With a top-seven pick assured in the 2020 NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves will continue their search for potential stars.
When the Minnesota Timberwolves traded Andrew Wiggins for D’Angelo Russell back in February, it seemed less like a “star-for-star” trade, and more like a swap of luxury for flexibility
The prize jewel for the Warriors was almost surely the Wolves’ 2021 first-round pick in the NBA Draft, and for that, they were willing to swap Russell’s bad contract for Wiggins’ even worse deal.
The trade made too much sense not to happen. Wiggins is a good player — a lightning-quick slasher who can knock down threes, and that’s really all the Warriors need him to be. But there also seems to be a limited number of roles he can truly thrive in.
For the Wolves, they get someone whose game meshes much better with Karl-Anthony Towns (Wiggins’ never did), and more importantly someone who can fit into two different offensive roles, as both a primary ball-handler and an off-ball threat.
That flexibility seems especially important heading into this draft. While there are a few prospects at the top of the draft who would have paired well with Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns (think Killian Hayes, Tyrese Haliburton, and perhaps LaMelo Ball in a world where social dynamics don’t exist), there seem to be a lot more who could play with Russell and Towns.
However, not having a selection in 2021 makes it all the more important that the Wolves hit on this year’s pick.
The Minnesota Timberwolves will almost certainly take the best player available
Back in March, yours truly wrote about some prospects at a very basic level and identified Isaac Okoro as a target. While he still would be a good fit, his value seems to be more in the No. 6 to 8 range than No. 1 through 5.
Based on the current odds, Minnesota has only a 33 percent chance of falling outside the top five. If the Wolves do land in the top five, they should be looking exclusively for potential stars.
It’s a star league, after all. The depth of quality players in the league seems to be increasing by the year, which means even having a group of very solid players that fit together might not be enough to compete — especially in the West.
Luckily, the Wolves have Towns. They have a solid supporting piece in Russell, and they have a top-seven pick in a draft with several good options at the top. As many of these prospects look like great complements to Towns and Russell, the more interesting dynamic might be how they fit with the Wolves’ other pieces.
To let either Malik Beasley or Jordan McLaughlin walk in a team-friendly free agent market this fall seems unlikely. But many of the top prospects this year are also guards. Russell isn’t going anywhere. Josh Okogie and Jarrett Culver aren’t either unless there’s another major trade.
Regardless, having too many quality guards would be a welcome problem that Minnesota frankly has never faced.
As far as non-guard prospects go, three names stand out: Isaac Okoro, Deni Avdija, and Onyeka Okongwu.
Okongwu is probably the most exciting name on that list. He’s much more than a defensive player, having won California Mr. Basketball twice in high school and averaged 16.2 points per game at USC.
He’s smart, athletic, a great finisher, a good shot-blocker, can play the 4 effectively, and has shown potential as a shooter. He would fit great next to Towns. Still, is he a star? Is he enough of an upgrade over, say, Nerlens Noel to warrant a top-five pick?
Okoro would be awesome defensively. Avdija would be awesome on offense. But the jury is still out on whether these two have as much high-end potential as some of the guards at the top.
Once again, the Timberwolves’ fate depends very much on how the ping-pong balls fall in the lottery. There are plenty of guys who could be quality starters, but landing a top-five pick would give the Wolves a chance at four players who could truly raise the team’s ceiling.
Anthony Edwards, LaMelo Ball, Killian Hayes, and Tyrese Haliburton are the top four on my board. These guys have all the tools to make a tangible impact on both sides of the ball.
Back to the flexibility that the Russell trade afforded the Wolves. Minnesota will have three great pieces around Towns this year in Russell, Beasley, and whomever they end up selecting in the draft. Although Russell and Beasley have developed a friendship and chemistry, it’s still possible one will be traded when it comes time to push the team to the next level.
The draft lottery is currently set for Aug. 25, with the draft scheduled for Oct. 15. All eyes will be on those dates as the Timberwolves face one of their most important drafts in years.