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Meet another one of the NBA’s most puzzling teams, the Minnesota Timberwolves!
While Denver actually moved some pieces for future assets, Minnesota did not. In fact, they dealt a younger player with the potential to bring in a somewhat sizable return (Thaddeus Young) to the Nets for Kevin Garnett.
While I like the team dealing for Garnett in terms of what he brings to the team, Young was too much of a valued commodity to ship out for an aging veteran. Granted Garnett can still contribute, plus, he’ll fill seats and will be a mentor to Minnesota’s young players. Still, Young was too much of an asset to give up for KG.
That wasn’t Minnesota’s only trade activity this season, they also traded Mo Williams and Troy Daniels to Charlotte for Gary Neal and a second-round pick in 2019. While dealing Williams was the right move, dealing him and a young player for Neal and a second-round pick in four years is puzzling. Neal is on an expiring contract and is still with the team, meaning they didn’t trade him for more assets.
Including Neal, here is a list of veteran players Minnesota should have traded, but didn’t.
You could also make the case for Ricky Rubio being dealt, but at only 24-years-old, he may yet be part of the Timberwolves next contending team (while still in his prime).
The fact of the matter is that the Wolves need to create more minutes for their younger players. This means guys like Zach LaVine, Adreian Payne, Anthony Bennett, Glenn Robinson III and Gorgui Dieng should all be playing a high number of minutes similar to Andrew Wiggins. However, with players like Pekovic, Martin, Budinger and Neal on the roster, it becomes difficult. The easiest way to give the youngsters more minutes is to simply take the veterans off the roster. The T-Wolves should have done this at the deadline. If they did, maybe they would have gotten some decent returns to help build for the future and hoard even more assets.
Considering Aaron Afflalo and Isaiah Thomas both fetched first-round picks for their old clubs, one would think Kevin Martin could have received a similar return. Pekovic’s contract probably scared some teams away, but at 29-years-old, he’s a dependable center who can score and rebound. Budinger and Neal could have provided interested teams with wing depth and experience.
Minnesota needs to give more minutes to younger players, while stockpiling assets for the future. This is the easiest path towards evolving into a legitimate contender. The only thing standing in the way of both of those objectives? Dealing veteran players. The Timberwolves should have, but simply didn’t do this, making them one of the “losers” of the trade deadline.
Check out the rest of Know Hitter’s series on the NBA Trade Deadline Winners and Losers. The Winners: Boston, Detroit, Miami, Philadelphia and Milwaukee. The “Losers”: Los Angeles (Lakers), Phoenix , Denver and Minnesota.
Losers: Denver Nuggets
Introducing one the most puzzling teams in the NBA, ladies and gentlemen, the Denver Nuggets!
Puzzling, that’s certainly one way to describe the Nuggets. The team started off with some positive trades, for a rebuilding team (which Denver clearly should be given that they play in the West), then proceeded not to unload a bevy of veterans who could have brought in a return anywhere from decent to sizeable.
First with the good—the Nuggets somehow managed to extract two first-round picks from Cleveland for Timofey Mozgov (the Carmelo Anthony trade, the gift that keeps on giving) earlier in the season.
The Nuggets later traded Aaron Afflalo to Portland for a first-round pick, which is a positive. The team also acquired young players Will Barton, Victor Claver and former fifth overall pick Thomas Robinson in the deal only to waive Claver and Robinson. Essentially, they got Barton and a first-round pick for Afflalo. It’s not outstanding, but it’s not too bad either.
After that, the moves (as well as lack of moves) started to become puzzling.
Denver burned a first-round pick to rid themselves of JaVale McGee’s contract by sending the pick and the center to Philly (one of my trade deadline winners, you can read about that here). For a rebuilding team, ridding themselves of a first-round pick doesn’t make too much sense.
While losing Mozgov, Alonso and McGee would signal a tear-down rebuild in Denver, the team didn’t trade away any of its other veterans who could have fetched some sort of return.
Wilson Chandler’s name was thrown around as a potential trade candidate, but is still on Denver’s roster. Similarly, Ty Lawson could have been moved. While extremely talented, the point guard’s age (27) likely prohibits him from being part of a rebuilding process. Considering the high-returns fellow point guards Reggie Jackson and Michael-Carter Williams fetched in trades, it may have been prudent for Denver to deal the former Tar Heel if they were all-in on rebuilding.
Additionally, over-30 guards Jameer Nelson and Randy Foye could have brought in some kind of return given the pair’s respectively modest salaries.
While Denver could have traded all those players, the team didn’t. It’s as if they have one foot in rebuilding mode with the other firmly planted in the land of contending.
If anything, the fact that Lawson, Danilo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried are still on the roster, coupled with an attempt to stockpile assets and clear salary means Denver will likely try and reload for next season.
The team’s brass will have its work cut out for them in the offseason. Having major contributors like Lawson, Gallinari, Chandler and Faried in their respective primes signals an intent to win. The presence of veteran role players like Nelson and Foye only reinforce that notion. However, while half of the roster is built for contending, the other half may not be. Younger players like Jusuf Nurkic, Gary Harris and Barton need major minutes to flourish, they likely wouldn’t get major minutes on a contending team.
Check out Know Hitter’s series on the NBA Trade Deadline Winners and Losers. The Winners: Boston, Detroit, Miami, Philadelphia and Milwaukee. The “Losers”: Los Angeles (Lakers), Phoenix , Denver and coming soon—Minnesota.
After compiling 48 wins last season, the Suns brought in Isaiah Thomas to augment current guards Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe. With Bledsoe the only member of the trio still on the roster, it’s safe to say that the Phoenix Suns destroyed their point guard situation.
Phoenix shipped Dragic to the Heat and Thomas to Boston.
What was there return for two point guards capable of scoring 20 points per game? Brandon Knight, Marcus Thornton and some picks.
Both transactions also saw the Suns acquire John Salmons, Kendall Marshall and Danny Granger. However, Salmons and Marshall were both waived, and Granger could still be bought out.
Phoenix did acquire first round picks in 2016, 2017 and 2021, but the cost to acquire those picks was high. The 2016 pick is Cleveland’s and will likely be somewhere in the 20’s. Miami’s pick in 2017 could be in the 20’s as well, if not the late teens. 2021 is the lottery ticket. If the Heat are dreadful at that point, it’ll be a nice consolation prize, albeit an extremely late one.
The Suns also lost recent first-round pick Tyler Ennis in the trade (who also happens to be a point guard), an out-of-favor, but still young and useful center in Miles Plumlee.
Dragic was likely to depart via free agency over the offseason, so maybe the Suns did well to move on from him, but the return they received isn’t exactly outstanding considering what Reggie Jackson was moved for and Dragic’s talent in general.
The return for Thomas is another move that benefits the other team in the trade more than Phoenix. Thomas may not have been a perfect fit with the Suns’ other pieces, but a pick in the mid-to-late 20’s and the expiring contract of Marcus Thornton isn’t exactly anything to write home about—especially considering Thomas’ offensive capability.
The addition of Brandon Knight will help the Suns recover, but they just simply gave up more assets than they acquired.
Check out Know Hitter’s series on the NBA Trade Deadline Winners and Losers. The Winners: Boston, Detroit, Miami, Philadelphia and Milwaukee. The “Losers”: Los Angeles (Lakers), Phoenix and coming soon—Minnesota and Denver.
All stats courtesy of http://www.basketball-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.
Losers: Los Angeles Lakers
Maybe it’s unfair to put the Lakers here, after all they’ve been without three of their best players, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Julius Randle, for long stretches due to injuries. However, the Lakers still remain a “loser”.
Admittedly, the team has a strange roster in terms of salary concerns. Kobe takes up a monster cap hit while Nash and Jeremy Lin are on sizeable, expiring contracts. Additionally, the team is flush with veterans on relatively cheap, expiring contracts (Carlos Boozer, Ronnie Price, Wayne Ellington, Wesley Johnson) and younger players on manageable deals (Ryan Kelly, Robert Sacre, Ed Davis, Jordan Clarkson, Tarik Black). Throw in Nick Young and Jordan Hill on reasonable contracts and you have the Lakers’ roster.
If one thing is for certain with Los Angeles, it’s that they want to be a contender as soon as possible. So keeping players like Nash and Lin around instead of dealing them for future salary commitments makes sense in terms of chasing a big fish or two in free agency.
The big problem with the Lakers is that they don’t really have much in the way of assets. Whether it be young players or picks, the Lakers have a pretty bare cupboard—at least compared to other struggling franchises like the Magic, Timberwolves and 76ers. That’s why it’s puzzling the team didn’t move players they felt weren’t part of their long-term future for assets, even if those assets were second-round draft picks.
Ryan Kelly could have been dealt to a team seeking a stretch four (Phoenix perhaps?) while Ed Davis could have received a fair return given his production and upside on such a manageable contract. Teams looking for an energy big could have acquired Robert Sacre. Wayne Ellington is averaging nearly 10 points per contest on a contract that calls for less than $1 million.
Jordan Hill is another player who could have been dealt. The former lottery pick is averaging 12.4 points and 8 rebounds and provides value as a floor-spacing big who can also rebound. Moving him would have freed up more money to chase free agents over the summer, but the team may feel he can contribute on a contending team.
The fact that the Lakers had so many players on inexpensive contracts meant they could have dealt them to just about anyone. It’s hard to imagine the team keeping a lot of this roster together for next season given the dreadful record the team has posted, so it’s a little confusing as to why the team didn’t do anything. The fact that they didn’t do anything is a bit puzzling. Because of that, the Lakers are a “loser”.
The Lakers will hope that they can turn their upcoming cap flexibility and bottom-feeding roster into a contender come next season. If not, you can probably expect more reactions like this out of Kobe Bryant.
All stats courtesy of http://www.basketball-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.