Can We Hang Tim Connelly’s Suit Coat in Target Center Rafters for DLo / Mike Conley Trade?

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Minnesota Timberwolves
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

President of basketball operations Tim Connelly and the Minnesota Timberwolves are being mentioned in NBA Finals conversations. That’s a much different light, through 1/3 of the 2023-24 season, than the metaphoric pile up on I-94 that the team appeared to be last season.

The other franchise changing trade between Minnesota and Utah

But the destiny of this franchise seemed to take a turn in the right direction after last season’s trade deadline, when the Wolves executed a 3-way deal that sent D’Angelo Russell from Minnesota to the LA Lakers and Russell Westbrook + a 1st round pick to the Utah Jazz.

In the deal, the Timberwolves got a 35-year-old Mike Conley from the Jazz, along with a young asset for their bench, Nickeil Alexander-Walker. At the time, most fans back in Minnesota didn’t know what they had gotten in NAW… or in Conley for that matter.

Still, unlike the immediate pushback Tim Connelly faced after completing the blockbuster trade that landed Rudy Gobert, this deal received high marks across the board right away. It just made sense.

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DLo wasn’t a part of the Wolves’ future, especially when issues between he and Rudy Gobert began bubbling to the media surface. Mike Conley, on the other hand, played with Rudy for four seasons in Utah and has never been known to have issues with any teammate or any coach… ever.

Defense isn’t D’Angelo Russell’s game. Just ask him…

But after seeing what D’Angelo Russell said in his postgame press conference, following the Lakers latest loss, I was reminded of just how franchise changing last year’s trade really was, which in retrospect, may be just as influential as the Gobert deal was months earlier.

When asked something about his defense, DLo said that he shouldn’t be judged on his defense. Why? Because defense isn’t part of his game. If nothing else, at least he’s honest.

“If I’m not making shots and I’m depending on just getting a stop [defensively]… um, that’s where I work and try to be better, but umm… [defense] is not what I do.”

Tim Connelly swapping DLo for Mike Conley deserves highest honor

I know, right. Thank the basketball gods for that trade and whatever stars happened to align that allowed the Minnesota Timberwolves to rid themselves of whatever that was, in return for everything that Mike Conley brings them.

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Not only is Conley the consummate professional, and someone who reflects that professionalism onto his younger teammates. But he was the key to unlocking Rudy Gobert. With Russell gone and Mike Conley replacing him at point guard, the Wolves newest max contract big man has flourished both on and off the floor.

Before you feel too bad for the Lakers, the trade doesn’t necessarily place them in too bad of a light, even if the Wolves got far and away the best arm of the deal. LA got off of Russell Westbrook, which they were desperately trying to do at the time.

DLo is far from perfect but at least he can shoot better than my 7th grade daughter who’s never played organized basketball in her life. Danny Ainge and the Utah Jazz, on the other hand, do not come off as clean.

Sure, they got some future cap relief + another 1st round pick. But two of Utah’s future 1st round picks and some draft swap decisions, will be dictated by how good the Timberwolves are over then next few seasons. And with Mike Conley on roster, those picks will now be much later in the 1st round.

Where would Minnesota Timberwolves be without Mike Conley?

Had Connelly not found a way to get that trade done, who knows where the Minnesota Timberwolves are right now. How bad would the locker room have gotten, had Russell been the team’s point guard for the rest of the season? I don’t even want to know.

And if they had traded DLo for another piece that didn’t fit as perfectly as Mike Conley has, is Gobert playing as well as he is now? Are the Timberwolves the best team in the West? Probably not. Thus, I propose we put Tim Connelly’s suit coat in the Target Center rafters immediately.

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Without that seemingly innocuous 3-team trade last season before the deadline, it’s unlikely we’re in the best season of Minnesota Timberwolves basketball in two decades. And even if it doesn’t lead to an NBA Finals appearance, I’m glad we’re at least getting the ride.

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