Originally posted on The Sports Bank  |  Last updated 1/24/12

The Minnesota Timberwolves are off to a respectable 7-10 start to the 2011-12 NBA season.

Ricky Rubio is showing that he has all the makings to be a superstar point guard. While Kevin Love is having one of the best individual seasons of any player in recent memory.

In watching the Timberwolves, there is an obvious surplus of average to above average players on the wing. And that’s not even factoring in the absence of injured Martell Webster and Malcom Lee.

While the Wolves could be considered a fringe playoff team, there’s a few moves that the Wolves could make to speed up the rebuilding process, and be considered a legitimate playoff team this spring.

Here are five fake trades that the Minnesota Timberwolves could make.

I spent hours last night looking at prospective deals on ESPN’s Trade Machine. While I’m definitely no Bill Simmons– the self proclaimed Picasso of the NBA Trade Machine– I’d like to consider myself a Van Gogh of the ESPN Trade Machine.

Lets first set the ground rules.

  • All five trades work within the confines of the new collective bargaining agreement.
  • All five trades work within each participating team’s salary cap threshold.
  • All trades could theoretically happen today.
  • All five trades conceivably help each team, and would result in at least a semi-conversation between team executives.

The list will start with the least exciting trade and end with the most exciting trade.

Fake Trade Number Five:

Minnesota Timberwolves receive:

  • Omri Casspi– Forward, 23. 7.9 points per game, 12.5 player efficiency rating (PER), 50.4 true shooting percentage, 30.0 three-point percentage.

Cleveland Cavaliers receive:

  • Michael Beasley– Forward, 23. 12.9 points per game, 7.0 rebounds per game, 7.32 PER, 40.0 three-point percentage

Why the Wolves say “no”:

Casspi is a downgrade in essentially every offense category from Beasley. While Beasley is the epitome of an enigma, he has the ability to make a 30-point night seem effortless.

Why the Wolves say “yes”:

Since Beasley’s exit from the lineup, the Wolves have had considerably better ball movement. The Wolves can cut ties with the Beasley-era and get something back in return. While Casspi is by no means a potential star, he is a solid role player that could help this team off of the bench.

Who says “no”?:

Minnesota. While the ball movement has been nice in Beasley’s absence, the Wolves have had significant scoreless stretches where a guy like Beasley– who can create his own shot– would’ve been the perfect remedy.

Fake Trade Number Four:

Minnesota receives:

  • Anthony Morrow– shooting guard/small forward, 26. 12.2 points per game, 42.2 three-point percentage, 13.6 PER, 51.6 effective field-goal percentage, 55.0 true shooting percentage.

New Jersey Nets receives:

  • Wes Johnson– shooting guard/small forward, 24. 6.1 points per game, 6.63 PER, 25.0 three-point percentage, 2.9 rebounds per game.

Why the Wolves say “yes”:

Morrow can flat out shoot the ball from deep. From two, not so much, but the guy is a sniper that would fit well in Rick Adelman’s offense. They upgrade from a guy that should be a pure shooter, to a guy that is a pure shooter.

Why the Wolves say “no”:

The Wolves invested the 4th overall pick in Johnson. While he has been a shell of what they thought he would be, he still has significant upside. They have the 24-year old under contract through the 2013-14 season, and it would be assumed he will only grow once he figures out three aspects of the game: How to play with Rubio, how to play in Adelman’s system, and how to shoot a jump shot.

Who says “no”?:

Minnesota. If for no other reason than David Kahn is too stubborn to admit that Johnson hasn’t panned out as a player. That is unless you could trade Johnson for another young player with tremendous upside which has yet to be seen consistently…

Fake Trade Number Three:

Minnesota receives:

  • DeMar DeRozan– shooting guard/freak athlete, 22. 14.8 points per game, 9.7 PER, 31.6 three-point percentage, -.022 win shares per 48 minutes.
Toronto Raptors receive:
  • Wes Johnson– shooting guard/small forward, 24. 6.1 points per game, 6.63 PER, 25.0 three-point percentage, 2.9 rebounds per game.

Why the Wolves say “yes”:

DeRozen would be a great fit in Rick Adelman’s offense. He would get two or three alley-oops per game from Rubio, and would add athleticism at the shooting guard position that the Wolves have been missing. He shoots the three better than Johnson, and a new start would be in the best interest for both young players. While his advanced metrics are very poor, DeRozan would be confined to a role alongside Rubio which would aid in his skill development.

Why the Wolves say “no”:

I don’t think they can, but if they did I would have to chalk it up to the lack of defensive willingness on the part of DeRozan (defensive rating of 106 and offensive rating of 88).  Plus, I do believe that Adelman likes Johnson, but he presumably wants more time with the 24-year old.

Who says “no”?:

Toronto. Their front office rarely makes sense– they owe Amir Johnson 25 million over the next four years. But in looking only at points per game, I see Toronto wanting more, and I don’t think the Wolves would kick in one of the two protected first round picks that they own.

Fake Trade Number Two:

Minnesota receives:

  • O.J. Mayo– shooting guard, 24. 11.3 points per game, 44.0 three-point percentage, 14.8 PER, 52.6 effective field-goal percentage.
  • Josh Selby– point guard, 20. Stats irrelevant, included to match salaries.
Memphis receives:
  • Wes Johnson– shooting guard/small forward, 24. 6.1 points per game, 6.63 PER, 25.0 three-point percentage, 2.9 rebounds per game.
  •  Luke Ridnour– guard, 30. 12.6 points per game, 37.3 three-point percentage, 3.8 assists per game, 15.0 PER.

Why the Wolves say “yes”:

Mayo becomes a restricted free agent after this season. While there’s no guarantee he plays for the Wolves in 2012-13, Kahn and company would have to be inclined to take a shot at a shooting guard with elite potential. Memphis has been willing to shop Mayo around, and this would be an offer that would aid both teams as they pursue a birth in the playoffs.

Why the Wolves say “no”:

If a team gives Mayo an offer sheet that the Wolves can’t match this off-season, then they turned Johnson and Ridnour into Josh Selby. While Mayo is good right now his potential raises his value immensely. Mayo is not a guy that the Wolves would want to rent.

Who says “no”?:

Both. Memphis can get a better deal for Mayo, and Minnesota would be weary of the chance Mayo walks this season.

Fake Trade Number One:

Minnesota receives:

  • Ray Allen– shooting guard, 36. 14.9 points per game, 56.3 three-point percentage, 63.5 effective field-goal percentage (1st in NBA), 67.7 true shooting percentage (2nd in NBA).

Boston receives:

  • Wes Johnson– shooting guard/small forward, 24. 6.1 points per game, 6.63 PER, 25.0 three-point percentage, 2.9 rebounds per game.
  • Luke Ridnour– guard, 30. 12.6 points per game, 37.3 three-point percentage, 3.8 assists per game, 15.0 PER.
  • Anthony Randolph– power forward/center, 22. 6.2 points per game, 16.78 PER, 2.5 rebounds per game.

Why Minnesota says “yes”:

You’d be taking Allen as a rental for the remainder of the season. While they’d have the chance to re-sign Allen in the off-season, I can’t see him being on the roster in 2012-13. But in adding Allen the Wolves get a legitimate shooting guard, and the best shooter in the NBA. The Wolves instantly become a 5-7 seed in the Western Conference, and the fan base experiences the playoffs for the first time in eight years. Who wouldn’t want that?

Why Minnesota says “no”:

They’d be renting Allen, and at the current point in the Timberwolves’ rebuilding process, renting players is not the place they want to be. While it would be nice to add Allen and become a playoff team, they may in fact be taking two steps forward and three steps back when he leaves in free agency. You rent players if you can win a title, not simply to make the playoffs.

Who says “no”?

Both. Boston will receive better offers. Minnesota isn’t in the rental business quite yet.

It would be a good talker, though, if Allen came to the Wolves and played his first game for the team that drafted him.

-Brett Cloutier

Brett is a contributor to The Sports Bank. He covers all things Minnesota sports. Brett is a co-host of ‘The Backdoor Cut’ on KFAN.com. You can follow him on Twitter @brettcloutier

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