This past summer the NBA went crazy with free agency. Player movement was at an all-time high, which has meant there’s been an extreme slowdown in the months since. Soon, that can finally change.
There hasn’t been a trade in the NBA since July 16 when the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder swapped Chris Paul and draft capital for Russell Westbrook. There have still been a handful of minor free agent moves, but other than that, crickets.
A big reason for the lack of action is the fact that such a high percentage of the NBA’s players – around 40% — aren’t eligible to be traded at the moment. That changes on December 15 when many of those players have the trade restriction lifted. There are still a small number of players that aren’t eligible to be traded, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks laid out ($), but other than that, it’s open season.
With the Wolves sitting at 10-14, they’re in a curious position. Clearly this team isn’t a contender for a championship at the moment, but a playoff berth isn’t out of the question. It may not be the most likely outcome, but it isn’t crazy to think about, either. They’re not in a position to go all-in at the moment, but shouldn’t quite be ready to be sellers, either.
The Wolves have a number of players that become trade eligible on Sunday, but the asset that may be the most coveted that the Wolves could theoretically part with is Robert Covington. The Ringer
reported that the Rockets have serious interest in Covington should he be made available. There’s little question that he’s the hottest commodity on the team that may be available, because Karl-Anthony Towns certainly won’t be on the market.
Wolves President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas is going to pick up the phone whenever he gets a call. That’s the way he’s going to have to operate, and it’s the way that he’s said he’s going to operate. Always questioning the norm and exploring every avenue to build a successful team means listening to what other teams have to offer for just about everybody other than Towns. If that means taking calls on Covington, then it’s what has to be done.
There are others that could be dealt from the Wolves. Jeff Teague is on an expiring contract and doesn’t exactly fit the plan in Minnesota long-term. If there’s a contender looking for point guard help, it’s easy to believe that he could be had.
There are always going to be the rumors that connect the Wolves to Golden State’s D’Angelo Russell. This summer’s recruiting plan didn’t go the way the Wolves wanted it to, but point guard is still something that’s going to need to be addressed in the future, and Russell might be in their plans. He becomes eligible to be traded on Dec. 15, and there’s been no indication that he’s immediately going to be shopped by Golden State, but if he is, it’s plausible to think the Wolves would be players. That might not happen until next summer, though, if it does happen.
With the Wolves trending in the wrong direction after a good start, the question of just who the Wolves are is a good one. Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins are both arguably playing the best basketball of their careers, but the team hasn’t been as good as it could be. Figuring out whether the Wolves are closer to the team that’s been the worst defensive team in the NBA in December is necessary when assessing whether they should be buyers or sellers this trade season.
The case for buying
Thinking that they’re closer to the team that got off to a hot start and has been struck with a bit of bad luck could lead to thinking that they can make a run at the playoffs this year AND have whatever moves made help open up a future window of competitiveness. Adding someone to the fray could give the team a much-needed punch on both ends of the floor, and if it’s someone that’s under team control for multiple seasons, that could be even better for the Wolves. After all, they’re only one game out of the playoffs right now.
The case for selling
The Wolves weren’t expected to do anything of note this year. Making the playoffs was something that wasn’t thought to be possible until both the bottom of the Western Conference fell apart and the team got off to a hot start. Now that they’ve cooled off, the playoffs don’t look nearly as likely as they once did for this team. Getting anything of value for someone like Jeff Teague makes sense, and if another team wants to blow the Wolves away with an offer for Covington, Wiggins, or anyone not named Towns, the Wolves should listen.
The case for staying put
Well, we’re only 24 games into the season and so much is yet to be learned about the Wolves and the rest of the NBA. Luckily, Sunday is just the start of the trade season, not the deadline. This could be a lot of fun, or it could be quiet, but either way the doors are set to open up.