The Minnesota Timberwolves approached the Milwaukee Bucks in hopes of sending point guard Ricky Rubio to Milwaukee for three-point specialist Khris Middleton, but the Bucks declined, according to ESPN.com's Zach Lowe.
Minnesota was reportedly willing to offer a package of Rubio and a protected 2016 first-round pick, but the Bucks did not want to trade Middleton.
Sources also told Lowe that young Bucks Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo were not on the trading block. The only trade asset the Bucks were willing to give up was point guard Michael Carter-Williams, but Minnesota did not want to take back the former Rookie of the Year, according to Lowe.
The idea behind a Rubio-Middleton swap would have worked in terms of matching salary. Rubio signed a four-year, $56 million contract extension in November 2014 that officially began this year. Middleton signed a five-year, $70 million deal with the Bucks on the first day of free agency in July. Middleton has improved in each season, boosting his scoring average by 12.2 points per game since his 2012-13 rookie campaign, and is playing 19.1 more minutes per contest than he did four years ago.
But as Lowe pointed out, the Timberwolves were willing to give up as much as they could for Middleton, who's averaging a career-high 18.3 points per game in the first year of his new contract.
Star forward Andrew Wiggins is shooting 25.7 percent from three-point range this year, showing how desperately Minnesota needs long-range shooting on the wing. On Tuesday, the team also completed a buyout with guard Kevin Martin, who shot 36.9 percent from distance in 39 games with Minnesota this year.
The other issue the Wolves face is the inability for Rubio—who's averaging 8.3 assists in his five-year career— to make shots, per Lowe:
It has become harder to play a non-shooter [at point guard], and, holy hell, is Rubio a non-shooter. He has never approached 40 percent overall, or even cracked 50 percent on shots within three feet of the basket. His jumper looks smoother after years of work with shooting experts, but he's still shooting just 30 percent from deep and 38 percent on long 2s. And those long 2s are Rondo Shots -- wide-open looks defenses happily concede.
If the trade had gone through, it would have been the second year in a row in which Milwaukee made a move for a new starting point guard. The Bucks acquired Carter-Williams from the Philadelphia 76ers in a three-team trade that sent Brandon Knight to the Phoenix Suns last year.
Both teams would've come away winners in this trade. Minnesota could've played Zach LaVine and rookie Tyus Jones at point guard while having a shooter in Middleton to pair with Wiggins for the foreseeable future.
Getting a first-round pick from the Wolves would've meant another young piece to incorporate with Parker and Antetokounmpo, along with a proven facilitator in Rubio in Milwaukee. While losing Middleton would've hurt the team's three-point shooting, it could have added someone such as Jaylen Brown or Jamal Murray in June to fill the void.
And just as Lowe noted, it would've been the most interesting trade that didn't happen.