The Timberwolves started draft night with a first-round pick. They ended it with two.
Basketball operations president Tim Connelly moved on to the draft and then returned to the draft on Thursday, trading four separate deals as he made his first draft with the Wolves eventful.
When the Wolves reached number 19 overall, they faced the Grizzlies to go back and take Memphis 22nd and 29th picks, but they weren’t done.
The Wolves kept the first of those picks and selected Auburn Walker Kessler’s center at number 22, but before they could choose at number 29, Connelly completed a deal with Houston for number 26 and picked Wendell Moore from Duke.
The Wolves’ busy draft room liked the way the night had unfolded in front of them and they thought they could get two quality players they were targeting by coming back. Connelly said the trade talks started slowly, but around the No. 8 and 9, commercial calls started to become more “actionable”. He attributed the chaos management to his front office.
“That room did a fantastic job predicting what we thought it would be. It allowed us some flexibility because we had a good lay-out,” Connelly said. “… Those guys were surgical. I’m just the dumb type trying to do everything.”
The Wolves swapped the number 19 and also sent a pick of the second round of 2023 as part of the Memphis deal. In the exchange with Houston, who previously acquired number 26 from Dallas, the Wolves dealt out number 29 and two future second round picks.
The second round currency was on the move everywhere. The Wolves traded with Charlotte from No. 40 to no. 45 and have collected a second round of 2023 that belongs to the Knicks. At number 45, they brought Josh Minott forward out of Memphis, a positive prospect the Wolves liked. They then traded number 48 with Indiana for a future pick and second round money and kept their number 50 pick to select Matteo Spagnolo, an Italian guard who will stay there for now and won’t join the Wolves right away, he said. Connelly.
Connelly could not specifically comment on the first rounds of the Wolves or Minotts, since their exchanges had not been finalized. You talked in general about how recruits might adapt more in the future than in the immediate future.
“We were looking for personality types. We were looking for guys that we can grow up with over the long term,” Connelly said. “We don’t want to place too many expectations on their ability to contribute right away. When you have a team that has been as successful as we are, it’s hard to put it on your shoulders.”
With their first pick, the Wolves picked the size and a potential protector of the circle in Kessler, which was a big part of the Auburn season where the Tigers earned a No. 2 in the NCAA tournament. Kessler was the Naismith National Defensive Player of the Year.
The Wolves could use a circle guard and a bounty in the attack zone and took a few in Kessler, who was famous for his ability to block shots. He has landed an astounding 4.6 shots per game in his only season at Auburn after moving from North Carolina.
Last season the Wolves played a defensive pattern that required Karl-Anthony Towns center to be on the perimeter to protect the screens and protect the players along the perimeter. The players would then climb behind Towns to protect the edge. Kessler could help protect the circle if he can help right away.
Connelly said a priority for the Wolves this offseason was to add rebounds to their roster after finishing last season as the third-worst team in defensive rebounding rates. Kessler averaged 8.1 rebounds per game along with 11.4 points. He shot 61% from the field, but only shot 20% with 1.5 three-point attempts per game. But just where Kessler fits next season, if at all, is a question mark.
In Moore, the Wolves are acquiring a winger that blossomed in his third season at Duke after struggling in his first two. Moore averaged 13.4 points in helping Duke reach the Final Four. He improved his three-point shot from 30% to 41% from the second year to the junior season.
Moore earned high marks from draft evaluators for his ability to play on and off the ball and be able to score on the dribble. He was also a solid defender who could protect multiple positions. The Wolves are betting that Moore can continue to progress from his junior year by overcoming what some analysts think is a lack of athleticism.
“I think we’ve gotten better,” Connelly said. “I’m not going to put out unfair expectations about what they’re going to do on the pitch. Most rookies don’t have a big impact, but I think when you add the kinds of people we’ve added, I think the organization has improved.”
The second-round picks will be development plans for the Wolves, as Minott averaged 6.6 points mostly off the bench during his only season in Memphis. Minott has athleticism to play in the NBA, but he should probably work on shooting him. Spanish averaged 12.2 points playing for Vanoli Cremona in the Italian League A. The Wolves have also signed Theo John of Champlin Park to their summer league squad, according to an Atletico report.
In the beginning, the draft was quiet when it comes to trading as the top 10 picks all remained with the teams that selected them. The Wolves did not stand by as the exchanges began shortly thereafter. However, point guard D’Angelo Russell, whose status has been the subject of later trade rumors, was still on the Wolves on the roster as the draft went ahead on Thursday, the first significant trading window in the off-season.
Connelly arrived in the night expecting his staff to discuss and discuss choices and strategies. He said he got what he wanted.
“Are you kidding me? I’ve had a couple of beers already, I’m so sick of it,” Connelly said. “… There is no shortage of discussions, which is fantastic. There is no shortage of debates. It would not be otherwise.”