Timberwolves Blocked from Trading Karl-Anthony Towns to Suns… and a Bunch of Other Teams

Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Timberwolves are trying to figure out how to go about an offseason with extreme uncertainty. They don’t know who the majority owner will be, by the time the 2024-25 season starts, or if Tim Connelly will be their president of basketball operations after that.

But this summer, the biggest questions surround the roster, not the executives. Will they decide to keep Karl-Anthony Towns around or try to find a trade partner, in an attempt to take another step forward that doesn’t include the 7-foot unicorn?

Can the Minnesota Timberwolves trade Karl-Anthony Towns for Kevin Durant?

Well, Darren “Doogie” Wolfson (KSTP) sat down with former NBA GM, now ESPN roster/cap guru, Bobby Marks, and asked him just that. Can the MN Timberwolves trade Karl-Anthony Towns this offseason, if that’s the route they decide is best for the organization.

Doogie floats a trade with Phoenix that would swap out Kevin Durant for Towns, a deal we have also wondered out loud about here at MSF. But don’t even get your hopes up, Wolves fans. Marks was shouting it down — “No, no, can’t work” — before Darren could even finish the question. (20 minute mark of interview — transcript below)

“No, can’t do it. What happens is, when you’re in the apron, it eliminates you from trading with another apron team. Unless you’re trading $50.00 for $50.00. Because remember, you can’t take back more money in a trade [as an apron team]. So if you’re Karl-Anthony Towns making $49.3 million and Kevin Durant is making $51 million, let’s say.

Well you can do it, if you’re Phoenix. You’re taking less back. But you can’t do it if you’re Minnesota because you’re taking back $2 million more. And it’s not like you can say, well I’m gonna add $2 million to make the money work, because you can’t aggregate contracts [as an apron team].

You can’t combine Karl’s number with another player. So basically, apron teams and apron teams cannot [trade with each other]. So you’re looking at 10 teams that won’t be able to make trades with each other unless the money matches exactly.”

Bobby Marks on how a Karl-Anthony Towns trade for Kevin Durant can’t happen (KSTP)

Really, Marks explained it better than I would be able to. But there are ten teams that he expects to be over the luxury tax threshold (or apron) when the NBA season flips to 2024-25 on July 1. The Minnesota Timberwolves will be one of those teams.

At that point, they will face heavy restrictions, when trading players. Above, Bobby notes the biggest ones. They can’t aggregate salaries and can’t take back even one cent more in any trade, than they are sending out. That’s what makes Kevin Durant a great example.

Related: Timberwolves Superstar Anthony Edwards Jumps Another Tier in Annual NBA Rankings

He’s super expensive next season… but not quite as expensive as KAT. still, a trade can’t happen because neither team can aggregate contracts, meaning it would have to be an exact match in a one-for-one deal, which is almost 100% impossible.

Here are the teams that are projected by Spotrac.com to be 1st or 2nd apron luxury tax teams next season, essentially acting as a 10-team no-trade list for the Timberwolves. The luxury tax threshold is projected to be $171.3 million.

’24 Proj. Luxury Tax TeamsProj. Salary
Suns$203M
Timberwolves$193M
Celtics$192M
Nuggets$188M
Bucks$183M
Heat$182M
Lakers$179M
Grizzlies$175M
Mavericks$174M
Warriors$174M
LUXURY TAX LINE —$171.3 MILLION
Clippers$170M
Kings$168M
Blazers$167M
Spotrac.com

Another trade example that has been floated out there a lot has been Towns for Trey Young. Bobby says no, that Atlanta is an apron team next season too. Spotrac says he is mistaking. As you can see above, they do not have the Hawks listed as a projected apron team, at $163 million in player salary.

An example Marks gives of a team Minnesota could trade with is the Oklahoma City Thunder, mentioned Lou Dort as a hypothetical player they could deal if they were interested in taking on Towns.

Related: Could Becky Taylor be the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Next Majority Owner?

There’s a reason why the NBA does this. Every year that you are an apron team, the luxury tax penalties get worse. By the time you are looking at your third or fourth year over the apron, it becomes nearly impossible to justify staying there. Not only are you being fined 10’s of millions of dollars, possibly even over $100 million, but you’re being hit even harder from a roster building standpoint.

In the end, it’s these reasons and more that Bobby Marks believes (as others do) that the Minnesota Timberwolves will be running it back with their core group of guys this next season. Maybe they believe in them, but if nothing else, because they don’t have a lot of other options.

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