Team No. 4 – Minnesota Timberwolves
The Timberwolves could make sense as a trade partner because of their problem of a 2022-23 season.
Their new President of Basketball Operations, Tim Connelly, sent a hefty package in exchange for Rudy Gobert last offseason. In the trade, Minnesota sent Utah Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverley, Leandro Bolmaro, Walker Kessler, Jarred Vanderbilt, a 2023 first-round pick, a 2025 first-round pick, a 2026 first-round pick swap, a 2027 first-round pick, and a top-five protected 2029 first-round pick.
Minnesota sacrificed many of its future assets in a win-now move. The result? A 42-40 record and a first-round playoff exit.
They had no reason to rush their timeline and sacrifice their future. Now, Minnesota has to recoup its lost future assets.
What makes the Timberwolves a great match for the Blazers?
Minnesota is a trade partner candidate for Portland because of the two franchises’ differing timelines. The Timberwolves need to get back on the same roster timeline as their superstar Anthony Edwards, who is only 21. Lillard is 32.
The Blazers have young assets in Sharpe, Simons, and draft picks available to trade if they can secure a co-star to pair with Lillard. With the two teams going in seemingly opposite directions, they could help each other get there.
Star big man Karl-Anthony Towns finished with the 135th-best real plus-minus rating in the NBA this season at 0.42. Gobert finished closer to expectations with a 5.10 real plus-minus, the 24th-best in the league.
The RPM ratings support what the eye test shows when you watch the Timberwolves play – and what we assumed would happen when they made the Gobert trade in the first place; the frontcourt pairing of Towns and Gobert is an awkward fit.
Given their lack of future assets, the awkward Towns-Gobert pairing, and the fact that their superstar in Edwards is still only 21, the Timberwolves are certainly a team to watch as one that could shake things up.
Blazers’ options with Timberwolves
Towns or Gobert would fit in exceptionally well with the Blazers’ roster needs for opposite reasons.
Trading for Towns would mean doubling down on the Blazers’ team identity of offense and shooting. He’s one of the best shooting big men of all time. So far in his eight seasons in the NBA, Towns has shot 39.5 percent from three and 83.5 percent from the charity stripe.
KAT could play the five for Portland and provide the Blazers with an upgrade in shot creation and floor spacing over current center Jusuf Nurkic. If Portland went this route, they would likely have to address the other side of the ball by pursuing a defensive-minded wing.
However, the pick-and-roll tandem of Lillard and Towns would be a nightmare for opposing teams to defend.
Assuming the Blazers retain Grant in this scenario, their three best players – Lillard, Grant, and Towns – would be excellent offensively. All three averaged at least 20 points per game while hovering between 36-40 percent shooting from three last season. Towns is a three-time NBA All-star, giving Lillard the secondary co-star he’s made clear he wants.
Gobert is another solid option for the Blazers to pursue. Minnesota could be willing to trade him due to their rollercoaster season with the Rudy experiment, which was capped off when he punched teammate Kyle Anderson.
However, Gobert fits the Blazers’ roster even better than Towns. Portland needs a defensive-minded big man to cover for their guards’ defensive flaws. This season, Gobert tied for sixth in the Defensive RAPTOR rating with a positive 3.5 points. He is arguably the best defensive player of the past decade, with three NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards and six NBA All-Defensive First Team awards on his resume.
Like Towns, Gobert also has three NBA All-Star appearances.
With Lillard initiating the offense and Gobert leading the defense, the Blazers would have both sides of the ball covered and would be a more well-balanced team than in prior years.