Timberwolves Lead

Minnesota’s Potential Point Guard Solutions

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The Minnesota Timberwolves are in a tough spot. They have one star player who isn’t ready to carry a team and an abundance of contracts that seemed like good ideas at the time, but were crippling long term because of the injuries. There is hope for the future though. The Wolves brought in Gersson Rosas, Sachin Gupta, and a slew of other intelligent, creative front office executives who have been very aggressive in June and July in the past.

Minnesota should be aggressive this offseason. Trades, signings, all of it. Specifically, the Timberwolves need a new starting point guard. Currently under contract, Minnesota has Jeff Teague and Tyus Jones. Teague was signed to be a bridge-gap starter, and Jones is a solid second unit option. These two separate moves for all-star point guards could tremendously change the course of the franchise, and make Minnesota basketball fun, but more importantly, successful.

1. Trade for Chris Paul

Despite there reportedly being “no trade market for Chris Paul“, Minnesota is a team that could look to change the guard with a mini blockbuster. It involves hefty salaries changing hands and some depth pieces sprinkled about.

Recently, there have been reports about Paul wanting out of Houston recently saying that he “cherished playing without James (Harden)” per ESPN’s Tim McMahon.

https://twitter.com/YahooSportsNBA/status/1140720797889077248?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

Timberwolves Receive: Chris Paul, PJ Tucker

Rockets Receive: Andrew Wiggins, Robert Covington, 2021 Unprotected First Round Pick

Minnesota ships out the bundle of disappointment with the title of “potential” that wears #22, a solid role player for a title contender, and a pick in a buyers market type of deal for a declining Chris Paul. This works out with the salary cap because of the figure of CP3 and Wiggins’ deals, and Houston still has money left for Covington. (According to Hoops Hype) 

Minnesota brings in a veteran guard who can be a rare piece of consistency for a young team with no real identity. He can be a teacher of the game to young guards Tyus Jones and Josh Okogie, an extension of Ryan Saunders on the court, and an incredible pick-and-roll partner for Karl-Anthony Towns.

Last season, Paul was one of the most efficient pick-and-roll point-guards in the NBA, even at his age. Even in a high isolation style offense, Paul managed to be in the 71st percentile in PnR efficiency last season. On the receiving end, Towns converted over 58% of all pick-and-*insert action here* plays for either points or a shooting foul. This is perfect for Towns to have a solid PnR handler with him, and a guy who can play really solid defense to rub off on some of Minnesota’s young talent and teach them some of his tricks that have made him so successful.

From Houston’s point of view, they get better depth around James Harden. You get Andrew Wiggins who still has some, yes, SOME potential yet. Though he is on a max contract, I’d rather have a chance at a good young Wiggins than a 34-year-old Chris Paul on an increasingly expensive max contract. Wiggins can still be a change of pace ball handler from James Harden to mix it up every so often. He can have these games where you see the flashes. He will score 32 points on 12-20 from the floor while adding a few rebounds and a few assists. Although those games are few and far between, they still happen.

You get Robert Covington, who it a very good role player, especially for a team like Houston. The Harden-Centric offense leads to kick out threes, and his catch and shoot three point percentage last season was 39%. Most of his looks from beyond would be off the catch, so he fits perfectly on offense. Defensively, he’s awesome. Plain and simple. Watching him last season on the Wolves was fun because we haven’t had a lockdown defender in a few years. For Houston, he can be what Trevor Ariza was for them, but better.

This trade is good both ways, Houston gets younger, another two players who fit the D’Antoni system, and gets $40M off the books for a 34-year-old PG who is in decline. On the flip side, the Wolves get a star veteran point who knows the game, and can make an impact immediately on both ends of the floor, and clear just a little bit of much-needed cap space.

2. Trade for and Sign D’Angelo Russell

This has been circulating around Wolves twitter for weeks now with a report earlier this month that they would aggressively pursue Russell in free agency. Russell is currently a restricted free agent and would have to be signed and then traded for.

Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald reported that Kyrie Irving was “preparing to join the Brooklyn Nets”

Due to this, the Nets have reportedly made it clear that they would not re-sign Russell if they sign Kyrie on July 1st.

D’Angelo Russell is a 23-year-old guard with a lot of talent, but a lot of potential. He can hit off-dribble threes, pull up threes, and averaged close to seven assists per game last season. At 6’5″, he has the size to play the two-guard next to whoever the Timberwolves have set at point guard. He can play with or without the ball– a great passer with vision from full court or 10 feet.

An intriguing part of this is that Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns are very good friends off the floor. So there is instant chemistry with your two stars going forwards, and if we’re being honest, keeping good chemistry is something Minnesota hasn’t recently been very good at. See “The Jimmy Butler Fiasco”. Towns could definitely help with recruiting and dragging D’Lo’s interest to the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

Russell and Towns are a very complimentary duo on the court as well. You get smart pick-and-roll basketball with two guys who can both stroke it from 25 feet, drive and use crafty moves to get to the basket. Towns can create shots in the post while Russell can create shots for himself and others. Finally, having a true playmaker might have a huge impact for guys who previously didn’t really get many good looks last season.

Another good thing about Russell is even if you wanted him off of the ball, he could play off because of his shooting ability. Tyus Jones can be a primary ball handler as well, so Russell could come off screens and get some good, high quality shots.

The only problem that comes with signing Russell is clearing the cap space to do so. Minnesota would have to clear about $40 million in cap space to do a sign-and-trade with Brooklyn.

The first step is trading Jeff Teague. Teague just opted into his $19 million player option a few weeks ago, and that money could be better spent elsewhere.

Timberwolves Receive: Trey Lyles, 2020 Second Round Pick

Nuggets Receive: Jeff Teague

Minnesota would be getting a floor-stretching big to play next to KAT when he’s working in the paint, but most importantly, only paying him $2.2 million to do so. This would clear $16.6 million in cap space for Minnesota to spend.

Denver would get an uptempo backup for Jamal Murray and they have the room to bring on somebody like that for one season. In February if it isn’t working out, he could be a buyout candidate or maybe dump him somewhere else because his contract expires next offseason.

Timberwolves Receive: Justin Jackson, Swap Best 2020 Second Round Picks

Mavericks Receive: Gorgui Dieng, Swap Best 2020 Second Round Picks

Step two is dumping Gorgui Dieng for next to nothing. Minnesota just needs to dump this contract.

Jackson can help the Timberwolves’ bench from the three point line, as he shot 37% last season from beyond the arc, but not much else.

Dwight Powell has declined his $10.2M player option, making him a free agent this summer. Dieng could slide in and fill that hole for Dallas.

After these two deals, Minnesota would be at roughly $21 million and just need a little bit more to get a substantial amount for a D’Angelo Russell contract.

Timberwolves Receive: Miles Plumlee, Kevin Huerter

Hawks Receive: Andrew Wiggins, 2022 First Round Pick

What a surprise, Wiggins goes too. Trading Wiggins for these two would make for a $34 million cap figure, which is more than enough to sign Russell.

Atlanta would potentially bite on this deal because Andrew Wiggins is still only 24 years old, he can be a good player if used correctly, and his fit next to Trae Young would actually be pretty intriguing. Also, sending a first round pick as compensation for the large scale contract can be additionally enticing.

Minnesota could add Plumlee as a solid backup option for KAT and Kevin Huerter is known as “Bootleg Klay Thompson” so they snag value in return for this scenario, and also would push their salary cap up to about $34 million, which is what this is all about:

Timberwolves Receive: D’Angelo Russell

Nets Receive: Dario Sariç, Josh Okogie, 2021 First Round Pick

Here it is. Minnesota gets the point guard of the future in a deal where they would then sign Russell to a four-year, $165 million contract, around the area of Suns guard Devin Booker. You can slot him in with Tyus Jones, Robert Covington, Taj Gibson, Karl-Anthony Towns and still have $7 million to sign a true bench role player. Russell fits that team because Jones and Covington are great defensively, so you can have Russell maybe hide a little bit on defense because his defensive capability so far in his pro career has been subpar.

The Nets would be getting a floor-stretching big, — something they don’t have right now — a very young defensive ace with a solid offensive template as far as his athleticism and body type, and draft capital to either trade down the line, or use on another young player.

Change of the (point) guard?

Minnesota could use both CP3 and D’Angelo Russell in different ways. CP3 would be a teacher for younger minds in the locker room and a great extension of Ryan Saunders on the floor, while D’Angelo Russell would fit in with the young culture that the Timberwolves have built over the last five seasons. It’s now up to Gersson Rosas to decide what path he wants to take for the future of the Timberwolves.

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