Should the Timberwolves trade Andrew Wiggins?

Dec 7, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins (22) celebrates with center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) against the Los Angeles Clippers at Target Center. The Clippers defeated the Timberwolves 110-106. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 7, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins (22) celebrates with center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) against the Los Angeles Clippers at Target Center. The Clippers defeated the Timberwolves 110-106. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports /

Virtually everyone agrees: the future of the Minnesota Timberwolves is extremely bright.

Conventional wisdom would say that it all starts with the reigning Rookie of the Year, the almost-21-year-old Andrew Wiggins. Throw in likely 2016 Rookie of the Year, 20 year-old Karl-Anthony Towns, and almost-21-year-old Zach LaVine, and there certainly appears to be a nice core in Minnesota.

But where does this likely sub-30-win team go from here? This side of Ricky Rubio, Shabazz Muhammad, and Gorgui Dieng, there isn’t much else in the way of viable, NBA-ready rotation talent on the roster.

I’ve argued at length that Andrew Wiggins’ improvement this season has been modest at best, and there’s certainly an argument to be made that he’s barely improved at all. From three-point percentage to free throw percentage to all of the per-game and rate-based numbers, everything is trending downwards from a statistical perspective.

Wiggins’ free throw rate and defensive metrics have improved, and I think it’s pretty clear that his overall feel for the game has gotten better, even if it is by a relatively thin margin.

We’d be remiss to ignore Wiggins’ age and experience level, of course, along with the quality of players he’s been surrounded with over the first year-plus of his professional career.

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That said, the regression in assist rate, rebound rate, and three-point percentage are most alarming. And while those marks may or may not tip us off to his future development and ultimate ceiling, they at least make it clear that we haven’t seen a Kevin Durant-like improvement from Year One to Year Two.

And that’s okay; Wiggins may or may not become a superstar. We can’t know for sure, but if I’m Milt Newton and the Timberwolves’ front office, I would take a long, hard look at maximizing the career of Karl-Anthony Towns, who is already the better player and likely will stay that way in the long run.

To give credit where credit is due, Jesse Blanchard at the fantastic Bball Breakdown caused me to explore this idea further with an interesting pre-trade deadline look at the Wolves’ current roster and the potential trade value of each player on the roster.

Here’s the excerpt that I found to be most interesting.

"The promise of Andrew Wiggins on the perimeter, and similar age [to Towns], should make him untouchable in trades. Both have an entire career to develop together, which is what most teams dream of when building through the draft.But, for fun, here’s an interesting thought exercise—and by no means is this a suggestion that the team should take such a course of action: Towns appears much further along in contributing to a championship team than Wiggins; who boasts nice raw numbers and immense potential, but at questionable efficiency with some glaring unrefined components to his game.If the Timberwolves should deem Towns ready to be the second best player on a championship team, and he very well could be by next season, and a player with Duncan-like potential, how intriguing might it be to maximize his career by granting him two or three championship windows?"

Blanchard goes on to argue that a variety of superstar-caliber players, from Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins, to Houston’s James Harden, to the Clippers’ Blake Griffin, could be available via trade moving forward. Yes, this piece was written before last week’s trade deadline, but it’s absolutely on the table that they could all be available once again during the off-season.

The idea of giving Towns at least two championship windows by maximizing his seemingly limitless ceiling is extremely attractive. This first window could find him as the second-best player if a Cousins, Harden, Griffin, etc. was to be acquired.

By the second window, that initial superstar would be gone and Towns would be in the prime of his career. It sounds crazy to say, but five years from now he’ll be just entering his prime, and he would be ready to be the alpha dog on a contending team.

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The idea of Towns, Wiggins, and LaVine developing together is great, but that requires a) trusting in the slim probability that they all become star-caliber players, and b) signing them all to contract extensions simply to get to their respective primes, which won’t necessarily be easy to do.

Realistically, that approach could line up well with the end of the current championship windows for the likes of Golden State, Oklahoma City, and others. But it also could only give the Wolves that one shot with the Towns-Wiggins-led core; look at the conundrum the Thunder are about to find themselves in with Russell Westbrook and Durant.

Would Wiggins fetch any of the above-mentioned players? My take: he’d land Cousins and probably Griffin, but I’m less sure about Harden.

At any rate, this is an option that the Wolves should seriously consider. Pair your 25 year-old, top-12 point guard in Rubio and the emerging, dynamic shooting guard in the nearly 21 year-old LaVine with Towns and a bona fide superstar like, say, Griffin, and we’re talking about a top-four team in the Western Conference from the moment the trade is commenced.

Next: Timberwolves' Similarities to the 2008-09 Thunder

Is it risky? Absolutely. And that’s exactly why the Timberwolves won’t do it. But the payoff could be enormous, and it’s a path that they should absolutely consider taking.