The Timberwolves needed to make a move at the trade deadline

Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns looks on against the Phoenix Suns. Mandatory Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports
Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns looks on against the Phoenix Suns. Mandatory Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports /

The Minnesota Timberwolves were quiet at the trade deadline, making no moves during a busy trade season in the NBA. That may have been a mistake.

The Timberwolves needed to make a move at the Trade Deadline

It’s easy to argue that standing pat was a good decision for the Timberwolves. After all, the thinking goes, it allows the youth of the Wolves to improve their chemistry over the rest of the season. The Wolves can always make a move in the summer, right?

The big problem with that view, however, is that it is incredibly short-sighted.

For starters, the abundance of activity at this year’s deadline drove the price of players below what it had been in the past. Consider:

  • Robert Covington, who was acquired by the Portland Trail Blazers for two first-round picks in 2020, was sent to the Clippers with Norman Powell for a package that included no starters and no first-round picks.
  • The Pelicans acquired CJ McCollum and Larry Nance Jr. for a package that only included one first-round pick and none of their three best players. Nance alone was worth one first-round pick in his trade to the Blazers this past fall.

This is not to suggest that the Wolves should have necessarily pursued Powell, Covington, Nance, or McCollum, but it does suggest that players were being acquired for cheaper than usual.

Not only that, but there were examples of playoff teams using a single mid-to-low first-round pick to acquire a difference-making player.

  • The Celtics landed Derrick White for a late first-round pick and two out-of-rotation players.
  • The Cavaliers acquired Caris LeVert and a second-round pick for an injured Ricky Rubio, a first-round pick, and a few future second-round picks.

Again, this doesn’t suggest that the Wolves should have necessarily pursued LeVert or White, but it does show that their 2022 first-round pick (and potentially their three second-round picks in 2022), which will end up a mid-to-late round pick at best, could have yielded a starting-caliber player to bolster their rotation.

It’s easy to understand why the Wolves front office would be hesitant to surrender another first-round pick after losing the No. 7 overall pick last year as part of a trade from the previous deadline, but the team’s first-round pick will likely be much later in the first round then they are used to, meaning a swap of a first-round pick for an immediate rotation/starting level player would have made a lot of sense.

Obviously, a home-run pick in the late first round is always possible (think Jaden McDaniels), but consider this: Leandro Bolmaro was the No. 23 pick in 2020. Would the Wolves happily trade Bolmaro for Derrick White right now? Absolutely.

At some point, draft picks are only so meaningful, especially when two of your three core players are both 26 years old.

Another big issue with standing pat at the trade deadline is that things will not get easier in the Western Conference going forward, meaning that every opportunity to improve needs to be seized. There is no denying that team chemistry is important and that continuity is a big factor in team chemistry.

But a 32-29 record in this year’s Western Conference is not worth preserving for the sake of continuity. The Clippers, Nuggets, Lakers, Blazers, and Pelicans should all be significantly better next year, meaning the current 7th seeded Wolves will face even stiffer competition in the West next year.

Next. Potential buyout candidates for the Wolves. dark

This trade deadline was a chance to improve the roster for a lower-than-average cost, and it feels like the Wolves missed out on that opportunity. Time will tell if they will regret not making a move to improve their rotation, both for the rest of this season and into next season.