Minnesota Timberwolves Executive Makes Case That Few NBA Trades Should Happen

David MurphyFeatured ColumnistFebruary 8, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 16:   Phil 'Flip' Saunders, President of Basketball Operations of the Minnesota Timberwolves listens to a question at the press conference announcing Nikola Pekovic's contract re-signing on August 16, 2013 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)
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If you listen to the president of basketball operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves, NBA trades are highly overrated.

According to Andy Greder for The Pioneer Press, the T-Wolves’ Flip Saunders says there’s a reluctance around the league to make significant deals before the February 20 trade deadline, due to the perception of a strong NBA draft class this year:

Either everyone wants to keep their picks or if you want to trade players, people are trying to get your pick and people aren’t as apt to do something like that — not only this year, but next year, too. I think it might be a good draft the next couple of years.

Saunders also pointed to research that the Wolves have done on 189 trades over the past decade, adding that just two of the trades resulted in “real success in the league.”

And what were the trades? Rasheed Wallace, who was traded from the Atlanta Hawks to the Detroit Pistons in February 2004 and Pau Gasol, who was moved from Memphis Grizzlies to the Los Angeles Lakers in February 2008.

Both of those players won NBA Championships with their new teams. As Greder reported, Saunders went on to say:

“If you want to make a trade to make yourself significantly better right now, then those have to be blockbuster-type trades.”

You have to ask yourself, then, about Saunders’ ultimate goal when he traded Derrick Williams for Luc Richard Mbah a Moute of the Sacramento Kings this past November.

Mbah a Moute has averaged 3.1 points and 2.4 rebounds in 28 games for Minnesota so far this season. Meanwhile, Williams, the No. 2 overall pick in 2011, is averaging 9.9 points for the Kings.

The trade was hardly a blockbuster move, and the results haven’t been anywhere in the region of “significantly better.”

And isn’t Saunders the guy who’s high on lottery draft picks, rather than trades that bring little success?

Still, the Minny exec makes a good point about the upcoming draft, with top prospects that include Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Marcus Smart, Julius Randle and Australian sensation Dante Exum.

The Timberwolves have a first-round protected pick in the draft, meaning they get to keep the pick if it remains in the first 13 selections. With a current record of 24-26, Minnesota is hovering near that protected cutoff. Given recent injuries, the the team just might move up.

Stay tuned to see if the T-Wolves' head exec changes his mind before the deadline and pulls the trigger on a “blockbuster move.”