Minnesota Timberwolves: 3 stars the Wolves should not acquire via trade

Buddy Hield of the Sacramento Kings could be a trade target. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Buddy Hield of the Sacramento Kings could be a trade target. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /
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Minnesota Timberwolves, Julius Randle
Julius Randle of the New York Knicks. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Minnesota Timberwolves should not trade for Julius Randle

No. 3: Timberwolves should not get Julius Randle from the Knicks

Over the past two-plus seasons, Julius Randle has finally realized the star-caliber potential that he possessed when he was the No. 7-overall pick by the Los Angeles Lakers back in 2014.

Randle broke his leg in his first regular-season NBA game and didn’t make a positive impact as a pro until his fourth year in the league.

He parlayed a good final year in L.A. into a deal with New Orleans, where he ended up being a vital piece of a team that saw Anthony Davis play in only 56 games in his final season in a Pelicans uniform.

Randle averaged 21.4 points and 8.7 rebounds while shooting 34.4 percent beyond the arc — his previous career-best 3-point percentage was 27.8 percent.

That earned him a bloated three-year, $62.1 million deal with the New York Knicks. After being paid $18 million this season, Randle is on the books for $18.9 million next season. The third year is only partially guaranteed at $4 million as the Knicks no doubt sought cap relief for what is expected to be a loaded 2022 free agency class. If Randle is retained, however, the deal is worth $19.8 million.

Theoretically, Randle’s offensive game would fit with the Wolves reasonably well. The biggest issue on that end of the floor is that his 3-point stroke came back down to earth with the Knicks in 2019-20, clocking in at a poor 27.7 percent on a career-high 3.6 attempts per game.

Randle’s game declined with the Knicks, but he wasn’t exactly surrounded by top-flight talent.

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He was extremely effective in the pick-and-roll with the Pelicans in 2018-19, scoring 1.34 Points Per Possession (PPP) per NBA.com/stats. With the Knicks, however, that number dropped to 0.95 PPP — a passable number, but not ideal.

In New York, 15.1 percent of Randle’s possessions this season came in isolation, where he scored only 0.76 PPP. In spot-up situations, which Randle was in 19.6 percent of the time, he scored only 0.83 PPP, largely due to his significant drop in 3-point efficiency.

In Minnesota, Randle would find himself in isolation far less frequently and would surely get more opportunity in the pick-and-roll. His effectiveness as the roll-man would improve in short order, working with D’Angelo Russell instead of Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith Jr.

But the 3-point woes matter, and that brings down his overall value in the Wolves’ offense.

The bigger issue, however, is that Randle is also a poor defender. When he played more at the center spot with the Lakers and Pelicans, those teams were able to hide him a bit more. Randle played almost exclusively at the 4 with the Knicks, and that’s exactly what his role would be in Minnesota.

Having three minus defenders in the starting lineup in Russell, Towns, and Randle would be rough, and the Wolves would need to find a pair of All-NBA-Defensive-Team-caliber defenders to round out the lineup and even make it competitive on that end of the floor. Juancho Hernangomez, James Johnson, and Jake Layman are all superior defenders at the 4, and Randle would be a step backward.

And don’t forget what it would take to get Randle. The Athletic’s Mike Vorkunov proposed a deal (subscription required) involving Johnson, Omari Spellman, and the No. 17 pick for Randle and the No. 38 pick.

While the Wolves wouldn’t be giving up a ton in terms of assets here, losing Johnson’s tradeable deal and only gaining an overpaid fringe star who would worse defensively than the incumbents isn’t worth it, not to mention sliding backward 21 picks in the draft.

Now, this is another one of those deals that could make sense around the trade deadline in the event that the Wolves can’t find a better deal. If Minnesota isn’t in playoff contention, it could be worth seeing what a Randle-Towns frontcourt looks like. If it doesn’t work, then they can flip Randle in the offseason and the worst-case scenario is that he’s only guaranteed $4 million in 2021-22.

If Randle is a fit, then he’s under contract for one more season and the Wolves could opt to re-sign him or trade him before he hits free agency.

At the end of the day, giving up assets for a poor defender and below-average shooter to put next to Towns probably doesn’t make a ton of sense, and Gersson Rosas likely agrees.

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The Minnesota Timberwolves are going to make a major trade eventually. It just shouldn’t be for Julius Randle, Buddy Hield, or Victor Oladipo, despite their name value.