6 trades for the Timberwolves' first pick in the 2020 NBA Draft

If the Minnesota Timberwolves choose to trade their first pick in the draft this year, what could they possibly get in return?

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LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 10: Caris LeVert #22 of the Brooklyn Nets. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

While the NBA season is temporarily on hold, this time has given NBA executives more time to consider their offseason plans. Whenever a conclusion to the 2019-2020 NBA season is reached, the Minnesota Timberwolves will be looking to supplement the complete roster overhaul that the team underwent at this year’s trade deadline.

Sitting at a record of 16-40, the Wolves are currently tied with the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers for the best odds (14%) to land the first pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, which is was postponed recently. On top of their own pick, the Wolves also own the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick this year, which was acquired in the Robert Covington trade. As a team whose top 2 players, Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell, are entering their primes, the Timberwolves may not have interest in using their top draft pick. Rather than using their pick on a player that would likely require time to develop, it is entirely plausible that the Wolves might consider looking to trade their top pick for a player that better fits their timeline.

This article will examine 6 trade ideas for the Wolves' first pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. These trades will be proposed under the following assumptions:

  1. James Johnson opts into the final year of his $16,047,100 contract
  2. The Wolves Re-Sign Malik Beasley in the range of $13-17 million per year
  3. The Wolves' first pick in the 2020 NBA Draft will be in a top 5 selection

James Johnson is scheduled to earn just over $16 million next season in the final year of his contract, and it is unlikely that he would find a better offer in free agency. Johnson’s expiring contract may be attractive to teams who are looking for cap space at the end of next season.

Gersson Rosas has publicly emphasized his desire to re-sign Malik Beasley.  Beasley’s strong performance in his short time with the Wolves paired with the fact that he rejected a $10 million/year contract with the Nuggets, the $13 to 17 million range is a reasonable estimate of what Beasley will earn with his next contract. Re-signing Beasley would theoretically allow the Wolves to use him in a trade.

The current draft lottery odds give the Wolves a 14 percent chance to pick first, a 13.4 percent shot at second, a 12.7 percent chance to pick third, 12 percent odds to land fourth, a 14.8 percent chance to pick fifth, a 26 percent chance to pick sixth, and a seven percent chance to pick seventh.

That means that the Wolves have a 67 percent chance to pick in the top 5.

Without further ado, let's get into some trade ideas:

Zach LaVine

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CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - FEBRUARY 25: Zach LaVine #8 of the Chicago Bulls moves against Dennis Schroder #17 of the Oklahoma City Thunder at the United Center on February 25, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. The Thunder beat the Bulls 124-122. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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Zach LaVine

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Malik Beasley
Jarrett Culver
2020 1st Rd Pick (MIN)
Why the Wolves Say Yes:

The Wolves may view Zach LaVine as an upgrade over Malik Beasley that would likely cost only $3-4 million more per year than Beasley. LaVine would present a viable option for a third star next to Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell without the max-contract price tag at $19 million/year through the 2022 season. LaVine, a former fan-favorite in Minnesota, would return to the Wolves in another buzz-generating move that would incredible scoring and athleticism to a talented Wolves offense.

Why the Wolves say No:

The Wolves may see Malik Beasley as their long-term Shooting Guard with more defensive potential than LaVine. Additionally, LaVine’s injury history could be a major concern, and his defensive shortfalls would not help Ryan Saunders bolster the Wolves’ defense that has allowed 117.5 points per game this season, which ranks 28th in the NBA. Giving up an up-and-coming shooting guard in Beasley, a 2019 lottery pick in Jarrett Culver, and a potential top-5 pick in this year’s draft may prove to be too high a price to pay for an injury-prone, defensive liability at Shooting Guard.

Why the Bulls Say Yes:

Zach LaVine has expressed frustration with the Bulls organization on multiple occasions, and the Bulls could see this as an opportunity to unload an unhappy player and gather more young assets.

LaVine said the following about Bulls Coach Jim Boylen in an interview with Yahoo! Sports in November 2019:

 “I’m trying my best, I’ll say that. I’m playing my minutes and trying to do the best I can do. It’s tough, especially when you’re in a rut. If he doesn’t trust me, it’s hard to trust someone who doesn’t trust you.”

This trade gives the Bulls a viable replacement at shooting guard in Malik Beasley, a top-10 pick in last year’s draft with untapped potential in Jarrett Culver, and a potential top-5 pick in the 2020 draft. On top of all this, the Bulls already possess a potential top-10 pick in this year, meaning they could end up landing two of the top players in this year’s draft.

Why the Bulls Say No:

The Bulls may see LaVine as the future of their franchise, making him untouchable in trade negotiations regardless of his frustrations. They may believe that with the right supporting cast under the right coach, Coby White and Zach LaVine can turn the Bulls into contenders going forward. Additionally, Chicago may not see value in Jarrett Culver due to his offensive struggles early in the 2019-2020 season, and they may not be interested in investing into a draft class that is considered generally weak.

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Buddy Hield

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SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 11: Buddy Hield #24 of the Sacramento Kings leaves the court after their game against the New Orleans Pelicans was postponed due to the corona virus at Golden 1 Center on March 11, 2020 in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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Buddy Hield
Nemanja Bjelica

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James Johnson
Malik Beasley
2020 1st Round Pick (MIN)
Why the Wolves Say Yes:

Similar to the Zach LaVine trade, the Wolves see Buddy Hield as an upgrade over Malik Beasley. Hield has averaged 19.5 points per game on 38.5% from three this season in the amidst a public dispute with the Kings coaching staff, making him a prime trade candidate.

Following a double-overtime loss to the Timberwolves in December, Buddy Hield said the following in his post-game press conference,

Seems like we’re all over the place — coaches and everybody...Trust issues going on, I guess. Guys stop believing in players. It is what it is. They have who they have playing out there and I just have to be supportive

Hield offers top-notch three-point shooting, something the Wolves’ front office has prioritized while reshaping the roster. A consistent, athletic shooter on the wing with all-around scoring capabilities could be a great compliment to the Russell-Towns pick-and-roll action. With this trade, the Wolves will acquire a third all-star talent that fits their offensive scheme.

Why the Wolves Say No:

The Wolves could be content with Malik Beasley as the starter at shooting guard. His price range may be preferable to a contract like Hield’s that is closer to the max. The Wolves front office and coaching staff may feel more comfortable investing in other positions like Small Forward and Power Forward in order to strengthen the Wolves defense and depth to better support Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell.

Why the Kings Say Yes:

A franchise with a disgruntled star, the Kings may see trading Hield as a way to gather young assets to build around De’Aaron Fox. Acquiring Malik Beasley would offer a solid replacement for Hield with a lower price tag, and James Johnson could provide toughness, defensive support, and guidance to a young team for one year on his expiring contract. Johnson’s expiring contract will leave the King’s with cap space following next season to supplement any missing pieces to their young core. Finally, similar to the Bulls, the Kings already possess a likely top-10 pick in this draft, and may want to add another top-10 player in this draft to their young core.

Why the Kings Say No:

The Kings may see the Buddy Hield situation as salvageable, believing that winning will heal the issues Hield has had with the front office and Luke Walton. Rather than investing in this year’s draft, the Kings may decide to continue building around a backcourt of Buddy Hield and De’Aaron Fox. Furthermore, even with the prospect of cap space the following season, James Johnson’s contract may not be attractive to a team with Harrison Barnes’ $22.2 million contract on its books next season.

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Julius Randle

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NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 08: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Julius Randle #30 of the New York Knicks in action against Sekou Doumbouya #45 of the Detroit Pistons at Madison Square Garden on March 08, 2020 in New York City. The Knicks defeated the Pistons 96-84. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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Julius Randle

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James Johnson
Omari Spellman
2020 1st Round Pick (MIN)
Why the Wolves Say Yes:

The Wolves might see Julius Randle as a long-term fit next to Karl-Anthony Towns at the Power Forward to replace James Johnson. Randle has averaged 19.5 points and 9.7 rebounds per game this season as the Knicks’ leading scorer. As a physical Power Forward, Randle could offer much-needed rebounding for the Wolves. Additionally, Randle could come at a cheap price given the Knick’s desire for cap space and young assets.

Why the Wolves Say No:

The Wolves may not see Julius Randle as enough of an upgrade from James Johnson in order to warrant a trade that includes a potential top-5 pick. The Wolves may also see Randle’s three-point shooting as a concern, as he is only a 29.5-percent three-point shooter in his career. Furthermore, the Wolves may feel that Randle may be overvalued with his $19 million/year contract, especially if they feel attracted to any of the big men projected to go in the top-10 in the draft, such as James Wiseman (Kentucky), Obi Toppin (Dayton), Onyeka Okongwu (USC), Deni Avdija (Israel), or Isaac Okoro (Auburn). If the Wolves feel that any of these big men would be a good fit next to Karl-Anthony Towns, then trading for Randle may not be worthwhile.

Why the Knicks Say Yes:

The most attractive piece of this trade for the Knicks would arguably be James Johnson’s expiring contract. As a team that has been trying to attract top free agents over the past few years, cap space is essential to be able to sign big-name free agents. That said, the upcoming free-agent class is going to be weaker compared to the past few years, with the top potential free agents being Paul Millsap (UFA), Marc Gasol (UFA), Hassan Whiteside (UFA), and Mike Conley (ETO). The Knicks could decide to wait and invest in the 2021 free agent class, and if that is the case, James Johnson’s $16 million expiring contract would be very appealing. In the meantime, James Johnson could act as a mentor to the Knicks’ young core in the final year of his contract. Finally, a potential top-5 pick from the Wolves paired with their existing pick would provide the Knicks with two young, talented players from this year's draft that could provide low-cost support for potential 2021 free agent signings.

Why the Knicks say No:

The Knicks may seek to gather more than one draft pick for Randle’s services if they decide to trade him. Randle’s contract expires 1 year after James Johnson’s contract, so they could wait to leverage his expiring contract for a better return in a trade when the free-agent market picks up at the end of next season. Also, given the lack of depth in this draft class, the Knicks may only have interest in one or two players in this draft, and may not want to invest in additional picks. The Knicks’ level of interest in the Wolves pick in this scenario will heavily depend on how the lottery balls fall.

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Aaron Gordon

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MARCH 6: Aaron Gordon #00 of the Orlando Magic and Juan Hernangomez #41 of the Minnesota Timberwolves fight for a rebound. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

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Aaron Gordon

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James Johnson
Jarrett Culver
2020 1st Round Pick (MIN)
Why the Wolves Say Yes:

Two of the Wolves’ biggest needs are rebounding and defensive help. Aaron Gordon could provide help in both categories, averaging 7.6 rebounds per game this season with a defensive rating of 100.3, which is better than any Timberwolves current starter or regular rotation player. Beyond that, Gordon’s athletic ability could give him a slasher role that would play well off of KAT and D’Lo’s pick and roll, and his scoring at 14.4 PPG would likely increase in Minnesota with a less-crowded frontcourt. Cutting from off-ball screens, catching lobs, and running on fastbreaks are all areas that Aaron Gordon would excel in the Wolves’ offense, similar to how Josh Okogie’s offensive approach in Ryan Saunders’ offense.

Why the Wolves Say No:

The Wolves ultimately need to decide what they want out of the Power Forward position. Do they want a stretch-four shooter? Do they want a rebounding bruiser? Something in between?

The Wolves may ultimately decide that Gordon may not be a good enough shooter. Shooting a  career 31.8% from three, Gordon has shown to be a respectable but streaky shooter. Depending on the Wolves' ability to find shooting at other positions, Gordon might not be a sufficient shooter for this three-point-heavy offense. Also, this trade sacrifices two of the Wolves’ best defenders, which would put Gersson Rosas in a difficult position trying to fulfill the defensive voids left by Culver and Johnson in free agency.

Why the Magic Say Yes:

The Magic have a crowded frontcourt, with Nikola Vucevic, Jonathan Isaac, James Ennis III, and Khem Birch all averaging over 20 minutes per game. Mo Bamba, Wes Iwundu, and Al-Farouq Aminu also receive significant minutes in the frontcourt. Johnson would presumably take most of Gordon’s minutes, and Culver would have a chance to fit in better in a different situation than the one he was drafted into, similar to Markelle Fultz’s progression in Orlando after leaving Philadelphia. Offloading Gordon also gives the Magic a chance to bolster their offense early in the draft. A scoring combo guard like LaMelo Ball or Anthony Edwards could flourish on a team with strong point guard play and a deep frontcourt.

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Caris LeVert

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LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 10: Spencer Dinwiddie #26 of the Brooklyn Nets reacts to his offensive foul with Caris LeVert #22 during a 104-102 win over the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on March 10, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

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Caris LeVert

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James Johnson
2020 1st Round Pick (MIN)
2022 2nd Round Pick (MIN)
Why the Wolves Say Yes:

Caris LeVert has had a great 2019-2020 season in Brooklyn, averaging 17.7 points and 4.1 assists per game at the Shooting Guard position before the onset of the pandemic. LeVert also has playing experience with D’Angelo Russell in Brooklyn, sharing two years together in the Barclays center with Pablo Prigioni as an assistant coach, who now sits on the Wolves’ bench. Should the situation with Malik Beasley’s contract fall through, LeVert could be a versatile scoring option at Shooting Guard. His experience playing with D’Lo and Prigioni would only add to his fit in Ryan Saunders’ offense.

Why the Wolves Say No:

Depending on where exactly the Wolves’ pick lands, they may find a guard in the draft that is more desirable than LeVert. The Wolves may decide that Anthony Edwards or LaMelo Ball would be a better option at a lower price point than LeVert, who is scheduled to earn over $16 million next season. Drafting a Shooting Guard could give the Wolves the option to either keep James Johnson for another year or to use his contract in a different trade. Additionally, if Malik Beasley is re-signed, the Wolves may simply feel that Malik Beasley is a better option for them at Shooting Guard.

Why the Nets Say Yes:

The Nets have a crowded backcourt, and James Johnson is a versatile defender with years of experience. The Nets could use Johnson for the last year of his contract as a “glue” guy who will help the team defensively. Beyond next season, the Nets could either resign Johnson for a lesser contract or use the cap space from his expiring contract to sign a third superstar from a stronger 2021 free-agent class. Furthermore, the addition of a draft pick means the Nets can acquire a young, cheap asset through the draft to complement Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and any other star the team may choose to sign in the future.

Why the Nets Say No:

While this season was a “gap year” for the Nets due to the injuries of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, the team is in “Win-Now” mode. The team may feel more comfortable trading for proven assets rather than investing in a draft pick. Caris LeVert’s market value is currently unknown, and may prove to be worth more to the Nets than what the Wolves are prepared to offer, especially in an offseason with a weak free-agent class.

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**Suns also receive:**

You already know.

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SALT LAKE CITY, UT - FEBRUARY 24: Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns warms up before a game against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena on February 24, 2020 in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

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Devin Booker
Frank Kaminsky

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Malik Beasley
James Johnson
Jarrett Culver
  • 2020 First Round Pick (MIN)
  • 2023 First Round Pick (MIN)

 

Why the Wolves Say Yes:

This one is easy. This is the trade Wolves fans have been salivating over since D’Angelo Russell’s infamous quote in his SLAM Magazine interview with Karl-Anthony Towns and Devin Booker:

Y'all got in on footage. When we're all on the same team - I ain't gonna tell you which because I don't know - we're gonna do this again.

Booker would give the Wolves offensive firepower as a shot creator that can light it up on any given night. A career 35.5% shooter from behind the arc, Booker could provide a reliable kick out shooter for D’Lo and KAT’s pick-and-rolls. Beyond that, Booker’s ability to score at high volumes makes the Wolves more versatile on offense, giving teams one more scoring threat to worry about. The Wolves would be in contention for one of the league’s top offenses with the addition of Booker, and a young Wolves core would have executives around the league fearing for the future.

Why the Wolves Say No:

The addition of Booker does little to combat the Wolves’ defensive woes. Booker’s defensive rating has decreased in each of his 5 seasons in the NBA, and the Wolves desperately need better on-ball defenders. Booker's inability to defend the pick-and-roll could leave the Wolves’ starting lineup even more vulnerable to scoring guards than it already is. Beyond Booker’s defense, the Wolves may find the Suns’ asking price to be too high. They may ask for even more than the assets in this trade to give up the face of their franchise, and the Wolves only have so many assets available for trade this year. This is another situation where the exact lottery order may be significant, as the Suns are another team that are looking at a similar pick to the Wolves in this year’s draft. Finally, the Wolves may see Malik Beasley as their Shooting Guard for the future, which would prompt them to use their assets to improve at other positions.

Why the Suns Say Yes:

Booker is under contract through the 2023-24 season, so Booker would need to request a trade for anything to happen. Booker has publicly expressed his frustration with losing, but has not directly taken issue with the front office. However, if Booker were to request a trade, the Suns could accept this trade to restart their rebuild while DeAndre Ayton is still young. This trade gives the Suns two immediate starters in Johnson and Beasley while giving the Suns another high pick in this year’s draft. A young core of Ayton, Beasley, Culver, Kelly Oubre Jr., and two potential top-10 draft picks could have a very high ceiling under the right circumstances.

Why the Suns Say No:

Even if Booker were to make a trade request, the Suns can always say deny it . On top of that, even if they were looking to trade Booker, they may be able to get better assets than what the Wolves are willing to offer.  Jarrett Culver’s trade value is questionable at this point due to his offensive consistency as a rookie, and the Suns may not be interested in investing in a draft that is 3 years away as their young core begins to reach their respective primes. The Suns’ attempt to build around  Booker, Ayton, and Oubre Jr. haven’t made them contenders to this point, but there is always a strong possibility that they will remain committed to this plan.

While some of these trades may seem ambitious, turbulent times such as these often call for bold decision-making. Depending on how the lottery balls fall, the Timberwolves may be in a great position to trade their first pick for a package that will help complete Gersson Rosas’ vision for the franchise. As a team with few trade assets, the Wolves’ upcoming draft pick may be their best chance to make a blockbuster trade that will move the franchise one step closer to championship contention.