As a Timberwolves fan, this is an all too familiar situation. A lottery pick is kept instead of traded, the player selected is then kept instead of traded, the player struggles throughout rookie season, is in trade rumors during the off-season, yet still is not traded. Player struggles to start sophomore season in the NBA, loses minutes and even records multiple DNP-CDs in the first 15 games of the season. Player is still in trade rumors, but at this point, most fans would be happy to receive something of value in return, instead of having to pay a team to take said player (i.e. Wes Johnson to the Suns after just two years with the Wolves).
Well folks, here we are again. And for David Kahn and Rick Adelman, the time to act is sooner rather than later. Precious time is wasting away, and the Timberwolves’ injuries have created holes on an otherwise deep roster. The following proposals are based on the idea that a Williams trade is (eventually) inevitable, and I am taking into account where I would expect the value to be of a number two overall pick from just over a year ago who largely looks lost but (in theory) still has untapped potential.
Minnesota trades Derrick Williams to Atlanta for Kyle Korver. (ESPN Trade Machine)
This trade is probably only possible if Atlanta chooses to move Josh Smith elsewhere, as Derrick Williams’ offensive game has (unfortunately) been all too similar to Smith’s up to this point. Smith has a large expiring contract and unless the Hawks find themselves near the top of the conference early in 2013, he will likely be moved. The Hawks are a semi-rebuilding team that might be willing to take a shot on giving Williams starters’ minutes.
Korver is a perfect fit for the Wolves, as he is still an underrated all-around player that can play a valuable 20-25 minutes per game on a contender. Korver is widely known as “just” a shooter, but he is a really, really good shooter (.600 TS %, .577 eFG%, 43.2% 3 point over last year and this year) that is a very solid player in general. With no depth at shooting guard on the Wolves, this trade would be a good move for the Wolves’ back court.
Minnesota trades Derrick Williams to Orlando for J.J. Redick. (ESPN Trade Machine)
Derrick Williams makes more sense in Orlando than he does in Atlanta, and J.J. Redick is every bit as good of an all-around player with more upside than Korver. Orlando is in the early stages of a true re-build, and is the perfect candidate for a place that Williams can play without looking over his shoulder. He would take minutes away from the awful Glen Davis, and team up with Arron Afflalo as Orlando’s new nucleus. Redick is a valuable expiring contract that will interest contenders, however, so it remains to be seen if savvy new GM Rob Hennigan would be willing to part with Redick for Williams in a straight-up trade.
Minnesota trades Derrick Williams and 2013 second round pick to Phoenix for Jared Dudley. (ESPN Trade Machine)
Jared Dudley is a solid player that has played mostly equal minutes at both shooting guard and small forward for the Suns over the past few years. He is struggling to reach the same level of play that he enjoyed when he was paired with Steve Nash, but he is not the first player that has experienced a rude post-Nash awakening. Plus, the Wolves have a guy named Rubio who fancies himself a Jr. Nash on the fast break. Dudley would be a wonderful complement in the backcourt, with his height (6’ 7”), defensive prowess, and ability to knock down open shots, especially from three point range.
The Suns would likely hesitate to add Derrick Williams to their stable of Wolves’ outcasts, which currently includes Michael Beasley, Wes Johnson, and Sebastian Telfair. Williams’ game is all too similar to Beasley at this point in time, and Suns just agreed to a three-year deal with Super Cool Beas, so they are certainly committed to some extent. But who knows…they were the front office that wanted Beasley and Johnson, so maybe they think they can fix Williams. They may ask for another player in addition to Williams, and if it is one of Stiemsma/Amundson/Lee, I’m sure the Wolves would oblige, although the re-building Suns might be happy to get out from Dudley’s contract.
(Side note: Marcin Gortat is (vocally) unhappy in Phoenix, and would like a fresh start. If the Suns require a swap of Nikola Pekovic and Gortat in addition to the Williams/Dudley exchange, the Wolves should accept. Gortat is a very good pick-and-roll player and a better defender than Pekovic. He would be a very, very good complement to Love, he’s under contract for next year, and the jump from Williams to Dudley would be more than enough to improve the team immensely.)
Minnesota trades Derrick Williams, Nikola Pekovic, and J.J. Barea to the Atlanta Hawks and Luke Ridnour to the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Los Angeles Lakers trade Pau Gasol to Minnesota.
The Atlanta Hawks trade Josh Smith and Kyle Korver to the Lakers and Jeff Teague to Minnesota.
In my opinion, this is the most realistic Pau Gasol trade that has been suggested in the vast and unregulated land of internet trade proposals. Please note that I do not think the Wolves need Pau Gasol, nor that they need to trade Nikola Pekovic. It cannot be ignored, however, that the Lakers have foolishly allowed Gasol trade rumors to fester for the better part of a year and a half, and where there is smoke, there is almost always fire. For a Minnesota sports reference, ask Twins fans about the Span-to-the-Nationals rumors that have persisted since the summer of 2011. That trade finally happened during this past week.
If Pekovic is traded, the Wolves must make a clear improvement to the team. This may seem obvious, but the Wolves should be legitimate contenders this year. If they trade the third or fourth best player on the roster, they need to be sure the team is really improving. Pau Gasol is a better player than Nikola Pekovic, but he is also much older, having turned 32 years old over the summer. He is under contract and owed approximately $19 million dollars again next season. He is also the perfect complement to Kevin Love in Rick Adelman’s gorgeous corner offense. The Gasol-Love tandem would be, in many ways, a throwback to the Vlade Divac-Chris Webber days on Adelman’s Kings teams of the early 00’s. Let’s just say…that would be a good thing.
The Wolves don’t have a ton of movable contracts, so J.J. Barea and Luke Ridnour would both find themselves as casualties of this trade. Jeff Teague is better than both of him, and would be the best back-up point guard in the league behind Rubio. He has never played off the ball in Atlanta, but Adelman would surely pair Rubio and Teague in the backcourt often, especially if Roy and Budinger are not available.
The Lakers will eventually trade Pau Gasol, even if they shouldn’t. The return of Josh Smith on an expiring contract, sharpshooter Kyle Korver on an expiring contract, and a more-than-capable backup point guard (read: better than Steve Blake) in Luke Ridnour is about as good as they’ll be able to do. And it’s a good haul, to be sure. They would likely receive a draft pick from someone, potentially their own 2014 second-round pick back from the Timberwolves that was received via the Suns in the Wes Johnson trade.
For the Hawks, this trade would be contingent on their confidence in completing a contract extension with Pekovic. This would be a great return for the overrated Josh Smith, and would allow Al Horford to return full-time to his natural power forward position. The Hawks would remain thin at the wing positions, but Derrick Williams would likely get starters’ minutes between playing small forward and backing up Horford at power forward. A back court rotation of Devin Harris, J.J. Barea, and Louis Williams would likely be enough to get this team to the playoffs in the weak Western Conference, and the Hawks would still be set up with amply cap space moving forward.