The Minnesota Timberwolves Have Drafted Kris Dunn, but the Drama is Far From Over

On a night where there was calm before the storm, in many ways it is a good things for basketball fans in Minnesota that the Timberwolves were part of the madness.

In truth, there were no right answers Thursday night, but make no mistake, there are decisions to be made. As of this posting, the Wolves have not traded for Jimmy Butler — yet. They have not traded Ricky Rubio — yet. They haven’t done anything crazy — but they might.

The Butler and Rubio trades could have happened before the draft, if you believe league insiders like Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc Stein (and their sources), the Chicago Bulls wanted Zach LaVine and the No. 5 pick. Minnesota was in talks with the Boston Celtics. And then there was a deal I particularly liked.

Still, as of this posting, Kris Dunn is a Minnesota Timberwolf.

“We’re very excited,” new Wolves coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau said at a mini press conference while the draft was still going on. “We think he’s a great fit for us.”

And in many ways he is. He’s a defensive player. He apparently has offensive qualities Thibodeau likes. He’s from Connecticut and Thibodeau is from Connecticut. But when asked if there could be more deals tonight, Thibodeau smirked. And it was a wide, lengthy smirk.

Then he added that there’s always possibilities. And, frankly, the Wolves have a lot of options on the table.

Let’s unpack the options here, knowing full well that things could change in a hurry.

Trading for Jimmy Butler

Just by judging from people’s reactions on Twitter, the fanbase is very split on whether or not the Wolves should add the Chicago superstar. The Bulls drafted Denzel Valentine, who many feel is a replacement for Butler, and it only magnified the amount of trade chatter online.

Here’s why I’m against the Butler deal:

It creates an age gap, as well as a short window for the team to operate in. Butler is 26. Karl-Anthony Towns is 21; Andrew Wiggins and LaVine are 20. Butler also has a history of injuries and allegedly had a rift with Derrick Rose in Chicago, and as of right now Towns, Wiggins and LaVine all get along well.

Team chemistry is a big deal, and right now Wiggins seems fine with Towns being the star and LaVine is kind of a free spirit that appears far from power hungry or jealous.

Not only that, but by acquiring Butler, the Wolves would accelerate their path to the playoffs, but might close their window for contention. Not only has Butler only played one full season, and less than 70 games every other year, but he has a lot of miles on his body.

Let’s say he’s in his prime for only three more years, that means the Wolves traded away two players in Towns and Wiggins’ age range — Dunn, 22, and LaVine, 21 — that could have created a core for years to come.

Really, this comes down to how much Thibodeau believes in Rubio. So far he appears lukewarm on the Spanish point guard, who has had issues shooting in the past and has a small frame, but is a strong defensive player and a pinpoint passer.

If he deals for Butler, Rubio is probably the point guard.

The Wolves could stockpile assets

Stockpiling assets isn’t a terrible idea. As much as this is probably the less exciting route because it doesn’t involve a blockbuster trade, it creates internal competition and allows Thibodeau to evaluate Rubio and Dunn, specifically, in real time.

“We want as many good players as we can find,” Thibodeau said, adding that he thought that Dunn and Rubio could co-exist on the floor together and that more and more teams are playing multiple point guards at the same time.

Just for argument’s sake, let’s say that Rubio plays the point and Dunn plays the 2. That means Wiggins is the 3, Towns is the power forward and Gorgui Dieng at center.

LaVine slots in nicely as a sixth man. He has not proven to be a great defensive player, which means that he is unlikely to entrust LaVine with starter’s minutes, but he can be a spark plug off the bench — a great role for a slasher with dunk champion credentials.

If Rubio and Dunn can’t share the court, he can deal Rubio during the season or at the deadline for a piece he needs. If they can, he’s starting to fill out a roster and likely looking for an upgrade over Dieng to put next to Towns.

Then again, he also will have missed out on an All-Star in Butler, and many people feel like if you can deal two young, incomplete players for an All-Star, you do it.

Other options

Why I liked the Sixers deal was that Minnesota could both stockpile talent and add a potential star. Nerlens Noel is 6’11”, 230 pounds, played at Kentucky and could potentially thrive next to Towns. He’s also 22, on the same timeline as Towns, Wiggins and LaVine.

He tore his ACL at Kentucky, however, and played in only 67 games last season.

The Wolves would have also received the No. 24 and 26 picks in the deal, so they would have been able to pick up two complementary players in the draft as well.

That deal has come and gone, but they could try to swing a deal for Valentine, or try and work out another deal with Philadelphia for Noel. Or they could, and likely will, shop around Rubio to see what they can get for him.

It will be interesting to see what happens going forward, whether or not they pull off a blockbuster deal, because these moves are meaningful. For the first time in too long, the decisions that the Wolves are making are evoking a lot of emotion from Wolves fans near and far.

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