Welcome to SB Nation Reacts, a survey of fans across the NBA. Throughout the year we ask questions of the most plugged-in Minnesota Timberwolves fans and fans across the country.
Sign up here to participate in the weekly emailed surveys.
This week’s poll is at the bottom of this article.
The NBA Trade Deadline is two weeks from today, February 9, at 2 PM CT. In between now and then, the Minnesota Timberwolves are slated to play eight games. Seven of them are against Western Conference teams they are battling with for playoff positioning, and the first six contests are all at Target Center, where the Timberwolves are 16-10.
Needless to say, it’s an important stretch for a team that not only currently sits in the No. 8 spot in the West at 25-25 with 32 games left to play, but also does not have a timetable for when its best player to return to the floor. Karl-Anthony Towns and his fellow three-time All-Star running mate in the front-court, Rudy Gobert, have only played 19 games together this season (9-10) record. In those 19 appearances, there’s a five-game losing streak immediately followed by a five consecutive wins, and three losses to tanking teams. Gobert has now played more games without Towns (22, 10-12 record) than with him.
That is what makes the task ahead of the Timberwolves’ talented and experienced front office a very difficult one.
Not only do they need to decide what moves to make that support the Towns/Gobert pairing, but they also need to determine whether or not a move can help the team right now and for the rest of the season, in case Towns’ return to the floor does not go as planned and he suffers a setback. Even if KAT is ready to return after the All-Star break and plays in every game after that, the team would only get 21 games to optimize the Edwards/Towns/Gobert trio before the play in/playoffs begin.
A trade involving starting guard D’Angelo Russell (who is set to become an unrestricted free agent after this season) feels inevitable, whether it happens before the deadline or in a sign-and-trade this summer, given that he and the team — according to multiple reports — do not appear likely to reach agreement on a contract extension. But how the team does it is a massive decision.
As we’ve all seen, games in which Russell plays well highlights the ceiling of the Anthony Edwards/Gobert pairing, while his poor showings accentuate the team’s need for a floor general style point guard whose individual play holds a higher floor, even if it comes with a lower ceiling. That may prove to be even more important once another high volume scorer in Towns (hopefully) returns to the lineup at some point in February. Russell playing especially well since the turn of the new year may help the front office in trade negotiations, but teams largely know who he is as a player at this stage of his career.
That is not the case for Naz Reid, who has blossomed with more playing time in the fourth year of his career, likely his final in Minnesota. As our Gabe Schneider wrote last month, Reid will become an unrestricted free agent this summer and has earned a deal that exceeds the Wolves’ willingness to pay for a talented young player who is buried behind two All-Stars at No. 3 in the team’s center rotation at full strength. The former undrafted signee out of LSU has grown more in his first four seasons than anyone could’ve imagined, which is a wonderful testament both to Reid (and his work ethic) as well as the Timberwolves organization for cultivating a raw, talented prospect into an impactful force deserving of a bigger, life-changing opportunity.
Now, it may be time for both sides to cash in on the fruits of their collective labor.
Trading one or both of Russell and Reid will be a test for the front office in a few ways. Potential moves will...
Shine light on their view of this team’s biggest needs, with and without Towns.
Is it recouping a tradable asset or two by taking on a bad salary number for next year (think Kyle Lowry or Joe Harris)? Shooting for a higher floor option who is more of a “run the offense” point guard that has another year of team control (think Mike Conley)? Do they want to take a shot on another talented project with years of team control (think Bones Hyland)? Might it be acquiring a sharpshooting specialist (think Patty Mills or Harris)?
Give fans a taste of how creative they can get in dealmaking with limited movable draft capital.
Minnesota cannot trade a future first-round pick until 2031. That is not a typo. Of course, that changes if they acquire a first-round pick in between now and then. Beyond that, the Timberwolves’ front office has four second-round picks to use in deals:
- 2023 (via New York)
- 2026 (via either San Antonio, Cleveland or Miami, based on protections)
- 2028 (own)
- 2029 (own)
Outside of that, it’s all going to be working connections around the league to gain the best possible understanding of what every team is looking for and then parlay that with built-up trust to execute deals that propel the Wolves forward now and in the future.
It feels unlikely that both D’Angelo Russell and Naz Reid are Timberwolves two weeks from today. With that in mind, it’s polling time. What do you think the Wolves should do at the deadline?
If you’re interested in creating your own mock trades, head over to Fanspo’s trade machine, create your trades, take screenshots of them, and throw them in the comments below!
Results from the poll will be published over the weekend.