Tim Connelly is turning to a familiar face in his quest to help address the Minnesota Timberwolves’ struggling offense.
The Wolves president of basketball operations acquired point guard Monté Morris from the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Shake Milton, Troy Brown Jr. and a 2030 second-round pick, team and league sources told The Athletic on 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 step into Minnesota’s rotation as a very good outside shooter with playoff experience. Morris is a career 39 percent 3-point shooter, which should help a Timberwolves team that is 24th in the league in 3-point attempts and 16th in makes this season. The Wolves paid a relatively small price for Morris, who will be a free agent at the end of this season, by sending out two players who were out of the rotation and a second-rounder for him.
Connelly made getting a point guard to back up Mike Conley a top priority of 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 of the minutes load off him in hopes of keeping him fresh for the playoffs.
Morris missed the first half of this season with a right quadriceps injury but returned on Jan. 24 and played in six games with the Pistons before getting traded. Connelly tried to trade for him last season when Morris played for Washington, a league source said, and kept up his pursuit this season as Detroit sunk to the bottom of the Eastern Conference and it became clear 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 2 and starting 74 games in place of the injured Jamal Murray in 2021-22. 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 moniker “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 in the Nuggets’ title run last season, and Ish Smith.
In weighing moves, Connelly gives considerable thought to how a player’s personality will mesh with the group. Morris has been a well-liked teammate everywhere he’s been and should fit into a locker room that has found real connection after needing time to acclimate to considerable change last season.
Exactly how Morris fits into the rotation will be interesting. Brown and Milton were sent out, but neither was playing for the Timberwolves, so no minutes were freed up. Jordan McLaughlin, who has played very well of late, could see his time reduced, and it is possible Kyle Anderson’s minutes at point guard will go down as well. Anderson has struggled offensively for much of the season, both with his shooting from the perimeter and turnovers, but 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 has never averaged more than 1.0 turnovers per game in the NBA. That will be a major boost to the Wolves, who are 28th in the league in turnovers per game, the biggest reason their offense is stuck at 19th and they continue to lose big leads in the fourth quarter.
Connelly considered several options on the market, including Minnesota native Tyus Jones. But the Wizards were holding firm in their asking price of a first-round pick for Jones, league sources said, so the Wolves moved on.
The Wolves originally hoped Milton would be their scorer and playmaker off the bench. Connelly signed him last summer to take Jaylen Nowell’s spot, and Milton earned praise in training camp and the preseason for his scoring touch and playmaking. Once the regular season started, Milton could never find the flow. He averaged 4.7 points and shot 18 percent from 3-point range, prompting coach Chris Finch to remove 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 has not played meaningful minutes since the middle of December.
The two-for-one deal gives the Wolves another open roster spot. They do not need to fill it immediately. They recently recalled Josh Minott and Leonard Miller from their Iowa G League team and also have Wendell Moore and two-way players Daishen Nix and Luka Garza. But this trade does not mean the Wolves are done dealing.
They could look to add another player via trade or keep their powder dry for the buyout market that will open later this month. The Wolves still have a portion of their midlevel exception to sprinkle on top of the veteran’s minimum salary to entice any veteran shooter who has his contract bought out.
— The Athletic’s Shams Charania contributed to this report
(Photo: Jason Miller / Getty Images)