Wolves do night trade with Memphis, select 7 foot Walker Kessler at number 22

The Timberwolves started the NBA draft night with a first-round pick. They ended it with two.

After all, Tim Connelly’s first big moves as president of Timberwolves were trading.

When the Wolves reached number 19 overall, they struck a deal with the Grizzlies to return to the draft and take Memphis 22nd and 29th picks.

The Wolves picked 7-foot center Walker Kessler of Auburn at number 22 and traded their 29th pick, and future seconds, in Houston for 26th pick to take Duke Wendell Moore’s guard, though Moore was drafted from Dallas as part of a trade between the Mavericks and Rockets that is not yet official.

Minnesota were traded by number 19 after selecting Wake Forest striker Jake LaRavia for the Grizzlies. The Wolves were also sending a future round two pick to the Grizzlies as part of the deal. A source said he was a 2023 round two pick.

With their first pick, the Wolves chose size and a potential rim protector in Kessler, who was a big part of the Auburn season. The Tigers earned a No. 2 in the NCAA tournament and Kessler was Naismith National Defensive Player of the Year.

The 6-5 Moore played three seasons at Duke, averaging 13.8 points as a junior last season.

The Wolves could use a circle guard and a bounty in the attack zone and they both got into Kessler, who was known for his ability to protect the circle and 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 terms of defensive rebound 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.

There were some surprises early in the draft when Duke’s Paolo Banchero went to Magic # 1 after it looked like Auburn’s Jabari Smith was headed there in most of the fictional drafts. The Houston Rockets selected Smith at number 3 after Chet Holmgren went to Oklahoma City. Purdue’s Jaden Ivey slipped to the Pistons at number 5, another surprise move, while the Kings took Iowa’s Keegan Murray.

The early part of the draft was devoid of significant exchanges involving established players, with the top 10 teams each keeping their picks. There was some movement in the teens when Detroit and Oklahoma City traded back to the lottery.

The Wolves did not stand by when the trading began, though point guard D’Angelo Russell, who has been having swirling reports of his status lately, remained on the roster as the draft moved forward Thursday, the first significant window. for trading in the off season.

Front office relationships aren’t a prerequisite for trading in the NBA, but they can definitely help. In that sense, the Wolves recently added Steve Senior of Memphis as assistant to the general manager before hiring Connelly, and Senior’s relationship with his old team could have helped close the deal.

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