Timberwolves Rumors: Looking for front court help?
The original report concerning the idea that the Timberwolves are looking for help in the front court came from Brian Windhorst on The Truehoop Podcast on Tuesday, in advance of the win over the Bulls in Chicago later that evening.
A) Yes, the Timberwolves need help. And yes, it makes a ton of sense for Tom Thibodeau and Co. to be exploring the trade market.
B) The front court rotation is shallow, with only Cole Aldrich and Nemanja Bjelica receiving regular minutes off the bench. But Aldrich won’t play against small-ball teams (see Sunday’s loss to Golden State) and only make sense for 12-15 minutes per game depending on match-ups, and Bjelica is exclusively a stretch-four and is perhaps best-utilized as a small forward.
C) The key word in point ‘B’ is rotation. The rotation is shallow, but not necessarily the talent. Jordan Hill is a legitimate NBA big man who can play both power forward and center, but has only played garbage-time minutes in three contests. The signing was a bit curious at the time due to fit more than anything, but the biggest issue is that it will no doubt be more difficult to find a better player on the trade market without giving up something of significance.
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D) It is true that the Wolves don’t have very many trade chips that would return low-to-mid-range talent in return. The non-young-star, non-worthless trade chips boil down to Ricky Rubio, Dieng, Shabazz Muhammad, Adreian Payne, and Tyus Jones.
E) Hard to see Dieng being traded in the wake of his recent contract extension, and Thibs apparently loves him. Payne would seem to have zero value, as his only true use is as a pure energy guy with the ability to occasionally knock down a wide-open perimeter jumper. But there’s no upside and no ability to play in the rotation for any team with legitimate playoff aspirations.
F) That leaves us with Rubio, Muhammad, and Jones.
G) There have been plenty of reports that Rubio’s trade value has basically tanked early this season, first due to injury and more recently due to poor play. Part of this is because of Thibodeau’s offensive system, and conspiracy theorists may suggest that the increase in Rubio-Towns pick-and-rolls of late could be to boost Rubio’s sagging numbers and showcase his ability — more than sending him to the corner to stand there does, at least.
H) Jones has played well in limited minutes, but it’s impossible to know whether or not Thibodeau views him as the backup to Kris Dunn once Rubio is eventually moved, or if Jones is the more likely chip to move and Rubio stays in the fold for quite a bit longer.
This, to me, is the biggest wild card in the entire situation: how does Thibodeau view Jones compared to Rubio, and what is Jones’ value on the trade market, also in comparison to Rubio.
I) It’s hard for me to see Thibodeau as a big fan of Muhammad, and he remains the most likely player of significance to be moved. While his energy off the bench is nice, he’s been as inconsistent as ever this season and simply isn’t knocking down his outside attempts (24 percent on threes, including just 31.3 percent from the corners).
My conclusion is this: Muhammad will be moved, and one of Jones or Rubio is gone by the end of the year. This could be part of a much larger, trade deadline-type deal, or, perhaps more likely, it will be separate moves.
If Rubio is moved, Sacramento seems like a solid target. They’ve long been rumored to have interest in the Spaniard, and the Kings have plenty of big men that should interest the Wolves, namely Willie Cauley-Stein and potentially Kosta Koufos, although the redundancy between the latter and Aldrich should be noted.
Who would have interest in Muhammad or Jones? Great question. It’s certainly something to track now that we’ve hit the December 15th deadline that allows teams to trade off-season acquisitions.
Let’s keep an eye on this one.