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Timberwolves have “strong interest” in Cavs’ Iman Shumpert

Iman Shumpert Cleveland Cavaliers
Scott Sargent/WFNY

Slam dunks, three-point shots, and a game without defense were supposed to highlight the NBA All-Star weekend, but the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings stole the headlines by making a gargantuan trade involving DeMarcus Cousins. Though time still exists before the NBA’s trade deadline this Thursday at 3 p.m. EST, the Kings and Pelicans were the first domino in what could be an active few days on the league’s transaction page.

Rumors have long been swirling about the Cleveland Cavaliers, including a Kevin Love for Carmelo Anthony deal that was quickly nixed by the wine and gold. Another potential target seems more tradeable, however. On Sunday, AmicoHoops’ Sam Amico reported that the Minnesota Timberwolves are quite interested in acquiring Cavs guard Iman Shumpert.

The 26-year-old is averaging 7.8 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 1.5 assists in 25.4 minutes per game while shooting 43 percent from the floor and 40 percent from beyond the arc. Shumpert has played much better since being inserted into the starting lineup following J.R. Smith’s thumb injury. In 15 games as a starter, the guard is averaging 9.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.1 assists while shooting 43 percent from the field and a career-high 40 percent from long distance in 28.9 minutes per game. He has been a much better shoot from three-point range as a starter (45 percent) compared to coming off the bench (37 percent). Most importantly, in today’s landscape, he’s a starting caliber guard under contract for just a little over 10 million next season with a club option for 2018-19.

The question is, who would Cleveland demand from the Timberwolves if conversations began to brew involving Shumpert? The obvious player is point guard Ricky Rubio.

The Cavs have been in search of a legitimate backup point guard that can come off the bench, lead the bench unit, and take some of the burden off of both LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. Whether it’s been Shelvin Mack, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, or Jameer Nelson, or the fact that the Cavs hosted free agent tryout, general manager David Griffin seems to be pulling out all the stops to find the backup point guard that the Cavs need heading down the stretch run of the regular season. Rubio could be the next name on the list.

The 26-year-old is averaging a career-low 8.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, 8.4 assists, and 1.8 steals in 32.1 minutes per game (51 games). He’s not much of a shooter, shooting a career-high 39 percent from the field and 28 percent from long distance. Although he’s not known for his outside shot, Rubio would be the main distributor for the bench unit that the Cavs have needed since the beginning of the season.

The biggest problem in potentially acquiring the point guard would be his contract. Prior to the 2015-16 season, Rubio signed a four-year, $55 million deal with the Timberwolves. This season, he is due $13.4 million, and the two next years, he is due even more than that ($14.1 million in 2017-18, $14.8 in 2018-19) before becoming a free agent in the summer of 2019.

Keep in mind, due to the Cavs being well over the cap, adding the 6-foot-4 point guard wouldn’t just be another $13.4 million check that owner Dan Gilbert would have to write, but would also cost the wine and gold (and Gilbert) an additional $43.55 million ($3.25 in tax per new dollar spent because it’s over $600,000) in luxury taxes. Gilbert’s pockets are deep, but paying that much for a backup point guard seems far from ideal.

The Timberwolves may be interested in Shumpert, but with the way he has been playing, it takes two teams in order to make a trade happen. If they want him, it would most likely take more than just Rubio coming to Cleveland. Buckle up.