The Minnesota Timberwolves have looked, at times, like they were capable of competing in 2012-13. But with the February 21st trade deadline rapidly approaching, they'll need to figure out their immediate prospects once and for all.
The Wolves currently sit at 12th in the hyper-competitive Western Conference with an 18-26 record. But they're only five-and-a-half games behind eighth-seeded Houston, and six games behind seventh-place Utah.
Whether they decide they to compete for the playoffs in 2013 or they decide it would be better to plan for the long-term, general manager David Kahn and Co. will need to make a final decision in the coming weeks.
The result of that decision could manifest itself in countless ways, among them the trading of (or for) numerous players. Let's examine some of the latest rumors heading up to the fateful deadline day.
The Minnesota Timberwolves seem likely to be involved in some sort of transaction by the time the 3 p.m. trading deadline strikes this Thursday, as they have recently made three key players available.
According to CBS Sports’ Ken Berger, the organization is willing to move the No. 2 overall pick in 2011, Derrick Williams, plus backup point guards Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea.
In Minnesota, J.J. Barea is indeed available, as are Luke Ridnour and Derrick Williams, sources say.— Ken Berger (@KBergCBS) February 21, 2013
With only a few hours left to swing a deal, it’ll be interesting to see what Minnesota winds up doing. The team is currently 20-31 and sitting well outside of playoff contention, meaning it could be looking for future assets or a place to dump salary.
T-Wolves’ president David Kahn is certainly no stranger to controversy; so don’t be surprised if the organization pulls the trigger on a blockbuster.
UPDATE: Tuesday, Feb. 19, 11:22 p.m. ET by Dan Talintyre
Minnesota have reportedly been turned down by the Denver Nuggets in a possible deal Timofey Mozgov that saw Brandon Roy and a first-round pick heading to Denver.
The Minnesota Timberwolves were turned down on an offer of Brandon Roy and a first-round pick to Denver for center Timofey Mozgov, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.
Denver is combing the market further for offers on Mozgov. He will be a restricted free agent this summer, and the emergence of Kosta Koufos could make it hard for Denver to match an offer sheet for Mozgov.
The Timberwolves are trying to include Roy's contract into offers, selling the non-guaranteed value of his 2013-14 year as an appealing factor. Roy is rehabilitating his knees, and neither the Wolves, nor Roy, truly expect he'll be able to play again in the NBA, sources said.
Timberwolves GM David Kahn has been interested in negotiating a buyout with Roy, presumably as a way to show owner Glen Taylor he can get some money back on a failed free-agent signing.
A buyout could possibly come after the trade deadline, if Minnesota is unable to use Roy's contract to balance out the money of a trade.
---End of update---
UPDATE: Monday, Feb. 18, at 10:33 p.m. ET, by Dan Talintyre
With the trade deadline just days away from closing, the Minnesota Timber Wolves have reportedly been offering several first-round draft picks for some prestigious NBA talent.
Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski posted recently:
Minnesota has been aggressive in offering multiple first-round picks for established talent, league sources tell Y!
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) February 19, 2013
---End of update---
The Wolves brought in scrappy forward Lou Amundson for the veteran's minimum this offseason, hoping he could provide cheap, serviceable minutes in the frontcourt. But lately he's found himself slipping out of the rotation, and he could soon be on his way out of town.
Though Amundson likely has better immediate value than a protected second-rounder, such a trade would make a lot of sense for all three teams.
The Timberwolves could use his scrappiness down low—especially if the injuries keep piling up—but are looking less and less like a playoff team with each passing day. Why not shed him now and bring in a draft pick with potential?
For New York and Philadelphia, Amundson would be a cheap solution to speculative problems with frontcourt depth. Players like Amar'e Stoudemire, Marcus Camby and Andrew Bynum can't be counted on down the stretch. Amundson is one year removed from rotational playoff minutes and could provide quality performance for a pittance.
Amundson still gets occasional, garbage-time burn for the Wolves, but the team would not miss his production too much if he left. He missed 11 of the team's 14 games in December, and seven of their 17 in January. With Derrick Williams and Dante Cunningham blocking him from action, that doesn't figure to change any time soon. Especially with the recent emergence of Chris Johnson and Mickael Gelabale.
If he doesn't leave via trade, there's a "very real possibility" Amundson gets waived (via Minneapolis Star Tribune).
Though the bruising, bull-of-a-center from Montenegro has been at the core of Minnesota's 2012-13 campaign, speculation remains about Pekovic's future in Minnesota.
Per ESPN 1500, general manager David Kahn called Pekovic "a big part of what we're doing," but he also mentioned that internal opinions are split about the center's true value.
Pekovic will be a restricted free agent this summer, and the Wolves know that on the heels of his present campaign, it will likely cost a pretty penny (somewhere in the realm of $12 million) to re-enlist his services. He's averaging 15.9 points and 8.6 rebounds this season, and his PER of 19.62 is 35th among all qualified players—one spot ahead of All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge.
Plenty of contenders could use his franchise-altering production this season, but per that same ESPN 1500 report, "League sources remain confident that, if a Pekovic trade comes, there's a better chance it's this summer in a sign-and-trade."
That will provide David Kahn and Co. with the rest of the season to evaluate the value of keeping Pekovic. The team would obviously like to retain him, but next to Kevin Love's max-deal, and the slowly rising salaries of Derrick Williams and Ricky Rubio, keeping him might not be fiscally responsible.
Among the countless teams who could be interested in Pekovic are the Portland Trail Blazers, who, according to CSN Northwest, might want to bring him in to start alongside LaMarcus Aldridge.
They'll likely play hardball with his agent this offseason, and if that doesn't go well, there's a chance another team might swoop in and grab him. Provided it's for the right price, that is.
Ricky Rubio stirred up a whirlwind of trade rumors last week, when according to The Los Angeles Times, he told reporters:
"[Gasol] proved to the league he is one of the best," Rubio told reporters in Minneapolis. "He can pass. He can shoot. He can rebound. He can do a lot of things. I think if you use him in the right way, he is a top player in this league. If they don't want him, we are more than welcome to get him."
Things spiraled a little bit out of control from there, with eager bloggers taking to the airwaves to speculate about how Gasol would fit in Minnesota.
But that speculation was just that—speculative. Because there is absolutely nothing concrete linking Pau Gasol to the Timberwolves.
The Lakers' center was recently benched in favor of Earl Clark and made it clear that he was disappointed with the demotion. He started in Los Angeles' past two games, but he would obviously welcome a trade. Nothing besides a friendly remark from a countryman has linked him to Minnesota, however.
The Wolves would need to seriously have faith in their 2012-13 prospects to make such a trade, and as of right now, that hardly appears to be the case.
A vital cog in Rick Adelman's rotation earlier in the season, Luke Ridnour has seen his play and role diminish somewhat since Ricky Rubio's return from an ACL tear. Though he's still a part of the Timberwolves' starting lineup, he played only 25.3 minutes per game in the month of February, a trend that should continue going forward.
That's likely the overarching reason Minnesota general manager David Kahn will likely trade Ridnour by the Feb. 21 deadline, according to Chris Sheridan of SheridanHoops.com:
Luke Ridnour is being shopped by the Minnesota Timberwolves, and a league source told SheridanHoops.com “there is a good chance” the 10th-year point guard will be dealt before the Feb. 21 trade deadline.
Luckily for Minnesota, Ridnour should attract plenty of attention on the open market. He's a smart, veteran guard who many teams would covet as a backup option. It also doesn't hurt that his contract only runs through the 2013-14 season and runs a mere $4.32 million.
Meanwhile, shipping out Ridnour could be the latest shift toward the future for the Timberwolves. Many in the organization have wanted to see what a Rubio-Alexey Shved backcourt would look like, and moving Rindour would allow that to happen.
They won't get all that much in return, but Ridnour is likely as good as gone in the coming days.