While you were enjoying your Saturday afternoon, the Minnesota Timberwolves waived guard Allen Crabbe. Crabbe has played just nine games since coming from Atlanta in exchange for Jeff Teague and Treveon Graham. It never seemed like Crabbe could establish himself in Minnesota and was buried behind the team’s trade deadline additions.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether Crabbe, Graham or Teague are on the Wolves’ roster. None of these players have moved the needle enough.
Wolves miscalculated their ability to ‘fix’ Crabbe
The bigger concern here is how the team managed Teague’s expiring contract as a trade asset. Based on Gersson Rosas’ comments after acquiring Crabbe, things did not go as he imagined.
Rosas talked about how Crabbe was the type of player the team had identified as an opportunity. He talked about how Crabbe’s production, including his shooting, would rebound based on his familiarity with the team’s assistant coaches. After all, Crabbe was a 39.3 percent shooter from beyond the arc in 314 career games prior to this season.
I asked if Crabbe is a player he envisioned as a possible part of the team’s future despite him playing out the last year of his deal. Rosas thought that retaining Crabbe beyond this season was a possibility since acquiring his bird rights was part of the appeal.
To be clear, Allen Crabbe was not a player the team indiscriminately acquired for the sake of moving Teague. He was actively and intentionally targeted by the front office as a player who could contribute this season and potentially down the road.
Crabbe’s production worsened once the team reunited him with his former coaches. He averaged fewer points, rebounds, and assists. His 3-point percentage dropped from 32 percent to 23 percent as a Wolf.
If Teague was a poor fit, as Rosas conceded at the time of the trade, then Crabbe was too. The coaches and front office seemed to believe that this was the right move, but were never able to bring that vision to fruition.
Trading Teague was still the right move
The point here isn’t that Teague should still be a Timberwolf. It’s that the team wasted the trade asset that was Teague’s $19m expiring contract for nine games of Allen Crabbe. We watched at the trade deadline while the Wolves turned what were believed to be poor trade assets like Andrew Wiggins and Gorgui Dieng into valuable pieces.
It’s hard to believe that a team seeking salary cap relief wouldn’t have thrown in a second-round pick just to free up money for after this season. Teague’s best games may be behind him but there’s no way he had zero trade value.
Trading Teague was a necessary shake-up move at the time but getting no value for his expiring contract now seems like a missed opportunity. You never want to see a team miss on one of its more obvious assets like this.
This trade was a gamble that, admittedly, would have looked better if the coaches were able to help Crabbe. We may never know the truth but hearing Rosas’ public rationale on the trade, it seems that the reason why the Wolves took this deal was that they thought they could fix Crabbe and he’d contribute immediately and not because this was all they could get.
Whether there were other offers, we don’t truly know. Even if there weren’t at the time, they traded Teague one month before the deadline. Had the team exercised patience and waited for the best possible deal, not just a tantalizing reclamation project, the team may have found more value than nine games from Allen Crabbe.
Sometimes trades take years to determine a winner, but this deal does not. Trades should be graded on things like the context they were made in and the team’s rationale. If we do that, it’s safe to say that the Wolves missed on this one:
- The team was unable to make Crabbe a productive player again and could barely get on the court for a team yearning for outside shooting.
- Crabbe’s Bird Rights, a part of Crabbe’s appeal according to Rosas, are now irrelevant.
Fortunately for the franchise, there isn’t much long-term damage to worry about from this mistake. Where past trade mistakes have cost the team first round picks and more, this fallout will likely be inconsequential. Yet, it’s hard not feeling like the Timberwolves could have received more for Teague in a lower-risk move.