On Thursday morning, Minnesota Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas pulled the trigger on his first in-season trade since assuming power last May. This deal sent guard Jeff Teague and wing Treveon Graham to Atlanta in exchange for guard Allen Crabbe.
Teague wasn’t a fit in the current system offensive system. When he was inked to his current deal by former coach/president Tom Thibodeau back in the summer of 2017, Teague made much more sense on the Wolves than he did now.
The uptempo system the Wolves are operating under is a stark difference from what’s been in Minnesota in the past, when Teague’s skillset fit. In the final weeks of Teague’s tenure in Minnesota, he started coming off the bench in an effort to maximize the time Andrew Wiggins could spent leading the offense as a primary playmaker. From then on it felt like Teague’s days with the franchise were numbered.
“We really wanted to get the opportunity, evaluate him in this system and gave him every opportunity and he did all that he could in different platforms, whether that’s a starter or coming off the bench,” Rosas said via teleconference on Thursday afternoon regarding Teague. “The reality for where we’re at in terms of timelines, that’s a position where we want to take a look at it at maybe a different timeline with a different profile that maybe fits the system a little bit better.”
With Teague’s contract expiring this summer, moving on from him at this point made sense. If it wasn’t a trade to Atlanta now, it could have been a trade elsewhere in the coming weeks, and had that not happened by the deadline, he certainly would have been a candidate for a buyout in February.
As for Graham, he’s a player that’s best suited playing on a winning team, which Atlanta is very much not. Offensively he struggles to do much when grouped with other players that having shooting deficiencies, which is exactly what the Wolves had.
Graham is a plus defender that can make winning plays on both ends of the floor, it’s just unlikely that those winning plays are going to be on open looks from deep, which is something the Wolves needed from his spot.
“Treveon is a character piece we were able to add this summer,” Rosas said. “A true professional. He won us some games early in the season, but the reality there was with us adding another wing and where he’s at contractually, we wanted to give him an opportunity to go to an organization where he would get a chance to play and get an opportunity to further his career.”
First of all, it needs to be mentioned that Crabbe’s salary is similar to that of Teague’s, but because Atlanta is actually under the salary cap, the Wolves did save a bit of money in this deal. He’s an expiring deal on a contract worth $18.5M this season and this move puts the Wolves at $9.4M below the luxury tax, according to Early Bird Rights.
Crabbe as a player fits what the Wolves want to do offensively, and he’s familiar with what they do defensively as well.
This season hasn’t been his best thus far, he’s only shooting 32% from 3-point range through 28 games in Atlanta, which is the worst mark of his career. His best season from that range came back in 2016-17 as a member of the Trail Blazers when he shot 44% from deep on just a shade under four attempts per game. This season he’s only getting 3.3 3-point shots per game, and it’s plausible to think that number will go up in Minnesota.
Crabbe spent the last two seasons in Brooklyn which plays with a very similar offensive system to the current one the Wolves use. There’s also a familiarity with assist coach Pablo Prigioni, who was on Kenny Atkinson’s staff in Brooklyn last season, as well as Minnesota’s assistant general manager Gianluca Pascucci, who was previously in Brooklyn’s front office. Prior to the past two seasons, Crabbe was in Portland, meaning he’s familiar with assistant coach David Vanterpool and his defensive system as well.
“It’s one of the biggest benefits we have with our staff and their experiences,” Rosas said of the experience Crabbe has with members of Minnesota’s current staff. “They speak very fondly of Allen, his character, his work ethic and his ability to play in this system. David and Pablo in particular see him as a great fit not only on the court but in the locker room, which is very important for us. We have a great staff in place and we try to utilize their perspective, their experience and their knowledge whenever we have the opportunity.”
Crabbe’s on-court fit is just as important as his locker room fit, and he could be a guy that helps to open up the floor offensively. Far too often this season the Wolves have had lineups that feature very limited outside shooting. Crabbe, even at 32% for this season, will slot in as one of the best outside shooters among backcourt players for the Wolves. That stands to help out both Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns to have more space to operate.
Aside from saving a bit of money on this trade, the Wolves have opened up a roster spot by currently only having 14 full-time NBA players on the roster. This could be a precursor to another move coming, or it could mean that Kelan Martin eventually has his two-way contract converted into a full-time NBA deal. Time will tell as far as that goes, but it is fair to think that Minnesota will be one of the more active teams in trade talks leading up to the Feb. 6 deadline.
I’ll give this one a B for the Wolves. Moving Teague certainly could help to open up the offense and the same could be said about Graham as well. Crabbe’s shooting certainly should help, but this is a move that ultimately doesn’t move the needle too far or change the landscape of the Wolves in the time being.