As the trade deadline looms closer, now feels as good a time as any to round up some of the trade rumors that have been propagated in the local and national media over the past few weeks. The Minnesota Timberwolves are quiet but appear to be a team with trade potential. Needless to say, many discussions occur between front offices regarding players and many rumours are peddled by the media as a result. It’s only natural to dream after all. So this post is not meant to be prophetic, I have no idea what will happen, I can only comment on the possibilities that seem to have surfaced.
The most glamorous of the trade rumors involving the Timberwolves by far, I can barely arouse enough optimism to even wonder about the potential for a Rondo-Kevin Love pick-and-roll. I found this discussion based off a hypothetical idea from Sam Amico who proposed a trade of Rondo for Ricky Rubio and picks, which is flawed for multiple reasons. Firstly, I see little incentive for Boston to give up on a recovering Rajon Rondo for the type of package Minnesota would be providing.
Rubio, on the surface appears similar: a young, entertaining pass master with a flawed shot and hounding defense, but the reality is that Rondo’s shooting (and scoring in general) far exceeds that of Rubio’s. Rondo last season shot 50.8 percent from 16 feet out to the 3-point line, he also maintained an effective field-goal percentage (eFG) of 49.7, a reasonable number, definitely far from the ugly image painted by Rubio’s shooting woes. Highlighted before in these parts, Rubio has had an eFG% of 38.6 and 38.3 last season and this, respectively. His mediocre number of 35.5 percent from the aforementioned mid-range last season has sunk further to a disastrous 29.2 percent. So while Rubio has more value that he is given credit for, he does not match the type of production that an All-Star can provide.
More to the point, Minnesota do not even have the assets to think a deal of this type is likely. There are few coveted role players on the bench that carry value outside the organisation. Through injury (Chase Budinger), poor play (Alexey Shved) and unwieldy contracts (J.J. Barea), it would be tough to find any takers in the whole league, especially not the reloading Celtics who seem more interested in shedding salary than taking on lengthy mid-level deals.
This seemed to be little more than message board gossiping but the idea of a three-team Asik-Nikola Pekovic-picks deal intrigued me. It would work, apparently, by Asik coming to Minnesota, Pekovic going to an unnamed third team and that team sending draft picks or players to Houston.
Some fans may be perturbed at the idea of giving up a center who has averaged 20 points a game for the past month, but there is a definite argument to be had that Asik’s obvious offensive shortcomings will be made up for in steep defensive gains. Surprisingly, Asik has proven over his career to be a significantly rebounder with a career rebounding percentage of 20.7 percent to Pekovic’s 14.9 percent. This move would not go over well with the fan base who have watched Pekovic rise from an unknown second-round draft pick to a starting center with borderline All-Star aspirations, but in terms of building a winning team, it is not hard to imagine a scenario where the rim-protector trumps the low post scorer. The shared traits of winning teams suggest that aside from a superstar, an elite defensive presence in the paint is the most valuable of assets.
The required presence of a third team makes this very unlikely, especially as it requires taking on Pekovic’s five-year, $60 million deal which, regardless of his current form, is a large contract to take on whilst sending on further draft picks. Still, the Pekovic discussion needs to be had and it will be addressed in future posts. In the past few weeks he’s probably been Minnesota’s best player, he may also have earned himself the title of Minnesota’s best trade asset.
Undoubtedly, the most realistic scenario of these three, Andre Miller has expressed a desire to leave Denver (putting it mildly) after his two-game suspension for “detrimental conduct to the team” and it seems the Timberwolves have taken part in discussions with the Nuggets about this. We have no idea what the Nuggets expect for Miller, but you would not expect a disgruntled 37-year-old (38 in March) point guard to hold much value in the trade market. It can be debated, but many are of the opinion that the Timberwolves’ bench unit requires a more typical floor general than Barea and his slapstick abilities. His floor spacing is a strength but often he allows his game to be reduced to lone gunning, driving with little plan or hope for success until he gets fouled or misses.
Miller would undoubtedly provide a stable platform on which to build offense for the second unit and his defense, whilst extremely marginal, would not be worse than Barea’s. A push for the playoffs will most likely require an improved bench performance, as detailed last week, so maybe the Professor himself can provide answer without having to sacrifice much in return.