Minnesota Timberwolves: The future impact of buying at the trade deadline

Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic dribbles the ball while Josh Okogie of the Minnesota Timberwolves defends. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic dribbles the ball while Josh Okogie of the Minnesota Timberwolves defends. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images) /

Recent rumors suggest that the Minnesota Timberwolves may be buyers at the upcoming trade deadline. What could this mean for the future of the franchise?

The March 25 trade deadline is quickly approaching and the Timberwolves are once again actively making phone calls. From the moment he accepted the job, President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas promised to be active in the trade market. He fulfilled those promises last year when he traded half the roster in the days leading up to the deadline.

Many would expect Minnesota to be sellers, as the team currently holds the worst record in the league. But recent reports by Shams Charania of The Athletic suggest that the front office is looking to buy an upgrade to their starting lineup.

Two names that have been frequently connected to Minnesota are John Collins of the Atlanta Hawks and Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic.

The team had interest in acquiring Aaron Gordon in 2020 but were unable to find a deal that both sides would agree on. However, Rosas has already proven a willingness to chase specific players until a deal is made, as was made evident when the team acquired D’Angelo Russell before the 2020 trade deadline after pursuing him for months.

Both Collins and Gordon would represent obvious upgrades to the current roster but what would either move mean for the organization moving forward?

Could the Minnesota Timberwolves land John Collins?

John Collins has been an offensive force ever since being drafted in the first round by Atlanta in 2017. He averaged more than 21 points and 10 rebounds per game while shooting over 40 percent from beyond the arc during a career year in 2019-20.

The biggest weakness in his game has been on the defensive end, where he has often been slow to rotate and quick to foul. While his offensive numbers are slightly down this year, his defense has made noticeable improvements. His ESPN Defensive Real Plus-Minus sits at a 1.31, which ranks No. 12 among power forwards.

Collins is set to hit restricted free agency this summer and expected to command a near-max contract.

A Collins-Towns frontcourt would instantly become one of the deadliest big-man duos in the league. Both players are elite shooters from beyond the arc and can post up defenders with the best of them. Collins’ ability to set an effective screen would also allow the team to limit Towns’ exposure setting picks, thereby reducing his league-worst offensive foul problems.

Russell meanwhile may be the biggest beneficiary of a Collins’ trade. Russell is known as a top-tier pick-and-roll player who took the next step in his development playing alongside Jarrett Allen in Brooklyn.

Unfortunately, Russell’s pick-and-roll prowess has been limited in Minnesota due to the team’s general lack of size and injuries. Collins has already proven to be a great screen setter and roller during his time in Atalanta alongside Trae Young, suggesting that his fit next to Russell could prove to be very beneficial.

This trade would lock the Timberwolves into a young core of Towns, Russell, and Collins, all of whom would be on max or near-max contracts with substantial question marks on the defensive side of the court.

Could this trio make a run in the Western Conference playoffs? It is certainly difficult to fathom paying almost $100 million to three players with minimal playoff experience, but this gamble may come with added flexibility due to Collins’ age.

At 23 years old, Collins may be seen by the front office as a potential pick-and-roll partner for Anthony Edwards. He is closer in age to Edwards than Towns and about to sign a new long-term contract, granting the team the flexibility to build around Edwards and Collins for the foreseeable future if Towns were to ever ask to be traded.

This type of trade perfectly fits Rosas’ vision of increasing the team’s overall talent level while staying young enough to build toward the future.

Aaron Gordon remains on the Minnesota Timberwolves radar

The other name that has often come up regarding Timberwolves’ trade targets is power forward Aaron Gordon.

Gordon is a capable offensive player, averaging over 13 points per game over each of the last four seasons while flashing moments of athletic brilliance. He has also improved his perimeter shooting, averaging a career-best 36.5 percent from beyond the arc in 2020-21.

Where Gordon truly shines, however, is on the defensive end. He has become a true two-way player capable of guarding multiple positions; a trait severely lacking on the Timberwolves’ roster.

At 25 years old, Aaron Gordon could become Minnesota’s facsimile of Jerami Grant in Denver last season. He perfectly fits the Towns and Russell timetable while effectively covering up some of their weaknesses on the defensive side. His ability to create on offense would also give Minnesota a low-usage creator, an idea similar to that which sparked the trade for Ricky Rubio last offseason.

The cost of acquiring Gordon could prove to be too high but our own Ben Beecken brought up the idea of a package centered around Jarrett Culver and a second-round pick — a cost that may be much more palatable for the Wolves front office.

Next. Finding the best fit with Towns and Edwards. dark

No matter the exact price, the deal would involve trading young players or future assets for a power forward who can help the team win games immediately. This type of trade would signal to the fanbase that Minnesota has playoff expectations as a minimum for the 2021-22 season.