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The Timberwolves’ most realistic trade target after the first month of the 2022-23 season

Despite one of their biggest offseason acquisitions, the Minnesota Timberwolves have struggled to get their 2022-23 NBA season off to a good start. In fact, just a few weeks ago they were 5-8 after losing three straight games to the Knicks, Suns and Grizzlies. However, Minnesota seems to have turned the tide with a five-game winning streak since then. These include victories over the Cavaliers, Sixers, Heat and Pacers. They currently sit seventh in the Western Conference with a 10-8 record. Of course, the Timberwolves should be ready to improve their roster going forward. Here we will look at the most realistic trading target for the Timberwolves after the first month of the 2022-23 season.

The Timberwolves’ expectations for this season have skyrocketed since they landed a stunning deal with Rudy Gobert in the off-season. So far, they haven’t exactly lived up to those expectations. They suffered from a sluggish start to the season and have been one of the least convincing teams so far. Many players just don’t play as well as expected, but D’Angelo Russell is perhaps the one who stands out the most.

Russell’s position with the Timberwolves has diminished slightly following the acquisition of Gobert. However, he has remained the team’s starting point guard in backcourt alongside Anthony Edwards. Right now, Russell is averaging 13.9 points, 6.5 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.8 triples per game. He also shoots 31.4 percent from beyond the arc and 75.6 percent from the line. Most of those numbers are significantly lower compared to his per-game stats over the last year.

As he fights on, calls for the Timberwolves to trade him grow louder. Of course, these demands only become more pronounced with each defeat. As the team continues to consider a trade for Russell, let’s take a look at the most realistic trade goal for the Timberwolves after the first month of this season.

Evan Fournier of the New York Knicks

When Minnesota pulled the trigger on their blockbuster purchase of French big man Rudy Gobert, they also reduced their draft capital. Of course, they did so because they wanted to go all out that season as a Western Conference contender.

Sitting outside the top six teams in the West doesn’t exactly make the Wolves contenders so far, though. It should therefore come as no surprise that they try to close a deal before the trading deadline.

Forward Jaden McDaniels is the Timberwolves’ most valuable asset, according to several NBA officials. However, Minnesota has turned down several trade proposals for him. They’ve also made him a full-time starter this season and obviously see him as a key factor in the team’s future.

As such, we can only truly consider one player who is Minnesota’s best negotiating tool on the trade bloc. Minnesota’s most profitable roster-restructuring commodity is certainly D’Angelo Russell and his expiring $31.3 million deal.

Russell’s production has dropped, and the Wolves need someone who can better distribute the ground. They also need a pickaxe or two to recoup what they lost. Remember that they have no first round players in 2023, 2025 and 2027. That seems way too much for Gobert, but it is what it is.

Here we go to the New York Knicks. The Big Apple squad currently has a shaky backcourt that Russell’s new signing can address. A combination of Jalen Brunson and Russell could give the Knicks the push and explosiveness they need to move forward. Note that they appear to be on the verge of a playoff run this season, especially with Julius Randle on a bounce-back campaign of sorts. Of course, Brunson was also a wonderful fit on offense. and Russell could be the missing piece in their playoff puzzle.

Keep in mind that the Knicks want to put Quentin Grimes in the backcourt alongside Brunson. However, he hasn’t played more than two games this season. This forced Evan Fournier to play more minutes before the Knicks benched him. However, that didn’t go so well. Fournier had a slow start to the season. Another option was Immanuel Quickley, who is still on the bench. To be honest, he was even worse than Fournier at the start of the season.

Russell’s entry could give the backcourt the depth, energy and hunger they need. He gives the Knicks an additional strong ball leader who can score dynamically. Of course he would have to play shooting guard, because Brunson has managed to direct the offense so far. Still, it’s a change he could easily make here. Russell didn’t look great early in the season, but that’s largely due to the Timberwolves’ unpredictable offense. If he can step in and offer the Knicks another consistent scoring option, they could potentially take off this season.

On the other side of the equation, Fournier is out of the Knicks’ rotation. He also owes $18 million this season, $18.86 million the following season, and a $19 million team option for the 2024-25 season. Though NYK seem reluctant to include a first-round pick in a potential deal, they might change their minds if they get Russell in exchange.

Fournier gives the Wolves a better ground spacer. Adding Quickley and a pick could also sweeten the deal and help even out salaries given Russell has a heftier contract.

Reuniting with Gobert could also motivate Fournier. Note that both guys are members of the France national team where they have had a lot of success.

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