• The NBA trade deadline is approaching and the Minnesota Timberwolves are firmly in the playoff picture with one of their best starts in franchise history. The offense is one of the league’s best and the defense has seen improvements, though still ranks towards the bottom.

    The Wolves are still clearly a tier below the Warriors and Rockets and there are a number of areas of need that can be addressed in the coming weeks.

    Most of the useful assets were used over the summer in acquiring Jimmy Butler, and most of the cap space was depleted on the Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson signings, leaving the Wolves with limited ammo to make major upgrades.

    They’re also in a precarious position in terms of long-term flexibility. Their future is tied to the fate of Jimmy Butler and his decision to stay put. In the summer of 2019, Karl-Anthony Towns will be a restricted free agent and Butler will have a player-option to decide on.

    The Wolves have the leverage to retain Towns thanks to the nature of his rookie contract, but Butler is likely to opt-out and seek more money. This is standard procedure for NBA superstars.

    The Wolves need to convince Butler to re-sign because they can go over the salary cap to retain him, unlike a free agent from outside the organization. With the salary the Wolves already have committed to that season, Butler is the only option for the Wolves if they want to stay competitive.

    It’s a tough spot as the Wolves still have a couple of young pieces on the roster that can attract valuable veterans, but if they trade it all away and Butler walks they could be doomed long-term.

    At the same time perhaps Towns and Wiggins vault into superstardom in two years and the Wolves are set for the next decade no matter what Butler decides.

    In the interim the Wolves might be looking to add some 3-point shooting, a backup wing defender, preferably one who can do both as a “3-and-D” wing, and perhaps another point guard.

    More than likely though the Wolves will stay on the quiet end this deadline. They could pick a player up off the buyout market, or perhaps a minor swap to improve the bench, but they aren’t likely to have a major shakeup just yet.

    Not going anywhere:

    – Karl-Anthony Towns

    – Jimmy Butler

    – Andrew Wiggins

    For one reason or another these players aren’t going to be traded at the deadline. No real need to explain. They could get a huge haul for Towns and a big haul for Butler but that is not the route this team is headed down.

    Best available assets:

    – Justin Patton

    – Oklahoma City Thunder 2018 1st round draft pick

    – Tyus Jones

    – Gorgui Dieng

    – Wolves’ own draft picks from 2019 and beyond

    These are assets for the Wolves that could be moved at the deadline, though no player is necessarily being actively shopped by the team.

    Justin Patton hasn’t seen the floor for the Wolves this season as he continues to recover from a foot injury but he remains a valuable asset as a young big man in the first year of his rookie contract. Teams acquiring him hold up to eight more years of control over his rights.

    Patton is the type of player the Wolves should look to hang onto as a cheap long-term option, and they think highly of him. They won’t easily trade the young big but if the team looks to go all-in at the deadline, he is the best piece they can offer up.

    Similarly, Tyus Jones is still locked into his rookie contract, though has two fewer years remaining than Patton. Jones is an interesting piece as he’s proven to be a capable starting point guard, though, on a team surrounded by stars. He’s likely not ready to be the lead guy, but he’s been extremely valuable to the Wolves perhaps more so than to another team.

    The drop off from Jones to Aaron Brooks, or a different point guard off the free agent market would be huge, and potentially negate the value of whoever they acquire in a hypothetical Tyus trade. Therefore he’s less likely than Patton to be traded unless the Wolves are targeting a superstar somewhere, and all indications are against that.

    Gorgui Dieng is probably the most likely piece to get traded this deadline, but even so the odds remain very low. The Wolves have a capable replacement in Cole Aldrich and extra depth with Patton, and it could save their long-term flexibility if they match him with a shorter term deal.

    Perhaps Dieng would be a good fit on a bad team looking to add assets by taking on money, a team like the Nets for example. Dieng is also 28 which makes him a bit on the older side for a rebuilding team.

    He could also be matched up with a superstar’s salary in such a deal, though again it doesn’t look likely. Finding any trade partner for him though won’t be easy, and his value is lower now than it ever has been.

    The Thunder draft pick, likely to land in the 20s, is a piece the Wolves value highly since they owe their own first round pick to Atlanta. It perhaps could be combined with Dieng’s contract if the Wovles go down that road, but doesn’t have a ton of value to carry a deal given the position of the pick.

    The rest:

    – Cole Aldrich

    – Nemanja Bjelica

    – Aaron Brooks

    – Jamal Crawford

    – Taj Gibson

    – Shabazz Muhammad

    – Jeff Teague

    This group consists of those with minimal trade value and throw-in potential to match salaries. A few of these guys are good players and the Wolves could get compensation for each guy, but given the direction of the team the value they’d receive in return is more than likely lower than what they get on the court.

    This pertains to guys like Gibson, Teague, Crawford and Bjelica. While the Wolves could trade them away and get a pick or salary relief, the Wolves are looking to win right now, and individually trading those guys would hurt the team’s chances.

    Any of these players could be included to match salaries in a major trade but the Wolves aren’t close to any such deal.

    Aldrich could be a player to watch though. Only $2 million of the $7 million owed to him next year is guaranteed if he’s waived before June 20. That essentially makes him an expiring contract, and an attractive piece for a team looking to shed some salary.

    The Wolves could absorb a couple more years on a contract for a player while the other team gets out of the contract. For example, the Wolves could trade Aldrich to the Magic for Jonathon Simmons, who’s contract is fully guaranteed for next year, or possibly to Cleveland for Jae Crowder, who’s contract is fully guaranteed for two more years.

    The Wolves would likely have to throw in the Thunder pick in each deal, but those are likely the types of trade to expect this deadline, if any. Nothing major but a solid boost for the bench on the wing. If the Wolves go for a star it will likely be at the center position.

    Targets:

    These are players deemed most likely to be a fit for the Wolves this deadline. There have been no concrete rumors as of yet, this is just pure speculation and fit-based.

    Jonathon Simmons

    Jae Crowder

    Marco Belinelli

    Jeremy Lamb

    Garrett Temple

    DeMarre Carroll

    Bojan Bogdanovic

    DeAndre Jordan

    The trade deadline this year is on February 8 at 2:00 pm CT. Feel free to engage in your own mock trades using the ESPN trade machine. For a detailed look at the Wolves’ salary situation, check out the Wolves’ page on Spotrac.

Fantasy News

  • Jarred Vanderbilt
    PF, Minnesota Timberwolves

    Jarred Vanderbilt only appeared in two games after being traded to the Wolves, wrapping up his season with top-450 value.

    Vanderbilt was buried on Denver's depth chart and the story was the same in Minnesota. The youngster has put up some gaudy numbers at lower levels, especially in terms of rebounding, but outside of extremely deep leagues there isn't a ton of reason to keep tabs on him this offseason.

  • Jaylen Nowell
    PG, Minnesota Timberwolves

    Jaylen Nowell averaged 3.8 points and 1.3 assists in 10.1 mpg in his first NBA season.

    Nowell, the No. 43 pick in last year's draft, showed some scoring pop at the G League level, but he's a long way from a rotation spot — which means he's a long way from fantasy relevance. He finished with top-425 value.

  • Jontay Porter
    C, Memphis Grizzlies

    Taylor Jenkins confirmed that Jontay Porter has been a full participant at practice.

    Porter was set to miss his entire rookie season to rehab a knee problem that cost him his last college campaign, but he's getting some practice reps in and might see spot minutes in scrimmages. The athletic center could be a solid source of blocks down the line but fantasy players can track his progress from afar for now. The fact that Memphis can get a better sense of Porter's game from their time in the bubble is probably the most important development here.

    Source: Peter Edmiston on Twitter

  • Grayson Allen
    SG, Memphis Grizzlies

    Grayson Allen (left hip) has been a full participant in recent Grizzlies practices.

    Allen looks ready to go after a hip problem shut him down in February. While he may be healthy enough to play, earning minutes in the rotation is another matter entirely. Allen has done little to flash fantasy upside through his first two seasons, so anyone playing fantasy games during the Orlando bubble can leave him be, far from your lineups.

    Source: Peter Edmiston on Twitter

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo
    PF, Milwaukee Bucks

    Giannis Antetokounmpo was solid but failed to meet his lofty ADP in the 2019-20 fantasy season.

    He would end up ranked 14/20 in 8/9-cat formats. Antetokounmpo had an absurd ADP of 1.3 on ESPN and 3.9 on Yahoo, which is simply far too high for a player that is a huge drag on free throw percentage. The Greek Freak was one of the biggest negatives at the charity stripe this season, shooting an atrocious .633 from the line on 10 attempts per game. The rest of his numbers were more in line with expectations, but decreases in key stats offset other notable gains. Giannis established career-highs with 29.6 points, 13.7 rebounds and 1.5 threes per contest, but also had that counteracted by five-year lows in steals and blocks, which both sunk to 1.0 per game. Antetokounmpo is an elite NBA player but the cracks in his fantasy game were apparent. If the defensive numbers can rebound it'll ease the pain of those free throws, but it's going to be tough for him to meet such high expectations with that one glaring hole in his game. Some market correction may be in order this offseason.

  • Eric Bledsoe
    PG, Milwaukee Bucks

    Eric Bledsoe slipped down the fantasy rankings in 2019-20, ending up as a top-65/80 (8/9-cat) player mostly because of a decline in steals.

    Bledsoe has previously been a steady top-60 type, but this year his steals fell from 1.5 to just 0.9 per game. All of his other numbers are right in line with expectations, but it goes to show how valuable those cash counter stats are. Bledsoe is settling in as a 15 ppg guy for the Bucks and isn't tasked with offensive heavy lifting, but that's not really what he's drafted for in fantasy anyway. Bledsoe is still an efficient scoring guard, even if he's not a great 3-point shooter, and a correction in the theft department would boost him back to more familiar heights.

  • Nikola Jokic
    C, Denver Nuggets

    Nikola Jokic has arrived in Orlando but will not participate in Tuesday's practice.

    Jokic has cleared quarantine, which is the biggest step after he tested positive for COVID-19 in Serbia, but still needs results of other physical testing before getting back on the court. Assuming Jokic returns without any further hitches, he'll be one of the top players on the board for any fantasy games.

    Source: Chris Haynes on Twitter

  • Michael Beasley
    SF, Brooklyn Nets

    According to multiple reports, Michael Beasley has left the Orlando bubble after testing positive for COVID-19.

    Beasley was initially signed as a replacement player for the thinned-out Nets, but his place on the roster is now in question. Brooklyn needs bodies, and Beasley, who already is facing a five-game suspension, may not be able to get up to speed in time between his departure, quarantine, return and re-quarantine. Details are limited at this point but if Beasley tested positive after getting to Disney World, it should be of major concern to the NBA.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Donte DiVincenzo
    SG, Milwaukee Bucks

    Donte DiVincenzo authored a low-key breakout season with averages of 9.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.3 blocks and 1.3 3-pointers in 23.1 mpg.

    DiVincenzo did that while hitting at a .462 clip from the floor, which was good for top-115/100 (8/9-cat) value. He never really got the props that he deserved from the fantasy community, but DiVincenzo became a valued member of the Milwaukee rotation and was able to provide some excellent ROI for any GMs that hopped on board the train early. This was a big step forward after injuries limited him to 27 games as a rookie, and it's entirely possible that DiVincenzo keeps a similar role going forward. Fantasy players just have to hope that the efficiency and steals stick, as those numbers weren't exactly expected given his track record.

  • Lance Thomas
    SF, Free Agent

    The Nets have officially signed Lance Thomas as a Substitute Player ahead of the NBA restart.

    Thomas finds himself back in the NBA after sitting playing his last game in the 2018-19 campaign with the Knicks. He averaged 4.5 points, 2.5 rebounds and 0.5 threes in 17.0 mpg across 46 contests. He would normally just be a depth piece, but with the Nets depleted of talent for the league resumption, there is a possibility that he will play a decent chunk of minutes off the bench.

    Source: Brian Lewis on Twitter

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