Grade the Trade: Timberwolves flip big man for LA superstar in new blockbuster pitch

The Minnesota Timberwolves were not quite good enough to win it all this season. Could this blockbuster trade push them over the top, or is it too wild to make?
Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert, Minnesota Timberwolves
Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert, Minnesota Timberwolves / Stephen Maturen/GettyImages
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The Minnesota Timberwolves were briefly the team of destiny in the NBA. Their much-maligned big men were balling out, they had the next face of the league stepping up at age 22, and after knocking off the defending champion Denver Nuggets a franchise with very little to hang their hat on were riding as high as the clouds.

Then reality came crashing down in the Western Conference Finals as the Dallas Mavericks dispatched the Wolves in five games, the final one a beatdown in Minneapolis. While the team and its fans should be excited at the progress of the team and their success in reaching the Conference Finals, when measured against the Mavericks they came up wanting.

The Timberwolves weren't quite good enough

As the Timberwolves process the reality that they weren't quite good enough to win it all, they also must grapple with the fact that their options to do anything to improve the team are limited. They are currently on track to be above the second luxury tax apron, and short of simply dumping salary, the steps to actually improve are few and far between.

One option that has been discussed is trading Karl-Anthony Towns. He is set to start a massive supermax extension that will pay him $49.35 million next season. The new rules on trading for teams above the second luxury tax apron is that a team cannot aggregate salaries (add them on top of each other) nor bring back more money than they are sending out.

That means trading Towns would involve getting back a lower salary than his contract. It also, however, means the Timberwolves need to try and trade with teams under the tax apron because they can't take back a higher-salary player either.

There is one exception to that limitation, however, and it is one that Zach Lowe uncovered as he canvassed the league for potential Towns trades. On his Lowe Post podcast with Kevin Pelton in the wake of the Timberwolves' Game 5 loss, he mentioned that if the Wolves found another single player making the exact same supermax amount as Towns, the two teams could make a like-for-like swap, with neither team technically taking on more salary in the deal.

It just so happens that a player making the exact same amount as Karl-Anthony Towns is playing in Los Angeles, and would fit the bill as an ambitious, but perhaps not altogether too insane, player to target in a trade. Let's dig into the details.