By: Jake Paynting
With the Minnesota Timberwolves firmly in offseason mode, Head Coach and President of Basketball Operations Tom Thibodeau, General Manager Scott Layden and Owner Glen Taylor must quickly turn their focus to the upcoming NBA Draft.
Before they can cross that bridge though there is a very important question that needs to be addressed, should the front office cohorts keep the 20th pick they are currently allocated or try to use it as a sweetener in a trade.
The case for keeping the pick
With Andrew Wiggins' $148 million contract due to kick in this upcoming season, Karl-Anthony Towns' now boosted $188 million max extension due to be worked out this summer and Jimmy Butler's contract coming to an end after the 2018-19 campaign, it's fair to say the Timberwolves are strapped for cash.
With this in mind, bringing in young players on a rookie scale contracts suddenly becomes an essential part of building this team. While pick 20 isn't the most seductive selection, it is certainly in a range where the Wolves can pluck someone who can immediately contribute to a bench that had major problems this season.
The proof is in the pudding. Over the last five drafts, studs like Kyle Kuzma, Dejounte Murray, Clint Capela, Rudy Gobert and Minnesota's own Tyus Jones are among the dozens of reliable rotation players that have been selected in the 20s. The key for Thibs and company is to nail that pick, especially while the jury is still out on 2017 selection Justin Patton.
As well as the cap implications, keeping the pick enables the Wolves to select and mold a player of their choosing, rather than having to take on a slightly better albatross of a contract to get rid of a team-hampering contract like Gorgui Dieng's. The 28-year-old Dieng watched his production fall off a cliff in his reserve role behind Towns and Taj Gibson but is slated to make $50 million over the next three seasons.
If the Timberwolves want to keep one eye on the future while they continue to build into a perennial playoff member then holding on to their 2018 draft pick is probably a solid option.
The case for trading the pick
While a draftee on a rookie contract playing his way into the rotation has shown to be a triumphant plan for front offices in the past, we have enough evidence by now to know that draft picks are the quintessential 'hit or miss' situation, and Thibodeau, Layden and Taylor are in no position to be swinging at stray pitches.
Sure, projected mid-late first round picks like Creighton's Khyri Thomas, Duke's Gary Trent Jr. and Villanova's Final Four Most Outstanding Player Donte DiVincenzo seem like sure things now, but we all know that isn't how it works when some draft prospects roll around to the big leagues.
If the Timberwolves can find a way to move Gorgui Dieng and the pick for a proven, reliable role player who can help the aforementioned bench struggles, that is a far safer bet than trying to hit a draft home run - especially with Thibs' tendency to completely ignore first-year players.
Zone Coverage's Dane Moore floated a trade idea that would send the Timberwolves reserve big to Brooklyn along with the pick in question, in return Minnesota would take on Demarre Carroll - averaged 13.5 points on 37 percent from deep this season - and his 2-year $30 million contract. This was just an suggestion and not a report of any kind, but dumping Dieng's $50 million and taking on a similar contract with fewer years on it is possible, throw in that 20th pick and that player could be a serviceable rotation guy like Carroll.
If the front office decide to keep the pick, the avenue of options opens wider, but if the Timberwolves can conjure up the right move it may just be the best option while Thibodeau, Layden and Taylor look to kick this win-now franchise into the next gear.
A very important summer awaits.