Executives around the NBA believe the Timberwolves would prefer to trade the No. 1 pick, moving down from – or entirely out of – that spot in order to bring in a win-now player, says Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer in his latest mock draft.
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard that Minnesota is open to trading the top pick. In fact, trade rumors have swirled around the No. 1 selection since the team won the draft lottery in August. However, O’Connor’s assertion that the Timberwolves would be targeting a “win-now” player to complement Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell provides a hint of what sort of deal they’ll be seeking if and when they shop that first overall pick.
The Wolves don’t project to have cap room this offseason and don’t have any useful trade exceptions available, so they won’t be able to trade the pick straight up for a veteran player (or for a veteran and another pick). However, James Johnson‘s expiring $16MM contract could be used as a trade chip to match salaries if necessary.
With no clear-cut top prospect in this year’s draft class, the Timberwolves won’t have an easy decision if they keep the No. 1 pick. As Sam Vecenie of The Athletic observed earlier this week, LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, and James Wiseman are widely viewed as this year’s highest-upside prospects and are the top contenders for the No. 1 pick, but none of them are ideal fits for Minnesota’s roster.
The Wolves could badly use a strong two-way player who would help make up for Russell’s and Towns’ defensive shortcomings. Ball and Edwards aren’t strong defenders, so they don’t really fit that bill. Wiseman has more upside on that side of the ball, but might have a hard time playing alongside Towns, as Vecenie writes.
Since the league as a whole isn’t overly enthusiastic about this year’s top prospects, it will be a challenge for Minnesota to find a favorable trade involving the No. 1 pick, per Vecenie. Still, The Athletic’s draft guru feels as if a deal might be in the Wolves’ best interests even if the return is “a bit more muted” than it would’ve been for the first overall pick in another draft.
President of basketball operations Gersson Rosas has turned over nearly the entire Timberwolves roster since assuming control of the front office in 2019, so he won’t be hesitant to make a splash if he gets an offer he likes. The NBA’s transaction moratorium remains in place for the time being, but with five more weeks until draft day, Rosas has plenty of time to see what’s out there.