Right before the NBA Trade Deadline, I wrote a 1,200-word opinion piece on who the Minnesota Timberwolves could potentially move, and what they needed to add in order to fortify their roster for a late-season and playoff push.
I’ve been had.
But the timing wasn’t right. Heading into the 2:00 PM CT deadline last Thursday, the Wolves had won five of their last six and were getting great production from almost anyone who identified themselves as a bench player.
Beasley: We feel like we’re the best bench in the league.— Jon Krawczynski (@JonKrawczynski) February 6, 2022
To regurgitate a popular thought process across Wolves twitter; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Team chemistry is high, ball movement has been solid, and now with Anthony Edwards looking like himself again, things should be business as usual. That’s absolutely not a wrong line of thinking. Chemistry is so incredibly valuable, and something close to the polar opposite of what we’ve seen in the last oh, I don’t know, 12 years of this team? It shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Since the Deadline...
The magic of the win streak has worn off slightly, and real problems still remain on this team. In the two games since the deadline closed, the Wolves have been outrebounded 97-70, and the bench has been outscored 76-67, most of that coming from an up-and-down, grind-it-out win in Indiana (Chicago played one player off its bench more than 15 minutes).
I was personally on the “trade for height” train, and seeing the deal for Montrezl Harrell, and facilitation to send Serge Ibaka to Milwaukee, it was slightly disappointing to be completely quiet on the home front.
My benign complaints aside, this team is still fun. There will be games where the weaknesses are hidden more than others. Naz Reid desperately needs to be more consistent spelling Karl-Anthony Towns off the bench. But could reinforcements still be incoming?
The good news: there’s a buyout market. Reinforcements are more likely than not, incoming.
Gupta on the buyout market:— Jack Borman (@jrborman13) February 11, 2022
"We do have one open roster spot, which gives us some flexibility, although we are pretty close to the tax."
He adds they'll have enough room below the tax to sign a pro-rated minimum around the beginning of March and will be active in their search.
The bad news: it will be competitive with fellow quiet deadline teams (ahem, the Lakers), and the quality of player you may get won’t necessarily be as high.
Counterpoint: Does it mean said mysterious buyout addition won’t be able to contribute in a meaningful way? Absolutely not.
But new faces...who?
NBA.com released a list of 15 likely buyout candidates after the trade deadline.
I dug into a couple names from that list that could fit the pro-rated minimum criteria Gupta laid out, and also the main current need of height.
Jordan has already been bought out once this season...and it wouldn’t be particularly surprising to see it happen again.
The player who the Wolves once hacked off the ball as a member of the Lob City Clippers has played in just four games this calendar year and is putting up career lows across the board, the most notable decline in minutes. Jordan is a shell of the player that sent Brandon Knight to the netherworld, but he can still rim run, rebound, and block shots. Plus, I’d be willing to place money on the fact that the expectation for his role would not be as high as it originally was when he joined the Lakers.
Foreshadowing the next player on this list, it feels Thompson has always lurked with any Timberwolves rumors tied to big men.
Could the Wolves get him for the minimum? That would remain to be seen. While smaller, Thompson would make an interesting pairing with Naz Reid and the reserves. What makes this a pipe dream? His comments on the Timberwolves earlier in the season (this aged well)...
Tristan Thompson says the Timberwolves have names but that they’re trying to figure their roster out and might not want to win games.— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) November 18, 2021
If you also factor in some of the... umm... off-court stuff... that ties Thompson and Karl-Anthony Towns together, and you can quickly come to the conclusion that this specific player isn’t likely to be added to the roster.
Talk about players mentioned alongside the Timberwolves...this would be a union roughly six years in the making!
Another shell of his former self, Millsap can still be a versatile defender and while not excellent at it, offers the ability to shoot the basketball if needed, a stark contrast to the other two mentioned. Another player that could be an interesting fit with Naz Reid, who says no to Millsap coming aboard to see if he could work on a veteran minimum?
Shocker of the day: Millsap wasn’t sold on Tom Thibodeau’s charming personality his first meeting around in 2017. Would the ability to play 10-15 minutes a night on a good team, not collect DNPs and be reunited with Chris Finch pique his interest? His buyout remains to be seen with Philly low on depth, but it could be an interesting thing to keep an eye on.
It should be shouted from all Timberwolves rooftops: a young team will be inconsistent! In the same sentence, it’s fair to say veteran height could mitigate some of the drastic swings we consistently see. It’s showing to be an issue in the regular season, and it will be sure to resurface in postseason play if it isn’t addressed.
On the floor? The Wolves are back in the win column. Off of it? Until March...