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The Timberwolves Should Give Naz Reid the Extension He Desires

The best way to balance the short-term and long-term needs of the Timberwolves is by extending Reid and re-evaluating his future in the off-season.

NBA: Orlando Magic at Minnesota Timberwolves Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Like every team, the Minnesota Timberwolves are assuredly exploring every avenue to make the roster better now and in the future as the NBA trade deadline approaches. The job of President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly and his team is to weigh the short-term needs of the roster with the long-term health of the franchise.

For the Wolves, this trade season particularly revolves around their three players on expiring contracts: D’Angelo Russell, Naz Reid, and Jaylen Nowell. All three have seen their name in the news for the past month or so, and all three are surely looking forward to having some clarity once 2 PM CST hits on Thursday afternoon. It is easy to forget, but while we enjoy playing around with Minnesota Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Sachin Gupta’s trade machine, the players involved are worrying about whether they’re going to have to move themselves and their families in the coming days.

Naz Reid is by far the most interesting decision of the three. There is a very real chance that if he enters unrestricted free agency, he will find a situation better suited for him in terms of playing time than the one in Minnesota.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Minnesota Timberwolves Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

That would generally lead a team to move the expiring contract of a player like Reid to avoid a key reserve walking for nothing in return, but this is not your normal scenario. Reid has been and is more than just a key reserve this season, as he has just been one of Minnesota’s most important players, period. With Karl-Anthony Towns missing the last 30+ games with a calf strain and Rudy Gobert in and out of the lineup with a nagging groin injury, Reid has been pivotal in keeping Minnesota’s season afloat.

He may not be the main driver of the team’s success, but the drop-off from Naz to Luka Garza and Nathan Knight is stark. Both Garza and Knight have had their moments, but they are not nearly as talented or consistent as Naz. For a team with real ambitions of making a push to close the season, there is simply too much riding on this season to count on either the combination of Garza/Knight or the combined health of Towns/Gobert for the next several months.

I don’t believe Minnesota can trade Reid for anything short of a real first-round pick (ie: not a heavily-protected first that becomes two second-round picks), so I think they should meet his reported asking price for an extension. According to Jake Fischer of Yahoo! Sports, Reid is seeking a contract in the $10 million range annually.

That’s a no-brainer for the Wolves.

For starters, we routinely see games come down to a short stint when stars sit. Every game is important from here on out, and leaving points on the table because you were unwilling to give Reid a (perfectly reasonable) $10 million deal is just bad business. This would be a different story if we thought KAT and Rudy really were going to be able to give the Wolves all 48 minutes they need at the 5.

That’s not the reality they’re operating in, though, and the fact of the matter is that Reid is vital to the success of the team this season; and, to his credit, Reid has worked incredibly hard on his body and perimeter skillset on both ends of the floor in order to play at the 4, as well.

Beyond that, because $10 million for Naz is perfectly reasonable, giving him the extension he’s looking for still doesn’t have to result in a long-term marriage. If anything, being on a long-term deal will only make Naz more desirable on the trade market, at least in comparison to him being on his expiring contract that he’s on right now. It will be a good thing for Minnesota in the trade market that he has several years of team-control on his deal.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at New Orleans Pelicans Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Another bonus of getting the extension done now and waiting until the off-season to find a new home for Reid is that there are just more deals available. If the best offers for Naz currently consist of a fake first-round pick or multiple seconds (pure speculation), those offers will be there in the off-season too. The hard part about trading Naz right now is that his salary is so low that there are hardly any helpful players available to come back to Minnesota in a one-for-one deal.

At a higher salary, the potential return for Reid in terms of salary matching widens exponentially, and in some cases, salary matching wouldn’t need to apply at all. There will be more teams with cap space (the San Antonio Spurs are the only team that still has cap space), and someone always ends up unable to use all of their cap space in free agency. A team that finds themselves in that situation would surely trade draft capital over the Wolves in exchange for Reid, and in turn creating a trade exception to make up the difference in the incoming/outgoing salary.

Compensation aside, the other benefit giving out the extension and waiting until the off-season is that the front office will just have more information available to them. If Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert are both going to be on the roster long-term, then yes, it’s probably better for Naz to find a new home and for the Wolves to allocate their resources more efficiently. What if the Towns and Gobert pairing looks untenable in a playoff setting, though? There is just so much unknown about this experiment, that trading a good backup center now when you could just as easily do it in six months if you needed to doesn’t make sense.

Is just the aforementioned draft capital a satisfactory return for Reid? I guess it’s probably a bit disappointing, but that kind of sounds like what the return would be anyways, unless he were attached to a larger salary like D’Angelo Russell. It isn’t a perfect outcome by any means, but given the limited talent pool available for a one-for-one Reid trade, it may be the best of a bad situation.

By giving Reid the extension he desires now, they effectively kick the can down the road a few months while opening up a wider net for trade partners. That’s how they can make the best of a tricky situation. This would be different if Naz was a restricted free agent and the Timberwolves had the right to match any offer-sheet he signed, but again, that’s not reality. This is how they make the best of this situation to balance the short-term and long-term needs of the franchise.