It is entirely conceivable between writing this article while Monday’s sun comes up and it publishing by night, some part of the below is rendered out-of-date. If not by then, then before you get to read these words some portion of the below may have already gone from hypothetical to reality. This is the fastest-moving week in the NBA, though it typically feels like the slowest.
Who throughout the league needs to focus on unloading assets, making the most of their struggling rosters before Thursday’s deadline? Let’s begin with the team mentioned by multiple national reporters on Sunday night as the rest of the world watched the Super Bowl.
The Timberwolves may determine the direction of the week league-wide, especially if they are able to drum up a bidding war for forward Robert Covington. Both ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski New York Times writer Marc Stein addressed that possibility as the week of urgency began. “I’m very confident they are going to trade” Covington, Wojnarowski said in his podcast released Sunday, while Stein laid out some of the possible parameters.
Ambitious as it sounds, Minnesota has sought two first-round picks in exchange for Robert Covington in advance of Thursday's trade deadline, league sources say. Let's see where the Wolves land if/when they actually deal him, with Philly and Houston at the front of the RoCo line
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) February 3, 2020
Minnesota does not need to move Covington, not with two more seasons for $25.1 million remaining on his contract, but as this season goes down the drain with the ferocity of two double-digit game losing streaks, the Timberwolves have no reason to hold onto him with worry for the next 31 games. Getting multiple first-rounders for a role player — albeit arguably the highest-end role player in the league, particularly on that contract — would be a worthwhile deal to ponder, especially if it sets up Minnesota for…landing last summer’s white whale
Golden State Warriors
There may be logic to the Warriors holding onto guard D’Angelo Russell past this deadline to see how he fits with Steph Curry upon the latter’s return, likely in March, but if a big enough offer comes for Russell, there is also little reason to stubbornly hold onto him just to test run that theoretical backcourt.
Russell was the name on Wojnarowski’s mind for the Timberwolves to pursue, in part because he would fill a positional need in Minnesota and because Russell and Minnesota nearly came together in the offseason. Golden State can likely charge a premium given those exact circumstances, and if so, nothing about this gap year mandates Curry returning to a backcourt mate of note.
Even if the Warriors do not move Russell, both forward Glenn Robinson III and guard Alec Burks have shined such this year they could induce a middling draft pick in return. Golden State’s cap situation moving forward is dire, making those picks both necessary and valuable. Neither Robinson nor Burks is inherently a piece of the Warriors’ future; consider who they parted with just this past offseason to try to continue their dynasty.
That is clearly a reference to Andre Iguodala. The wing has yet to appear this season, the result of an awkward mutual impasse between him and the up-and-coming franchise. It was reached before the Grizzlies ever dreamed of reaching the playoffs, but now in the eighth seed by 2.5 games, he might fit on the court, leading Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. into the postseason. Memphis may need him to hold off the red-hot Portland Trail Blazers and Damian Lillard.
Even if the Grizzlies do hold onto that playoff spot, though, would Iguodala’s leadership in a first-round rout from the Los Angeles Lakers outweigh the conceivable return of sending Iguodala to the Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers or Dallas Mavericks? Frankly, trading the three-time NBA champion should be the clearest no-brainer of this week, given losing him will not harm Memphis’ roster as seen thus far this year.
Speaking of eight-seeds, the day will eventually come when the Magic trade forward Aaron Gordon. Signing him to a descending contract — worth $19.9 million this year, $18.1 next and $16.4 in 2021-22 — signaled that understood reality. It is the rare structure that becomes easier to trade as time passes, even though less time remaining on the contract usually means less value in the deal.
That time may not be now, but Orlando has to ask the same question Memphis does as it receives any trade offers. If losing Gordon costs the Magic a first-round sweep at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks, what return makes that an acceptable cost?
New York Knicks
Any discussion of teams needing to sell this week is obligated to include the Knicks; these paragraphs could have been written in August, to be honest. They signed Marcus Morris, Taj Gibson, Wayne Ellington and Elfrid Payton all to one-year deals and Bobby Portis to a two-year deal with the second year a team-option. The gilded selling point in the summer was those deals would keep cap space open for free-agent signings to come.
Given New York’s lack of success luring high-profile free agents in the last decade, the more prudent use of cap space may be absorbing larger albatrosses accompanied by draft picks in exchange for those competent rotational pieces, headlined by Morris in particular.
For all of the latest news surrounding the NBA Trade Deadline, stay tuned to Basketball Insiders all week long.
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