There are a wealth of teams that are harboring disgruntled or handcuffed players across the NBA, and the Minnesota Timberwolves have the talent to make measurable upgrades to their roster.
The word is out on D’Angelo Russell. His speed and overall play has hampered the Wolves, forcing management’s hand to seek a floor general elsewhere. To cast Russell as the lone scapegoat is not altogether fair, as there have been other detracting factors damaging the team.
Rudy Gobert is not an optimal fit. Minnesota does not play as fast, which in turn limits their once high octane offense that led the league a season prior. Excluding the Boston Celtics, the two-big rotation is not expedient in today’s NBA. His defensive prowess is in part canceled out with spacing woes and the simple eye test.
Albeit missing the last 20 games, Minnesota was in and out of play-in contention even with Karl-Anthony Towns in the rotation. A top 25 player such as Towns may very well have translated into the two games separating the No. 9 Wolves from the No. 5 Kings in the west, but speculating is nothing more than maybe, maybe-not talk.
But all hope is not lost. Even as presently constructed, Minnesota will be expected to make the play-in tournament come season’s end at the least. Nevertheless, the following players are on the rumor mill or the unfavorable end of a rotation, all needing a change of zip codes.
The Miami Heat are struggling. They do not look like the team that was a 3-pointer away from reaching the finals for the second time in three years last season. Outside of P.J. Tucker, all their horses have returned. But something just ain’t right in South Beach.
A point guard swap has been making some serious noise as of late. The Heat can find a combination of defense and 3-point shooting all throughout their roster. The same cannot be said about the Timberwolves.
Lowry, 36, still has something left in the tank. Minnesota could desperately use a hard-nosed point guard that can push the pace, bring aggression to the half-court and speed in transition, sacrifice his body like none other outside of the restricted area, and be the pest that Patrick Beverley once was to opposing guards. Most importantly, they need another leader with extensive playoff experience.
Even though Lowry is likely to start fizzling out in a couple of seasons due to age, Wolves fans must ask themselves if bringing in a champion with all the intangibles to spark the ball club, and the offensive game to be a perfect cog, makes sense. It just might.
Ice Trae has been rumored to be unhappy in Atlanta for weeks now. The two-time All-Star garners serious attention for his various impacts on the floor.
Young is boasting averages of 27.5 points and 9.8 assists per game. His efficiency is down, hovering around 42 percent from the field and a putrid 31 percent from distance, but a player of his caliber is liable to clean up their act at any given point in the season.
Young’s impact on the floor could be recognized by a toddler. He makes very quick decisions with the ball. While he dominates the rock with the fifth-highest usage rate in the association (32.3 percent — min 20 games played), he brings a faster, more decisive speed than Russell. Young attacks the basket with a purpose, has the best floater in the NBA save Stephen Curry, and has the gravitas to open up the floor and draw the defense out as far as 30 feet.
Every facet of Minnesota’s offense would be upgraded with Young running the show, including the high screen and roll. Young recently signed a five-year max rookie extension, putting his salary at $37.1 million for the year, according to Sporting News. That figure will rise by $3 million annually until the 2026-27 season.
Obtaining the All-NBA Third Team honoree would ideally cost Minnesota a combination of Russell, Gobert and Reid, as their salaries match. Less likely than a Lowry deal, Timberwolves management should still seriously consider whatever it takes, save Anthony Edwards and Towns, to add the bonafide hooper. He’s that special.
The Orlando Magic
The Orlando Magic have the most crowded depth chart in the NBA bar none. They have four point guards, four centers and an ensemble cast of combo forwards. There isn’t enough time in regulation for Jalen Suggs, Cole Anthony, Markelle Fultz, and RJ Hampton to bring the ball up, nor for Paolo Banchero, Franz Wagner, Jonathan Isaac, Chuma Okeke and Terrence Ross to produce.
Something’s gotta give, and hoarding talent will only be a detriment to the players, as well as teams like Minnesota that can profit off of the young two-way talent.
Cole Anthony plays with a motor worth appreciating. He can jump and run out of the gym, and would offer a solution to the pace at which Minnesota plays. He is wet behind the ears, only in his third season, but has been the recipient of a minutes reduction. That hasn’t affected his clean assist to turnover ratio or his ability to knock free throws down at over 90 percent clip.
Orlando seems committed to starting Fultz, and Suggs has found more favor than the UNC product. Anthony only makes north of $3 million a year, so a move involving Russell may also require obtaining Terrence Ross and or Jonathan Isaac – an uber talented two-way forward at 6’10 who can fulfill a gaping hole that Jarred Vanderbilt’s departure has created. Bryn Forbes should be looked at as expendable to make a deal of this stature work.
The Charlotte Hornets are in disarray, and it might not have come at a more opportune time. Victor Wembanyama is on the horizon, and their No. 28 ranked 11-30 record primes them for a real shot at the No. 1 overall pick to pair with incumbent superstar LaMelo Ball.
Terry Rozier may not be on the market (yet), but the bucket-getting point guard has a track record that should be alluring to Minnesota’s front office. He has a silky smooth game. He can play effortlessly off the ball and can facilitate the offense in the halfcourt.
He and Russell average virtually identical field goals made per game as the pick-and-roll ball handler (2.2 to 2.0 FGM respectively), yet Rozier plays at many speeds, and if nothing else, would be a fresh face who offers a clutch factor of his own. He would also allow Minnesota to play a more free-flowing brand of basketball not contingent upon the sole decision making of one player, as was the case during his time in Boston.
Rozier is also under contract for the next three seasons at an average of $24.1 million annually.
The Case Against The Rest of the Field
Thoroughly diving into roster and contract situations around the league shows that not much else is out there for the Timberwolves. There have been talks about the Chicago Bulls blowing up their operation. DeMar DeRozan or Zach LaVine would not solve the problems that Minnesota faces, as both are high volume scorers that would clash with Edwards and Towns, not to mention DeRozan favoring an archaic pace of play in set options.
The same rumors surround the Washington Wizards. Kristaps Porzingis and Kyle Kuzma are hot commodities. Porzingis makes $5 million less than Gobert per year, and would open up the floor for the Wolves. Yet we’ve seen him shrink in playoff moments against the Clippers while a Maverick, and wouldn’t figure to be pleased as a fourth option in the thick of his prime.
OG Anunoby is a popular name that has been synonymous with the trade block dating back to last season. He has been an improved offensive player with eye-catching defensive capabilities. He would be a nice fit as a 6’7” defender who can bring tenacity and a league-leading 2.3 steals to the team. But does his average 35 percent 3-point clip rejuvenate the offense? Is his negative assist to turnover ratio compatible? Can he run the offense?Anunoby has a bright future, just likely not in Minnesota.
For a golden age of point guards, most teams seem to need theirs. Boston has four that deserve minutes, but as a unit they are on fire and any move might disrupt their flow.
Therefore, the Wolves will need to be persistent in order to unload Russell and company before the February deadline. The more that day approaches, the more news will unfold. We will be sure to keep you up to date on any players that suddenly become up for grabs.