As we sit a month away from the NBA’s trade deadline, the Timberwolves are in a very odd position. While the team has dropped 10 of its past 15 contests coming into Jan. 10, Minnesota still sits 11th in an exceedingly top-heavy Western Conference, just 1.5 games out of the eighth and final playoff spot. There’s also the matter of Karl-Anthony Towns’ health. The All-Star has been out for almost a full month now with a mysterious knee issue, one that’s kept him in listed as “questionable” for essentially the past three weeks. Still, if Towns is due to return sometime soon, it’s not hard to convince yourself that the Timberwolves have the talent necessary to get bounced by a team from Los Angeles in the first-round.
Here’s what you need to know about Minnesota moving forward.
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Update, Jan. 27: I know NBA Trade Season can get a bit nutty, but should the Timberwolves really be considering dealing Karl-Anthony Towns and/or Andrew Wiggins? I mean, I get that the team is struggling and is 15-31, toward the bottom of the West right now. But even after nine losses in a row, it doesn’t seem like KAT and Wiggins are the issue. Minnesota essentially doesn’t have a real NBA PG. No offense to Shabazz Napier, but he’s just not suited to guard most starting PGs night in and night out.
Jarrett Culver is just a rookie and is being thrust into a ton of minutes. Outside of the starting five, there’s absolutely no depth on the bench. It’s to the point where undrafted rookie PG Jordan McLaughlin is playing 20 minutes on some nights. The T-Wolves issues are personnel based, but it has nothing to do with Towns and Wiggins. I don’t think tearing down the team makes any sense. It would have to take the right deal for either player to even consider a trade. Plus, both KAT and Wiggins are making the max and are signed through 2022-23, contracts that aren’t easy to just move.
— Ben Zweiman
Update, Jan. 16: The Teague deal was apparently a move to set up a larger move by the T-Wolves, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported Thursday afternoon. We always knew Minnesota was interested in D’Angelo Russell, and the Wolves still have a lot of work to do to get a deal done. Robert Covington’s salary would also need to be cleared to make D’Lo’s max contract fit. We also know the Warriors aren’t interested in dealing Russell during the season, though I imagine if the right deal came along, they may budge. We’ll see how this one shakes out.
Covington had this to say when reporters asked him about trade rumors:
Covington, when asked recently about the weekly rumors of teams trading for him: “I’m not even focused on that. My main focus is this team & what I do every day. I’m not going to get caught up in rumors or hype or whatnot. I’m a Minnesota Timberwolf. That’s all my focus is.”— Chris Hine (@ChristopherHine) January 16, 2020
Update, Jan. 16: The T-Wolves have traded PG Jeff Teague to the Atlanta Hawks for Allen Crabbe, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Thursday.
Atlanta has traded guard Allen Crabbe to Minnesota for PG Jeff Teague and Treveon Graham, league sources tell ESPN. Hawks get a backup for Trae Young.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 16, 2020
Minnesota also shipped off Treveon Graham. The move is the first for the T-Wolves in a pre-deadline that should feature a bunch of players moving. We could see Robert Covington become the latest player to be shipped out by Minny.
The move means a decent amount for fantasy basketball purposes. Shabazz Napier has the PG job all to himself now. He’s on pace to set career highs in just about every statistical category starting for the Timberwolves.
— Ben Zweiman
Update: Find a solution at point guard
Jeff Teague led the Timberwolves in assists last year but has been removed from the starting lineup this year because of his lackluster performance. Teague will be a free agent after this season and it’s evident that he’s not a long-term solution at point guard. Shabazz Napier and Culver have filled in as primary ball handlers and distributors while Teague has been relegated to a bench role, but neither appears to be starting point guard material for a team looking to contend. KAT being injured hasn’t helped Minnesota’s playoff hopes, and pawning Teague off on his expiring contract could help the team acquire a more suitable playmaker or a pick to draft one down the road.
— Ameer Tyree
Back to Trusting the Process?
The term “three and D” gets thrown around a lot in the NBA circles, but there’s a reason for this anomaly: every team in the league needs wing defense and every team in the league wouldn’t say no to a little more shooting. For the past few seasons, one of the dictionary definitions of this archetype of player has been Robert Covington. The 29-year-old, traded to the Wolves as part of the Jimmy Butler package in 2018-19, is currently in the second-year of a very fair four-year, $47 million contract given to him initially by the 76ers. So, in a way, it makes sense that Philadelphia might want him back. According to The Ringer, the 76ers have inquired about Covington, who is sure to be viewed as a key rotation addition by many contending teams looking to make a move prior to Feb. 6. Covington isn’t having the best campaign in terms of shooting, yet his 2.6% steal rate is the 10th-best mark in all of basketball and there should be many teams vying for his services. If Minnesota gets wowed by an offer, it’ll be hard to say no considering its glut of young wings (Josh Okogie and Jarrett Culver) and the recent emergence of Gorgui Dieng as a viable starting power forward.