated and difficult for Minnesota. In a nutshell, it’s going to be difficult to a) convince Golden State that they should move Russell now, and b) make the most enticing offer for the talented 23-year-old.
I will admit, I’ve softened on the idea of offering the kitchen sink for D-Lo, although the flaws are clearly still there. Timing is everything, and at this point in time, it seems unlikely that Minnesota has a better avenue to acquiring someone with Russell’s offensive capabilities who also fits KAT’s timeline. If the timeline isn’t an issue, though...
Jrue Holiday available in trade talks
If the Wolves scrap the timeline idea, Holiday is the best guy on the market. He’s 29 years old, so while he’s not necessarily on the same timeline as Towns and Andrew Wiggins, he isn’t exactly a grandpa either. The bonus with Jrue is that he’d be an upgrade on both offense and defense.
Everyone will have their own opinion on the timeline idea, but personally, I’m kind of at the stage where it would be best just to acquire reasonably aged talent (i.e. not Chris Paul) and figure the rest out later.
As with the D’Angelo Russell trade talks, it comes down to making things work with New Orleans. I’m not exactly sure what they’d want, given their current roster. Robert Covington is Minnesota’s best asset, but they seem to be open to trading Jrue because he’s 29 and they aren’t ready to compete yet. Robert Covington is also 29, and although he’s on a fabulous contract, it’s hard to see what exactly that accomplishes for them. They figure to want to give the majority of their SF and PF minutes to Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson moving forward, so RoCo is kind of a tricky piece to that puzzle.
Jarrett Culver and picks are probably more enticing to them, plus salary filler, which would probably include RoCo. I don’t know, maybe this is overthinking it, but it seems like getting to a deal that both sides would like will be difficult.
Wolves are interested in Dennis Smith, Jr.
From earlier: the Timberwolves are among the teams who have interest in trading for Knicks guard Dennis Smith Jr., per sources. More here: https://t.co/bM6wCN79jo— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) December 18, 2019
This is the most likely scenario for this winter, I think. For capped out teams such as the Wolves, this is the avenue they should be exploring religiously. To be clear, Dennis Smith, Jr. is bad. He has not been a good or even average NBA player to this point. Is it likely that DSJ channels his otherworldly athleticism and raw talent into being a net-positive on the court in Minnesota? No, probably not, but when the acquisition cost is likely just a second-rounder and matching salary, there’s literally no downside to the deal.
What’s the worst that happens, Minnesota gets poor point guard play from him? Well, that’s already happening with players that we know will not improve as they get older. When you’re in a position like the Timberwolves, giving yourself a free crack at a talented but flawed reclamation project is something you should absolutely be for.
Other news & notes
- It hasn’t explicitly been reported that Minnesota has taken offers on Robert Covington (or if it has I missed it), but they should be. He’s a really good player, but his value is likely never going to be higher than it is right now. If there’s a strong offer out there, they should take it, winning this season be damned.
- I wouldn’t exactly call it a rumor quite yet, but let’s say there have been “rumblings” about Spencer Dinwiddie being available. If that’s really the case, Minnesota should be all over that. He has seemed more suited for a secondary role than primary so far, but that’s okay with KAT in the mix. He seems like a candidate for a Malcolm Brogdon type jump when given more responsibility.
- Can the Wolves do anything to shed salary? It would seem that the price to get off of Gorgui Dieng’s deal this year will probably be too high, but we can only hope they find a way to get SOMETHING for Jeff Teague.