Net Wins: Wolves make draft night trades and end up with two first-round picks


Net Wins: Wolves make draft night trades and end up with two first-round picks

The Timberwolves started draft night with a first-round pick. They finished it off with two.

Basketball Operations President Tim Connelly went down and up in the draft Thursday, completing four separate deals as he made his first draft with the Wolves an eventful one.

Coming on the clock in 19th overall, the Wolves dealt with the Grizzlies to go back and make 22nd and 29th picks from Memphis — but they weren’t done yet.

Wolves retained the first of those picks, picking Auburn Center’s Walker Kessler at No. 22, but before they could pick at No. 29, Connelly struck a deal with Houston for No. 26, picking Duke’s Wendell Moore.

Wolves’ busy draft room liked how the night had unfolded ahead of them and figured they could get two high-profile players they’d targeted by going back. Connelly said trade talks started out slow, but around picks #8 and #9, trade calls became “more actionable.” He credited his front office for managing the chaos.

“This room did such a fantastic job of predicting what we were thinking. He gave us some flexibility because we had a pretty good location in the country,” Connelly said. “…Those guys were surgical. I’m just the dumb guy trying to do everything.”

Wolves traded No. 19 and also sent a 2023 second-round pick as part of the Memphis deal. Trading with Houston, who had previously acquired No. 26 from Dallas, Wolves shared the No. 29 and two future second-round picks -Picks out.

The second-round currency was all over the place. Wolves traded with Charlotte from No. 40 back to No. 45 and grabbed a 2023 runner-up owned by the Knicks. In 45th place, they brought on Josh Minott of Memphis, a positive prospect that pleased Wolves. They then traded No. 48 to Indiana for a future second-round pick and cash, and kept their No. 50 pick to pick Matteo Spagnolo, a guard from Italy who will stay there for now and not immediately join Wolves, said Connelly.

Connelly was unable to comment specifically on either the Wolves or Minott first-round players as their trades were pending. He spoke generally about how the draftees might fit in more than immediately in the future.

“We looked for personality types. We’ve been looking for guys that we can grow with over the long term,” said Connelly. “We don’t want to expect too much from their ability to contribute immediately. When you have a team that has had as much success as we have, it’s hard to put that on your shoulders.”

With their first pick, the Wolves were betting on size and a potential rim protector in Kessler, who played a big part in Auburn’s season that saw the Tigers finish 2nd in the NCAA tournament. Kessler was the Naismith National Defensive Player of the Year.

The Wolves could use a rim guard and size up front, and they got some in Kessler, who was known for his shot-blocking ability. He hit a staggering 4.6 shots per game in his only season at Auburn after moving from North Carolina.

Last season, Wolves played a defensive scheme that required center Karl-Anthony Towns to be on the perimeter to cover screens and guard players along the perimeter. Players then climbed behind the cities to guard the rim. Kessler could help them guard the rim if he can contribute immediately.

Connelly said a priority for the Wolves this offseason is adding rebounds to their roster after finishing last season as the third-worst team in terms of defensive rebound percentage. Kessler averaged 8.1 rebounds per game along with 11.4 points. He shot 61% from the field but only 20% on 1.5 three-point attempts per game. But where Kessler fits in next season, if at all, is a question mark.

In Moore, Wolves acquire a wing that thrived in his third season at Duke after struggling in his first two years. Moore averaged 13.4 points as he helped Duke reach the Final Four. From his sophomore through junior seasons, he improved his three-point shooting from 30% to 41%.

Moore received high marks from the draft evaluators for his ability to play on and off the ball and was able to score while dribbling. He was also a solid defender, able to defend multiple positions. Wolves are banking on Moore being able to continue from his junior year while overcoming what some analysts say is a lack of athleticism.

“I think we’ve gotten better,” Connelly said. “I’m not going to set unfair expectations for what they’re going to do on the pitch. Most of the rookies don’t have a huge impact, but I think when you add the kind of people that we’ve added, I think the organization got better.”

The second-round picks will be development projects for Wolves as Minott averaged 6.6 points in his only season in Memphis, the most from the bench. Minott has athletics to play in the NBA but would likely need to work on his shot. Spagnolo averaged 12.2 points while playing for Vanoli Cremona in Italy’s Lega A. Wolves have also signed Theo John from Champlin Park to their summer league team, according to a report from Athletic.

At first, the draft was quiet in terms of trades, as the top 10 picks all stayed with the teams that picked them. The Wolves did not sit idly by when the trades began shortly thereafter. However, point guard D’Angelo Russell, whose status was later the subject of the trade rumor mill, was still on Wolves’ roster when the draft took place on Thursday, the first major window for trading in the offseason.

Connelly walked into the night expecting his staff to argue and debate tips and strategies. He said he got what he wanted.

“Are you kidding me? I’ve had a few beers already, I’m so fed up,” Connelly said. “…There’s no shortage of arguments, that’s great. There is no shortage of debate.

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