Juan Hernangomez

Northwest Notes: Beasley, McCollum, Connelly, Farnam

The Timberwolves’ ceiling on retaining Malik Beasley could go into the range of $18MM annually, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune opines. Offering Beasley, a restricted free agent, an annual salary of $15-16MM seems like a fair price, Hine continues. Jerami Grant‘s three-year, $27MM contract with Denver might be the upper limit for another of Minnesota’s restricted free agents, Juan Hernangomez, Hine adds.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum remains optimistic the season will resume, he told Casey Holdahl of the team’s website. “I think we’re in a good place and I think the NBA has been at the front of the line in terms of making decisions that are health-based and not based on finances,” he said. “I think as long as we continue to follow those guidelines, we’ll be in a great spot to return at some point. Whenever that is, I know they won’t rush it, I know they’ll make sure everything is in place the way it should be.”
  • Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly said the suspension of play has accelerated the timeline for offseason preparations, according to Mike Singer of the Denver Post“The bulk of your energy is spent toward the draft, but you also have an eye on the offseason, free agency, any potential trades,” Connelly said. “There’s no shortage of video. We’re going to have a pick at No. 21 (from Houston), so you’re going to have to know a lot of players and know them as well as you possibly can.”
  • The Timberwolves’ longtime trainer, Gregg Farnam, has tried to remain a calming presence during the pandemic, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic writes. “I’ve learned to remain calm and just kind of be able to evaluate what’s going on, dig through the process and provide the best information and care we can to the athlete,” Farnam said. “Let’s try not to get too excited because it seems like everybody else is very excitable, so I think that’s a good trait to have in my situation.”

Northwest Notes: Beasley, Hernangomez, Layman, Dort

Malik Beasley and Juan Hernangomez played their old team for the first time on Sunday, suiting up for the Timberwolves against the Nuggets, less than three weeks after being traded to Minnesota. Before the game, Hernangomez was the more nostalgic of the two former Nuggets, praising the organization and the fans in Denver, as Mike Singer of The Denver Post details.

“I’m the man who I am because (of) Denver, because (of the) organization, all the teammates, all the coaches,” Hernangomez. “I just want to (say) thanks to everybody for making my dream come true, make the chance to a kid who was dreaming about the NBA, make believe it and make it true.”

Beasley was more pragmatic about seeing his old team, per Singer: “It’s a business, put it like that. It’s not about personal life or anything like that. It’s just a strict business. That’s how you gotta take it.”

According to Nick Kosmider of The Athletic, the Nuggets offered Beasley a multiyear extension worth “north of $10MM annually” last fall. When Beasley turned down that offer, it increased the odds that he wouldn’t remain in Denver long-term.

As Kosmider explains, the Nuggets have “strongly hinted” that they’d like to re-sign Jerami Grant, and they’ll also have to negotiate new deals with Paul Millsap and Torrey Craig this summer if they intend to keep them, which reduced the team’s spending power for RFAs-to-be like Beasley and Hernangomez.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Addressing the Timberwolves‘ recent acquisition of D’Angelo Russell, president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas said the NBA is “all about taking chances,” according to Ben Golliver of The Washington Post. “You have to pay a premium for good players,” Rosas said. “Not only did we need a point guard in our system, we needed a guy who fit our timeline and a guy who has already established himself as a player in this league. In those pursuits, you have to be comfortable hearing ‘no,’ and you have to be comfortable being patient.”
  • Timberwolves forward Jake Layman, who has been sidelined since November 18 due to a toe injury, appears to be on the verge of returning to action. Layman was cleared to practice last week, per a press release, and is listed as probable for Monday’s game vs. Dallas (Twitter link).
  • On the heels of one of the best games of his season, rookie Thunder swingman Luguentz Dort is making a case for a promotion to Oklahoma City’s 15-man roster, writes ESPN’s Royce Young. Dort, who scored 15 points on 6-of-6 shooting in a Sunday win over San Antonio, won’t be eligible for the postseason if he remains on his two-way contract.

Timberwolves Owner Talks Saunders, D-Lo, Wiggins

Although Timberwolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas is responsible for making roster decisions in Minnesota, any trade requires the approval of owner Glen Taylor. As such, Taylor was very involved in basketball decisions at this year’s trade deadline, when the Wolves traded away half their roster in a series of major deals.

In a conversation with Sid Hartman of The Star Tribune, Taylor said that he and Rosas “talk quite often” and that the team had spent much of the season preparing for moves like the one that sent Robert Covington to Houston and especially the one that saw D’Angelo Russell land in Minnesota.

Taylor said he’s “excited” to have acquired so many promising young players that are in the same age range as Karl-Anthony Towns, suggesting that the team’s hope is for those players to continue to improve and grow together.

Taylor’s conversation with Hartman included a handful of other noteworthy comments, including the Wolves owner’s thoughts on head coach Ryan Saunders‘ job security, trading former No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins, and more. Here are a few of the highlights:

On whether he has considered replacing Saunders during the Timberwolves’ current 6-29 stretch:

“No, no, no, he is hired. A young guy and he is going to get better as time goes on and we just have to give him that time.

“[Saunders] is excited about this change that now he has guys that can play the kind of basketball he wants. He is really a believer in the three-point shot, moving the ball fast, and getting up and down the court. He needed some players that were better three-point shooters than what we had previously.”

On the front office continuing to push for Russell after completing its Covington trade:

“They kept working on Russell, that was the main thing that they wanted to accomplish. They were able to do that and get two young guys out of Denver (Malik Beasley and Juan Hernangomez) that were part of our hopes for the future. It just dragged on — these things are difficult — almost to the last few hours before everything fell into place. But it was very interesting to me that normally if part of this would have fell into place, we would have been happy. But in this particular case, everything went our way. We think we have helped our team and we have probably helped some other teams. It is probably a win-win.”

On Wiggins becoming easier to move this season than he was last summer:

“I don’t think there was any secret to that. Andrew worked really hard. He didn’t have the best year last year, and we worked really hard with him this summer to improve and I think we saw some improvements. That allowed us to have the chance to make a trade this year where last year I don’t think it was there with any team.”

“… I think [Warriors head coach] Steve Kerr said it exactly right, this should be a win-win. Us getting Russell should really help us and them getting Wiggins on their team should really help them. Wiggins won’t be expected to be the main scorer. He can fit in with their team. I’m hopeful it works out for him, and I’m confident it will work out with Russell on our team.”

Scotto’s Latest: Gallinari, Nunn, Pacers, Nuggets, More

When the Thunder and Heat discussed a potential Danilo Gallinari trade leading up to last week’s deadline, James Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, Kendrick Nunn, and draft compensation were among the various assets that came up in talks, league sources tell Michael Scotto of Bleacher Report. Miami reportedly wanted to extend Gallinari’s contract as part of a deal, but couldn’t agree to terms with his camp, which is one main reason the trade didn’t happen.

ESPN’s Zach Lowe wrote last week that he believed the Heat could’ve acquired Gallinari without surrendering any of their young players like Nunn. So even though his name came up in discussions, that doesn’t necessarily mean the Thunder would have insisted on his inclusion, depending on what other pieces were involved.

While Gallinari remained with the Thunder for this season, Scotto suggests the Heat and Knicks could be among his potential suitors this summer. Miami clearly has interest, and created some cap flexibility for 2020/21 by moving Johnson and Dion Waiters last week. New York, meanwhile, will have cap space and is hiring veteran CAA agent Leon Rose as its new president of basketball operations. Gallinari is a CAA client.

Here are a few more noteworthy tidbits from Scotto’s look at the post-deadline landscape:

  • The Knicks and Pacers discussed a possible Marcus Morris trade. According to Scotto, a package that featured Aaron Holiday, Doug McDermott, and T.J. Leaf was “briefly kicked around,” but didn’t end up going far.
  • McDermott’s name also came up in discussions about a potential Pacers trade with the Bucks involving Ersan Ilyasova, says Scotto. It’s not known which team initiated those talks.
  • Before the Cavaliers traded for Andre Drummond, they called the Pacers to ask about Myles Turner‘s availability, per Scotto. Indiana has remained firm on keeping Turner, though many executives expect the team to eventually break up its Turner/Domantas Sabonis frontcourt.
  • The Nuggets discussed the possibility of trading Gary Harris, Malik Beasley, and Juan Hernangomez as part of a package for Bulls guard Zach LaVine or Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday, sources tell Scotto. New Orleans set a very high asking price for Holiday, while LaVine was said to be “off-limits” for Chicago, so Denver didn’t get far on either front.

Wolves, Hawks, Rockets, Nuggets Complete Four-Team Trade

FEBRUARY 5: The trade is now official, with Twitter announcements from the RocketsTimberwolves and Nuggets confirming the deal. Atlanta also formally waived Chandler Parsons to accommodate the trade, as detailed earlier.

FEBRUARY 4: The Timberwolves, Hawks, Rockets, and Nuggets are in agreement on a massive four-team trade, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Shams Charania of The Athletic first reported (via Twitter) that the four clubs were close to reaching a deal, while Woj says (via Twitter) the players involved are now being informed.

According to Wojnarowski (Twitter link), Charania (Twitter links), Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link), and Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (Twitter link), the trade looks like this:

There have been rumors for the last several days suggesting that a trade like this one could be in play. An earlier variation had the Warriors in Denver’s place, with the Wolves pursuing D’Angelo Russell, but Golden State backed off those talks earlier on Tuesday, leaving Minnesota, Houston, and Atlanta to work out a new agreement.

Let’s break down how the deal will impact each team…

Houston Rockets:

Daryl Morey‘s group has long been on the lookout for an upgrade on the wing, and they’ll get their man in Covington, a three-and-D specialist who is on a team-friendly contract that’s worth $11.3MM this season and runs through 2021/22.

The Rockets gave up two valuable assets in Capela and their 2020 first-round pick to bring in Covington, Bell, and a second-round pick. By moving Nene and Green in the deal, the team will also move well below the luxury-tax line, which would be a favorable outcome for ownership — while Tilman Fertitta has claimed to have signed off on the club being a taxpayer, it looks like this could be the second straight season that the Rockets sneak out of the tax at the deadline.

On the other hand, as Wojnarowski points out (via Twitter), the structure of the deal would allow Houston to take back up to another $12MM in salary. So until the trade is made official, there’s a window for the Rockets to potentially expand it even further to include another team and player, assuming they find a suitable target, agree on compensation, and are willing to go back into the tax. That won’t be easy, however.

While Bell could play some minutes at the five, the Rockets will remain on the lookout for a more reliable replacement for Capela, either via a trade or on the buyout market, tweets Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Houston’s go-to lineup will feature P.J. Tucker at center, but the team still wants a more traditional big to match up with star bigs in the playoffs, notes Tim MacMahon of ESPN (via Twitter).

MacMahon also adds (via Twitter) that Green, who is likely out for the season with a broken foot, had the ability to veto his inclusion in this trade, but won’t do so.

The move will reduce the Rockets’ roster count to 13 players on standard contracts, so the team will have two weeks to get back up to the NBA’s required minimum of 14 players.

Denver Nuggets:

The Nuggets were said to be seeking a first-round pick for Beasley and a second-round pick for Hernangomez, their two restricted-free-agents-to-be. They won’t quite meet that asking price, but they’ll at least get the first-rounder they were looking for, acquiring Houston’s 2020 pick in the deal.

In addition to sending out Beasley and Hernangomez, Denver also moved Vanderbilt and will bring back four players: Green, Bates-Diop, Napier, and Vonleh. The team had an open spot on its 15-man roster, so no one will have to be waived, though MacMahon reports (via Twitter) that Green is expected to be cut after the trade is official, once again opening up that last roster spot.

As ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski observes (via Twitter), Napier and Vonleh are capable of playing rotation minutes and providing depth off the bench for the Nuggets. Bates-Diop will probably be further down on the depth chart. Napier and Vonleh will be unrestricted free agents at season’s end, while KBD has a non-guaranteed minimum salary for 2020/21.

Having previously traded away their own 2020 first-round selection for Jerami Grant, the Nuggets can get back into this year’s draft with Houston’s first-rounder. Of course, with Wojnarowski suggesting Denver will continue to be active before Thursday’s deadline, that pick could theoretically be flipped in another move.

Atlanta Hawks:

The Hawks have been linked to several centers over the course of the season, reportedly expressing interest in Andre Drummond, Steven Adams, and Dewayne Dedmon, among others. In recent days, the club appeared to be zeroing in on Capela, a big man whose rim-running ability will complement Trae Young on offense and whose rim-protecting ability could help bail out Young on defense.

Atlanta will surrender Turner’s expiring contract, Brooklyn’s lottery-protected 2020 first-round pick, and an extra future second-round pick in order to lock up Capela. The move will give the Hawks some cost certainty in the middle — Capela, who has a $14.9MM cap hit in 2019/20, has three more years and about $51.3MM left on his contract after this season. He won’t be eligible for free agency until the summer of 2023.

Acquiring a center now rather than waiting until the summer and trying to land one in free agency will give the Hawks the opportunity to evaluate how Capela looks next to big man John Collins. A heel injury is currently nagging Capela, but it’s not believed to be an issue that jeopardizes the rest of his season.

A 2017 first-round pick, Collins will be eligible for a rookie scale extension during the 2020 offseason. If he meshes with Capela down the stretch, Atlanta would likely be more willing to invest heavily long-term in Collins, who is expected to seek the max or something close to it.

As ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets, the Hawks are currently carrying 15 players, so they’ll have to waive or trade someone in order to take back both Capela and Nene for Turner, even if they intend to eventually release Nene.

Minnesota Timberwolves:

Although the Timberwolves probably would have preferred to get the Warriors involved in this deal to acquire Russell, they’ll get a handful of intriguing assets in exchange for Covington and several low-cost role players (Bell, Bates-Diop, Napier, and Vonleh).

Beasley and Hernangomez will both be eligible for restricted free agency this summer, which will give the Wolves the chance to match any offer sheet they sign. Neither player had been great this season in Denver, as a crowded depth chart pushed them out of the rotation at times, but they both had solid seasons in 2018/19.

Beasley averaged 11.3 PPG with a .474/.402/.848 shooting line in 81 games (23.2 MPG) a year ago, while Hernangomez averaged 5.8 PPG and 3.8 RPG on .439/.365/.767 shooting in 70 games (19.4 MPG). The Nuggets explored contract extensions last fall with both players, reportedly offering Beasley $30MM over three years, but they didn’t reach a deal with either one. Now the Wolves will have the opportunity to evaluate them during the season’s final two months and decide whether they’re part of the franchise’s long-term plans.

In addition to acquiring those two Denver players – and a little-used project in Vanderbilt – the Timberwolves take on Turner’s $18.6MM expiring contract, generating some extra cap flexibility for the 2020 offseason by moving off Covington’s guaranteed money. They also secured Brooklyn’s lottery-protected 2020 first-round pick, which could end up at No. 15 or 16 if the Nets hang onto a playoff spot this spring.

This move doesn’t necessarily affect the Wolves’ plans to revisit a Russell trade with the Warriors, though like Allen Crabbe, Turner can’t be aggregated with another player in a deadline deal to match D-Lo’s salary. That Brooklyn first-round pick figures to be one of the assets Minnesota dangles in any offer for Russell.

Like Houston, Minnesota will have two openings on its 15-man roster once this trade is finalized, and will have up to two weeks to get back up to 14 players, the league’s required minimum.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Notes On Nuggets/Wolves/Rockets/Hawks Trade

Within the past month, both Malik Beasley and Juan Hernangomez approached Nuggets management about the possibility of being traded, a league source tells Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Beasley and Hernangomez were key parts of Denver’s rotation in 2018/19 but had less consistent roles this season in large part due to Jerami Grant‘s arrival and Michael Porter Jr.‘s emergence.

Both players sought more consistent playing time and will now get the chance to earn an increase in minutes in Minnesota. Beasley and Hernangomez, both of whom are eligible for restricted free agency at season’s end, could even become long-term building blocks for the Timberwolves if they finish the 2019/20 season strong.

Here are a few more notes and leftover items on the 12-player, four-team trade that also involved Atlanta and Houston:

  • Beasley was a popular trade target leading up to the deadline — a league source tells Singer that at least 10 or 12 teams had inquired on the fourth-year shooting guard in talks with the Nuggets.
  • Although there has been speculation that the Nuggets intend to use the first-round pick they’re acquiring from Houston as part of a potential package for Jrue Holiday, that wasn’t the team’s plan when it made the deal, Singer writes in a separate Denver Post article. The general belief is that the Pelicans will hang onto Holiday through the deadline anyway.
  • The trade helps clarify a crowded rotation in Denver and gives the Nuggets some options for subsequent moves, says Nick Kosmider of The Athletic.
  • Daryl Morey and the Rockets are going all-in on their small-ball philosophy by essentially swapping Clint Capela for Robert Covington, writes Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. The deal shows just how unconventional Houston is willing to get, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic, who explores the reasons why the team was okay with moving on from Capela.
  • Meanwhile, Chris Kirschner of The Athletic examines what Capela will bring to the Hawks and what the move means for the franchise’s present and future. As Kirschner points out, Atlanta wasn’t willing to give up a first-round pick for Andre Drummond, but did so for Capela, who is locked in for several years at a reasonable price. Capela should fit in with the Hawks’ up-tempo offense and help anchor their defense, Kirschner adds.
  • Count Trae Young among those excited by the Hawks‘ acquisition of Capela. Getting Clint, it’s big-time,” Young said, per Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter links). “I already shot him a text and talked to him. I’m excited about getting him. … There’s been times late in games where we just couldn’t get a stop. All we needed was one stop. Having him makes our defense that much better.” Young’s enthusiasm is a good sign for the Hawks, since there were rumblings earlier this season that the second-year star wanted the team to make a move.

Trade Rumors: Clippers, Herro, LaVine, Poeltl, More

Chris Mannix of SI.com is among the latest reporters to weigh in this week on the Clippers‘ search for a center. According to Mannix, Los Angeles’ coaching staff has some concerns about the team’s rebounding. We heard on Monday that the Clips are also wary of facing star centers like Rudy Gobert or Nikola Jokic in the postseason.

Sources tell Mannix that there’s some interest within the Clippers’ front office in Tristan Thompson, whom the Cavaliers have put on the trade block. Mannix also names disgruntled Kings big man Dewayne Dedmon as a possible target, though he cautions that Dedmon wouldn’t be a preferred option for L.A.

The Clippers have Maurice Harkless‘ $11MM+ expiring contract available to use as a salary-matching piece for a trade target earning an eight-figure salary, but the team will have to be careful about how it fires that bullet. Acquiring a pricey center like Thompson or Dedmon using Harkless’ deal could take the team out of the market for a wing in the same salary range, such as Marcus Morris or Robert Covington.

Here are a few more trade rumors from around the NBA:

  • The Heat have told teams that Tyler Herro is unavailable at this time, according to Mannix. If Miami wants to do something major, Herro would likely be the first player a potential trade partner asks about, but the Heat have no interest in moving him.
  • The Bulls have received some trade feelers for Zach LaVine, but a source tells Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link) that the 24-year-old is “off-limits.” ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and Zach Lowe said essentially the same thing on a podcast this week.
  • Teams are calling the Spurs to ask about Jakob Poeltl, but the asking price is believed to be too high, tweets Jabari Young of CNBC. Poeltl will be a restricted free agent at season’s end, so it’s possible San Antonio will lower its price by Thursday if the big man isn’t in the team’s long-term plans.
  • Nuggets power forward Juan Hernangomez is among the players of interest for the Rockets, per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). Denver is reportedly seeking a second-round pick for Hernangomez.

Nuggets Seeking First-Round Pick For Malik Beasley

The Nuggets are open to listening to inquiries on swingman Malik Beasley, but are seeking a first-round pick in any deal for him, two league sources tell Mike Singer of The Denver Post.

After enjoying a modest breakout season a year ago for Denver, Beasley has been in and out of the rotation and hasn’t been as productive in 2019/20. For the season, he’s averaging just 7.8 PPG on .392/.364/.941 shooting in 40 games (18.1 MPG). The 23-year-old is in the final year of his rookie contract and will be eligible for restricted free agency at season’s end, so the Nuggets will have to decide soon whether he’s in their long-term plans.

Like Beasley, Juan Hernangomez will be eligible for restricted free agency this offseason and could be had this week for the right price. The Nuggets are seeking a second-round pick for Hernangomez, sources tell Singer. Denver has already traded away its own first- and second-round selections for 2020.

The Timberwolves are among the teams with interest in Beasley, a source tells Chris Crouse of Hoops Rumors (Twitter link), who cautions that any pursuit of Beasley would be secondary to Minnesota’s efforts to land D’Angelo Russell. As for Hernangomez, Singer reports that the Hawks are one team that has inquired on the power forward.

While the Nuggets could explore the market for a larger trade, don’t expect second-year forward Michael Porter Jr. to be involved in such a deal. We heard earlier in the season that Denver views Porter as essentially untouchable and recent reports have confirmed as much.

Singer hears from a source that the Nuggets have no intention of moving Porter, while Sam Amick of The Athletic said on the Tampering podcast that team owner Stan Kroenke is among those who don’t want to see the 2018 lottery pick go anywhere (hat tip to RealGM).

Nuggets Notes: Beasley, Porter, Hernangomez, Malone

Nuggets coach Michael Malone credits reserve guard Malik Beasley for not sulking during a difficult season, Mike Singer of the Denver Post relays. Beasley, who can be a restricted free agent this summer if the Nuggets extend a qualifying offer, got extended minutes on Thursday with Jamal Murray and Gary Harris sidelined and took advantage. He scored a season-high 27 points in an overtime win over Golden State. Beasley hasn’t received steady playing time but Malone says Beasley has handled it professionally.

“You have a choice, as a man, you have a choice,” Malone said. “‘Am I gonna feel sorry for myself or am I gonna stay ready?’ And to his credit he’s continued to stay ready.”

We have more on the Nuggets:

  • Malone vows to keep rookie Michael Porter Jr. in the rotation going forward, Singer tweets “Earlier in the season, he wasn’t sure when he was going to be playing, is he going to be playing? So now, that’s out the window,” he said. “Michael Porter is a huge part of our future, he’s going to play every night.” Porter has reached double figures in each of his last three games, including an 18-point, 10-rebound, 5-assist performance against the Warriors.
  • Trading forward Juan Hernangomez would negatively impact the locker room, Singer opines in his latest mailbag. Hernangomez has a major influence on team chemistry and is close friends with Nikola Jokic, Singer notes, adding that Jokic, Murray and Porter are the team’s untouchables in trade discussions.
  • Malone is glad to be coaching a playoff contender that didn’t take shortcuts to success, as he explained to Michael Lee of The Athletic. Malone notes that Denver hasn’t gone for the quick fix. “For me, this being my fifth year, that’s maybe one of the more enjoyable things about our journey, is how we’ve been able to build this from the ground up and build it from within, organically,” he said. “We haven’t gone out and traded for the marquee player. We haven’t mortgaged our future by sending these two young assets to here, to rent a player for a year or two, to have instant success, but not long-term success. It speaks to our front office, our ownership that we can continue to communicate and collaborate and challenge each other.”

NBA Trade Candidate Watch: Northwest Division

Over the course of the 2019/20 NBA season, up until February’s trade deadline, we’re keeping an eye on potential trade candidates from around the NBA, monitoring their value and exploring the likelihood that they’ll be moved. Each of these looks at possible trade candidates focuses on a specific division, as we zero in on three players from that division.

After identifying three Northwest trade candidates in November and three more in December, including one who was dealt shortly thereafter, we’re returning to the division today to identify another three players who could be dealt by February 6. Let’s dive in…

Robert Covington, F
Minnesota Timberwolves
$11.3MM cap hit; $12.1MM guaranteed salary in 2020/21; $13.0MM guaranteed salary in 2021/22

Covington is one of the more intriguing potential trade chips on the market. Barring a huge second-half push led by Karl-Anthony Towns, the 15-24 Timberwolves are likely lottery-bound, so it makes sense for the team to be sellers at the deadline. However, Covington still has two more years on his contract beyond this season – at a very reasonable price – and is the sort of player a retooling team might want to hang onto.

As a strong perimeter defender and a reliable three-point shooter, Covington should draw interest from virtually every contender. There are some teams that wouldn’t necessarily be suitable trade partners for Minnesota due to a lack of salary-matching options or valuable assets, but it’s hard to find a club that wouldn’t be an on-court fit for the 29-year-old forward.

New Timberwolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas spent most of the last two decades with the Rockets, whose front office always prioritized chasing superstars. If Rosas has brought that philosophy to Minnesota, it will be interesting to see what sort of return he’d seek for Covington. Getting a star in return is unlikely, but perhaps the Wolves could acquire draft picks and/or prospects that could be used as the foundation of a package for an impact player down the road.

Juan Hernangomez, PF
Denver Nuggets
$3.3MM cap hit; RFA in 2020

Jerami Grant‘s arrival and Michael Porter Jr.‘s return to health have made the Nuggets a deeper and more dangerous team than they were last season. However, what’s been good for the franchise hasn’t been good for Hernangomez’s playing time — he’s averaging just 11.9 minutes per game and frequently gets DNP-CDs after logging 19.4 MPG in 70 contests a year ago.

Hernangomez, who has played at least 20 minutes in a game just once since December 8, could reclaim an increased role if the Nuggets are hit by injuries at some point, but it’s not as if he’s been all that effective even when he gets to play. His 3.0 PPG, .356 FG%, and .267 3PT% are all career lows.

With potential restricted free agency on tap for Hernangomez this summer, it might be in everyone’s best interests to grant the 24-year-old Spaniard a change of scenery. Unless the Nuggets still envision the fourth-year forward as a long-term rotation player, trying to extract a second-round pick for him now – or including him in a larger package for an upgrade – would make sense.

Justin Patton, C
Oklahoma City Thunder
$1.6MM cap hit; $1.76MM non-guaranteed salary in 2020/21; $1.9MM team option in 2021/22

Patton is the sort of under-the-radar trade candidate whose status is more important for financial reasons than it is for on-court ones. After all, the third-year big man has appeared in just four games this season, playing a total of 14 minutes. He’s not a difference-maker for the Thunder and wouldn’t be more than a project for any team acquiring him.

However, with the Thunder approximately $922K over the tax line – per Early Bird Rights – the idea of moving Patton might appeal to the team. Trading away the 22-year-old at the deadline and then replacing him with a player on a prorated minimum-salary within the next couple weeks would allow Oklahoma City to get out of the tax for the 2019/20 season.

Of course, the penalty for finishing $922K over the tax wouldn’t be significant. But the Thunder have been a taxpayer for the last two years and would be subject to repeater penalties this season – and going forward – if they finish in the tax again this spring. Plus, sneaking below that threshold would mean profiting from the payments made by other taxpayers.

Unless they’re committed to Patton’s development or make another trade that gets them below the tax line, I’d be surprised if the Thunder don’t make a move involving the center.

Revisit the rest of our 2019/20 Trade Candidate series right here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.