NBA trade deadline looms as Wolves ponder deals

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Chris Hine, Star Tribune
·3 min read
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With the NBA trade deadline set for 2 p.m. Thursday, the Timberwolves continued to be active in what one source has said is a slow-moving trade cycle, with the league seeming to wait on a few big pieces to move before other dominoes follow in their suit.

Magic forward Aaron Gordon and Atlanta forward John Collins are among the players the Wolves have been inquiring about in the weeks leading up to the deadline. The Wolves are gauging the market to see if there's a power forward they could partner with Karl-Anthony Towns, but there are a few complicating factors the Wolves have to overcome to get any deals done, and it's perhaps why no deal has happened yet.

First is the contract situation of Gordon and Collins. Collins is a restricted free agent and Gordon will have one year remaining on his deal. Any deal the Wolves make for either carries a certain amount of risk that either won't re-sign for the long term. Whatever deals for Collins would have more control over his destination since Collins would be a restricted free agent. Collins reportedly rejected a $90 million offer in the offseason and told reporters Tuesday he isn't necessarily set on receiving a maximum deal.

"I never said 'I need a max,' or I never said 'I'm only taking a max,' " Collins said, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "All I said was I feel like with my play and what I've done I feel like I should be in max contention."

Collins also said he would like to see his career continue in Atlanta.

"It might not mean a lot to other people, but I want to be here. I want my future to be here," Collins said.

The Wolves made a similar gamble last offseason when they traded for Malik Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez, who were both restricted free agents, so the Wolves had some measure of control over where they signed because the Wolves could match any offer that came in. The Ringer recently reported the Wolves rejected an offer for Collins that included Beasley and a first-round pick. Because of their trade with Golden State for D'Angelo Russell at last year's deadline, the Wolves can't trade a first-round pick they own until 2024.

The Wolves are confident they can get creative and make the math work with the salary cap should they acquire a player like Gordon or Collins. Gordon is set to make more than $16 million next season, but would be unrestricted, meaning the Wolves or any team could acquire him, have him for a year, and get nothing in return should he decide to walk.

Another obstacle in talks is the Wolves' unwillingness to part with rookie Jaden McDaniels, a promising young two-way player. A source said a path to a trade for the Wolves might be easier if they were willing to throw McDaniels in potential deals, but the Wolves are very high on what McDaniels can become. The Wolves took him with the 28th pick in the 2020 draft and are high on his potential as a two-way player. McDaniels has already shown a natural ability on defense, and with the development of his body the Wolves like his potential. So, apparently, do other teams who are asking about McDaniels.

The Wolves are also exploring potential multi-team deals the way they swung a four-team trade last year when they acquired Beasley, Hernangomez, Jarred Vanderbilt and a first-round pick for Robert Covington and multiple end of roster players.

Nothing makes executives in sports, not the just the NBA, reveal their hands quite like a firm deadline, and that comes Thursday.