After days of speculation, the Timberwolves finally made a deal Tuesday, and it represents a huge shake-up to their current roster as they try to compile assets and maintain salary-cap flexibility in order to acquire high-level talent around franchise centerpiece Karl-Anthony Towns.
However, the Wolves did not acquire their top target in free agency last season and before the deadline in D’Angelo Russell in this complicated, four-team trade. They did send out one of their most solid players and deal-friendly contracts to Houston in forward Robert Covington, who Towns called his best friend on the team Monday, and acquired other assets in what appears to be an attempt to get Russell from Golden State, or another player of his caliber.
In the process, the Wolves sent out forward/centers Noah Vonleh and Jordan Bell, forward Keita Bates-Diop and guard Shabazz Napier as part of a trade that involves the Rockets, Nuggets and Hawks, a source confirmed to the Star Tribune.
The Wolves will receive a lottery-protected first-round pick from Atlanta, a pick the Hawks received from the Nets in another trade, along with guard Evan Turner. The Wolves also receive guard Malik Beasley, forward Jarred Vanderbilt and forward Juan Hernangomez from Denver as part of the deal.
The Wolves will send Bates-Diop, Napier and Vonleh to the Nuggets and Bell to the Rockets to help complete the deal, the source confirmed.
In other parts of the deal, Houston sent center Clint Capela to the Hawks, while the Rockets landed a player they wanted for a long time in Covington.
This trade represents a massive revamping of the Wolves’ roster as the front office, led by President Gersson Rosas, seeks to find fits for their current system of play around center Towns while gaining some cap flexibility.
Beasley, Turner and Hernangomez are all on expiring contracts, with Turner currently making $18.6 million this season. The Wolves gain a draft pick for an asset in Covington, while gaining cap flexibility in the form of shedding Covington’s contract, which had two years remaining, though Covington had a desirable contract (two years, $25 million) given his status as a good defender and capable three-point shooter.
Turner is a 10-year veteran out of Ohio State who played in 19 games for the Hawks, averaging 3.3 points. Beasley averaged 11.3 points for Denver a season ago; Hernangomez is averaging 3.0 points in 33 games this season while Vanderbilt has played in only eight games.
The moves indicate the Wolves aren’t done attempting to acquire another high-level talent ahead of Thursday’s deadline and that this could be another step in that effort. Rosas has pledged to find All-Star level talent to bring in around Towns, and a deal that brings in multiple expiring contracts and a first-round pick this year doesn’t quite fit that bill. It suggests more moves are in the offing.
In addressing trade rumors Monday, Covington — who was traded in November last season to the Wolves as the main part of the Jimmy Butler deal — said he was trying not to play attention to the chatter.
“It’s coming from somewhere,” Covington said. “Somebody said something or somebody is trying to create a buzz. You never really know the truth until something actually happens.”
It happened Tuesday, impacting several departing Wolves players — and presumably Towns, too.
Towns professed his faith in the front office and said he did not want a voice in personnel moves, saying, “My job is not to make decisions roster-wise or anything like that.” But he then added he wished Covington was still on the team after the deadline.
“I think it’s very obvious he’s my best friend on the team, so it would be very difficult if something like that was going to happen,” Towns said Monday, while also expressing confidence in the Wolves’ decisionmakers. “But like with Zach LaVine, this is a business. So like I said, I’m the one who just plays the game. I don’t get paid to make rosters and stuff like that. That’s why we have [Rosas] and them.”
Towns sighed while giving that answer, as if he didn’t want to face that possibility.
“He’s a great guy, a great dude. He’s a great player,” Towns said. “He’s helped me tremendously.”