ESPN Insider’s Joe Kaiser released his ideas for some trades that contender and borderline contender squads. One of them, naturally, being the Minnesota Timberwolves, struck my curiosity.
Why it works for Minnesota: Injuries to Brandon Roy and Chase Budinger have the Wolves heavily relying on guys such as Luke Ridnour, Alexey Shved and Malcolm Lee in the backcourt, at least until Ricky Rubio returns. That doesn’t exactly sound like a playoff team, now does it? Adding Thornton, who is one of the best-kept secrets in the NBA and averaged 18.7 ppg as a full-time starter last season, would immediately give the team a guy in the backcourt who can flat-out score. And he’s signed for two seasons beyond this one. Thomas, seemingly in the doghouse with Keith Smart in Sacto after a stellar rookie season, would replace Barea and provide point guard depth with Ridnour until Rubio is healthy.
Why it works for Sacramento: With Cousins, Thomas Robinson and Jason Thompson manning the center and power forward spots, perimeter-oriented Williams could thrive in his more natural role as a small forward on the Kings. The No. 2 pick of the 2011 draft already seems to have one foot out the door in his Wolves career and could use a new start. Barea, signed through 2014-15, would replace Thomas and give the Kings another short point guard alongside Aaron Brooks.
The deal, I feel, certainly sways in the favor of the Timberwolves. But if you examine closely, the Kings gain in what they lose. Tyreke Evans is slowly but surely regaining confidence in his game yet again, so he seems like he could stay with Sacramento long-term. It’s only an assumption but they’d be hardpressed to not at least entertain that option. By shipping off Thornton to the Wolves, they make more room to resign Evans. And, as Kaiser put it, Williams is in need of a change of scenary, and his perimeter-oriented game would work in Sacramento with Cousins, Thompson and Robinson clogging up the middle (I guess we haven’t seen that here but a change would do Williams some good, I believe.) And then the swap of Thomas for Barea is straightforward but, as Kaiser says, Thomas is currently in the doghouse with little wiggle room to get out. They have a deep backcourt and his demotion comes as no surprise. Barea is a more cerebral player that coach Smart would certainly celebrate having.
For the Wolves, well, it’s an obvious upgrade at the two-guard. The only problem with bringing in a bonafide starter at that spot means that Alexey Shved’s development and minutes will likely see a decrease. The Wolves do indeed need to add some kind of depth at that spot but the player needs to be the right kind of guy — someone who doesn’t need a lot of minutes OR shots to make a difference on the court. That’s never an easy find, and I can say with certainty that Thornton is NOT that guy. I’d still be thrilled to see him in Minnesota yet it frightens me to think of the effect he could have on Shved. As for losing Barea for Thomas, I’m pretty mum. Thomas is more reactive than Barea but he still can hit threes just as efficiently, which is all the Wolves need from the backup point.