The 2023 NBA Draft Lottery produced a draft order that may present the Minnesota Timberwolves an opportunity to both clear up their currently cloudy financial future while also bring in another talented young player on same timeline as Anthony Edwards, Jaden McDaniels, Naz Reid and Nickeil Alexander-Walker.
Both the Portland Trail Blazers (No. 3 overall pick) and the Houston Rockets (No. 4 overall pick) are looking to make immediate upgrades to accelerate their turnarounds. Damian Lillard has made it quite clear that he wants Portland to build an immediate winner around him, while several outlets have reported that James Harden is expected to return to Houston in unrestricted free agency this summer and wants to make the playoffs — something he likely couldn’t do if the team adds yet another top five draft selection.
Wolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns could turn out to be the best player available for trade league-wide if Minnesota gets out in front the looming decision they have to make next summer about which three of their core four (Edwards, McDaniels, Towns and Rudy Gobert) to keep, and wants to avoid trading from a position of weakness.
Earlier this week, we posed the question to fans: would you be interested in a trade between the Wolves and Blazers centered around Towns and the No. 3 overall pick, should prized point guard prospect Scoot Henderson be available.
81% of respondents said they would be interested in the Timberwolves making that deal, should the team be able to.
Towns’ salary jumps from $36.0 million next season to $50.0 million in 2024-25, per Spotrac, but he is under contract through the 2026-27 season, and the remainder of his prime, which could provide some security for a potential new team.
Part of the reason a Towns trade is more sensible this offseason than next is because his cap hit in 2024-25 will make more difficult swinging an suitable deal for all parties involved because of the league’s salary matching rules in trades. Currently, Team A could accept 125% of the salary they send to Team B for a player with Towns’ contract, plus $100,000. In this case, Portland would need to send out roughly $28.8 million in salary to acquire Towns from Minnesota; but that figure jumps to roughly $40.0 million next summer. It’s hard to make deals that match salary and actually make sense for both sides, but it’d be much harder for the Wolves to do so next summer than this summer.
There’s no doubt that teams around the NBA will expect the Timberwolves to break up their Target Centers experiment before the 2024-25 season, so they could feasible put the screws to Minnesota at the negotiating table next summer if the Wolves waited until the last minute to try and address their financial situation.
While a trade for a top-four pick is unlikely for financial, basketball and procedural reasons (Towns can’t be traded until two weeks after the draft on July 7) — and beyond the financial hurdles the Timberwolves face — they should still be able to get a strong return for Towns that could potentially include a pair of first-round picks and a good young player.
No matter what a very experienced Wolves front office decides to do, it will be fascinating to see them navigate some pretty choppy waters as they look to build a long-term winner around rising fourth-year stars in Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels.
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