© USA TODAY Sports

After earlier making a trade for Simone Fontecchio from the Utah Jazz, the Detroit Pistons continued the process of reshaping the roster. This time, the Pistons sent Monte Morris to the Minnesota Timberwolves, who have been looking for additional backcourt depth.

Here are the particulars:

Minnesota Timberwolves acquire: Monte Morris

Detroit Pistons acquire: Troy Brown Jr., Shake Milton, 2030 Minnesota Timberwolves second-round pick

(Note: Detroit will need to waive or trade another player to be in roster compliance. That additional transaction was not known at the time of this writing.)

Let’s dive in!

Minnesota Timberwolves

Incoming salary: $9.8 million in 2023-24

  • Monte Morris (PG, one year, $9.8 million)

Outgoing salary: $9 million in 2023-24

  • Troy Brown Jr. (SF/SG, two years, $8.0 million, team option for 2024-25), Shake Milton (PG/SG, two years, $10 million, team option for 2024-25)

The Timberwolves entered trade deadline eve in a four-way tie atop the Western Conference. That’s pretty rarified air for Minnesota. And they got there despite a pretty glaring hole in their rotation at backup point guard.

Mike Conley is having an outstanding and efficient season for the Wolves. When he’s on the court, Minnesota is +9.0 in offensive rating compared to when he’s off the court. Now, offensive rating isn’t an individual stat, but it does paint a picture that matches the eye test: The Timberwolves offense gets really messy whenever Conley isn’t on the floor.

That made it a major goal to find a quality backup point guard. Minnesota front office leader Tim Connelly did so by returning to a familiar face in Morris. Connelly originally drafted Morris in the second round of the 2017 NBA Draft.

We can basically disregard Morris’ stats for this season, as he’s only recently returned from injury for the Pistons to play just six games. If we focus on his previous seasons with the Washington Wizards and Denver Nuggets, we see one of the very best backup point guards in the NBA. And Morris is a guy who can perform well as a fill-in starter too.

With the Wizards last season, Morris put up 10.3 points and 5.3 assists. In his last year in Denver, Morris started for Jamal Murray (who was out after a torn ACL) and he averaged 12.6 points and 4.4 assists. The veteran guard also never turns the ball over. Seriously. His assist/turnover ratio is so stark, that it’s earned Morris the nickname “Count of Monte Assist/TO”.

Now, when Conley has to sit, whether it’s for in-game rest or to take a night off, Chris Finch can turn the offense over to the more-than-capable Morris. Outside of maybe finding one more wing with some size, Minnesota’s playoff rotation is as deep and solid as there is in the entire league.

On the cap sheet, the Timberwolves edged ever closer to the tax like. They’ll be about $1.5 million under the tax, but they also have two open roster spots. One of those spots will have to filled within 14 days. Look for the Wolves to do what they can to stay under the tax line, which might mean another trade or some signing gymnastics with 10-day deals and the like.

The reason dodging the tax this season is important is that Minnesota already has over $165 million committed to just five players (Anthony Edwards, Rudy Gobert, Jaden McDaniels, Naz Reid and Karl-Anthony Towns) for next season. That’s against a projected tax line of just over $171 million, a first apron of $178.6 million and a second apron of $189.5 million.

When you factor in the team’s smaller guaranteed salaries and filling out the roster, the Timberwolves project to be over the first apron. And that’s before you account for the potential re-signing of Conley and/or Morris. And if the Wolves project to be a multi-year luxury tax team, keeping the repeater clock at bay for a year makes it imperative to stay under the tax this season.

But those are tomorrow’s problems. Today, Minnesota shored up a major weak spot and further solidified themselves as an 2024 NBA Finals contender. That’s great work at a fairly minimal cost.

Detroit Pistons

Incoming salary: $9 million in 2023-24

  • Troy Brown Jr. (SF/SG, two years, $8.0 million, team option for 2024-25), Shake Milton (PG/SG, two years, $10 million, team option for 2024-25)

Outgoing salary: $9.8 million in 2023-24

  • Monte Morris (PG, one year, $9.8 million)

In Detroit they can say “Monte, we hardly knew ye!”. Morris played just six games for the Pistons after he was acquired in a salary-clearing move from the Washington Wizards this past summer.

So, the Pistons aren’t really losing much here. Yes, they gave up a 2027 second-round pick to get Morris in the first place, but they made that back here. That’s basically a wash.

On the court, we’ll see what Milton and Brown can do for Detroit. Both could play roles on a Pistons team that is rapidly reshaping itself. Milton could plug right into Morris’ role in the backup point guard rotation behind Cade Cunningham. Milton has historically been a pretty good shooter and scorer, even if he’s struggled with his shot this season.

Brown has bounced around a lot in his six-year NBA career. The Pistons will be his fifth team already. But Brown is still only 24 years old. He might still have some of that late-bloomer shine left on him. He’s actually shot the ball better over the last two seasons, which is encouraging. He could get some run the rest of this year to show Detroit what he can do.

Neither Milton nor Brown should take away any minutes from players on rookie deals like Ausar Thompson and Marcus Sasser, who might be a big part of Detroit’s future. However, Monty Williams has made some curious playing time decisions this season. If nothing else, the Pistons front office can control what happens with both Milton and Brown following this season.

Milton has a $5 million team option for 2024-25, while Brown has a $4 million team option. That means this trade doesn’t do anything to impact the Pistons league-leading $46.6 million in projected cap space for this summer.

If Milton or Brown pops, their salaries are low enough that Detroit could keep them without overly hurting their cap space plans. Most likely, Milton and Brown will play out the year, and the Pistons will decline their options for next season. Detroit will then remain open to re-signing either player after they’ve used their cap space.

Finally, getting a 2030 Wolves second-rounder is a nice return for a guy who wasn’t a part of the long-term future. 2030 is so far off that Minnesota could be rebuilding their team following retirements and departures of several players, as all of their current contracts will have expired by then. If nothing else, Detroit has a future asset to use at currency in another future trade.