When the Timberwolves won the lottery this year I was ecstatic. The moment Mark Tatum flipped that final card and revealed our Wolves, I leapt out of my seat and did a dance that looked something like this:
As time passed, my enthusiasm waned as I thought about Timberwolves draft history. Even Gersson Rosas, who I trust to the end of the world and back, traded up to draft Jarrett Culver last year. Culver has shown some upside, but has a long way to go to prove that he can be a starter in the league.
Look, I’m no NBA executive, BUT my irrational fan ego allows me to believe that I would be decent at the job. So I can say with supreme confidence that I know exactly what the Wolves can’t, shouldn’t and definitely shouldn’t do with the pick. Let’s get the things that can’t happen out of the way up top.
Can’t: Trade for a star
The Simmons trade rumors started flying after the 76ers laid a big fat stinky turd against the Celtics in the first round of this year’s playoffs. I know that Sixers management has been a mess. We all remember the trade in which they unloaded all of their assets for the “one time almost All-Star” Tobias Harris. Elton Brand can’t afford another mistake of that magnitude. Simmons isn’t going anywhere until Philadelphia gives this roster a go with Doc Rivers at the helm.
Beal would be a great fit on this roster. It’s not hard to imagine the trio of KAT, D-Lo and Beal being one the best offenses in the league. However, the Wizards have too much invested in the tattered remains of John Wall’s achilles tendon for them to give up Beal before they can see that duo back in action. Wall inked a 4-year $171 million contract 2018. Whelp. On the brightside, here is a video of Wall playing 5 on 5 with Micheal Beasley. Oh, did I say brightside?
Finally, Devin Booker. I’m sorry to report this, but the Wolves are not getting Booker any time soon. After the Suns’ performance in The Bubble, their management would have to be crazy to break that team up. When the Suns entered the bubble, they were a joke, and many were asking why they were there. Next thing you know, they went 8-0 and nearly made the play in game to go to the playoffs. Booker looked like a superstar, and the team looked like they could be competitive next year. Booker stays with the Suns until something goes astronomically wrong. Knowing the Suns and their propensity to make horrible decisions, that could be soon, but definitely not this offseason.
Oh, and before I forget, let’s talk about Victor Oladipo. In theory, Oladipo would be a great backcourt mate to D’Angelo Russell. He is a quality defender which would allow D-Lo to take the less difficult defensive assignment. Oladipo can attack the basket with speed and athleticism at an elite level, which is something the Wolves desperately need.
All of this theoretical, though. Oladipo is coming off a ruptured quad tendon. The injury took him a year to recover from, and his return to the court was underwhelming. No player can go from not playing basketball for a year to suddenly playing the best basketball of their career. That’s insane. But Oladipo’s contract ends at the end of this season, so if he doesn’t work out, he’s gone and Indiana is popping non-alcoholic champagne with LaMelo Ball. The Wolves simply can’t trade for Oladipo.
Shouldn’t: Trade for a young player with potential to be a star
There are a lot of players that fall into this category, but can we stop with the Aaron Gordon rumors?
Over his career, Gordon has been an incredibly average player. Although his counting stats look nice — 14 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 3.7 assists — a look deeper into the box score shows otherwise. Gordon has a career BPM of 0.0. BPM is essentially a measure of points a player contributes while on the floor compared to an “Average Player.” What is the BPM of an average player? You guessed it, 0.0. If that’s not enough, let’s look at PER, which is a stat that measures per-minute production. The league average is set at 15. Gordon’s career PER is 15.3. The Wolves are also looking for shooting. He has had some impressive shooting streaks in his career, but only averages 32 percent from behind the arc. Couple that with his free throw percentage of 67.4 this season and that gives me serious doubts that he will be able to improve on his career average.
I can see it now, the headline reads: “Timberwolves new “Big 3,” KAT, D-Lo and Gordon finish 11th in the west with a record of 36-46.” Truly inspiring.
Even if the Wolves decided they loved Gordon’s potential, using the No. 1 pick for an average player with $34 million left on his contract is poor use of an asset. Surely this same method can be applied to any Aaron Gordon throughout the league. Whether it’s Atlanta Aaron Gordon, John Collins, Phoenix Aaron Gordon, Kelly Oubre, Charlotte Aaron Gordon, Miles Bridges or regular old, average Aaron Gordon, the Wolves should not trade the No. 1 pick for anyone named Aaron or Gordon.
Definitely Shouldn’t: Draft a top guy
Anthony Edwards’ impressive athleticism and apathy on defensive has already drawn comparisons to Andrew Wiggins. Excuse me while I scream into my pillow. Edwards’ path to stardom is through his offense. Unfortunately, he lacks the efficiency to be good enough on that end of the floor to make up for his defensive woes. Last season at Georgia, Edwards shot 29 percent from the 3-point line.
Granted, he was the primary creator on his team and many of these shots were difficult, off the dribble or contested. He shot 77 percent from the free throw line which tells me that his stroke is probably good enough to improve that percentage if he takes better shots. But, will he take better shots? It took the Timberwolves six years to get Wiggins to take better shots. The truly concerning thing about Edwards is his shockingly low free throw rate. He had a 30 percent usage rate with a 34 percent free throw rate. For context, James Harden, who has also been known to be apathetic on the defensive end, put up a 60 percent free throw rate on 32.5 percent usage in his sophomore season at Arizona State.
Wiseman is an unknown, we saw him play three games for Memphis. Although his counting stats look tremendous: 19.7 points, 10.7 rebounds, 3 blocks, the sample size is too small. It’s hard to make judgements on what he might do in the NBA, but his size and athleticism are enticing. Wiseman is listed at 7’1” with a 7’6” wingspan. He appears to have the footspeed and defensive instincts that could make him one of the best rim protectors in the league. Regardless of all of this, the Wolves already have a franchise center, and his name is Naz Reid.
Ah, finally, LaMelo Ball. Melo has the highest upside in this draft and is also my favorite prospect of the top 3. He is 6’7” point guard with incredible passing vision and the confidence to shoot from deep. I mean deep deep. I say “confidence” because he missed a lot of shots. Last year with the Illawarra Hawks, Melo shot 25 percent from downtown. His percentage from inside the arc wasn’t much better, as he shot 45 percent from 2-point range. Melo already has one elite skill with his passing ability but if his shot doesn’t come around, he’ll have a hard time reaching his potential.
So, if I don’t want the Wolves to make the pick, or trade the pick for a star, or trade the pick for a potential star, what exactly do I want them to do? Well, I want them to trade down. I know it’s the least sexy option, but there are players like Killian Hayes, Tyrese Haliburton and Isaac Okoro available outside the top 3. Personally, I think a case can be made that each one of them are better prospects than Ball, Wiseman or Edwards. It might seem scary to trade down, but I believe the Wolves can get the most value for the pick by doing so, and in the coming weeks, I’ll continue to lay out the case for several of these possible moves.