Celtics

Timberwolves exec makes strong declaration on Karl-Anthony Towns' future

Timberwolves exec makes strong declaration on Karl-Anthony Towns' future

Apologies to NBA fans hoping their team would trade for Minnesota Timberwolves superstar Karl-Anthony Towns. It doesn't sound like the T-Wolves have any desire at all to move the talented center.

Towns signed a five-year, $190 million supermax contract extension with the Timberwolves in September of 2018. Normally, players with lots of term left on their deal are not talked about in trade rumors, but that hasn't stopped speculation over Towns' future in Minnesota.

For example, The Athletic reported in December the Golden State Warriors "have been monitoring Karl-Anthony Towns’ situation in Minnesota."

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Timberwolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas, who was hired by Minnesota in May of 2019, made it quite clear in recent comments made to ESPN's Eric Woodyard that Towns isn't going anywhere.

"Karl-Anthony Towns is as untouchable as they come. He's the best player on our team and he's the guy we're building around. Everything we do is to help him become the best player and to help us become the best team we can be. He's a special talent that we're going to do anything possible to help him achieve his highest potential."

The Timberwolves have reached the playoffs only once since Towns' 2015-16 rookie season. Minnesota enters Thursday in 13th place in the Western Conference standings and 5.5 games out of a playoff spot. The T-Wolves haven't surrounded Towns with enough talent to complete in the West. Some of the reasons for that include poor drafting, trades that haven't worked out and the fact that Minnesota is not a popular free-agent destination for stars. Andrew Wiggins also has fell short of expectations after he was acquired as the centerpiece of the Kevin Love trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014.

Towns is the type of player you unload many quality trade assets to acquire. He's averaging 26.5 points, 10.9 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game this season, while shooting 51.3 percent from the field and 40.9 percent from 3-point range. He's also just 24 years old and has a skill set rarely seen from a player listed at 6-foot-11 and 248 pounds.

The Timberwolves would be foolish to trade him. He's absolutely the type of player a franchise builds around, as Rosas noted in his comments to Woodyard. He's also signed long-term, so there's no pressure of upcoming free agency to force the T-Wolves' hand.

There are plenty of teams that would benefit from additional center depth for the playoffs, including the Boston Celtics. Towns, at least right now, doesn't seem to be a realistic option for those teams. 

Blakely: Walker here to get Brown and Tatum 'to another level'

Why the Boston Celtics won't sign your favorite buyout possibility

Why the Boston Celtics won't sign your favorite buyout possibility

The Boston Celtics’ bench contributed a measly 21 points over the first two games of the team's current four-game road trip out west and a particularly vocal group of fans used the anemic output to renew both their laments that Danny Ainge didn’t make a deadline deal to bolster Boston's second unit and that the team hasn’t yet landed help on the buyout market.

It’s absolutely fair to question Boston’s depth, if only because of the health woes they’ve perpetually endured this season. Kemba Walker’s absence on this trip has forced Marcus Smart to elevate to the first unit and, combine that with rough stretches for Brad Wanamaker and Enes Kanter, and suddenly Boston has had to lean even heavier on rookies like Romeo Langford and Grant Williams.

If the Celtics can get healthy by mid-April, and especially if Robert Williams can emerge as a reliable presence in the center rotation, then the Celtics can confidently trot out an 8-man playoff rotation and lean lightly on rookies in spot minutes.

But even a single injury to Boston’s top 5 puts the team in a tough spot. All of which has some Celtics fans scanning the buyout scrapheap daily and pondering whether there’s an upgrade to be found.

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Championship favorites like the Bucks (Marvin Williams) and Lakers (Markieff Morris) swooped up some of the more intriguing options while the Clippers elected to roll the dice with Reggie Jackson. The remaining buyout pile is paper thin, especially among players with size that Boston might covet to supplement its perimeter depth.

Ainge has admitted that nothing currently on the market has left the Celtics tripping over themselves to cut a player from their full 15-man roster in order to add a free agent. Any player currently on an NBA roster must be bought out by March 1 in order to be playoff-eligible for another team. Which means that Boston will pretty much know what’s available by week’s end (playoff-eligible players can be signed any time before the end of the regular season).

Let’s comb through some of the more popular names, some that have been bought out and others that Celtics fans still have their fingers crossed for, and evaluate the possibilities:

TRISTAN THOMPSON

Maybe the only player that could truly alter a top contender’s playoff chances, Thompson remains under contract in Cleveland and it’s not likely he’ll hit the open market. The Cavaliers can use Thompson’s Bird rights this summer to both pay him a more lucrative contract than he’d otherwise find on the free-agent market and then facilitate a sign-and-trade that could bring back valuable assets for a rebuilding team.

ISAIAH THOMAS

It’s the made-for-Hollywood moment, right? Beleaguered former star returns to a beloved former home and rekindles the magic. Those romanticizing what Thomas did with those 2016-17 Celtics are blinded by the limitations of both player and team. The Celtics prefer spot-up shooting and defensive versatility from any addition but Thomas needs the ball in his hands and his defensive limitations are well-documented. Yes, it’d admittedly be fascinating to see if the Celtics and IT could catch lightning in a bottle again but it’s simply not the right fit, the right circumstances to run it back again.

DEMARCUS COUSINS

The Lakers cut Cousins knowing it was unlikely he could get on the court this season (he tore his ACL back in August, this after working his way back from an Achilles tear). Yes, the Celtics could use pure size given the daunting big men in the East. No, it’s not fair to think that Cousins could get healthy quick enough to help them this year. Cousins seems content to continue rehabbing around the Lakers and explore a second chance with the team this summer.

EVAN TURNER

Speaking of beloved old friends, Turner got dealt from Atlanta to Minnesota at the trade deadline and seems to be waiting to see if a buyout is in his future. A Brad Stevens favorite, Turner would provide a steady ball-handler with playoff experience. The downsides: He doesn’t provide much-needed shooting (he hasn’t made a 3-pointer in 251 minutes of floor time this season) and , when healthy, the Celtics are well-stocked on the wings.

THE WILDCARDS

There simply isn’t a lot of intriguing names currently on the buyout market. Journeyman Tim Frazier knows the Celtics system a bit after his time in Maine but that feels like it would be an overreaction to Wanamaker’s recent hiccup. Same with Trey Burke, who has virtually no playoff experience. Nene has size; he’s also 37 year olds and couldn’t get on the floor for the Rockets this season. Dion Waiters is subtraction by addition. Maybe others will pop onto the market before Sunday. The Celtics would be especially intrigued by someone with size, especially if that person can consistently knock down 3s. But if the upgrade is marginal over what they’ve got, the Celtics will be content to roll with the current mix. Boston can also examine the G-League or overseas for a potential wildcard addition. 

Ultimately, Boston's playoff 8th man might already be in-house. Williams will get a final scan on his balky hip this week and, barring a setback, the team can start easing him back into game action. Romeo Langford has seen an uptick in minutes with Walker sidelined. Semi Ojeleye’s muscular frame could help in series against teams like Milwaukee. 

Health would be Boston’s best late-season acquisition and it’s far more important to the overall success of the team than anyone Boston could add for the final weeks of the season.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Jazz, which begins Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 10:30 p.m. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.

Brad Stevens praises Jayson Tatum: 'He's gotten better since being named an All-Star'

Brad Stevens praises Jayson Tatum: 'He's gotten better since being named an All-Star'

Can we even put into words the type of season Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum is having?

Tatum is receiving some high praise from players and coaches around the NBA, most notably LeBron James calling him a "young king" following his 41-point effort against the Lakers on Sunday. C's coach Brad Stevens joined in before Boston's game against the Trail Blazers in Portland on Tuesday night -- noting that the Tatum party is just getting started.

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"I think he's really doing a great job of recognizing situations," Stevens said. "He's getting more thrown at him every game and, as you can tell, there's a hunger to continue to improve. So, I think the best part about this story is he's had a year worthy of being named an All-Star and he's gotten better since he was named an All-Star. So, those are usually good signs."

The 21-year-old is averaging 22.9 points, 2.9 assists and 7.0 rebounds per game this season while shooting 44.5 percent from the field and 38.6 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.

In the two games since the All-Star break, Tatum is averaging 34.5 points, 2.5 assists and 8.0 rebounds while shooting 49.1 percent from the field and 48.6 percent from 3-point range. Obviously, it's a very small sample size, but Tatum is showing just how dominant he can become while also giving us a taste of his ability to completely take over games.

Kemba Walker hasn't played since the All-Star Game, which has pushed Tatum to become more of a leader for Boston in key situations. Considering the C's will once again be without Walker on Tuesday night, expect more big things from Tatum.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Trail Blazers, which begins Tuesday at 9 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 10 p.m. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.