By: Seth Toupal
With the Warriors halfway to the NBA Title (unless Cleveland can make it a series back at home) it’s time to start focusing on ways that the Timberwolves can build off of their 47-35 record this past year. With the draft, trades and free agency all as viable options for improvement; the Wolves stand a good chance to build around their core and deepen their roster. The biggest question is how aggressive will the Wolves be in trying to take the next step as a contender in the Western Conference? The answer to that question will be revealed as the offseason progresses but I’m impatient enough to want those answers now. So I took to NBA 2K18 to help speed up the process.
Before I get too far into potential solutions I should start by stating the obvious: the trades presented here were all gathered from NBA 2K18 based off of a simulation. They may not match up with what would be required to make them work in real life but I did stick to trades that were approved and seemed realistic. I did also throw in a few other transactions that I will mention at the end to fill out the roster. So let’s dive in and look at some potential trades that could reshape the Timberwolves roster.
This article will be broken down into three possibilities: first is a trade involving Gorgui Dieng and the Timberwolves first-round draft pick. The second is a trade of Andrew Wiggins. And the third trade is a blockbuster trade that I will reveal later. After revealing all of the possible trades I looked at, I will apply them to a simulation and see how the Timberwolves do with their new additions.
We start with Gorgui Dieng and the Timberwolves 1st round pick. Dieng is a good player but has not received the minutes to warrant his massive contract under Tom Thibodeau. With the amount of money he is owed the Wolves will need to sweeten the pot and that is where the first round pick comes in. I dangled Gorgui and the 1st rounder and these are the 3 most appealing trades that were offered by the rest of the league:
1. Timberwolves Trade Gorgui Dieng and the 2018 1st round pick to the Brooklyn Nets for DeMarre Carroll + 2019 2nd Round Pick.
2. Timberwolves Trade Gorgui Dieng and the 2018 1st round pick to the Memphis Grizzlies for Ben McLemore + JaMychal Green.
3. Timberwolves Trade Gorgui Dieng and the 2018 1st round pick to the Phoenix Suns for Troy Daniels + Tyson Chandler
Looking at each trade individually Carroll gives the Wolves a starter qualify wing who is a 36% 3 point shooter throughout his career and this trade would take Gorgui’s contract off the books as Carroll is on just a 1-year deal. There is a slight addition in salary ($0.33 Million) but it isn’t enough to cause any issues. Carroll is also a tenacious rebounder and helps fill the potential loss of Nemanja Bjelica too.
The second trade is aimed more at shoring up the bench. Adding McLemore adds a shooter to cover for the departure of Jamal Crawford and Green fills the spot of Bjelica if he doesn’t resign. Both players combined save the Timberwolves around $1.84 million dollars which would allow the Wolves to add another player if they deemed fit. Both Green and McLemore are both on 1-year deals so they come off the books after this season. Green brings rebounding with him and McLemore is a proven 3 point shooter.
The final trade is one I liked with the assumption a couple of other moves are made. The addition of Chandler would not be needed per say unless Justin Patton were also dealt. Chandler is a great defensive center and would be a good backup to Towns. Daniels is a 40 percent career three-point shooter so his ability to hit from deep is well documented. This trade would add $1.68 million to the Wolves salary for next year, but would add players who could help deepen the bench.
Bottom line: All of these trade possibilities provide different needs for the Wolves with much-needed bench depth. But you can only trade Gorgui and the 1st round pick once so if I was pressed into having to make a choice the trade I make is for DeMarre Carroll and a 2019 2nd round pick.
Next up is a trade of Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins signed his max extension and proceeded to have a frustrating season. Though Wiggins is young, he does not appear to be a player worthy of a max extension so if the Wolves can get out from under the contract that would be a plus. Here are some trades that were proposed:
1. Andrew Wiggins to Washington for Otto Porter.
2. Andrew Wiggins + 2020 1st round pick (Lottery protected) to Philadelphia for Robert Covington and Dario Saric.
3. Andrew Wiggins to Miami for Josh Richardson and James Johnson.
With this trade each team acquiring Wiggins is betting on him to benefit from a change of scenery. The Wolves get impact pieces in each trade and some salary relief in each case. The addition of Porter adds a capable player who is less of a scorer than Wiggins but more involved in other aspects of the game. His acquisition would allow for more shots for both Butler and Towns and Porter only has 2 years remaining on his deal. Porter is no slouch from three though as he is a career 40 percent shooter from from beyond the arc.
The Philly proposal is very intriguing as well. Covington is an elite wing defender and can hit shots from range as well. Saric would be a starting-caliber power forward that could step in if Taj starts to wear down in the final year of his deal. The addition of the 2020 Philly 1st round pick seems excessive but that is what they wanted to offer. This trade would give the Timberwolves a better-rounded starting lineup than they already had.
Richardson and Johnson add salary flexibility. Richardson is signed to a deal at just slightly over $10 million per year. Richardson is a young player who played extremely well down the stretch for the heat last year and can hit threes at a good rate. Johnson brings another veteran presence that can hit threes in a punch but can also provide defensive rebounding and blocks off the bench.
Bottom Line: Any of these trades would be helpful for the Timberwolves but I’m not taking any of them due to the final trade proposal we are going to discuss in this article. And you will see why when you see this blockbuster trade.
The final trade we will discuss is Andrew Wiggins and Jeff Teague to Charlotte for Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum. The Wolves would be wise to go in a similar route to other teams in the conference by adding a sure fire third option to build around KAT and Butler. Kemba Walker would be this player for the Wolves. Batum adds some scoring but more importantly perimeter defense. A trio of Kemba, Butler and Towns would be dominant enough to contend with most anyone in the NBA.
Kemba could end up being a rental player but the fact that the Wolves were willing to sign Wiggins to a max would likely mean they would be willing to do whatever it takes to keep this core together.
Let’s look at what we have done so far:
Wiggins/Teague for Walker/Batum
Gorgui +2018 1st round pick for DeMarre Carroll + 2019 2nd round pick
And add in a couple of trades that I added just for fun:
Taj Gibson/Justin Patton for Tyson Chandler/Troy Daniels
2020 1st round pick for Domantas Sabonis
Add in a few free agent signings and we are left with a roster of:
Karl Anthony Towns
I took this roster and simulated a season with them (I also just for fun hired Mike D’antoni as head coach). The Wolves finished the season 62-20 and won the NBA Title. So maybe this is just a way to pass time until the real-life decisions are made. But then again, maybe this shows that the best course of action for the Wolves is to be bold and make some big decisions.
Seth is host of The Scoop on KLGR Radio out of Redwood Falls, Minnesota. Listen to episodes of The Scoop here