Minnesota Timberwolves: Pros and cons to making a deal at the NBA Trade Deadline

President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas and Anthony Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas and Anthony Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images) /
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Minnesota Timberwolves, Jarrett Culver
Jarrett Culver of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images) /

Minnesota Timberwolves: Pros to making a deal at the NBA Trade Deadline

There are plenty of scenarios in which the Wolves could come out of trade season as winners. Let’s run through a few.

Pro No. 1: The Timberwolves could clear salary

Believe it or not, the Timberwolves were one of just four teams that finished the 2019-20 league year in the luxury tax.

Among their four largest salaries, we’ve already established that Towns isn’t going anywhere, and Russell is almost certainly not going anywhere, either. That leaves us with Ricky Rubio, who makes $17.8 million this year and $17 million in the final year of his deal, and Malik Beasley, who just signed a four-year, $60 million pact.

Beasley would only be traded in a deal for a star, which seems highly unlikely to happen.

Moving on from Rubio’s $17 million and bringing back deals that expire this summer makes some sense, but then again, who on the list of 2021 free agents is A) a good roster fit, and B) interested in signing with the Minnesota Timberwolves?

The only other salaries of any real size are Anthony Edwards (not going anywhere), Juancho Hernangomez (available, but unlikely to have any real suitors this year), and former first-round picks Josh Okogie and Jarrett Culver.

Once again, we’re back to our two most likely trade candidates.

Pro No. 2: The Timberwolves could simplify the rotation

Right now, head coach Chris Finch has a 10-man rotation, and basically everyone not named Towns, Edwards, and Rubio has seen their minutes fluctuate a great deal.

It’s absolutely defensible, of course, as Finch must figure out what he has to work with on the team he joined midstream only a few weeks ago. Not only that, the Wolves are the worst team in the league, so … what’s the harm in rocking the boat just a bit?

Don’t forget that both Russell and Beasley will be back soon, perhaps as soon as this weekend. Who falls out of the rotation?

From a performance standpoint, Culver is the easiest answer. But he was also the No. 6 overall pick only 21 months ago and remains one of the team’s better perimeter defenders.

After a terrible rough patch, Okogie is playing better. Jaylen Nowell has been the team’s best scorer on this side of Towns and Edwards. Jake Layman could head to the bench, but he has primarily played the 3, it could result in Edwards playing more at that spot instead of the 2 if he’s removed entirely from the rotation.

It’s a weird thing, arguing that a team with a 10-33 record has a logjam. But decisions still have to be made in terms of minutes distribution, and in the case of both Culver and Okogie, the Wolves have two former first-round picks who are solid defenders and have some all-around upside remaining.

From Minnesota’s perspective, Jaylen Nowell’s contract (owed less than $4 million over the next two seasons) is far more attractive than Okogie or Culver. Moving on from at least one of their offensively-challenged wings would almost seem to be a priority instead of a possibility.

Pro No. 3: The Timberwolves need more draft assets

This goes hand-in-hand with the last point. Could the Wolves cash in Okogie for expiring salary and a second-round draft pick or two?

Again, the Wolves don’t have a single draft pick in 2021, widely considered to one of the best draft classes in recent memory. The only other picks outside the norm on the ledger are an extra 2023 second-rounder, which was sent to Oklahoma City in the draft-night trade involving Rubio and the pick-swap that saw Jaden McDaniels acquired by the Wolves.

Contrast that to a team like the Thunder, who has a total potential of nine (9!) first-round picks in the next three years, depending on how pick protections play out. Oh, and the Thunder are 19-24 with a rookie head coach and a ragtag group of fringe NBA talent surrounding Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

Needless to say, the Wolves need to find more future assets. They’re not going to get a first-rounder for any single player on the roster, but they could pick up a second-rounder or two on the fringes of deals, and that should be one of Rosas’ goals this week.

Okay, let’s talk about what the Wolves need to look out for at the deadline.