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The Timberwolves hold the No. 1 pick in the draft and with so much uncertainty at the top of draft boards, their decision-making holds the key to what feels like infinite possibilities. Adding to the chaos are statements from the president of basketball operations, Gerson Rossas, that they “have an open mind” about trading the pick.
Nailing down an obvious path is difficult because the Wolves’ core (Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell) is old enough to make a hard pivot towards competitiveness plausible, but not old enough to rule out a slow-motion rebuild. If they decide to trade the pick there are a few interesting options available. Below are five possibilities, none of which are particularly plausible but are still fun to consider.
To the Knicks for Frank Ntilikina and No. 8
This deal rests on the Knicks’ desire to move up seven spots which, again, in a shaky draft class might not be worthwhile. However, if they did have the desire to move to the top for a specific target, finally giving up on Ntilikina might not be too steep a price to pay. For the Timberwolves, they could still nab an interesting rookie and another young wing player with strong defensive potential for a future iteration of this roster.
To the Spurs for Derrick White and Rudy Gay
The Spurs have a lot of backcourt depth, both young and veteran. Derrick White may be the most valuable but he also sits in between and might be more valuable as a trade piece that lets them commit fully to Lonnie Walker and Dejounte Murray as the backcourt of the future. Here they get a chance to choose-their-own-adventure at No. 1 and hedge by keeping their own pick at No. 11. The Timberwolves get another versatile wing who can play next to Russell or lead the offense of the bench. Both White and Gay would add defensive value and a veteran presence that could help scaffold things for Towns and Russell and let the Timberwolves make a real playoff push next season.
To the Magic for Aaron Gordon
Gordon’s value to the Timberwolves would rely, a lot, on the idea of him growing into a different sort of player in this new context. He’d need to really commit to becoming an off-ball threat, committing to using the space Russell and Towns create inside the arc. And on defense, he’d need to jump a level and become the kind of switchy, mistake-covering cog he’s always had the potential to be. But if he’s still trying to be Paul George on offense and Blake Griffin on defense he probably doesn’t help Minnesota a whole lot. For the Magic, change is coming and Gordon may have more value in creating roster turnover than from in-house development. The No. 1 pick would let them go after a backcourt complement for Markelle Fultz and, hopefully, a healthy Jonathan Isaac down the road.
To the Indiana Pacers for Myles Turner
The Timberwolves would have to include James Johnson here for salary purposes but he has just one year left on his deal and it’s hard to imagine that being a deal-breaker for the Pacers, assuming they’d bite in the first place. For Indiana, they’d get a chance to break up their big-man logjam, sell Victor Oladipo on a future in Indiana and potentially nab a high-level complementary backcourt piece like LaMelo Ball or Killian Hayes to work with Oladipo and Brogdon. For the Timberwolves, they get an excellent big-man defender to help cover from some of Karl-Anthony Towns’ deficiencies at that end. The fit isn’t perfect, since Turner is really a 5 but they both have enough stretch and mobility in their offensive games to make it work. Turner is also just 24, the same as Towns and Russell — he gives them another piece of their core to grow together on a similar timeline and he’s more of a sure thing than any of the players who could be available at No. 1.
To the Warriors for Draymond Green
Green’s fit on the Timberwolves is ideal — a hugely impactful defensive presence who can help bring out the best of both Towns and Russell, inspiring them to raise their own defensive ceilings and helping cover for their inherent shortcomings. As an offensive cog, he still adds value as a passer even if his shooting never recovers to outside passable levels.
For the Warriors, this fantasy is about fleshing out the trade package for another star. If the Bucks were trading Giannis Antetokounmpo or the Wizards were trading Bradley Beal, they’d be starting over and a veteran like Green wouldn’t have nearly as much value. Here, the Warriors are converting his contract into draft capital and throwing Wiggins, the No. 1 and 2 picks, and a future first-rounder at Milwaukee or Washington. Again it’s not happening for a variety of reasons, but it makes for a fun alternate timeline.
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