On the eve of the 2020 NBA trade deadline, the Minnesota Timberwolves pulled off a deal to pair All-Star guard D’Angelo Russell from the Golden State Warriors with longtime friend and franchise centerpiece Karl-Anthony Towns. In the exchange they sent over Andrew Wiggins, the former number 2 pick that never reached the potential everyone saw in him. It was perhaps the biggest deal made at the deadline and creates an interesting situation in Minneapolis.
It is well known that Russell and Towns are great friends, but they are still missing the last piece of their trio; Phoenix guard Devin Booker. They have been friends for many years and have recently vocalized their desire to team up at some point in their careers. As they all enter their prime, that may come sooner than later. And the Timberwolves are in position to make it happen.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have been a sorry franchise since trading Kevin Garnett to the Boston Celtics in 2007. They have the worst franchise win-loss record out of all active NBA teams. Trying to create this All-Star trio is probably their best shot at staying relevant, but that’s easier said than done.
Towns is on contract through the 2023-2024 season, and Booker and Russell are both locked in through the 2022-2023 season. Minnesota will want to land Booker as soon as possible to increase their chances of keeping all three of them together. Waiting until Booker and Russell become free agents is risky, since they might plan on meeting up somewhere else and then luring KAT there the following year. Making another blockbuster trade to guarantee the star trio in Minneapolis for two or three seasons is much more likely.
The problem will be creating a package that is attractive enough for the Suns to be willing to part with their best player before his contract is up. The Wolves will have 9 players on contract not including KAT and D-Lo for next season, but 7 of those players are age 22 or younger. Trading for young talent is a gamble. If a young player like Jarrett Culver starts to blossom into a star then trading for him will be an absolute steal for the Suns organization, since Booker may likely jump ship when his contract is up anyway. However, receiving a bunch of mediocre guys while giving up one of the best shooting guards in the league is a recipe for failure.
The next issue is making the money match up. Booker’s base salary for next season is over $29 million, and all of Minnesota’s young players are on much smaller contracts. How much will they be willing to give up and how much will that set them back? Offloading James Johnson’s $15 million contract is helpful but unlikely. In order to pull this off, a handful of promising young players is probably the only way this happens.
Maybe a third team can step in and try to cash in on some of the assets being thrown around. The Pelicans have shopped Jrue Holiday to some extent, and maybe the Suns could try and snag him to ease the pain of losing Booker. In exchange, the Pelicans could help take on a larger contract that helps the Wolves out while being rewarded with more young players and assets for their rebuild into the Zion era. Typically inter-conference teams don’t work this well together, but as far as hypotheticals go this seems beneficial to all involved.
I predict that Booker gets traded, but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t happen next season. The Wolves and the Suns may want to ride things out for another season and see where they stand and what they need before jumping the gun. It can be noted that their respective front offices are not highly renowned in the league so literally anything can happen.
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