When the Minnesota Timberwolves engaged the LA Lakers and Utah Jazz to become a third member of their trade negotiations, and in the process, agreed to put PG D’Angelo Russell into the mix, there were plenty of risks associated with that move. The most obvious, of course, is that both the LA Lakers and Utah Jazz would only agree to a trade if they felt as though their team held the winning hand after dealing the cards.
The second risk was the likelihood of helping NBA Western Conference team rivals improve.
But Minnesota Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly proceeded anyway. Alternative negotiations with the Denver Nuggets had broken down, not from both sides not finding any middle ground, but from Denver Nuggets ownership refusing to do business with their former Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
Rudy Gobert is the obvious winner on the Timberwolves roster:
And why not? He has emerged from a locker room and the point guard who berated him, only to enter a locker room with a point guard who not only is friendly but who works hard to make him the best version of himself on the basketball court. In one trade, the Timberwolves not only landed PG Mike Conley Jr. and SG Nickeil Alexander-Walker, as well as three draft picks, but this team truly leveled up the Rudy Gobert acquisition by leveling Gobert up as well.
Conley acts as the Wolves’ catalyst
But did anyone notice how easily Mike Conley Jr. truly hit the floor running for the Minnesota Timberwolves almost from the moment that he arrived? He played as though he was a member of this team all season long:
This is a Timberwolves roster that is not only playing well, but they love playing too. Considering the long and difficult journey that the entire team had made together throughout the 2022-23 NBA season, it was great to see that the team was finally playing together like a team.
"“These guys really like each other and love playing with each other. They have lifted their game with the games being so big.” – Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch said in his post-game interview as quoted by ESPN"
While the Timberwolves fell short in the 2022-23 NBA season, don’t assume that will happen again. While they arrived late to the party, both Mike Conley Jr. and Nickeil Alexander-Walker made hugely positive impacts for the Timberwolves in the final games of the season. And if not for the injuries at the end of the season to both backup center Naz Reid and starting small forward Jaden McDaniels, the Timberwolves may have had a lot more to say in the 2023 NBA Playoffs.
Healthy, wealthy, and wise
But do not let the disappointment of last season taint expectations for this season. Both PG Mike Conley Jr. and SG Nickeil Alexander-Walker will be back this season, and they will be joined by some familiar players as well as new teammates.
The Timberwolves have every right to expect a long and healthy season out of C Naz Reid, SF Jaden McDaniels, and PF Karl Anthony Towns. Towns missed 53 games for the Timberwolves last season, while Reid and McDaniels were injured and unable to compete in the 2023 NBA Playoffs.
But that did not prevent the team from extending Reid on a multi-year deal. The team also extended SG Anthony Edwards, and expectations are that McDaniels will be extended in the near future as well.
While other teams may or may not have restocked their rosters effectively for the upcoming 2023-24 NBA season, the Minnesota Timberwolves got a running start in that direction at the 2023 NBA Trade Deadline. Not only did both Conley and Alexander-Walker play well for the Timberwolves, but both are locked in for the 2023-24 NBA season as well.
The Timberwolves continue to reap the rewards of the 2023 NBA Trade Deadline heist. And this time, it could help them to advance to Round 2 of the 2024 NBA Playoffs.