While at first glance, it may seem odd for the worst team in the NBA to become buyers at the trade deadline, let’s not act like the Minnesota Timberwolves didn’t swing a massive deal last year under similar circumstances. Taking a closer look, there are several reasons why the Timberwolves are a good bet to swap out some roster parts ahead of the March 25 NBA trade deadline.
Not only are the Wolves the worst team in the league, they are currently on a nine-game losing streak. With Malik Beasley suspended for another nine games and D’Angelo Russell not expected to come back until mid-to-late March at the earliest, don’t be surprised to see Timberwolves president Gersson Rosas try to shake things up to change the current atmosphere.
New head coach Chris Finch could likely use an infusion of talent to help get his first NBA win under his belt until two of Minnesota’s top-three scorers come back.
Minnesota Timberwolves rumors: Trade on the horizon
There have been several recent stories surrounding this bunch. With how the current roster is constructed, Rosas let his thoughts be known that they need to see more consistent production from the power forward position. So it’s no surprise to see trade rumors involving a power forward that the Minnesota Timberwolves could instantly plug into the starting five.
When Karl-Anthony Towns was out with his wrist injury and COVID, the lack of depth at both power forward and center was more apparent than ever. The lackluster play from nearly everyone stepping in at the four has several rumors swirling, and we’re here to break them down and detail what it may take to get a deal done.
We’ll identify four trade targets to improve the team’s outlook, not surprisingly, each player is primarily a power forward.
Minnesota Timberwolves trade candidate No. 1: John Collins
Typically, a basketball player of John Collins’ caliber would not be available in a trade. For whatever reason, Atlanta has refused to commit to a long-term contract for the former first-round pick.
Past indications suggest chemistry issues between Collins and Trae Young, which could be why a contract extension has not gotten done. With Collins set to be a restricted free agent at the end of the season, it wouldn’t shock anyone to see Atlanta try to acquire an asset or two before risking him potentially walking for nothing.
One thing in the way of an immediate deal is that the Hawks are not eliminated from playoff contention in the East at 16-20 and they just fired their coach. They may want to see how the team responds to Nate McMillan’s approach before making any moves.
Collins is just 23 years old and is coming off a season in which he averaged 21.6 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game. He hits threes, blocks shots and grabs rebounds at a decent rate. Collins could be an ideal fit with Karl-Anthony Towns in the frontcourt, but the issue remains the same for the Wolves, how could they afford to retain Collins as he seeks what could be a max contract this offseason?
But there is this golden nugget from Darren Wolfson via SkorNorth.com, saying that those close to Collins like the idea of playing next to KAT. This could indicate that signing Collins to a long-term extension may be easier for the Timberwolves than it was for the Hawks. If the Wolves think they can afford to re-sign Collins, they should be going all-in to try and acquire the young star.
- Minnesota Timberwolves get: John Collins
- Atlanta Hawks get: Jaden McDaniels, Josh Okogie, 2023 first-round pick (lottery protected)
Depending on what other teams offer, the Timberwolves may need to add some more compensation to move the needle for the Hawks. Collins has sky-high potential, but the Hawks seem committed to Clint Capela and recently drafted Onyeka Okongwu.
One of the reasons why I feel a team may not have to give up the farm for Collins is that he is set to be a restricted free agent. If the Hawks let him walk, they receive nothing but cap space. They may feel some pressure to try and salvage some sort of asset for their initial investment. Thus, it wouldn’t shock me to see Hawks management take the best offer they receive before the deadline on a player they know will leave anyway.
Minnesota Timberwolves trade candidate No. 2: Aaron Gordon: Solving the power forward conundrum
Rumors have long linked Aaron Gordon to the Timberwolves. And with the Magic’s season also in the tank at 13-23, they could look to be sellers before long. Gordon is on a manageable contract, locked in through 2022 and could be a great fit spacing-wise, playing with Karl-Anthony Towns.
Gordon can hit the three, steals the ball a bit and is a solid perimeter defender. His athleticism is off the charts. The No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft is still somehow just 25 years old and fits the timeline of the other young Timberpups on the roster.
- Minnesota Timberwolves get: Aaron Gordon, Terrance Ferguson
- Orlando Magic get: Shake Milton, Jarrett Culver, Mike Scott, 2022 2nd-round pick
- Philadelphia 76ers get: Kyle Lowry
- Toronto Raptors get: Ricky Rubio, Danny Green, 2021 1st-round pick (from 76ers)
Minnesota Timberwolves trade candidate No. 3: Larry Nance Jr.
Target No. 3 does a little bit of everything on the basketball court, including participating in the dunk contest. Larry Nance Jr. is an athletic, bouncy 6-foot-7 forward who has some range offensively and defensively is an adept pocket-picker, averaging 1.9 steals per game.
The Cavaliers are overflowing with bigs since they took part in the James Harden blockbuster trade. With Kevin Love, Andre Drummond, Jarrett Allen, Javale McGee, and Nance Jr., there simply isn’t enough playing time to go around.
Reports from before the draft suggest the Wolves have inquired about Nance before, so it’s not surprising to hear his name tossed around once again. Another nugget hidden within the rumors is that D’Angelo Russell and Nance are buds from when they came into the league together as first-round picks with the Lakers in 2015. D-Lo has been advocating for a reunion ahead of the deadline, making a trade more likely.
The Cavs are 13th in the Eastern Conference and 2.5 games out of the tenth spot, meaning they could make a late push for the playoffs or fade out of contention altogether. Whether they become buyers or sellers at the deadline remains to be seen.
However, with so many bigs, they may be seeking a way to balance out their roster a bit more. But if the Cavs look to unload Kevin Love and buyout or trade Andre Drummond, they could view Nance as their starting power forward going forward, thus making him hard to obtain.
- Minnesota Timberwolves get: Larry Nance Jr.
- Cleveland Cavaliers get: Jake Layman, Jaden McDaniels, Ed Davis
Candidate No. 4 P.J. Tucker: Rosas finally gets his guy
P.J. Tucker has frequently been the subject of trade rumors since Timberwolves president Gersson Rosas got the gig. Trading for the veteran 3-and-D specialist would mean the Wolves would be acquiring a 35-year-old, 6-foot-5 forward capable of defending any position.
Tucker would give the T-Wolves a true defensive stopper who has seen it all throughout his career. Don’t confuse him for a rim protector, but he can help contain the opposing team’s best player.
However, with Tucker on an expiring contract after this season and already rumored to be unhappy with his compensation, can the Timberwolves really afford to part with valuable assets to bring in what could be a short-term rental? Probably not.
There is some positive history here with Tucker’s ties to Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas due to their time together in Houston. It’s possible if Tucker experienced success as a Wolf, finding common ground on an extension could be easier.
What might the Wolves have to part with to bring in the defensive stalwart? Good question.
As mentioned, they don’t want to mortgage their future away to risk him leaving in free agency. Whatever is sent to the Rockets would have to appeal to them, while not setting Minnesota back too far should the move backfire. Keep in mind, the Wolves only have a first-round pick in the 2021 draft if they land anywhere from 1-3 in the draft lottery.
- Minnesota Timberwolves get: P.J. Tucker
- Houston Rockets get: Jake Layman, Ed Davis, and three future 2nd-round picks
Admittedly, that may not be enough for the Rockets to bite. Minnesota may have to toss in a future lottery-protected first, and you can’t convince me that dealing a top pick for an aging vet on an expiring deal is a smart move. Houston will likely find a better offer elsewhere.
Even though we listed four power forwards who may be available for the right price, it would seem that none of them are exactly what the Wolves want next to KAT.
Ideally, they could plug in a rim-protecting big who is athletic enough to run up and down the floor, while being able to step out and hit the occasional three. Someone clogging the paint next to Towns would just cause spacing issues. This is why Rosas has targeted players like Hernangomez, Layman, and others with some shooting ability to play minutes at the 4.
Now, we are seeing struggles both offensively and defensively. At this point, a power forward with some two-way ability to handle their own on both offense and defense would be an improvement over the in-house options.
Jarred Vanderbilt has been a bit of an in-season revelation, starting for the first time in his young career. While V8 is a great rebounder with a motor that never quits, he is limited offensively by being restricted to the paint. Vando may be better suited providing energy off the bench as the Wolves seek a starter who is more capable of impacting the game.
Finding starting-caliber bigs on decent contracts is easier said than done. Typically, teams don’t let go of their two-way post players with skill, for good reason. If the Timberwolves hope to find a glimpse of optimism in a lost year, it’s going to take an all-around effort. One trade simply may not be enough to make a difference.