Looking back on the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Draft night in 2019, what would they do differently if they could go back in a re-do?
The Minnesota Timberwolves had one of the more eventful draft nights back in June of 2019. They traded Dario Saric and the 11th overall selection to move up in the draft to acquire the sixth overall pick which would become Jarrett Culver. The Timberwolves also would go on to select Jaylen Nowell in the second round.
The move to trade Saric away was not about what they were giving up, but rather, who they would be bringing in. Prior to the draft even starting, it was public knowledge (ESPN’s Wojnarowski reported) that Williamson was going to be the first pick, Ja Morant was going to Memphis, RJ Barrett was going to be picked by the Knicks, and DeAndre Hunter was being selected by the Atlanta Hawks.
It was rumored that the Timberwolves were interested in Vanderbilt’s Darius Garland, who was selected with the fifth overall pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers — just one spot before the Wolves.
Then, after reportedly looking at trade offers after Garland had been selected, Minnesota decided on Jarrett Culver. And yes, while Culver has been less promising than what you would want from a player selected in the top-10, he has still shown a decent amount of flashes.
Culver vastly improved over the course of the season, being a 40-plus percent 3-point shooter over his final dozen games in 2019-20. Still, while his FT-rate and percentage are less than abysmal, Culver has displayed some decent passing and defensive prowess.
One player consistently mocked to the Timberwolves before the draft was underway was Gonzaga forward/big Brandon Clarke. The then-pro ready player was excellent on defense and was a threat inside scoring. The main concerns about Clarke were his low ceiling as a player (being less-than-average height-wise) and age (entering June at 23 years of age).
Obviously, Clarke had a better season for the Memphis Grizzlies than Culver did for the Timberwolves. He averaged 12 points and six rebounds (as well as a block and a steal) per game on shooting splits of 63/40/79.
Clarke did, in fact, fall dramatically on draft night. Originally projected as a mid-late lottery pick, he was selected with the 23rd overall selection. The Minnesota Timberwolves were initially picking 11th before the Dario Saric trade occurred.
Another option after Clarke was Kentucky forward PJ Washington, who was selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the 12th overall pick. Washington, who averaged 12 points, five rebounds, and two assists this past year. He would have, in all likelihood, been a pretty solid frontcourt mate alongside Karl-Anthony Towns.
Washington brings high-level outside shooting, decent interior and perimeter defense, as well as unselfishness when it comes to passing out of the post.
Another possibility was for the Timberwolves to select a point guard, and the best that would have been available was Nickeil Alexander-Walker, a lengthy combo-guard that brings a rare combination of athleticism, passing, and shooting.
Despite being a below-average defender his rookie season, Alexander-Walker should be able to improve on that end of the floor given his unique and lengthy frame. Alexander-Walker only played in 41 total games for the Pelicans this year, averaging 12 minutes per game. That said, there were not many minutes for him to claim given New Orleans also had Jrue Holiday, Lonzo Ball, and JJ Redick. Even when he was in games, though, Alexander-Walker was not the best shooting. He shot 34% from the field and roughly the same mark from deep.
Even though they seemingly could have done better, the Minnesota Timberwolves did land a promising young player in the 2019 NBA Draft. And even though some players have proven to be better options, Culver is too young to count out and almost impossible to evaluate fully after just one season.