The Clippers took what appeared to be a stab in the dark by offering Blake Griffin to the Timberwolves for Karl-Anthony Towns before trading Griffin to the Pistons.
But maybe it wasn’t completely a stab in the dark.
Appearing on ESPN, Brian Windhorst elaborated on talk of tension between Towns and Minnesota:
Let’s just put it this way: I didn’t make this up. People in the league have been saying, “You know, maybe we should call and take a look and see what’s going on with Karl Towns.” Now, he and Tom Thibodeau did not have the greatest season together. I think that’s far to say.
They recently fired Vince Legarza, who’s his strength-and-conditioning coach or he’s actually his workout coach with the Wolves and, according to The Athletic, didn’t tell him about it. He found out when everybody else did.
I don’t think that the Wolves are looking to trade him, but teams are definitely sniffing around as if maybe there’s something here.
They’ve already taken some calls on him. This is not new. Blake Griffin, the Clippers called and offered Blake Griffin for him. They’re going to, I believe, get more calls on this, especially the way there seems to be a disconnect between Karl and the franchise.
Maybe these calling teams know the Timberwolves-Town relationship is broken beyond repair. I doubt it, mostly because I doubt the relationship is broken beyond repair.
But teams don’t need to know he and Minnesota are done with each other to propose a trade. Those teams just need to know Thibodeau’s phone number.
There’s no downside to asking the Timberwolves about Towns’ availability. The upside is landing a 22-year-old star with generational offensive talent and the tools to defend exceptionally well.
So, it’s easy to see how a minor issue could be perceived as something bigger.
Of course, this doesn’t preclude this being a major issue already.
The new Collective Bargaining Agreement allows players to receive super-max salaries in their ninth and 10th seasons only if they get it from their original team or changed teams only during their first four seasons via trade. A potential unintended consequence? Unhappy young players – like Towns? – push for trades sooner rather than ride it out longer. If Towns wants to leave the door open for a designated-veteran-player contract outside Minnesota, he must get traded in the next year.
Of course, that doesn’t mean the Timberwolves will trade him. For all the reasons other teams want him, Minnesota wants to keep him. If he and Thibodeau truly reach a breaking point, I doubt ownership would side with Thibodeau. Star players usually win those battles.
The Timberwolves can offer Towns a contract extension this summer worth a projected $157 over five years. They could even include a clause that would lift Towns’ compensation by 20% (to a projected $188 million over five years) if he makes an All-NBA team next season.
That could pave over many problems, but it wouldn’t necessarily signify a complete resolution. Towns would still be trade-eligible, and the clock would still be ticking on his ability to get a designated-veteran-player deal elsewhere later. A max rookie-scale extension wouldn’t lower Towns’ trade value. Any team trying for him surely expects to give him the same extension itself.
Still, Minnesota would probably want to know Towns is content there before offering him so much money. This sets up more weird meetings before the Timberwolves offer someone a max rookie-scale extension.