ESPN suggests a Timberwolves trade for Larry Nance Jr.

Larry Nance Jr. could be a potential trade target for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Mandatory Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports
Larry Nance Jr. could be a potential trade target for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Mandatory Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports /

There have been rumblings going back more than two years regarding the Minnesota Timberwolves‘ interest in any power forward from around the league that could possibly be available via trade.

Now, with the team playing itself into playoff contention at the quarter-pole of the schedule yet still lacking in some key areas, the trade rumblings have begun once again.

If Larry Nance Jr. is on the move again, are the Timberwolves an option?

One of the names bandied about over the past couple of years is that of versatile big man Larry Nance Jr.

Nance began his career with the Los Angeles Lakers, but shortly after he was shipped to the Cleveland Cavaliers back in 2018, the trade rumors started up. He signed a four-year contract with the Cavs that started in 2019 before being traded to the Portland Trail Blazers this August in the three-team deal that also sent Lauri Markannen from Chicago to Cleveland.

Throughout it all, Nance has been rumored to be on the Wolves’ trade wish list.

The Blazers have been relatively disappointing this season at 11-11 and are now dealing with an injury to superstar Damian Lillard. Given some of the rumblings surrounding Lillard this past offseason, the Blazers certainly seem like they could be on the cusp of begrudgingly accepting a rebuild.

Nance is a low-usage, defense-first forward who can guard multiple positions and help protect the paint. He’s an athletic pick-and-roll option with better hands than Jarred Vanderbilt and more consistent shooting range (Nance is a 33.3 percent career 3-point shooter and shot 35.5 percent from deep over the last two seasons in Cleveland) than either Vanderbilt or Jaden McDaniels.

If Nance and the year-and-a-half and roughly $15 million remaining on his contract are available via trade, would the Timberwolves raise their hand and be involved in discussions? What would the Wolves have to give up to get him?

ESPN suggests a Timberwolves trade for Larry Nance Jr.

ESPN’s group of NBA insiders has put together five significant trade ideas that could impact the NBA playoff picture (subscription required). The fifth and final trade in the article highlights the Timberwolves and the idea of trading for Nance.

The idea here is that the Wolves would give up Josh Okogie, Jake Layman, and a top-14 protected first-round draft pick that would become a pair of second-round picks if not conveyed in the next two years. (This trade doesn’t quite work as constructed from a salary perspective, according to the Fanspo Trade Machine, but by adding one more salary — Jaylen Nowell, perhaps — the deal could be consummated.)

This deal should be a no-brainer from the Wolves’ perspective. Yes, Okogie has played well in flashes this year, but he’s only been part of the rotation in half of Minnesota’s games. Layman hasn’t been part of the rotation at all.

The only real downside is that the Wolves would be shipping out a perimeter-oriented defender for a forward who is best used at the 4 or as the 5 in small-ball lineups. While switchable and generally versatile, Nance isn’t the ideal choice to be a perimeter stopper.

The Wolves would still have Patrick Beverley, Jaden McDaniels, and Jarred Vanderbilt as plus defenders in addition to Nance, but losing Okogie would hurt a bit when it comes to guarding Western Conference teams with multiple perimeter threats.

Why the Timberwolves may not want to trade for Larry Nance Jr.

The risk in acquiring Nance is almost entirely related to shuffling a rotation that has been largely working for the Wolves. After all, Minnesota has won seven of their last nine games, and the starting lineup of D’Angelo Russell, Beverley, Anthony Edwards, Vanderbilt, and Karl-Anthony Towns has the best net rating of any five-man lineup in the league that has played significant minutes.

Vanderbilt and McDaniels would be the two players whose minutes would take a hit, and they’re both young players with room to improve.

While there is always a bit of a risk in stunting potential growth if minutes are scaled back, Nance would add some much-needed depth to the rotation and would give head coach Chris Finch additional flexibility. He could choose to play big with Nance at the 4 and McDaniels — or even Vanderbilt — at the 3, or he could play small with Nance at the 5 when Towns is off the floor.

While Vanderbilt is a great fit next to Towns, the offensive shortcomings could become more exposed over time if his minutes become overextended. He’s probably best used in shorter bursts, and always having one of Nance or Vanderbilt on the floor alongside Towns and Naz Reid would be a fantastic way to keep an edge in the defense, rebounding, and energy departments.

McDaniels would then play almost exclusively at the 3, and the trickle-down could eventually impact the likes of Malik Beasley and Beverley, depending on matchups.

Next. An early look at the trade deadline for the Wolves. dark

Still, more depth is never a bad thing, and for the cost of a lottery-protected first-rounder, Okogie, and Layman, a trade like this would have to be a no-brainer for the Timberwolves front office.