Who should the Timberwolves target at the trade deadline?
The Minnesota Timberwolves currently sit on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture, and like many playoff hopefuls, they'll probably be looking to upgrade their team come the trade deadline.
Unfortunately for Minnesota, it's not exactly well-stocked with assets.
Needless to say, unless the Timberwolves are looking to deal one of their core players (not totally out of the question, but implausible), you can pretty much count them out of this season's blockbuster deals.
The good news is that there are a lot of losing teams trying to jockey for draft position, and as such, there are still some nice bargains available.
All statistics accurate as of 2/4/2014 and courtesy of Basketball-Reference unless specifically stated otherwise.
Turiaf's return has helped, but Minnesota still needs more rim protection.
The Timberwolves have two real weaknesses—rim protection and three-point shooting.
Minnesota is among the league's worst three-point shooting teams.
Just three of its players are hitting over 34 percent from outside, and the team is shooting just 31 percent from the corners, the second-lowest percentage in the league, per NBA.com.
Opponents are also shooting 65 percent at the rim against the Timberwolves, by far the highest rate in the league, per NBA.com. These are bad problems for a potential playoff contender to have, especially in an absolutely brutal West.
Fortunately for Minnesota, there are a few players available for cheap that could go a long way toward helping it shore up these problems. Let's take a look at a few of the more realistic options.
Fredette has been a per-36-minute stud this season.
Fredette's a career 40 percent shooter from deep and is hitting a whopping 47 percent on the year.
Like most cheap shooters, Fredette is a big minus on the defensive end, but unlike most cheap shooters, he's a competent shot creator and secondary ball-handler.
Fredette's averaging nearly five assists per 36 minutes, and while his high turnover rate (17 percent) takes some of the luster off that number, he's certainly capable of creating shots for himself and his teammates.
Part of the problem with the Timberwolves bench is that J.J. Barea is more or less its only source of offense.
Chase Budinger's return was supposed to alleviate a lot of Barea's offensive responsibility, but he's been disappointing thus far. Fredette would at the very least take some of the pressure off of Barea and could help out with the second unit's spacing as well.
Fredette has always been a terrific spot-up shooter, but he's also been surprisingly good in the pick-and-roll this season, per Synergy Spots Technology (subscription required).
He turns the ball over a tad too much in those sets, but he's an able passer and can hit those Stephen Curry-esque pick-and-roll threes that put so much pressure on opposing defenses.
Fredette's averaging just 11 minutes a game with the Kings, and Sacramento likely wouldn't ask for much in return for him. Given the minutes, he could be an intriguing off-the-bench scorer for the Wolves.
Meeks has been terrific from deep this season.
Still, the Lakers are clearly in sell mode, and Meeks' deal expires after this season. If they think Meeks is likely to be out of their price range (unlikely since it's the Lakers, but still), they'll almost have to think about flipping him at the deadline.
Meeks is one of just a handful of players hitting 40 percent from deep on over five attempts per game, and he's a strong off-ball scorer that the Wolves could utilize in the same way that they do Kevin Martin.
He can also handle the ball in a pinch, though he doesn't have much of an off-the-bounce game and shouldn't be relied on to consistently create his own shot.
Unlike most of the guys listed here, Meeks isn't a half-bad defender.
He's certainly no wing stopper, but he can switch between the 1, 2 and even the 3 in super small sets, and playing Meeks instead of Corey Brewer with the Wolves starters could make for a devastating offensive lineup (and probably wouldn't lose much defensively).
Again, this is unlikely considering how productive Meeks has been and how little the Wolves have to offer, but he'd be a great get for Minnesota.
Neal could be a perfect "buy low" candidate.
Gary Neal has had a poor season so far, but it's hard to judge any individual player on the 9-39 Milwaukee Bucks too harshly.
Last month, ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported that the Bucks were going to do whatever they could to move Neal before the deadline, in part because of a reported argument between him and Bucks center Larry Sanders.
If Milwaukee really is that desperate to trade Neal, he should be available for cheap, and for $6.5 million total over the next two years (per ShamSports.com), he's within Minnesota's financial wheelhouse.
Neal brings little but shooting to the table, but the Timberwolves desperately need another deep threat, and he's a career 40 percent three-point shooter.
If you remove Kevin Martin from the equation, the Minnesota wings (at least the ones who play) are shooting a combined 30 percent from three. That just doesn't cut it for a team with playoff ambitions, and the Wolves' offensive spacing falls off a cliff when Kevin Martin or Kevin Love leaves the game.
Neal would help a ton in that regard and could give J.J. Barea—again, the lone source of offense coming off the Minnesota bench—a big boost.
It's worth pointing out that Neal is a major minus defensively, but there aren't a lot of (read: any) elite three-and-D guys available, and the Wolves wouldn't have to send much back for Neal.
Steve Novak could certainly help the Timberwolves' shooting woes.
Steve Novak is getting only sporadic minutes with the Toronto Raptors, but he's one of the league's premier spot-up shooters and could be an interesting fit with the Timberwolves.
Novak's a career 43 percent shooter from deep and has historically shot blistering percentages from the corners, per NBA.com.
Like Gary Neal, Novak's not a great defender, but he can play both the 3 and 4 and could be devastating next to Kevin Love or Nikola Pekovic (or both) offensively.
The problem with Novak isn't his game, but his contract—he's owed nearly $11 million over the next three years, per ShamSports.com. Even if the Timberwolves are trying to win now, they can't love the idea of committing that much money to Novak.
Still, stranger things have happened, and watching Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love feed him endless corner threes would be a blast.
Leuer possesses an intriguing mix of size and shooting.
This is another long shot, seeing as Jon Leuer put up fantastic numbers in Marc Gasol's absence.
He's basically been cut out of the rotation since Gasol returned though, and it can't hurt to ask, right?
Leuer is averaging 17 points and nine rebounds per 36 minutes on 56 percent true shooting, including 47 percent from deep. He could provide a lot of shooting coming off the Timberwolves bench and would fit perfectly alongside Ronny Turiaf.
A potential Leuer-Kevin Love frontcourt would be even more interesting.
Love has been phenomenal at the 5 this year, per 82games.com, and the lane would be wide open for Minnesota's guards with he and Leuer on the floor together.
As Grantland's Zach Lowe recently pointed out, defenses stick to Love like crazy on every pick-and-roll, and with Leuer on the floor drawing defenders out of the paint, it would be even easier to generate looks like this consistently.
Leuer struggles with the same basic rim-protection issues that Love and Nikola Pekovic do, but he rotates well and is more or less neutral on the defensive end.
The Memphis Grizzlies are almost definitely holding onto Leuer, who's productive, cheap and signed for the next few years, per ShamSports.com. But he'd make for a fun fit with the Wolves and would be well worth inquiring about.
Udoh's not much on the offensive end, but he can protect the rim effectively.
As mentioned earlier, the Timberwolves are the worst team in the league at protecting the rim.
Ronny Turiaf's return has thankfully helped to move the needle in the other direction, but they could still use another shot-blocking big.
Ekpe Udoh's name popped up in some Wolves trade rumors last year, and he could be a useful “buy-low” candidate at the deadline.
Udoh doesn't bring much (if anything) to the table on the offensive end, but he can protect the rim well and would be a good fit alongside Kevin Love in Minnesota.
Udoh's averaging about two blocks per 36 minutes, and opponents are shooting just 46 percent at the rim against him, per NBA.com, compared to 57 percent and 59 percent for Nikola Pekovic and Love.
Minnesota has actually defended most areas outside the paint well, per NBA.com. Its glaring weakness is rim protection, and Udoh could really help with that.