MINNEAPOLIS - The Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday introduced the three newest members of the organization at a news conference at Target Center, after a busy night at last Thursday’s NBA Draft.
It was the first draft for Tim Connelly as the new president of basketball operations with the Timberwolves, and he was a busy man. The Timberwolves traded the No. 19 pick, and at the No. 22 overall pick, selected Auburn center Walker Kessler. They traded the No. 29 pick and moved back up to the No. 26 spot, selecting Duke guard Wendell Moore Jr.
In the second round, they moved the No. 40 overall pick and at No. 45, selected Josh Minott of Memphis. All three were introduced on Tuesday. The Timberwolves felt this draft class was about adding depth to a team that already had talent. The franchise won 46 games last year and earned its second trip to the NBA Playoffs since 2004.
They won’t be putting high expectations on their three newest additions, at least not immediately.
"When you’re transitioning from a team that’s continuing developing to a team that’s starting to win a little bit more, young players often have a harder time and a longer road to crack into a lineup and rotation because you’re not just offering free minutes," Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said. ‘But these are guys that we think can come in and in spot situations, certainly early fill some needs for us. We’re not going to put too much pressure on them to be great right away."
A NERVOUS NIGHT FOR WALKER KESSLER
Walker Kessler, a 7-1, 245-pound center out of Auburn, waited anxiously at the NBA Draft room in New York while other top prospects heard their name. Finally, his pro basketball dream became a reality, even if he wasn’t wearing the right hat to start.
With the No. 22 pick, the Memphis Grizzlies selected Kessler before his rights were traded to the Timberwolves.
"Stressful. Sitting at the table and all those players running around, just waiting for your name to get called. Finally to hear your name, just a lot of emotions," Kessler said. "To know that I was going to the Minnesota Timberwolves, I was thrilled. I’m just so thankful for everything."
Kessler played one season at North Carolina before transferring to Auburn last year. He averaged 11.4 points and 8.1 rebounds per game last season, and led the country with 4.6 blocks per game. He was voted the National Defensive Player of the Year, Third Team All-America and was one of five finalists for the Kareem Abdul Jabbar Center of the Year Award.
He also comes in with Minnesota ties. His father was born in Minneapolis, and his grandfather, Jay Kessler, played basketball for the University of Minnesota from 1960-62. Walker will wear No. 31 for the Timberwolves, as did Jay for the Gophers.
"That was way back when. It’s cool to be in the city and having my dad’s family be from here, it’s crazy how things work out like that. God works in mysterious ways so to be here now, it’s really cool," Kessler said.
WENDELL MOORE JR.: ‘HOPEFULLY I CAN BRING WINNING’
Moore became the fourth Blue Devils’ player selected in the first round, and one of five total. He spent three seasons at Duke, and averaged 13.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.4 steals per game in 39 starts last season. He played nearly 34 minutes per game for Duke, and shot 41.3 percent from the perimeter.
His Duke teams went 70-24 over the last three seasons, and he finished his college career with a run to the NCAA Final Four in Mike Krzyzewski’s final season. He now joins a franchise led by Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell. So what can Moore bring?
"Hopefully I can bring winning. Like coach said, it’s already an exciting young group that we have here. I’m just here to compete, add to the winning culture we have. I just want to win," Moore said.
Connelly had a clear message when talking about his first draft class with the Timberwolves: He wanted high-quality players who are also highly thought of both on and off the court.
"The theme is that all three guys are so well thought of with their work ethic, their approach, their professionalism and their desire to win. It makes you feel a lot better to select guys from those programs," Connelly said.
"We feel they’re perfect additions to our already exciting young core that is starting to come together at the right time. There’s no better time to be joining the Minnesota Timberwolves," Finch said.