The Timberwolves trade Monté Morris, who they hope will bolster their offense
Tim Connelly is turning into a familiar face in his quest to help address the struggling Minnesota Timberwolves offense.
The Wolves president of basketball operations has acquired point guard Monte Morris from the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Shake Milton, Troy Brown Jr. and a 2030 second-round pick, team and league sources said. The athlete Wednesday. Morris spent the first five seasons of his career in Denver under Connelly, who drafted Morris in the second round in 2017.
He will enter Minnesota’s rotation as a very good outside shooter with playoff experience. Morris is a 39 percent 3-point shooter, which should help a Timberwolves team that ranks 24th in the league in 3-point attempts and 16th on the season. The Wolves paid a relatively small price for Morris, who will become a free agent at the end of this season, by sending two players who were out of the rotation and a second baseman.
Connelly made getting a point guard to back up Mike Connelly a top priority this trade deadline season. The 36-year-old Conley has been invaluable this season for the Wolves, but they needed another option behind him to take some minutes away from him in hopes of keeping him fresh in the playoffs.
Morris missed the first half of this season with a right quadriceps injury but returned on January 24 and played in six games with the Pistons before being traded. A league source said Connelly tried to replace him last season when Morris played for Washington, and he continued his quest this season as Detroit fell to the bottom of the Eastern Conference and it became clear that the Wolves needed another reliable playmaker in the backcourt.
Morris originally signed a two-way contract and only appeared in three games for the Nuggets as a rookie. But he quickly earned a spot in the rotation, becoming a valuable backup point guard in year two and starting 74 games in place of the injured Jamal Murray in the 2021-22 season. He averaged 12.6 points and 4.4 assists per game and shot 39.5 percent from 3 that season, becoming a beloved member of the team with the nickname “Mr. Nugget.”
Morris signed a three-year, $27 million contract extension with the Nuggets in 2020 and was traded along with Will Barton, another Connelly favorite, to Washington in 2022 for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who became a crucial contributor to the Nuggets winning a title last time out. Season, and Ish Smith.
In weighing moves, Connelly puts a lot of thought into how the player character fits into the group. Morris has been a likeable teammate everywhere he’s been and should fit into a locker room that has found a real connection after needing time to adjust to last season’s big change.
Exactly how Morris fits into the rotation will be interesting. Brown and Milton were sent off, but neither was playing for the Timberwolves, so no minutes were available. Jordan McLaughlin, who has played very well recently, could see his time reduced, and Kyle Anderson’s minutes at point guard could decrease as well. Anderson has struggled offensively for most of the season, whether with his perimeter shooting or turnovers, but he remains an important player for his defensive versatility.
One of Morris’ biggest strengths is taking care of the ball. His assist-to-turnover ratio as a senior at Iowa State was better than 5-to-1, and he never averaged more than 1.0 turnovers per game in the NBA. That would be a huge boost for the Wolves, who rank 28th in the league in turnovers per game, which is the biggest reason their offense remains ranked 19th and continues to give away their big fourth-quarter lead.
The move comes a day after the Wolves surrendered a 23-point lead to the Chicago Bulls and lost it in overtime, committing four turnovers in the five-minute extra session.
Connelly looked at several options on the market, including Minnesota native Tyus Jones. But league sources said the Wizards were sticking with their asking price to pick Jones in the first round, so the Wolves moved on.
The Wolves were originally hoping to have Milton as their top scorer and playmaker off the bench. Connelly signed him last summer to replace Jaylen Noel, and Milton earned praise in training camp and in the preseason for his scoring touch and playmaking. Once the regular season started, Milton was never able to find his flow. He averaged 4.7 points and shot 18 percent from 3-point range, prompting coach Chris Finch to cut him from the rotation in favor of McLaughlin.
Brown had a few nice moments in his lone season with the Wolves, including scoring 17 points to lift Minnesota over Oklahoma City in November. But he hasn’t played meaningful minutes since mid-December.
The two-for-one deal gives the Wolves another open roster spot. They don’t need to fill it right away. They recently called up Josh Minot and Leonard Miller from their Iowa G League team and also have Wendell Moore and dual players Daishen Nix and Luka Garza. But this trade doesn’t mean the Wolves are done dealing.
They could look to add another player via trade or retain their roster in the buyout market that opens later this month. The Wolves still have a portion of their mid-level exception to bribe above the veteran’s minimum salary to entice any veteran shooter whose contract is bought out.
— The athleteShams Charania contributed to this report
(Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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