The Minnesota Timberwolves are still on the hunt for the perfect frontcourt pairing alongside Karl-Anthony Towns.
Despite the presence of promising second-year forward and 2020 first-round draft pick Jaden McDaniels, the Wolves have been linked to big men such as the Indiana Pacers’ Myles Turner, the Atlanta Hawks’ Danilo Gallinari, and Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers, a point guard in a power forward’s body who would likely play the 4 offensively if acquired by the Wolves.
Let’s look at several of the candidates for the Wolves to acquire via trade that could be fits at the power forward spot.
Minnesota Timberwolves Trade Target: Lauri Markannen
With the acquisition of a superior, older player in Nikola Vucevic, it appears the Chicago Bulls front office has deemed Lauri Markkanen’s days in Chicago numbered.
A restricted free agent heading into this offseason, it seems likely that Chicago will not match any substantial offers for a player who, contrary to expected developmental curves, has gradually declined over the short time he has spent with his maiden NBA franchise.
In 2018-19, just Markkanen’s sophomore season, he appeared to be a superstar in the making with averages of 18.7 points on a 43/36/87 shooting slash (field goal, 3-point, and free throw percentages) to go with nine rebounds per game.
The Bulls thought this would be the tip of the iceberg for Markkanen. Unfortunately, a deeper dive has revealed that he may not have much more to offer. Flash forward to 2020-21, and Markkanen’s numbers look significantly less impressive at 13. 6 points and a pedestrian 5.3 rebounds per game.
It is entirely possible that a change of scenery would benefit Lauri. However, with a defensive rating of 112.8 last season, the Timberwolves shouldn’t spend their cap space on trying to find out.
Readers may rightfully protest that his defensive rating actually exceeds McDaniels’ from last season. That may be true, but in this case, the eye test should outweigh the analytics — not to mention the limitations of individual player defensive rating.
McDaniels may have fallen victim to ill-timed defensive gambles at times last season, but his motor was like a solar-powered battery in July in Arizona: it didn’t stop. Between his length, athleticism, and effort, the tools are evidently present for McDaniels to blossom into an elite defender.
Markkanen, on the other hand, is cursed with slow feet, short arms, and a questionable desire to defend.
He is more gifted than McDaniels on the offensive end at this stage, but with Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards, and D’Angelo Russell creating offense, the Wolves don’t need much more from the power forward position than adequate floor spacing.
Markkanen may have an edge on McDaniels in this regard, but his 40 percent shooting compared to Jalen’s 36 percent simply doesn’t make up what projects to be a major defensive margin, given the team’s particular needs.