The Timberwolves arrived at the midpoint of the NBA season with a 20-21 record, then added another loss Thursday at Memphis.
It's the kind of mark suggestive of a team going nowhere — the sort of mediocrity, in fact, that just got a coach and general manager fired with another team in this market.
For the Wolves, though, hovering around .500 is a signal of progress. Factor in that they are playing in the suddenly very forgiving Western Conference, at a time where 10 teams in each conference get to extend their seasons by at least one game, and their status becomes decidedly complicated.
Should they attempt to meaningfully add to their roster ahead of the Feb. 10 trade deadline? Should they take the long view and instead trade a veteran like Patrick Beverley — instrumental to this year's success but attractive to other teams and on an expiring contract — to accumulate future assets? Should they do nothing, giving a roster that seems to be coalescing another couple months to build more chemistry?
I talked the complex nature of the decision — within the context of Thursday's loss to Memphis — on Friday's Daily Delivery podcast.
Because even reaching a play-in game would mean something to this franchise, dealing someone like Beverley doesn't seem realistic or smart.
That said, the Wolves will rely increasingly on future assets to round out their roster going forward, particularly if they decide to keep building around their current core of Karl-Anthony Towns, D'Angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards.
Towns and Russell are already max contract players, and Russell only has one more year left on his deal after this season.
Adding to the core to make a playoff push seems attractive — and plausible to decisionmaker Sachin Gupta — but the Wolves have salary cap constraints. Is it worth salvaging future flexibility for what might amount to a one-game postseason?
The smartest decision might be to stay where they are and try to keep growing. But that's neither exciting, nor does it address the deficiencies that still remain in the frontcourt. There's also the question of how much small incremental progress moves the needle for KAT in his long-term view of the franchise.
At the very least, it's a nice change of pace from the Wolves almost unfailingly being sellers at the deadline.