The Minnesota Timberwolves had a busy offseason, highlighted by the Rudy Gobert trade and multiple free-agent acquisitions. With the Timberwolves’ offseason moves likely finished through training camp, we have a better idea of what the roster will look like heading into game one. The next time the Wolves are likely to be active in trade talks is closer to the Winter trade deadline.
Between now and the trade deadline, the Timberwolves will have a lot to figure out. Who among Timberwolves CJ Elleby, Luka Garza, AJ Lawson, Josh Minott, and Eric Paschall will make the 15-man squad? How will Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns mesh? What will D’Angelo Russell’s role be? Where does Naz Reid fit into the frontcourt equation if Luka Garza makes the squad?
While we don’t know the answer to these questions yet, we do know that the winter trade deadline poses a whole new set of challenges and variables to NBA front offices. With that said, let’s take a look at which Timberwolves players could be available at the trade deadline this season.
1. Naz Reid
Naz Reid’s future on the Wolves became more cloudy than perhaps any other player on the roster this offseason. The additions of Rudy Gobert and Kyle Anderson filled rotation spots at both power forward and center.
Reid’s major weaknesses – defense and rebounding – were addressed in a big way by the front office this offseason, meaning his playing time could take a significant hit. If Luka Garza were to make the roster as a Center, Naz Reid could face even more competition for minutes and would become even more expendable. Reid is in a contract year and is an asset given his affordable contract. If the Wolves were to make any sort of trade at the deadline, Reid is a prime candidate.
2. Jaylen Nowell
Chris Finch made a vocal claim to the press that Nowell is a big part of the team’s future plans. But Nowell is in a contract year and has yet to receive consistent, meaningful minutes over the course of an entire season in the NBA.
Nowell undoubtedly has the talent to be in any NBA rotation, but if somehow the minutes don’t come for Nowell, he could be a prime trade candidate come deadline day, as Nowell is in a contract year with an affordable contract. If Nowell doesn’t find his minutes on this Wolves team, he will surely find them somewhere else.
3. D’Angelo Russell
D’Angelo Russell had an overall strong season for the Wolves last season, averaging 18.1 points and 7.1 assists in 65 games. Russell’s playoff performance against the Grizzlies was less than his best and has shed a negative light on the overall success of his season in public perception. The bottom line is that D’Angelo Russell was good for the Wolves last season, and he is entering a contract year with the Timberwolves.
There have been reports that D’Angelo Russell is willing to re-sign with the Wolves for less than a max contract, but Russell will nevertheless be expensive for a Wolves cap sheet that will have large chunks of money dedicated to Towns, Gobert, and Edwards in the near future.
One of two things could lead to a D’Angelo Russell trade at the deadline. D’Angelo Russell could perform well with the addition of Rudy Gobert as a pick and roll partner, leading to D’Angelo Russell’s asking price becoming too high for the Wolves
That likely will lead prompt the team to salvage trade value instead of losing Russell for nothing as a free agent. The second possibility is that Russell doesn’t perform well in the first half of the season, which could prompt the front office to move off of Russell early. Russell will have more trade value as an expiring contract at the trade deadline than he would have had this past summer, so if trading Russell is in the team’s plans, this coming trade deadline would be the time to do it.
The possibility of Russell sticking around long-term is definitely still in the cards, but a scenario in which he is traded is not unforeseeable.