• 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

  • Delon Wright
    PG, Dallas Mavericks

    Delon Wright scored an efficient 15 points off the bench for Dallas on 6-of-8 shooting, adding four rebounds, one assist and three steals in Saturday's win over Toronto.

    Wright played well and was extremely efficient for the Mavs. The three steals are great and his value lies within his abilities to generate defensive statistics.

  • Jerome Robinson
    SG, Los Angeles Clippers

    A career night for Jerome Robinson who scored 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting, adding five 3's, four rebounds, one assist, two steals and two blocks in Saturday's win over the Hawks.

    Robinson got an extended run in tonight's 150-101 blowout win over the Hawks. A nice game for the second-year player.

  • Terance Mann
    PG, Los Angeles Clippers

    Getting the start, Terance Mann scored a career-high 13 points in 33 minutes of action, adding six rebounds and eight assists in Saturday's blowout win over the Hawks.

    With teammate Patrick Beverley out, Mann got the start and made the most of it earning career highs in points, rebounds, and assists. This is a great game for him, and something for him to build off of, but this type of output should not be expected again pending prolonged injuries to Beverley.

  • Paul George
    SF, Los Angeles Clippers

    Paul George was on fire in Saturday's 150-101 blowout win against the Hawks scoring 37 points in 20 minutes, adding four rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block.

    In only his second game back from injury, George has scored 70 points in 44 minutes of total play. Needless to say he has already found his groove. Had the game not been a blowout from the start there is no telling how many more points he would have racked up. It is also worth noting that he shot 11-of-11 from the line tonight-coupled with the 10-of-10 from last game- he has not missed a FT yet. This torrid pace is probably not sustainable but the high usage and excellent efficiency, paired with "load-management" nights for teammate Kawhi Leonard, make George a possible top-10 player this year pending any re-occurring shoulder issues.

  • Trae Young
    PG, Atlanta Hawks

    Trae Young scored 20 points (4-of-16 from the floor and 10-of-12 from the line) on Saturday with six assists and two threes in a 150-101 blowout loss vs. the Clippers.

    The Hawks were destroyed on Saturday so throw this game out the window. Young is a top-30 player so far with averages of 26.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, 8.8 assists and 3.3 threes. Forget about this game and enjoy watching Trae post top-20 value this season.

  • Ivica Zubac
    C, Los Angeles Clippers

    Ivica Zubac fouled out in only 17 minutes of play after scoring seven points, nine rebounds, four assists and four blocks in Saturday's win over the Hawks.

    In less than 16 minutes a game this season Zubac is providing top-100 value thanks to highly efficient FG and FT percentage, high rebounds and good blocks without hurting owners anywhere. He is an easy player to own that can be picked up and dropped on the waiver-wire without raising too many eyebrows.

  • De'Andre Hunter
    SF, Atlanta Hawks

    De'Andre Hunter struggled from the floor on Saturday, shooting 5-of-14 on his way to scoring 12 points.

    Hunter added a steal and a three but he is hurting more than he is helping by shooting .369 from the field this season. The drag on field goal percentage is too big to warrant rostering Hunter right now outside of deeper leagues.

  • Montrezl Harrell
    PF, Los Angeles Clippers

    Montrezl Harrell scored 17 points in a blowout win over the Hawks, adding four rebounds, two assists and a block in 23 minutes off the bench Saturday night.

    Harrell would have picked up a few more boards and points had the game been tighter but found his services not needed in this blowout win. He will continue to provide great energy off the bench for the Clippers and a high FG percentage, points, and rebounds for fantasy owners.

  • Lou Williams
    SG, Los Angeles Clippers

    Lou Williams scored an easy 25 points off the bench in Saturday's win over the Hawks on 5-of-13 from the field and a perfect 15-of-15 from the line, also adding six rebounds and six assists.

    In 23 minutes off the bench Williams scored 25 points, making more free throws than shots attempted. In this crazy game Williams was able to get to the line with ease and made a mockery of the Hawks' young defenders, who failed to adhere to the scouting report and fell for pump-fakes. This was an excellent game for the 14th-year guard.

  • Damian Jones
    C, Atlanta Hawks

    Damian Jones started and scored 11 points (4-of-7 from the field) on Saturday with three rebounds and four blocks in 23 minutes.

    Jones and Alex Len (five points in 18 minutes on Saturday) are currently fighting for playing time at center. Jones and Len are both low-end streaming options for big man stats, but neither player can be relied on right now.