Good morning, and happy Hump Day everybody. We are now just over 24 hours from the trade deadline, so buckle in. There promises to be a flurry of movement between now and 2pm CST tomorrow.
With that in mind, let me just say that I have some #takes to get off, so we’ll start with a look around the league and finish up with a few Timberwolves-related thoughts, if you’d like to just skip to those at the end.
The Aaron Gordon Sweepstakes
So, maybe I’m just a totally insane person who hasn’t watched enough of the Magic (definitely possible), but I feel like I’m losing my mind with each new development of the Aaron Gordon trade rumors.
It began when Aaron Gordon requested/demanded a trade in the first place. Is Aaron Gordon good enough to be able to request a trade? He’s a nice player, sure, but don’t only stars really dictate where they go? Maybe Gordon’s good enough to have a little say in when it’s time for him to go, I guess. After all, Orlando has had him involved in trade rumors for what feels like an eternity, so I suppose THAT part of this wasn’t so unreasonable. But then...
Aaron Gordon has no desire in being traded to a rebuilding team, and only wants to join a team that can make a playoff run. (via @ChrisBHaynes)— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) March 22, 2021
What? Like I said, nice player, but not nearly nice enough to get to dictate WHERE he ends up in a trade. That, to me, is nuts. Then, the price to acquire Gordon was leaked and I thought I was on Mars.
A scenario being discussed between the Magic and Celtics: Marcus Smart and two 1st-round picks to the Magic, Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier to the Celtics. (via The Athletic)— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) March 23, 2021
So, sure, Evan Fournier is a nice player too, but he’s an unrestricted free agent in a few months, and while a two-for-one sort of makes sense due to Boston’s lack of depth, I’m not convinced this makes them a true contender in the East. Given Fournier’s expiring contract, that is the only part of the deal that he’d really be useful for. I’m not sure about anyone else, but I’m fairly certain Marcus Smart is just as impactful to winning as Aaron Gordon is. I just don’t understand what’s going on here. We’ve mocked Danny Ainge for years about not making a big swing for a star, and now he’s potentially going to move Smart and two first-round picks for Gordon and Fournier? That doesn’t make sense to me, although maybe I just love Marcus Smart too much.
The Upcoming Restricted Free Agents
I change my mind every day on whether or not I want the Timberwolves to trade for John Collins, but it does appear roughly 50/50 that Collins has played his last game with the Atlanta Hawks.
I understand why Atlanta would want to try to get some value back for Collins now, but the thing I keep coming back to, both with Collins and New Orleans’ Lonzo Ball, is that they could easily just match whatever offer sheet either player signs, and then trade them afterwards. I think I understand the case for moving Collins a bit more than Ball, if Atlanta sees DeAndre Hunter and Danilo Gallinari manning the 4 while Clint Capela and Onyeka Okongwu play the 5 moving forward. I still don’t love that for them as opposed to just retaining Collins, but I get it.
I don’t understand why New Orleans is motivated at all to trade Lonzo Ball. To me, it feels like the Pelicans are letting the sunk costs of Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams prevent them from retaining a good, young player who fits with their two best players. Lonzo is not the Jason Kidd-esque point guard he was made out to be out of UCLA, but he is a really, really good pseduo-wing player who is a lethal playmaker in transition. The sunk costs of Bledsoe and Adams should not prevent David Griffin from retaining Ball. That’s just making a bad situation worse.
On the other hand, I’m not sure why a potential Ball-for-Collins framework hasn’t been tossed around more? Maybe I’m missing something, and truthfully I haven’t done the math to get the salary to match, but Ball seems like he would be a really nice fit next to Trae Young, and John Collins ability to stretch the floor seems like it should fit nicely next to Zion Williamson.
Sure, Adams is still in New Orleans, but I go back to the idea that a sunk cost from one bad decision should not stop you from acquiring or retaining talent elsewhere. It may require a bit of additional draft capital from New Orleans to make the framework of all of this work and to offload one of Bledsoe or Adams elsewhere, but New Orleans owns the Lakers first-round picks from now until the end of time, so David Griffin should have no trouble making that work without completely depleting his asset base.
The Kyle Lowry bidding war
So, basically the Kyle Lowry sweepstakes appears to be down to the Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers. It happens quite often, but what I believe the case to be here is a classic example of teams overvaluing their young guys. If either team believes that the addition of Kyle Lowry gives them a legitimate shot to compete with the Brooklyn Nets in the East, they should be making that trade.
I do believe that Lowry gives either team a legitimate shot to make the Finals. I don’t think Philadelphia should hesitate to throw Tyrese Maxey into a deal, and similarly I don’t think Miami should hesitate to put Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro into a deal.
I like Maxey a lot, but the Sixers, with the versions of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons that they’ve gotten this year, should be trying to win the title this season. Lowry gives them a chance to do that. For Miami, Duncan Robinson is about to get expensive this offseason, and Tyler Herro has not exactly followed up his nice playoff run with an inspiring sophomore campaign. I still think Herro will be a nice player, but again, Miami with Lowry would have a chance to win the championship this season. I don’t know what the draft-pick compensation looks like in those deals, but I would not hesitate to put those young players on the table and get a deal done.
Lastly, the Timberwolves
Just to get this on the record before anything happens, my general philosophy with the Wolves this go around is that they should be aggressive in the sense that if you can get decent value on pretty much anyone other than Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards, or Jaden McDaniels, you should do so. It’s probably too costly to trade D’Angelo Russell right now, and Gersson Rosas isn’t going to move him anyways, so he probably can get added to that list as well.
Beyond that though, there shouldn’t be any hesitation over mixing things up. I’m not saying they should sell just to sell (with one exception), but if someone is going to offer something of value for Jarred Vanderbilt, they should make that move. The same goes for Malik Beasley. Beasley is a productive player on a reasonable contract, but there are a lot of variables in the Beasley equation, and not all of them have to do with his on-court production.
It’s going to be hard to find an offer for players like Jaylen Nowell or Naz Reid that make any sense, given how cheap and productive those two players are, but anything that comes across the desk for Jake Layman, Juancho Hernangomez, or Ed Davis should be strongly considered.
The Ricky Rubio calculus is tougher, and The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski wrote a great piece about this last Friday. Personally, Rubio is one where I think you’d have to be blown away by a contender (looking at you, Clippers) to really consider moving Rubio right now. In the offseason, sure, it’s probably time to make that move, but keeping Rubio around for a few more months to steer Anthony Edwards in the right direction would be a good move.
Lastly, my one exception on the “don’t sell just to sell” thought process is Jarrett Culver. I was as high as anyone on Culver, at one point truly believing the Wolves ended up with the third best prospect from that draft class after Zion Williamson and Ja Morant. That’s just not true, though, and it just hasn’t worked out for Culver in Minnesota. It’s a bummer, for sure, but it’s time to move on and give Culver a fresh start elsewhere.
He’s not going to improve playing eight minutes a night here, and it’s pretty hard to make an argument that he deserves more than that. Culver will be a “second-draft” candidate for a lot of young, rebuilding teams, but it’s pretty clear that this just isn’t going to work here. The Wolves should be working diligently to find a way to get back any sort of draft capital for Culver (they don’t currently own a second-round pick in this upcoming draft, either), and Culver deserves a shot to grow somewhere else.