Three of the last seven No. 1 picks have begun their career with the Timberwolves. If only one of the greatest players in NBA history were from Minnesota and itching to return, and the Timberwolves would have a Cavaliers level of lucky breaks.
As is, the Timberwolves still add Anthony Edwards – a promising young player. That certainly boosts this results-based grade.
But was Edwards, a wing, the right choice? Minnesota already had a center (Karl-Anthony Towns) and point guard (D’Angelo Russell) as franchise cornerstones, which might have diminished desire to draft center James Wiseman (who went No. 2 to the Warriors) or point guard LaMelo Ball (who went No. 3 to the Hornets). The Timberwolves said they viewed Edwards as the best prospect available. Of course, even if drafting based on fit rather than just player quality, they would have said they viewed Edwards as the best prospect available.
I would have taken Ball, complications and all. I rated him a tier above everyone else, and Russell isn’t good enough to justify passing on the best available prospect, even another point guard.
But Edwards was the cleanest fit into a starting lineup with Towns, Russell and recently re-signed Malik Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez.
Beasley (four years, $60 million with a team option) is a 24-year-old shooting guard with strong 3-point shooting. He absolutely sizzled with Minnesota after the trade deadline. Players like him come at a premium, and the Timberwolves did well to get so much team control. But off-court issues loom.
Likewise, Minnesota gained substantial team control on Hernangomez (three years, $21,037,320 with the final season unguaranteed). He’s a stretch four who also played well for the Timberwolves after coming from the Nuggets with Beasley last season.
Minnesota continued to add to its base with No. 23 pick Leandro Bolmaro and No. 28 pick Jaden McDaniels. Both got selected near the range I rated them.
But the Timberwolves aren’t just relying on youth. They owe the Warriors a top-three-protected 2021 first-round pick. Even with the NBA’s worst record, Minnesota would likely convey the selection after the lottery (60%). Tanking is barely viable.
So, the Timberwolves traded for point guard Ricky Rubio (absorbing the final two years and $34.8 million on his contract) and center Ed Davis (sending a second-rounder to the Knicks). Both are respected veterans, though past their peaks. Minnesota probably could have gotten a comparable backup center cheaper in free agency without surrendering a pick. The Timberwolves also had an in-house backup point guard with a salary a tiny fraction of Rubio’s.
Keeping Jordan McLaughlin on a two-way contract was a steal. He came on late last season and looked like a solid backup point guard.
By definition, Edwards can’t be a steal. But picking him No. 1 will likely make or break Minnesota’s offseason. I don’t think he was the optimal pick, but he was close enough that I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out the Timberwolves nailed it. At minimum, they added an explosive young wing with shooting skill. That should help at least somewhat.