Jim Mone/Associated Press
Nabbing the No. 1 pick is a boon for the Timberwolves’ long haul. D’Angelo Russell, Karl-Anthony Towns, Jarrett Culver, Malik Beasley (restricted), Josh Okogie and Anthony Edwards make for a legitimate top six.
Do they also make for a playoff team in the West? Eh, probably not. All 15 teams in the West will consider themselves postseason hopefuls next year as things stand. Minnesota would only be working with a handful of proven players, plus whomever they sign with the mid-level exception.
That’s not conducive to an immediate return to the playoffs, and the Timberwolves have acted like a team most concerned with now. Next year’s pick is owed to the Warriors with incredibly light protection (top three) before going unprotected in 2022. They don’t have time to take the ultra-gradual approach, not even with Russell (2023 free agent) and Towns (2024) signed through at least 2022-23.
And that’s the other thing: Minnesota’s two best players are already on max deals. Beasley is about to sign his second contract. This isn’t a typically priced rebuilding roster. And while that shouldn’t invite the Timberwolves to move out of No. 1, it does demand a certain level of urgency.
Poking around Devin Booker’s availability is encouraged but invariably futile. They could give Bradley Beal a look, but with the defensive issues he’d perpetuate, they’d have to know he plans to re-sign in 2022. (Acquiring Booker—if they could, which they can’t—poses the same defensive headaches, but he’s younger and signed through 2023-24 and, of course, besties with DLo and KAT.)
Talking to the Pacers about Victor Oladipo or the Pelicans about Jrue Holiday (2021 player option) is worth a try, but with both approaching free agency, the Timberwolves would need to extract more value in return. The list of potentially available All-Stars who jibe with Minnesota’s one-two punch peters out about here, with the caveat that all of the already mentioned names might not even come close to gettable.
Not all trade scenarios need to go scorched earth, though. The Timberwolves can look at moving down for a package of another lottery pick and veteran. But finding that right deal would be a challenge. Potential scenarios run dry real quick.
Does the framework of Otto Porter Jr. and No. 4 get it done? Would the Bulls include Lauri Markkanen as well? Does John Collins and No. 6 for No. 1 make sense for either Minnesota or Atlanta? Does Buddy Hield and No. 12 get the Timberwolves’ attention? Is Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Rudy Gay and No. 11 too rich for San Antonio? Not enough for Minnesota?
You can see the issues facing a shop-it mandate. Still, the Timberwolves aren’t escaping it. They’ve shown they’re more for today than tomorrow, and in this draft, with so little guaranteed at the top, they should feel an obligation to solicit offers for the No. 1 pick more than they would in most years.
Verdict: Shop it