By: Dan Slaubaugh
Happy draft day, everyone! Thanks for clicking. I will get into draft talk quickly, but first, want to begin with a prelude.
I'd like to apologize for our non-existent NBA draft coverage. We have essentially been ghosts, and are the first to admit it. In a time of transition for a lot of us, we’ve all been simply busy. I’m fresh off college graduation working full-time while trying to find full-time work in sports journalism, which, if you’ve ever attempted, know is an exhausting and periodically dejecting journey. Zach recently had a wonderful, precious baby girl, so he’s basically working two jobs. Lastly, Seth is working about 55 hours per week so he hasn’t had much time to contribute.
As a result, the blog has inadvertently taken a bit of a backseat in our lives. We’ll do our best to get back into things and churn out fresh content on the state of the franchise throughout free agency and the 2019-20 season, and I’m sorry I’ve let you down over the past few months.
Now, what you came for!
The Wolves currently enter tonight’s NBA Draft with the No. 11 overall pick in the first round and No. 43 pick in the second round. Many are quite intrigued at the potential outcomes President of Basketball Gersson Rosas could swing for tonight’s NBA draft.
The most recent update regarding Minnesota comes from The New York Times’ Marc Stein, reporting Minnesota is aggressively trying to acquire the No. 4 overall pick from New Orleans. This suggests they have their sights set on Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland, who is projected on most boards to go top seven.
It makes sense why the Wolves would be highly attracted to him. Their biggest hole is a star level perimeter player that can create out of isolation and the pick-and-roll. Garland projects to be that and checks off a lot of boxes NBA executives are looking for. Restricted free agent Tyus Jones may be an otherworldly ball protector and solid team defender, but he doesn’t move the needle. The Timberwolves need a backcourt presence with a playmaking ability to complement Karl-Anthony Towns. If Rosas and co. believe Garland get there, they should go get him and pay the necessary price.
The problem, however, is the Wolves just don't have much to offer. Would Saric/Okogie and No. 11 be enough? Or Covington and No. 11 if they believe Garland is the real deal? Whatever it would be, it’s fair to suggest the Celtics or Hawks - both of whom have been reported interested in the No. 4 pick -- could create a better offer. Atlanta could package No. 8 and No. 10, while the Celtics could offer multiple future first round draft picks.
If not Garland, who should Rosas be eyeing?
In exploring avenues the Wolves could take in the draft and free agency, acquiring restricted free agent guard D’Angelo Russell remains the best and most exciting outcome. No other player on the free agent market possesses both the upside and KAT-concentrated timeline. There is no easy path to acquiring him, as it would likely require a sign-and-trade with Brooklyn -- a team likely not wanting to take money back given their ambition to sign two max players. The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski examines in further detail how the Wolves could make a play for the all-star.
If the Russell interest never materializes, the Wolves would be wise to attempt to acquire Washington’s Bradley Beal or New Orlean’s Jrue Holiday. Neither player projects to fit the timeline of their respective team’s window, making it probable each team will test the market on their all-stars. Acquiring a player of this caliber would take quite a lot from Minnesota, likely Jeff Teague (to make money work), Robert Covington, Dario Saric/Josh Okogie, and two to three future first round picks. Giving up the few assets the Wolves currently own would be incredibly risky. However, as we step into KAT’s max extension years, pairing him with an all-star caliber player is essential to raising Minnesota's ceiling and convincing him things are progressing around these parts. Could Garland or the potential No. 11 pick become that? Perhaps. But the Wolves don’t have forever to watch them develop and if they don’t (worst-case), the Towns clock in Minnesota will speed up faster than Byron Buxton on the basepaths.
The Wolves need to acquire a needle mover this offseason, or, at minimum, shake things up. Consequently, they should select the player with the highest upside if they stay put at No. 11. Flip did it right by swinging for the fences and selecting Zach LaVine in 2014. The current cap-strapped Wolves will need to do the same and pray he quickly develops into the star sidekick they are looking to pair with Towns. I’m not going to pretend I know who that could be, but it suggests to be the best route if they stick at No. 11. If Rosas is unable to move up and isn't enamored with anyone at 11, there is the option to trade down and attempt to attach Jeff Teague or Gorge Dieng's contract to a deal -- which could open up space for a potential Russell sign-and-trade.
Given Minnesota’s lack of upside on the current roster, their ceiling looks to be a second-round exit. If the new regime can unleash Andrew Wiggins’ potential, that changes. However, from what we’ve seen from the former No. 1 overall pick in five years here, It's fair to be skeptical of him materializing into a premier player.
KAT needs a star sidekick for the Wolves to compete in an ever-improving Western Conference. Let’s hope Rosas has the kahunas (and brains!) to acquire one in the near future.
Thanks for reading. Enjoy the draft. Go Wolves.