On Monday’s edition of The Lowe Post, host Zach Lowe float a purely speculative commercial idea, in which the Minnesota Timberwolves would send D’Angelo Russell and two first 3 protected picks in the first round to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for Dejounte Murray. Even if this was just an idea, the thought process behind wolves and spurs as business partners makes some sense.
At the latest @ZachLowe_NBA podcast, a hypothetical (i.e. not sourced or reported) commercial idea was launched involving the Timberwolves.
Would you trade:
D’Angelo Russell + two first three choices protected in the first round
– Canis Hoopus (@canishoopus) June 21, 2022
San Antonio has many handsome players, including Murray, but they don’t have anything like “the boy”. They don’t necessarily need long-term rebuilding, but it would also make sense for them to get some resources in hopes of eventually finding their own Anthony Edwards. Murray is still young, but with a big extension on the horizon, the Spurs may decide to bring a nice booty for Murray and commit to building towards a brighter future. The current iteration of the Spurs doesn’t have a path back to contention, making Murray available may.
While this is unlikely to be a deal that would go through, the fact that it was mentioned in Lowe’s podcast suggests that 1) it was launched in league circles or 2) is an approximation of value for both players based on on some information about the league.
If the Wolves could trade a deal to acquire Murray for D’Lo and two slightly protected first-round picks, they would have to do so unequivocally.
For one, Murray is a very, very good player indeed. He made his first All-Star game in 2022, putting together an impressive 9/21/9 campaign with exceptional defense. Murray was an all-rounder for the Spurs, and that’s what makes him so valuable, even more so in a good team. The 21-point average this year came in with below-average efficiency, but much of that has to do with the fact that, on a lousy Spurs team, Murray was asked to play a role. that didn’t suit him.
At his best, Murray could be the ideal third best player on a really very good team. His boxing numbers wouldn’t be as impressive as his near triple double line from last season, but a player who can be a great third option, despite being an extra rebounder and passer-by, along with elite defense is exactly the kind of player that suits Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns.
As mentioned, Murray’s score is about fourth on the list of reasons on the pitch to trade him with him. This team is in desperate need of help bouncing basketball, and while this traditionally comes from strengthening forward positions, adding a large glass-attacking guard is another way to alleviate the problem. It doesn’t hurt that Murray has also become a wonderful passer-by and attacking midfielder. He is someone who thrives on transition and would fit in perfectly with Chris Finch’s attack.
There are also good reasons to believe that Murray would score more efficiently in a different role in Minnesota. While operating as a first option in San Antonio, Murray settled for a good amount of long two. Those would likely be cut down to some degree as he played someone like Ant a little more and wasn’t forced to be the main / only creation hub in general. In situations where Murray played more off the ball, he shot with an ok clip. On 3s catch and shoot, Murray shot 34.5%. This isn’t setting the world on fire in any way, but it’s substantially better than its 28% on 3s pull-up. Leaning a little more on C&S opportunities would naturally lead to better efficiency.
Even that aside, the most exciting reason to bring Dejounte Murray to Minneapolis is his defense. He was part of an All-Defense team in 2018 and led the league in steals last year. He is 6’4 “tall with a wingspan of 6’10” which he actually uses. He’s long as hell, and it’s light on his feet. He can make life miserable for guards and wings, and I imagine a return to a competitive squad would only unlock more of the All-Defensive talent we’ve seen in the past.
If the speculated deal were to be struck, can you imagine a defensive line-up of Patrick Beverley, Dejounte Murray, Anthony Edwards, Jaden McDaniels (or Vando) and Karl-Anthony Towns? The Wolves would easily be able to trade 1-4 in that alignment and would certainly live with the Towns on the perimeter in many situations as well. That formation might have a hard time bouncing obviously, but it might not matter given the many turnovers and bad shots they would have forced. While the spacing in attack wouldn’t be perfect, it would be worth sacrificing a little up front to throw that kind of defense at the teams.
Murray is expected for an extension soon, and it will likely be a maximum or near-maximum extension, but trading with Murray still gives you his Bird Rights. That extension only ends up inhibiting you if Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez refuse to pay for the luxury tax. Plus, his current deal is a bargain. Dejounte still has two years left for his current deal at just $ 16 million a year. This is a bargain given the player he has become.
I understand some nausea from Wolves fans about the cost to acquire him, as D’Lo plus two top 3 protected top 3 players is definitely taking a big hit, but I think that’s more indicative of the situation he’s in. they find the Wolves with Russell. This is not a free agent destination, the team will need to be aggressive to keep updating. In general, to improve the team, I generally assume the Wolves will have to part ways with a pick in the first round. Teams rarely give away good players without having one in return.
I also imagine that any team that takes on Russell’s final year of contract will also ask for a first rounder to do that favor. You can quibble about choice protections, but getting All-Star-ish talent doesn’t come cheap, especially when the money you’re sending is also a negative asset. In short, mistaking Russell for an improvement is likely to make two choices in the first round. This is a risk, sure, but it’s worth it.
Now, the calculation changes a bit if San Antonio stops getting the full Jrue Holiday package, as was reported late last night last night. The holidays essentially went for two first-round picks and two swapping choices. That certainly adds another dimension to all of this, but I’d also be pretty surprised if San Antonio really had such a big haul, unless there’s a team out there that’s as desperate as Milwaukee was at the time of the holiday swap. Bottom line, I think it’s a no-brainer at the original price. Also throwing in two pick swaps would make this a true all-in move, and I’m not sure this is where the Wolves are still in their development arc.
Atlanta and San Antonio have discussed a deal that would swap John Collins for Dejounte Murray, the sources said. Spurs told interest teams that Murray’s transfer would require a “Jurue Holiday-like package”. More league-wide commercial notes @BR_NBA: https://t.co/Q06G8qLlVu
– Jake Fischer (@JakeLFischer) June 23, 2022
If that’s the cost of moving D’Lo, I’m sure some would argue the Wolves would be better off just holding Russell and letting him play the final year of his deal. On paper he makes sense (I’d trade Murray anyway), but he doesn’t remember that these players are human. If you think Russell would be a cheery piece of the locker room while he plays with an expiring contract, after receiving extension offers that he would probably consider disrespectful, I have a beachfront property I’d like to tell you about. It’s not about relationships or anything like that, but good players like Russell generally don’t like being asked to cut salaries or play with an expiring contract.
Russell is absolutely in his rights not to want to play with an expiring contract, by the way. It’s not a fun situation for anyone, so I don’t want this to seem to blame Russell or call him a bad teammate in any way. I don’t know why anyone would assume that he would be happy to play the last year of his contract with no future security.
At the end of the day, it is obviously very unlikely that Dejounte Murray will end up in the Timberwolves shirt. For all the reasons Minnesota should want it, San Antonio certainly does too. It would require a change in organizational philosophy from a team that has quite strongly avoided tanking or rebuilding for quite some time now. Still, Murray is a dream fit in the backcourt with Ant, and that alone makes it a fun exercise.