Timberwolves President Tim Connelly six weeks into his new job made one of the most significant trades in franchise history when he dealt several players and first-round picks this summer to bring in center Rudy Gobert.

What will Connelly do this week?

The Wolves got off to a slow start with the pairing of Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns before Towns went out Nov. 28 because of a right calf injury. Since then, the Wolves have steadied themselves, climbed above .500 and are in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race entering Sunday's game against Denver.

Connelly spoke with the Star Tribune about Thursday's trade deadline, Towns' eventual return and the status of players in contract years like point guard D'Angelo Russell and center Naz Reid. The conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Q: How do you toggle the need to win now and win down the road?

A: You're always trying to balance the two, and it's a hard team to get a bead on because of all the injuries and missing a player as good as KAT. So our objective collectively is try to build a team that enjoys sustained success. But we think the West is wide open right now. There are a couple teams that separated themselves and a bunch of teams fighting for the same real estate. The big challenge in dealmaking is finding a team where both of your goals align and the best deals help both teams. Long answer, short: We're always looking. You have to be cognizant of how you impact your team long term, but this time of year you're trying to put the best product possible out there.

Q: There are guys, like D'Angelo Russell, Naz Reid and Jaylen Nowell who are in contract years. They're helping you win now, but they may walk at the end of the year. How do you approach their statuses at the deadline?

A: All those guys are very important. All those guys, we've had varying degrees of discussions about contract extensions. Anytime you have an impending free agent, it complicates things a little bit. But those guys are complete pros. They've grown up [with the Wolves] and are important to what we're doing now and could be important to what we're doing in the future.

Q: With D-Lo, he's had a big year offensively. Helped you win a lot of games. Do you think you've seen enough that he can fit in long-term if you want him to be the point guard down the road?

A: What I've seen is the guy put in a huge summer. He was in the gym all the time. I don't think it's coincidental he's having such a good shooting year. Every time I looked up, he's down there working out. He knew the expectations were risen this year. He challenged himself to have a better year. He's such a basketball-obsessed guy. Nobody watches more college or NBA. He's had a great year, a tremendous summer where he worked his tail off and certainly there's plenty of scenarios where he's our point guard not just now but for the future as well.

Q: The fact that Karl and Rudy have only played 19 games together, how does that affect how you approach this? Do you have enough information to figure out what you might need around them?

A: We have a pretty good sense of what our core looks like, but relative to how that group is going to mesh, there were some really good moments. There were some moments that weren't so good. I think we have a small sample size which we can learn from and improve upon. We're lucky (Chris) Finch and his staff are so creative and I think as the year has progressed, even though Karl has been injured, I think it's been a constant topic of conversation, "Oh this would be a good way to integrate some of these faces around Karl." It's not just Karl's adjustment. It's our adjustment to make sure we're maximizing a supremely talented guy. I think we know more than we did. Certainly, we don't know as much as we thought we'd know 55-60 games into the season.

Q: Did you think Naz would play such a big role? How valuable has he been?

A: Yeah, Naz is a guy that, from the outside, I liked and from being around him every day I love. Not just the player. He's a really cool person. A great guy. Has overcome a lot and made it the hard way. We thought his positional flexibility and unique offensive skill set was going to be huge for us this year. His role has varied night to night ... but his consistent approach and personality are so important to our team's success.

Q: How do you, in general, approach making decisions at the deadline?

A: It's not a time of the year we enjoy. The whole idea of trading guys is kind of gross. They're human beings, not assets. If a guy really wants to be here, that impacts how we view them. If guys are fully committed to being Timberwolves, it gives us pause. So it's not just making trades on a spreadsheet.

Q: When does it really start to pick up? Some people don't show their cards until the deadline is actually near.

A: I think our approach is slightly different. If you're trying to make a trade to improve your team, the earlier you get that guy, the better. That's how we view things. I don't know if that's shared [by others]. You put self-imposed pressure by waiting. Sometimes you get something more up against the clock, but I think more often than not, the more clear-headed and less emotional you are, the better deals you make. We're an organization that would not be reluctant to make a move earlier.

Q: You are expecting Karl back at some point, so when you're making moves for now, that's at the forefront of your mind still?

A: Yeah. Karl is going to be back when he's fully healthy and we expect that to happen this year. He's doing a great job rehabbing. We don't have a time frame, and we wouldn't put a time frame on it. It's a severe injury, and all we care about is his health and his long-term health. But I know it's his expectation and we share it that we're going to see him back out there. We know how good he is when he's back out there, so it's certainly part of the rationale to trade or not that we have an all-league guy sitting there getting ready, and closer by the day.