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As NBA trade deadline approaches, Timberwolves have eye on D’Angelo Russell

Golden State Warriors guard D'Angelo Russell (0) brings the ball up court during a Jan. 18 game against the Orlando Magic at Chase Center. Darren Yamashita / USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS -- From the beginning, Gersson Rosas has promised one thing: If “high-end talent” is available, he’s going to chase it.

That has been, first and foremost, his No. 1 priority during his brief tenure as the Minnesota Timberwolves’ president of basketball operations. So why should this week be any different?

With Thursday’s trade deadline fast approaching, Minnesota is reportedly, again, in hot pursuit of Golden State guard D’Angelo Russell.

Minnesota attempted to sign Russell in free agency this summer, though it was handicapped by a lack of cap space. Instead, the then-all-star guard joined the Warriors as part of a sign-and-trade deal with Brooklyn.

But Minnesota has never truly relented in its pursuit of Russell, and could swing a deal this week to pair the guard with center Karl-Anthony Towns. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Tuesday, Feb. 4, that the Wolves are “orchestrating” a potential multi-team trade that would send Robert Covington to Houston and bring Russell to the Twin Cities.

Wojnarowski reported that “a gulf” remains between the Warriors and Wolves on any possible agreement, and said Andrew Wiggins “would have to be included in almost any Russell trade package.”

That means the Wolves might have to give up Covington, Wiggins and likely more — including draft picks — and possibly even take on extra salary, all to acquire Russell.

Is that worth it? Rosas seems willing to do whatever it takes to bring star players to the Timberwolves. The term “star” is a loose one, as there are those who would debate if Russell — who is averaging 23.8 points and 6.3 assists this season — fits into that category, but Minnesota’s front office seems to have determined he does.

Rosas’ thought seems to be that if Minnesota can collect enough high-end talent — such as Russell and Towns — it can then find the right pieces to fit around and complement those players to build a successful team.

In theory, it makes sense; stars win championships. Whether these are the right stars to pair together remains to be seen. Neither are defensive stalwarts — and would be attacked often in pick-and-roll coverage — and it is unknown whether either can be the top dog on a championship-caliber team.

But they would present a potent pick-and-roll tandem of their own on the offensive end. Russell would give Minnesota both the point guard and the perimeter guard scorer it desperately needs to play alongside Towns. He is also a lethal 3-point shooter.

Minnesota likely would regress defensively without Covington, but it’s not like the Wolves are winning with defense at the moment anyway. Maximizing their offensive potential may be the best route at this point.

No deal sending Covington away should be taken lightly. He has a strong relationship with Towns and provides the shooting and defense the Timberwolves lack otherwise. Minnesota’s roster at-large doesn’t really match the new offensive and defensive systems it has incorporated this season, but Covington — who still has two years left on his affordable contract beyond this season — is a near perfect fit.

But it is rare that an opportunity to add high-end talent presents itself to a team like Minnesota, which explains why Rosas and Co. are so eager to try to pounce. Because if this “evaluation season” has proven anything, it’s that this roster, as currently constructed, doesn’t work.

Maybe another “high-end talent” is exactly what the Timberwolves need moving forward. The question for Rosas: How high a price is he willing to pay for it?

“Just know that whenever those players become available, and we feel like they’re fits for our system and our program and our vision,” Rosas said last summer, “we’re aggressively looking to acquire those guys in any shape or form.”

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