If you've been a loyal Minnesota Timberwolves fan, it’s no secret why this year feels special. After countless losing seasons, the Wolves are one of the best teams in Basketball as we approach the midway point in the season.
With guys all over the roster starring in their roles, the longest-tenured Wolf in the pack is still figuring out how to make a consistent impact. After a 62-point night was wasted in a bad loss to Charlotte, the Wolves need to at least weigh their options with Karl-Anthony Towns to build a championship culture in a must-win season.
It may sound ridiculous to trade one of your best players after a 60-point performance. But with as much talent as Towns has, the return value in a trade may be at its peak for the All-Star caliber big man. With salary cap issues looming, the Timberwolves must go all in this year to win with this roster or move on from Towns and his super-max extension.
Since entering the league, Towns has claimed the title of the best 3-point-shooting big man of all time. He has made three All-Star appearances and twice been selected as a third-team all-pro. His game speaks for itself, but his competitive mindset leaves a lot to be desired.
Following the infamous Jimmy Butler practice in 2018, Town's character has been portrayed as passive, which translates to how he approaches big moments. He has yet to win a playoff series and has never led Minnesota to a winning record as the go-to man, causing many people to look for new leadership in the next rising star.
Anthony Edwards took over the team last year when Towns missed over 50 games with a calf strain. Edwards led the Wolves to a winning record in Town’s absence and a play-in tournament win for a berth in the playoffs. Last year’s takeover has carried right into this year as Edwards has taken that leap into superstardom. Drawing Jordan-like comparisons, there is no question this is Ant-Man’s team; it’s just a matter of answering how the Wolves can best support their new franchise guy.
There are a lot of intriguing names floating around trade rumors this time of year. The Hawks have been shopping their star guards, but they might be open to keeping Trae Young and Dejounte Murray if they can pair them with a big like Towns. The Timberwolves, in exchange, would love a pair of long shooting forwards like De’Andre Hunter or Bogdan Bogdanović packaged with some draft picks.
A trade that makes the most sense for the Wolves is another deal with the Utah Jazz for star forward Lauri Markkanen. The Finnish phenom is one of the most underrated players in the league. Markkanen can score from anywhere on the floor, averaging 24.0 points per game this year and nearly nine rebounds a night, outpacing Towns’ season averages.
Towns may not even be the most crucial big man on the Timberwolves roster. The trade for Rudy Gobert is starting to pay off. The French big is dominating the paint, making another strong case for Defensive Player of the Year. Minnesota finally has depth, with guys like Naz Reid molding into a potential 6th Man of the Year coming off the bench and providing efficient numbers in limited action.
It’s easy to get caught up in moments of success. But the Timberwolves front office must think long-term. With his super-max deal going into effect next season, trading Karl-Anthony Towns would free up nearly $50 million in cap space as early as next season.
With great talent and veteran experience currently available, a solid trade now could build a better future around Edwards. Without a 1st round draft pick for the next five years and minimal future cap space, it will be tough for the Timberwolves to rebuild a championship roster through the draft or free agency.
Edwards, Towns, and Jaden McDaniels all signed extensions that will go into effect at the start of next season. And after acquiring Rudy Gobert last season, these four contracts almost fill the salary cap.
This is the best team Minnesota has possibly ever had, setting a new standard for the organization. But if the Timberwolves don’t win with this year's roster, it will be impossible to retain the same group of guys to run it back next year, making this season championship or bust.
With the Wolves atop the Western Conference standings, it’s improbable for the front office to make a drastic change concerning Towns. A trade midway through the organization’s best season would create too many distractions and alter the team’s bonded chemistry. But if the regular season success doesn’t translate into the playoffs, Minnesota's executives will reflect on this moment when faced with many expensive decisions this coming off-season.