Earlier this season, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ trade for Rudy Gobert started to appear like a massive mistake. Right now, however, it’s paying dividends. The Wolves are actually playing well this month. They’ve won six of their last eight games and are 12-6 in January. Minnesota has, in fact, climbed to sixth place in the Western Conference. This makes it interesting to see how the Wolves will behave at the upcoming trade deadline. Here we will look at what potential 2023 NBA Trade Deadline move the Timberwolves would regret.
Karl-Anthony Towns’ injury has been unfortunate, but the Wolves have managed to do well regardless. Earlier this season, D’Angelo Russell’s fit was a concern, but he has actually done better of late.
Keep in mind, however, that Russell is in the final year of his contract and due for unrestricted free agency. That makes him an intriguing tradable asset. However, there’s uncertainty about what the Timberwolves could get for him as interest in the $31.3 million earning 26-year-old guard is low. To upgrade the roster, Minnesota may have to give up another asset like Jaden McDaniels or Wendell Moore Jr. in addition to Russell. This decision will certainly impact the team’s roster and the upcoming off-season.
D'Angelo Russell is on FIRE 🔥
He is a perfect 4-of-4 from the 3-point linepic.twitter.com/CV3CQLYchd
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) January 29, 2023
Russell currently averages 17.8 points, 6.2 assists, and 2.7 triples per game. However, his defense remains problematic. With the team’s window to improve the roster closing, there is still a chance Russell is dealt at the deadline. If they trade D-Lo away, that could open up $20 million in cap space if they also waive Taurean Prince and Jordan McLaughlin.
Meanwhile, Anthony Edwards is set to receive a contract extension starting in 2024-25. That means Minnesota would have $130 million invested in three players (Edwards, Towns, and Gobert). As such, instead of waiting until the offseason, the Timberwolves can use Russell’s salary to trade for a starting point guard under contract through 2023-24.
For example, the Heat can move Kyle Lowry to Minnesota to shed his $29.7 million contract for next season. Mike Conley is another option, but Utah, owning the Wolves’ first-round pick in 2023, has no clear incentive to help Minnesota out.
Take note also that the Wolves can also wait until the offseason and explore sign-and-trade options with Russell. Besides its core players, the Wolves have eight players with salaries ranging from $1.1 million to $8.8 million. One of whom is Naz Reid, who has averaged 16.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks in eight starts and is a free agent in July.
With all these said, let’s look at what potential 2023 NBA trade deadline move the Timberwolves would regret.
Timberwolves trading for the sake of it
The future of Russell as the Timberwolves’ point guard is worth keeping an eye on this week. Moving Russell for more defensive consistency is the ideal scenario for Minnesota. He is set to become a free agent this summer and it may be challenging for the team to find a replacement if he leaves. Although he is eligible for an extension, we don’t know if any talks have taken place. His uncertain future makes him a trade option. Again, however, his $31.4 million salary makes it difficult to trade him, especially as most teams have their point guard positions filled.
We’re also not sure if there are a ton of takers for someone like Russell. Throughout his career, Russell has hurt the point differential for all four teams he has played. His career true shooting percentage is below average, and his defense, especially off the ball, is often lacking. That said, given his recent spurt of strong play, it’s still possible for Russell to excel in a more suitable role on another team. Replacing him with a player who needs the ball less could help unleash Anthony Edwards’ potential.
Hypothetically, acquiring Conley from the Jazz may seem ideal for the Wolves. That’s especially considering his experience playing with Gobert. Again, however, Jazz CEO Danny Ainge is unlikely to assist the Wolves as Utah holds their 2023 first-round draft pick. As for the Lowry option, the Miami Heat are not really open to trading him. Remember that Miami is currently performing well. Regardless of the outcome, the Wolves must focus on maintaining their flexibility moving forward.
Remember also that Minnesota’s new GM, Tim Connelly, may be cautious about making a trade after the Gobert deal received criticism. On the other hand, the aforementioned Reid is attracting attention from rival teams. This includes the Nuggets, with Bones Hyland a possible guy to be packaged in a deal.
Let’s go back to a possible sign-and-trade, though. Signing and trading Russell could benefit both D-Lo and the Wolves. Keep in mind that if he continues to perform well this season, he would give the Timberwolves their best chance to advance in the playoffs. That would then increase his bargaining power and allow him to command a salary that reflects his worth. Additionally, the Wolves would keep Russell’s salary slot beyond this season.
Looking ahead, the Wolves should still explore trading Russell. However, if no trade can help the team improve its odds of winning the West or the NBA championship, it would be unwise to make a trade just for the sake of it. This is especially since Russell is currently playing some of the best basketball of his career.