Timberwolves

Should the Wolves Target Mike Conley In A DLo Trade?

Photo Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

D’Angelo Russell’s name has been mentioned in trade rumors more than any other player on the Minnesota Timberwolves roster. Earlier this week, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported the following:

“The Timberwolves have a major decision to make with D’Angelo Russell, who is on an expiring $31.3 million contract with no signs of an extension. The team would lose his salary slot if he leaves as a free agent, so Minnesota has been exploring trade possibilities for Russell while prioritizing another point guard.”

In the same article, Shams mentions that the Los Angeles Clippers and Timberwolves are both “expressing interest” in Mike Conley leading up to the deadline.

While Conley may be one of the best teammates you can have, a slew of factors lead me to believe Mike wouldn’t be worth it for the Wolves to deal for.

Before we get into anything else, I want to make it known that I’m more bullish on Russell than most people who follow the Wolves. DLo elevates this current Wolves team higher than people give him credit for. However, his four-year stint in the Twin Cities appears to be coming to a close. He faces a significant roadblock that will likely prevent him from re-signing or getting an extension with the Wolves.

Russell is in the final season of a four-year, $117 million deal he signed with the Brooklyn Nets in 2019. That summer, DLo was coming off his best statistical season, averaging 21 points and 7 assists on 43% from the floor through 81 games played, and led a very young Nets team to the playoffs. Almost any team would have given him that contract after the season he had

Despite showing much promise, DLo has not been worth the massive contract he signed a few years ago. Therefore, it doesn’t seem likely Tim Connelly will extend Russell’s deal after tying up over $70 million between two big men this offseason.

We know extending the 26-year-old guard is unlikely, so what about resigning him to a cheaper deal this summer? Russell is unlikely to accept those terms if another team in a warmer climate offers him a bigger role and more money.

“You either take advantage of me and my ability or fuck up the opportunity with me,” Russell told Yahoo Sports in December. “It’s as simple as that.”

Unless DLo makes a pinky promise with Connelly, he’s likely looking for an opportunity elsewhere next season. Furthermore, if DLo were to leave in free agency, the Wolves would lose that $31.1 million in cap room as they are currently in the luxury tax.

With all of this considered, it appears up front that the best possible solution for both parties is to explore a potential trade before the February 9th deadline.

Shams’ report on Connelly being interested in Conley is the first sustainable news we’ve heard surrounding a potential DLo replacement. (Mike) Conley has sparked the interest of many Wolves fans. However, do the Wolves really want to trade with Danny Ainge and the Utah Jazz again?

Conley spent the past three seasons in Utah playing alongside Rudy Gobert. Through Conley’s 155 career games with Gobert, the two developed some great chemistry on the pick-and-roll – something that’s been a work in progress for Gobert’s new teammates.

“I had to change my game a lot to dictate how to get him the ball and use him the best we can,” Conley said in response to his chemistry with Gobert. “It worked, and we got it to work, and it just takes time, and everybody’s got to be patient.”

It’s going to be tough to sell the Wolves fanbase on patience, especially because many are already out on the Gobert trade. It’s also tough for players and coaches to wait things out – especially when they enter the season with lofty expectations.

That’s where DLo’s situation gets complicated. His chemistry hasn’t been horrible with the Stifle Tower this season. However, most were hoping to see Russell turn the clocks back to his days in Brooklyn alongside Gobert. DLo’s PnR partner Jarrett Allen was able to elevate Russell’s game to an All-Star level in 2019.

Despite a slow start, DLo has been looking sharp in recent games. He has hit Gobert and all his teammates in the right spots while also initiating his own offense. However, right as soon as things are starting to turn around, DLo finds himself in trade talks and may not finish this highly anticipated season in Minnesota.

I am never a fan of trading players in their prime or close to it for even older talent. With the Los Angeles Lakers last season, we saw that you can’t win championships with old legs and big names. The Wolves may not be making a Finals run right now. However, the age separation between Conley and Russell makes any move between them seem foolish.

DLo, 26, is entering his prime. Conley, 35, is past his. Connelly added veterans in the offseason when he acquired Robert and Austin Rivers, who are both 30. However, the core of Anthony Edwards, Jaden McDaniels, and even Karl-Anthony Towns is still very young – Conley doesn’t fit the timeline.

Mountain Mike has this season and one more left on his three-year, $68 million contract; Conley may only be a cap-filling piece in the move. That’s only if Minnesota would be able to pry some picks away from Ainge.

Mike Conley is known as one of the best teammates in the NBA, and he may also have some great chemistry next to Gobert. But a move for the 35-year-old floor general on an expiring contract doesn’t seem like the best avenue for the Wolves to take. However, with D’Angelo Russell also on an expiring contract and no extension in sight, Tim Connelly and Co. may be forced to deal Russell for a less-than-stellar return.

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