The Minnesota Timberwolves will likely keep Anthony Bennett if they acquire the former No. 1 overall pick as part of the proposed Kevin Love trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers, reports Jerry Zgoda of the Minnesota Star Tribune.
The Timberwolves are still angling to get Thaddeus Young from the Philadelphia 76ers, though, potentially sending Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Alexey Shved and a draft pick to get it done. Here's one way the trade could look:
Educated guess for Saturday: CLE gets Love, MIN gets Wiggins, Bennett, Young, PHI gets Shved, Moute, CLE #1 (from MIA).— Jon Krawczynski (@APkrawczynski) August 21, 2014
This opposes whispers that have persisted for weeks saying Minnesota could re-route Bennett to Philadelphia while holding onto the cornerstone of the package, fellow top pick Andrew Wiggins.
However, Zgoda says "don't believe it" of Bennett-to-Philly. Instead, the Timberwolves apparently want to keep the former UNLV star, which does make a good deal of sense given where the team will be competitively after giving up its franchise player in Love. Swapping Bennett for Young would've been a short-term move, which doesn't really mesh with the rest of what Minnesota is doing.
So will the Timberwolves end up keeping Bennett, who's already in consideration as one of the worst top picks in draft history? Or would it make more sense for everyone involved to get a surer thing and send the big man packing?
Why it makes sense
The Timberwolves dealing Love is an act of rebuilding. They can frame the trade however they'd like and start pumping up Wiggins and Ricky Rubio as the future of the franchise, but that doesn't change the fact that Minnesota will be a significantly worse team next season after losing a legit All-NBA forward.
With that in mind, Bennett seems like a far more useful asset than Young would ever be. While the 76er is definitely a better player now, his contract and age make him nothing more than a short-term addition, and one that would likely cost the team some ping pong balls in the draft lottery.
Minnesota won't be good enough to make the playoffs next season either way, so why not keep Bennett and see what happens if he gets regular minutes next to a dynamic, pass-first point guard in Rubio? The guy wasn't a No. 1 overall pick by accident, and it's possible the expanded opportunity could light a fire under him. If so, he's far more valuable on his rookie contract than Young will be.
Why it doesn't make sense
Bennett was bad in 2013-14. Like, historically bad for someone with his pedigree.
So it's possible the Timberwolves don't really like what they see in Bennett, but recognize he's one of the best assets they can acquire in addition to Wiggins. If Flip Saunders and company don't buy into what Bennett is selling, they could be acquiring him simply to flip him again, whether it's for Young or someone else.
After all, Bennett played just 12.8 minutes per game last season and shot 36 percent from the field. His 6.9 PER would be unacceptable for pretty much any player, let alone a promising prospect, and his improvement throughout the season was marginal.
The Timberwolves may also want to avoid completely cratering next season. While teams like Philly are content to shamelessly rebuild on their way to whatever's next, Minnesota may not want to put its fan base through that kind of experience for slightly better odds at a title. We don't really know what kind of calculus they're doing behind closed doors.
Likelihood it happens
The Bennett-Young trade was always a rumor, and Zgoda is one of the most plugged-in reporters covering the Timberwolves. Given the apparent confidence in his report, it seems likely the proposed deal with Philadelphia was never quite the sure thing some others made it out to be. Retaining both Wiggins and Bennett as part of the Love trade was always the most logical path for Saunders, and now it appears that's his plan. Things could always change again in the coming days, but for now, we'll peg the odds of Bennett staying in Minnesota at 8 out of 10.