Minnesota Timberwolves: 3 things the Wolves could do with No. 1 pick

LaMelo Ball could be the Minnesota Timberwolves' No. 1 pick. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)
LaMelo Ball could be the Minnesota Timberwolves' No. 1 pick. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images) /
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Minnesota Timberwolves: 3 things the Wolves could do with No. 1 pick

Minnesota TImberwolves, Jayson Tatum
The Celtics traded back and drafted Jayson Tatum in 2017. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

No. 2: Trading back in the first round

While there isn’t a ton of recent precedent for trading the No. 1 pick prior to the draft, the Boston Celtics just did it three years ago.

Coming off of a 53-win regular season and a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics traded the No. 1 pick in 2017, which had been acquired from Brooklyn in the lopsided Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trade. Boston received the No. 3 pick from Philadelphia, as well as a future first-round pick, which ultimately conveyed at No. 14 in 2019.

Strictly speaking in terms of draft value, that was a solid trade for Boston. According to 82games.com, which provides the draft pick power rankings formula for Tankathon, the No. 3 pick in any given draft can be expected to provide a player who is 87 percent as valuable as the No. 1 overall pick. The value of a No. 14 selection is 47 percent as valuable as No. 1. That means that the Celtics received 137 percent the value of what they started with.

What actually happened was even better: Boston drafted Jayson Tatum at No. 3 in 2017, and he’s been far and away better than the No. 1 pick, Markelle Fultz, or the No. 2 pick, Lonzo Ball. The jury is still out on Romeo Langford, who was taken at No. 14 last year and wasn’t a regular part of the Celtics’ rotation this season.

On draft night in 1993, there was an even more lopsided deal involving the No. 1 pick. Orlando traded the rights to Chris Webber at No. 1 overall to Golden State and got back the No. 3 pick, plus first-round selections in 1996, 1998, and 2000. The Magic took Penny Hardaway that year, and frankly, it really doesn’t matter what they did with the others. That was a haul.

The 2017 Celtics-Sixers trade isn’t a bad framework for what the Wolves will try and do. If the Atlanta Hawks, for instance, fell in love with Anthony Edwards and wanted to move up, the Wolves could get the No. 6 pick from them and a future first-round pick. In a draft without a consensus No. 1 prospect, Minnesota would be squeezing as much value as possible out of the pick.

The flip side of that, of course, is that Golden State has the No. 2 pick and will be trying to do the exact same thing. The Warriors could undercut the Wolves’ offer to Atlanta or any other team wanting to get Edwards or LaMelo Ball or James Wiseman. In essence, this is the supply-and-demand issue: more supply (the No. 2 pick isn’t much worse than the No. 1 pick in this particular draft) means that the value of both picks could be driven down.

The advantage that the Wolves have is that if a team is completely locked in on only one player, they’ll be more interested in the top pick than No. 2. All it takes is one.

One thing to note, however: it’s unlikely that Rosas would be interested in moving back for more picks in this draft. Minnesota already has three picks, including two first-rounders that come with guaranteed salaries.

The Wolves were already the youngest team in the league, and they aren’t in search of adding three more raw talents to their books, much less their rotation. If Rosas can land future picks, however, he’d jump at that opportunity. Remember, the Wolves’ 2021 first-round selection is owed to Golden State as part of the trade for D’Angelo Russell.

If Rosas doesn’t pick at No. 1 and doesn’t trade back in this year’s draft, could he go star hunting instead?