Will the Minnesota Timberwolves make a move before the NBA trade deadline?
Minnesota (17-37) has one of the youngest and most athletically gifted rosters in the league, as Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, and Karl-Anthony Towns demonstrated during All-Star weekend in Toronto. The Wolves also have won three of its last four and have demonstrated that they can beat some of the top teams in the NBA. All three of Minnesota’s recent wins were against playoff teams and the Wolves are now 10-20 against teams with a .500 or better record, which is three more wins against winning teams than Memphis has and the same amount that Houston and Dallas has.
Wiggins, LaVine, and Towns are extremely nice building blocks, and all three got to show their stuff this past weekend. Wiggins, the team’s leading scorer, tallied 29 points and doled out five assists as he made 13-of-15 shots from the field. More importantly, Wiggins took over down the stretch, scoring seven points over the last 1:40, while leading the Wolves’ comeback attempt. Wiggins is an elite scorer, more specifically a slasher, but really doesn’t provide much else.
LaVine had a fantastic weekend winning his second straight slam dunk contest and was named MVP of the Rising Star game, dropped 30 points on 13-of-20 shooting from field along with seven rebounds. The 20-year-old has shown dramatic improvement over his rookie campaign but is not a point guard or great shooter.
Towns gives the Wolves a low-post scoring threat and defensive presence for years to come. The All-Star Skills champ has produced 30 double-doubles this year, averaging 17.1 points along with 10.1 rebounds and 1.8 shots while shooting 54.4 percent from the floor.
Minnesota’s biggest problem is that they aren’t getting much production from anyone other than those three players. The Wolves rank 21st in the league in scoring offense (100.4), 23rd in scoring defense (104.1) and 25th in rebounding (42.2). They also are the worst three-point shooting team in the league, making just 4.9 triples a game on 15.3 attempts (31.7 percent), and are lacking depth up front.
It is not that the Wolves don’t have other talented players. Ricky Rubio, Shabazz Muhammad, and Gorgui Dieng would fit the bill. Rubio is still one of the best distributors in the game and a good on-ball defender but he still has not found a jumper, though the 25-year-old has tallied double-figures in four of his last five games.
Muhammad is a great scorer off the bench who gets most of his points in the paint. The 23-year-old can step out behind the three-point line but is not overly efficient from there.
Dieng is a force in the middle, particularly on the defensive end. The 26-year-old has produced four consecutive double-doubles and is averaging 16.2 points and 10.2 caroms in his last five contests.
The Wolves will have to address their issues going forward and why not do it prior to the deadline. And that is precisely what they reportedly plan to do.
Chris Broussard of ESPN is reporting that the Wolves have inquired about the possibility of acquiring Miles Plumlee from the Milwaukee Bucks. Plumlee has seen his most playing extended time over the past seven games than he has since a three-game stretch in the middle of December. The 27-year-old has contributed 5.4 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks in around 15 minutes of action per contest. Plumlee, who has made 110 career starts, would help the Wolves on the defensive end and with rebounding. His offensive abilities are limited to scoring off of dunks and putbacks.
According to Darren Wolfson of ESPN, the Wolves are also interested in Sacramento guard Ben McLemore. McLemore, who has drawn interest from other teams — most notably from the Cleveland Cavs — has seen his minutes dwindle to around 21 per game this year. The 23-year-old is averaging 7.7 points a game despite knocking down a career-high 45.1 percent of his shots overall and 37.2 percent of his long range attempts.
While Minnesota is interested in adding a few players, they are more likely to be sellers than buyers. The Wolves have been trying to unload veteran shooting guard Kevin Martin but has found no takers. However, according to the Miami Herald, the Miami Heat maybe interested in the 33-year-old if he is bought out.
Martin, who has missed the team’s last nine games after suffering a wrist injury, is shooting a career-low 37.5 percent from the floor while averaging 11.3 points, 1.3 assists, and 2.0 rebounds in 22.6 minutes per contest this year.
The Wolves also would like someone to take Adrian Payne off their hands. The 24-year-old has struggled to find a role as he isn’t knocking down perimeter shots as consistently as he did at Michigan State and has struggled on the defensive end. Payne has split time between the Wolves and the D-League, averaging 2.7 points along with 2.0 rebounds in just less than 10 minutes of action in the 33 games he has appeared in.
Surprisingly, Rubio’s name has come up in trade talks with the New York Post indicating that the Indiana Pacers were interested in the 25-year-old. The problem for Rubio is that he is not a shooter; he is shooting 36.1 percent from the field and 29.2 percent from beyond the arc this season. For his career, Rubio is shooting 36.6 percent from the field and 30.1 percent on three-point attempts.
Here is the thing with trading Rubio: the Wolves don’t currently have another point guard on their roster, so if they do deal him they need to get another point guard as LaVine is not a true point guard. Plus, Minnesota is likely asking for a lot in return.
ESPN Insider threw out an interesting trade proposal that involved Rubio in a three-team deal. The gist was that Rubio and Dwight Howard would end up in Atlanta while Houston would receive Al Horford, Jeff Teague, and Kyle Korver. Minnesota would get Patrick Beverly, KJ McDaniels, Donatas Motiejunas, and Thabo Selfolosha.
[photo by Stacy Bengs/Associated Press]