So far I’ve been able to sustain optimism about the young Timberwolves. The big 3 have all shown improvement this year -- Wiggins played out of his mind for about 2 weeks, KAT just locked in a 47 point game, and Lavine is the most consistent of all on offense and has contributed a few highlights I can only classify as “Dunk Porn”.
Sure there’s been horrendous, historically awful, oh-my-God-are-they-even-trying third quarter breakdowns. Kris Dunn appears as though he’s actually regressed offensively. Despite Rubio’s eyelashes being in their prime, he’s putting up career low numbers in points, steals, assist, and it gets worse from there. The bench has pretty much been a non-factor and the "Thibs is a basketball savant who can reach anyone,” narrative has yet to reveal itself.
Despite my steadfast optimism and patience in letting the team grow and gel, I think it’s clear that something should be done about this, if possible. I’m talking about a trade. This goes against everything I’ve preached about this team for months, but hear me out.
Earlier this week it was reported that Philadelphia 76er, Nerlens Noel, prefers to be traded, as there is a log jam of minutes for big men in Philadelphia. Noel, who is currently assigned to the DLeague as he rehabs a knee injury, might be the defensive presence inside that the Wolves front line could use.
If Thibodeau and Scott Layden decide to take a call on Noel, there are a few ways this could work out:
Considering Wiggins, Towns, and Lavine as untouchables, The Sixers would most likely be in the market for a point guard, which is where things get questionable for the Timberwolves. They could go the route of offering up Ricky Rubio if the Wolves are afraid he might grow frustrated and ask for a trade anyway. But then you’re further depleting a team of veteran leadership when they are desperately needing it. And it may not be pretty to admit, but Rubio is the best option for the Wolves at point guard.
Dunn could also be put up for consideration, but just because he’s been underwhelming this season, it wouldn’t be wise to give up the potential for a great two-way guard, for someone one-dimensional as Noel.
Tyus Jones was impressive earlier in the season in the absence of Rubio, and could be worth a kick of the tires for Philadelphia. But I’m willing to bet that wouldn’t be enough for the 76ers. So let’s say Shabazz Muhammad and a pick is enough to sweeten the deal for Bryan Colangelo.
Is this the best deal on the trade market for Noel? Absolutely not, but it’s the most plausible that includes the Timberwolves, and this is my article so let’s continue.
The next step would be determining why this is a good fit for the Timberwolves and what the team could look like with Noel.
Nerlens is basically useless at the four due to his inability to shoot and space the floor, but his defense could be of great service at the 5 and then move Towns down to the 4. The biggest drawback I see to this is that it will probably give Towns more opportunities to launch 28 footers which, if anything, he needs to do less. But it’s not a terrible fit. Also, you aren’t giving up any rebounding and having Towns spacing closer to the perimeter will give him a clear path, almost every time, to run the floor and fill the lane in transition.
Another benefit this brings to the Wolves is that it gives them a reason to move Dieng to the bench. It’s not ideal move him to the bench after he was just extended for $64 million. But it’s also not ideal for the Wolve’s bench to notch just 5 points and 3 rebounds against the Knicks. Some things just have to happen.
Moving Gorgui down to the bench will help create at least a little more offense for the second team and also get rid of his traffic cone defense in the starting line up. He’s a beastly rebounder too so that would be another point of value for him on the second team.
To be clear and fair, I’m not sure if this trade is a real possibility or just my optimism decaying to disillusion. Maybe a trade like this doesn’t get done for anything less than Rubio, Dunn, or Lavine. But between the presidential election and how bad the Wolves have been playing, I need a break from reality.
The Timberwolves honestly don’t seem too far off from where we anticipated them to be.
Their struggles have been a matter of inexperience, lack of veteran leadership, and lack of discipline on defense. A scenario like this to bring in Nerlens Noel doesn’t deprive the young Timberwolves of any vital veteran leadership, and would elevate them defensively.
Although this isn’t the team we hoped we would see, one thing is for sure: the foundation is solid for the Timberwolves -- but maybe it’s time they start making moves to build on that foundation.