Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell could be traded this offseason
Brace Hemmelgarn. USA TODAY Sports.
The NBA’s perpetual bottom dwellers, the Minnesota Timberwolves, could trade their two best players this offseason. The Timberwolves have the worst record in the league this season at 11-36, even worse than the Houston Rockets, who recently broke a 20 game losing streak. When I say that the Timberwolves are perpetual bottom dwellers, I mean that they are genuinely awful, as evidenced by their one playoff appearance since 2005, which was a first round exit in five games back in 2018. For the Timberwolves to blow it up and trade KAT and DLo, they’d unequivocally be starting completely over, with little else aside from this year’s first overall pick Anthony Edwards.
The Minnesota #Timberwolves could be headed towards major changes in the offseason. In fact, one source tells @HoopAnalysisNet that both Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell will be on the trade block.
KAT’s struggles this season with both injuries and COVID-19 have been heavily documented, as the All-Star center dislocated his wrist and contracted the virus earlier in the season. Towns lost seven family members to COVID-19, including his own mother in the past year, so to say he has experienced significant turmoil in his life outside of basketball is putting it lightly. With that being said, KAT has still averaged 24 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 4 assists per game in 27 games this season. He’s one of the best shooting big men in the league, with a career three-point percentage of nearly 40%, on almost four attempts per game, with an average of six attempts per game this season. The 2015-16 first overall pick, KAT won the Rookie of the Year Award, while also collecting two All-Star appearances in his six seasons in the league.
Karl Anthony Towns' mom passed away last year due to complications from COVID-19.
His dad, Karl Towns Sr., is attending tonight's game, the first he's been to since his wife passed away.
"We in the house...gonna do it for his mom tonight."
DLo is a fellow 2015-16 draftee, going second overall right behind KAT, who he’s close friends with. He’s had an up-and-down career, which started with being drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers only to be dumped to the Brooklyn Nets two seasons later to clear space for the Lakers to draft Lonzo Ball. Russell thrived in Brooklyn for two years, as he became an All-Star in 2018-19 and led the Nets to a playoff spot in the same year. He signed with the Golden State Warriors in the offseason after the Nets signed Kyrie Irving, and was traded to the Timberwolves less than a year later for Andrew Wiggins and a first round pick (more on that later). This season, Russell has battled his own injuries, as he’s only played 20 games, and is currently recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery. For the season, Russell has averaged 19 points, 3 rebounds, and 5 assists per game.
The Timberwolves are undoubtedly hot garbage, but should they really be looking to trade these players? First, I’ll outline the reasons why they shouldn’t. For one, since DLo was traded over a year ago, DLo and KAT have only played eight games together. The unexpected number of injuries and COVID-19 obstacles have made it surprisingly difficult to get the two stars on the court together. The two players are good friends, and wanted to play together, but unfortunately their injuries haven’t allowed it. The Timberwolves may feel pressure to win now as their fanbase clamors for improvement, but both players fit their timeline to internally improve. KAT is only 25 and under contract until the end of the 2023-24 season, while DLo is 24 and under contract until the end of the 2022-23 season. Both players are signed to max contracts, and each will make between $28-36 million per year throughout the course of their contracts. This price is steep for two players who haven’t been able to convert individual performances to wins, but I’d attribute most of the Wolves’ record to bad luck and mismanagement.
Now for the reasons to trade these players. For one, that first round pick the Wolves traded in the Wiggins deal is top-three protected in the 2021 draft and unprotected in 2022. Minnesota has one of the most difficult remaining schedules left in the NBA, so while it would be in their best interests to try to lose as much as possible this season, there’s still no guarantee that their pick will wind up in the top three. According to Tankathon, the Timberwolves only have a 40.1% chance of landing in the top three of the Draft Lottery, and thus keeping their pick. In a 2021 NBA Draft that is loaded with talent, keeping their pick this year and then letting it go unprotected to the Warriors next season should be their priority. With that being said, the Timberwolves have less than a 50/50 shot at keeping the pick, and there’s little that they can do to improve their odds.
If Minnesota were to lose their pick this year, they could look at completely tearing it down and trading one, or both of DLo and KAT. I personally see it as an all or nothing situation, as it’s foolish to trade one of these players and upset the other and cause them to formally request a trade. Both should net at least one first round pick and one good young player in return, with KAT netting significantly more.
From a Boston perspective, I don’t see any reason to be interested in DLo. Personally, I’m a huge fan of him as a player, and love his underdog mentality. However, I don’t see any way Minnesota takes Kemba Walker in a trade, and if Kemba is still on the team with Jaylen Brown, it doesn’t make much sense positionally from Boston’s perspective. The more appealing target for most teams is the possibility of Towns being traded. Towns is a generational bigman, who hasn’t experienced much team success in his time in the league, but has fully displayed his ability to play as an offensive focal point and modern center. His defense isn’t great, and he’s prone to lapses and casual play on this end of the court, but he’s still young and has the physical makings of a capable, if not good, defensive player. For many young players, they often need a good system and culture to motivate them to play on the defensive side, and though Boston has struggled defensively this season, I still believe in Brad Stevens’ system.
Karl-Anthony Towns is the type of player I’d mortgage a team’s future over. If traded this offseason, he’d be under team control for three seasons before becoming a free agent. In order to match salaries, if the Wolves won’t take Kemba Walker, it would likely require the departure of both Marcus Smart and Tristan Thompson, along with at least one young player. On top of that, I’d anticipate trading 2-3 first round picks for Towns, while allowing the Wolves to take their pick of Boston’s young players. I’d assume they’d want Rob Williams to fill in as their new center, but honestly, let them pick.
A core four of Walker, Brown, Tatum, and Towns would terrorize the Eastern Conference for years to come, and create a big three of Brown, Tatum, and Towns that are all in the same age range. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, as the Wolves could keep their pick this offseason and build around a top three pick, Anthony Edwards, DLo, and Towns in a season less impacted by COVID-19, but Towns would be a dream acquisition. Players of Towns’ caliber rarely become available, and it makes me reminisce about the trade for Kevin Garnett. In order to trade for Towns, a lot would need to go right for Boston and a lot would need to go wrong for Minnesota, but in the words of the great KG himself, “Anything is possible!”