Maybe not busts… but they haven’t shown enough
It is currently far too early to close the book on forward Josh Minott’s and guard/forward Wendall Moore Jr’s careers, but they are entering their second season being assigned to the Iowa Wolves with both of their preseasons being underwhelming.
Money doesn’t grow on trees
This category is solely for center Rudy Gobert. He has looked healthy and has played incredibly well through the first couple of games of this new season. However, he will be 33 years old entering the draft and will be getting paid north of 53 million dollars for that season. He will most definitely still be a top-eight Timberwolves player, but with money and age involved, I do not think he will be viewed as a must-keep by the front office.
Wolves final protections
That leaves the final eight players being Karl, Edwards, Naz, Jaden, guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker (NAW), forward Leonard Miller, guard Jaylen Clark, and the future 2024 first-round pick the Wolves have.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker is on the protection list because of the defense and team chemistry he brings on a nightly basis. Most importantly, he is one of Finch’s favorite players. He coached NAW in New Orleans and enjoyed him so much that Finch brought him to Minnesota, with him being a part of the trade that acquired Mike Conley.
Leonard Miller has yet to appear in an NBA game, but the Wolves moved up in the draft to get him. With him having a promising preseason and showing flashes, the Wolves will surely want to keep him.
Jaylen Clark was part of last year’s draft class with Miller but has seen no game action due to a ruptured Achilles he suffered at the end of last college basketball season. He received All-Pac12 honors last season while also being a 2x All-Pac12 defensive player. His game might overlap with NAW’s, but there is never a problem with having another 6’5 guard who can defend multiple positions.
The Timberwolves do not have many first-round picks due to the Gobert trade, so they will want to keep all the high-end draft talent they can.
Expansion teams can only steal one player from a particular team. So the Wolves won’t lose all the guys not protected. But, the protected players give them the young, versatile depth they can use for the future.