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BEST TRADE Minneapolis 1998 -

With apologies to Twins pitcher Eric Milton--who looks like a future star but is one of the principals who cost us Chuck Knoblauch--the best local sports swap over the past year has to be the February deal that brought shooting guard Anthony Peeler to the Minnesota Timberwolves from Vancouver in exchange for Doug West. At the time of the trade, Peeler was languishing on the bench for the Grizzlies while West, the last of the original Wolves, remained one of the franchise's most popular players. But nearly nine years of wear and tear in the NBA plus a belated admission of alcohol abuse had put West well past his prime, while Peeler, freed from the doghouse on a bad Vancouver team, played the best basketball of his life during his two-month stint with the Timberwolves this year. After converting 46 percent of his three-point shots for Minnesota, he has already proven to be the best long-range shooter in franchise history. But everybody knew Peeler could score; the pleasant surprise was his deft passing--he averaged four assists per game--and a dedication to team defense. Before Peeler's arrival, the Wolves approached the shooting-guard position as a pick-your-poison proposition: the firm defense and poor shooting of West or the capable scoring but porous D of Chris Carr. Now the team has a player at the position who is in his prime at age 28 and still has a few years to go on his long-term contract. That's an antidote for poison, and an elixir for team chemistry.

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