The Minnesota Timberwolves have the third-best odds at winning the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, but might they try to trade back?
While we still don’t know exactly what pick the Minnesota Timberwolves will have in the first round of the 2020 NBA Draft, we can still speculate on Gersson Rosas’ strategy.
Here at Dunking With Wolves, we’re still rolling through our individual player profiles for the draft, and we have yet to post a full mock draft or Wolves big board. But as things stand today, we still have enough information to get a sense for what the Wolves might try and do.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Will the Wolves try and trade back in the draft?
Let’s take a look at three areas to consider when evaluating the Timberwolves strategy.
1. Strength of the draft class
First of all, everyone knows that this draft is a bit weaker than recent — or future — draft classes.
There isn’t a consensus No. 1 pick. Instead, there are at least players who have a legitimate shot at going first, depending on who lands the pick. LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, and James Wiseman are the names most commonly mentioned as the players with the highest ceilings, and therefore are most likely to be selected first overall.
The overall depth in the draft is decent, but once you start looking at the players ranked about No. 6 through the end of the lottery, there are plenty of players whose ceiling is likely that of a rotation player on a good team and not much higher.
2. Number of selections held by the Minnesota Timberwolves
The Wolves are likely to have three picks in the top 33 selections in this draft.
One will certainly be a top-six pick and has a 14 percent chance of landing first-overall. The next will probably be No. 15 or No. 16, depending on how the Brooklyn Nets finish out the season. The only way this pick doesn’t convey is if the Nets absolutely collapse in their eight games in Orlando, so if you needed a team to root for … cheer for Brooklyn.
The third pick is their own second-rounder, which will certainly be the third pick of the second round now that we know Minnesota, Cleveland, and Golden State are done playing for the season.
3. The Wolves’ current roster
The Wolves may have finished the season with a .297 winning percentage, the third-worst mark in the NBA, but their roster is a bit more down the path of a rebuild than, say, Cleveland.
With D’Angelo Russell in the fold for just 12 games last season (and only one with Karl-Anthony Towns, who only played in 35 games due to injury), the Wolves have two 24-year-olds who were both All-Stars at the age of 23. That means that the two superstars are already in place and that the Wolves don’t necessarily need to take the highest-ceiling player available.
If the Wolves want to re-sign Malik Beasley in restricted free agency, they might shy away from drafting an undersized, offense-only wing. There’s also the matter of Juancho Hernangomez, also a restricted free agent and currently slotted in as the starting power forward.
What is the likelihood that the Wolves trade back?
Clearly, the results of the draft lottery, which is likely to be held in August, will affect the probability of a trade back. The No. 1 pick is a lot different than No. 6, after all.
But if the Wolves land No. 1, who would they take? Wiseman isn’t exactly a seamless fit with the roster. Ball replicates a lot of what Russell does but would further hurt the Wolves defensively, and how would the Wolves manage a backcourt trio of Russell, Beasley, and Ball? Not a lot of defense there, and all three would expect to see starter’s minutes.
Would the Wolves take Edwards, who profiles eerily similarly to Andrew Wiggins in a number of ways? He would fit with the roster, but the Wolves would need to feel confident in helping retool his jump shot on the fly.
What if the Wolves land No. 4, and both Ball and Edwards are off the board? Would they take a secondary ball-handler and scorer in Killian Hayes or Tyrese Haliburton, who each replicate a lot of what Russell does and would potentially take the spot of Beasley? Or would they trade back?
What are the benefits of trading back, and who might the Wolves target?
If Minnesota trades back, they’d be looking to pick up additional draft capital, either in this year or in 2021, when the Wolves don’t have a first-round pick. (They traded theirs in the Wiggins-for-Russell deal.)
It’s unlikely that the Wolves would pick up a future first-rounder simply by sliding back a few picks in a weak draft, but maybe there’s another second-round pick to be had. Or a veteran shooter that could add something to the Wolves immediately.
Perhaps the Wolves would trade out of the lottery and package their Nets pick for a first-rounder in next year’s draft.
If they were to trade back into the late lottery — last year, they moved up from No. 11 to No. 6 by giving up Dario Saric, so let’s call it a five or six spot trade-back — there are a few players that could slot in as role players almost immediately.
Florida State’s Devin Vassell might be picked as high as No. 5 or 6, but if he slides even a little bit, he could be the perfect 3-and-D wing to eventually take Josh Okogie’s starting spot and move Okogie into a bench role.
If Dayton’s Obi Toppin is still on the board, he would be an absolutely perfect offensive fit next to Towns, although defense would continue to be a concern. Auburn’s Isaac Okoro could step in as a defensive stopper almost immediately but would be an offensive liability.
There aren’t any prospects likely to be picked in the No. 6 to No. 15 range that have ceilings of All-Stars, but there are a few that would fit the Wolves’ current roster nicely. And the lower the Wolves pick, the smaller the cap hit of the guaranteed salary, which could come into play as well.
While it’s far too early to know what the Minnesota Timberwolves will do, trading back remains a distinct possibility. Regardless, it’s a conversation that we’ll be sure to revisit after August’s draft lottery.