By: Dan Slaubaugh
We have officially entered "trading season" in the NBA. From now until February 23 at 3 p.m., teams poised and destined for a playoff spot will try to patch up their weak spots by acquiring players from non-contenders. On the other side, non-contenders will look to build for the future and get maximum value for their wanted assets.
Now, before I get into any deep specifics and analysis on what the Wolves position is at the deadline, it's important to understand a few things.
Usually, teams do one of two things when making trades. Either they dump players because they are out of the playoff picture or they make a splash to help bolster their playoff/title chances. For example, the railing 4-seeded Toronto Raptors recently traded guard Terrence Ross and a first round pick to 14-seeded Orlando for forward Serge Ibaka. Hence, the Raptors needed to make a splash to bolster title chances and the Magic dumped players for future assets.
Concerning the Wolves, they're kind of stuck in the middle right now. They don't really have any players to dump that other teams would badly want and they don't have the ammunition to bolster their playoff chances by making a splash. At 22-35 and 3.5 games back of a playoff spot, an aggressive move by Tom Thibodeau might not only eliminate playoff chances this season, but also jeopardize the promising future ahead. Therefore, the chances are pretty high that the Wolves don't do anything.
That said, let's categorize the Wolves roster into four categories: Not going anywhere, players who could net a decent return but you need for a playoff push, potential trade chips, and players that nobody really wants.
Not going anywhere
Karl-Anthony Towns: Face of the franchise. If he is traded I am finding the nearest bridge and taking a nice big jump.
Andrew Wiggins: KAT's "Robin". Cornerstone piece and budding star.
Gorgui Dieng: On a very reasonable contract, provides stability and depth at a position of weakness. Not getting traded.
Kris Dunn: Thibodeau's prized draft pick. He's struggled, but isn't going anywhere.
Zach LaVine: Another young phenom part of the core. The ACL injury eliminates any possibility of a trade.
Players who could net a decent return but need for a playoff push
Ricky Rubio: Veteran point guard who make this team run. Rumored in many trades over past few years. If you trade him, the team wins at most eight games the rest of the season but opens up extensive playing time for rookie Kris Dunn.
Shabazz Muhammad: Has evolved into one of the NBA's best 6th men over the past 2 1/2 months. Contract expires at end of season. If traded, this bench averages under 22 points per game.
Potential trade chips
Tyus Jones: Young guard who's proven he can contribute as a role player. Still has upside. Philly, Orlando, Sacramento could be suitors.
Brandon Rush: On an expiring contract. Can still provide solid defense and three-point shooting (when hot). Oklahoma City, Toronto could be suitors.
Cole Aldrich: Could intrigue a contender who needs a big/rim protection. Golden State, Oklahoma City could be suitors.
Players that nobody really wants
Nemanja Bjelica: 28-year old that you still don't now what you're going to get out of. Wolves will keep him and play him.
Adreian Payne: Can't find minutes on a 22-35 team.
Jordan Hill: Same as Payne
So...what should we expect?
The Wolves are legitimately stuck. You would have to dig crazy deep to find a trade that would make this team better right now. So basically, if they are truly trying to make a playoffs, trading pieces such as Bazz or Ricky wouldn't make any sense because you need them both for the playoff push.
If a trade does occur, my best guess is that an executive was intrigued by a Tyus/Rush or Rush/Aldrich type package. That's probably only going to fetch you a 2nd round pick. So if you are going to only trade one, Brandon Rush would be the best option if Thibodeau is looking to get something before his contract expires.