The NBA Trade Deadline is Thursday.
For some, it rears its ugly head (ahem, the Portland Trail Blazers), and for some, it’s a beautiful, transformational time for your team to reach full bloom three months out from postseason basketball.
The Minnesota Timberwolves, and fans of the Minnesota Timberwolves, are hoping for the latter. From Ben Simmons, to Tobias Harris, to Marcus Smart, plenty of rumors have been circulating as to who the Wolves might be lurking in the bushes with their sights on. But a question to ask among all the noise of who the Timberwolves may get in a deal:
Who are they comfortable giving up on a roster that currently has great chemistry and is winning games?
I took to Twitter to get a sense of where the wind is blowing among fans.
Need some input from #Wolves fans: what are you comfortable giving up at the deadline, and who on this roster do you not want to see touched? Using this for a piece I’m working on for @canishoopus ⬇️⬇️— Andrew Carlson (@andrew_carlson2) February 5, 2022
There was no clear cut answer. There’s a legitimate faction of fans that are completely fine with standing pat, and skittish of dealing anyone, which is understandable. But after sifting through responses, I’ve been able to put together tiers that I think represent a majority of what was said.
Tier 1: DO NOT TOUCH UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE
- Anthony Edwards
- Karl-Anthony Towns
Tier 2: DO NOT TOUCH...unless? (has to be the right deal)
- D’Angelo Russell
- Jarred Vanderbilt
- Jaden McDaniels
- Patrick Beverley
- Jaylen Nowell
Tier 3: LET’S TALK
- Malik Beasley
- Naz Reid
- Taurean Prince
- Leandro Bolmaro
- Possessed Draft Picks
Tier 4: YOU HAD ME AT HELLO
- Jake Layman
- Josh Okogie
- Jordan McLaughlin
I want to specifically focus on a couple players in the “LET’S TALK” tier. In all likelihood, I think we’re looking at that caliber of move before Thursday.
I mostly agree with the fan feedback as well. I think the core of this team, intact, is sound and plays winning basketball. Honestly, anything big right now would seem kneejerk and forced. You can wait to see if the grass is indeed greener, as opposed to getting swept off your feet at the idea of picking up a few more wins with the reeling in of a bigger name.
Since Gersson Rosas took over, it seems as though the “LET’S TALK” tier has been one where the Wolves really focus in to get wins on the margins, and have had past success. Without those, we don’t see the current team we do.
Sources: Minnesota trading Shabazz Napier to Denver. Nuggets sending Jarred Vanderbilt to Timberwolves. https://t.co/3YpbhniEYP— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) February 5, 2020
There are also a couple intriguing players that can set up some non-blockbuster, but under the radar moves that turn into nice pieces come the end of April and...May?
What Happens to NBA Star Malik Beasley?
About two weeks ago, I was of the mindset that Beasley was destined for somewhere else. He looked out of shape, disengaged at times, his shot selection was questionable at best, and most importantly to his game, his shot wasn’t falling.
That aged well. Over the last five games, Beasley looks like his 2020-21 self. He’s averaging 16.8 points and 4 rebounds in 23 minutes per game. His shooting splits? 46.2% from three, 45% from the field.
I think there’s two things to keep in mind with Beasley when talking about his value on the market. The first, his ability to hit shots and jumpstart an offense. Even if he’s cold, he’s a valuable floor spacer. Plenty of teams in the NBA who shoot low three point percentages and a high volume of contested threes could use a player in his mold (the, ahem, Celtics for example).
The second, his team option after year three of his contract. Paired with a good three-point shooter, the roster and cap flexibility his contract provides should be looked at as a nice asset as well. With that in mind, Beasley can easily elevate his trade value into the offseason or next year’s deadline with the continued improvement in his shooting.
In short: It’s preferable to hang on to Beasley when his value can easily go up. With a team that needs to win on the margins, it’s hard seeing that happen with what he would garner in most situations. But there is one interesting one...
The Timberwolves are pursuing Marcus Smart in a trade.— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) February 4, 2022
The Celtics are only interested in that deal for a return of Malik Beasley and either Jaden McDaniels or a 1st-round pick.
(via @DWolfsonKSTP) pic.twitter.com/pilmMVfNgd
Forget Jaden McDaniels in this. In most situations, hang onto Beasley. But here, if Boston would be interested in him and one of the Wolves’ 2022 second-round picks, it could make sense if the Celtics were willing to play ball.
I only mention this because I love Marcus Smart on the Wolves for a couple reasons. Not only would this team reach new levels defensively and be able to play interesting small combinations around Karl-Anthony Towns, but would it give the Wolves leverage in Patrick Beverley extension talks? And interesting angle to think about.
An Alternative: Would the Celtics be interested in Taurean Prince and a 1st round, top-eight protected pick? If Boston wants to get out from Smart’s contract early to have offseason flexibility, taking expiring money and getting a first-round pick out of it could be intriguing.
The Naz Reid Conundrum
Naz has been an incredible find for the Timberwolves as an undrafted free agent from the jump. He’s been very productive, and his contract has been incredibly friendly.
Reid is making 1.7 million this year and coming up on a 1.9 million dollar team option that will certainly be exercised no matter what happens. His skill, and team-friendly contract could make him attractive to potential suitors.
I think the Timberwolves are getting to the point where they need a little bit more consistency in the backup center role. Reid will catch fire, then disappear over stretches. He oftentimes gets out-rebounded, and has the tendency to get lost on defense. Naz will certainly command more in his second contract than his current yearly wage, and I don’t see it making a lot fo sense for the Timberwolves to pony up for it.
In his last 10 games, Reid is averaging 5.6 points, 3 rebounds and shooting 48% from the field (30% from three). Perhaps a team like the Magic could be enticed by the height flexibility a skilled big like Reid could provide? A salary match with Josh Okogie and a draft pick could be enticing for a player like Mo Bamba, who is on an expiring contract.
In short: See if you are able to deal Reid for more consistent backup center minutes, before you are potentially caught in the spot of letting a great post-draft find walk for absolutely nothing.
So What Then?
To cover the last of the “LET’S TALK” people, I don’t know how much sense it makes to deal Leandro Bolmaro right now. He still has a lot of development left and correct me if I’m wrong, but his trade value just isn’t that high. He literally doesn’t take more than 2 dribbles in a row at the NBA level.
Yes, the Wolves should and will act like buyers this week. The degree in which they buy remains to be seen. I’m in agreement with most fans. No major shakeups would be preferable.
A big part of that is keeping tier 1 and 2 intact. I think you can find what the Timberwolves are looking for (i.e. another big) without breaking the bank or even having to take out a small loan. Similarly, unless a no-brainer deal involving an expiring contract and future draft compensation can get you Marcus Smart, than you probably walk away from that negotiation as well.
By the way — draft picks don’t mean much to me right now either. Would you ever think you’d hear that as a fan of the Minnesota Timberwolves? In order to keep a core intact, the utilization of them will be necessary to make improvements working with bench players as your tangible assets.
The Wolves are now winners of four straight and have made it through the part of the schedule that made every fan wince at the beginning of the year, now three games above .500. There are clear vulnerabilities that will look to be addressed, but when you have something rolling and massively shake things up, you can create more problems by trying to address one.
What boundaries has Sachin Gupta set, armed with a full slate of draft picks and the third-youngest team over .500? Let the games begin...