MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - It’s an important week for the Minnesota Timberwolves, who have the No. 11 pick in Thursday night’s NBA Draft.
It’s widely known the Timberwolves don’t have the greatest track record in the draft. In fact, only two of the franchise’s first-round picks since 2013 are still on the roster: Karl-Anthony Towns (2015) and last year’s No. 20- overall pick, Josh Okogie.
Some previous first-round draft picks have included Derrick Williams, who was inconsistent with his time in Minnesota after being taken No. 2 overall, Zach LaVine, who showed promise with the Wolves before being traded to Chicago as part of the package for Jimmy Butler. We don’t need to go in-depth on selecting Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn instead of Steph Curry in 2009.
One Wolves fans will likely never forget is Ndudi Ebi in 2003. The draft choice out of high school played just 19 games in two seasons with Minnesota.
But it’s a new era in Wolves basketball. Gersson Rosas now leads the front office as the new President of Basketball Operations after helping lead the Houston Rockets to near the top of the Western Conference. His first order of business was retaining Ryan Saunders as interim head coach. Saunders went 17-25 in 42 games after Tom Thibodeau was fired.
The Timberwolves have plenty of questions to face before they even get to the No. 11 pick Thursday night. Here’s a look at just a few of them.
- Talent around Towns: The Timberwolves, rightly so, have made Karl-Anthony Towns the centerpiece of the franchise after signing him to a 5-year, $190 million max contract in September of 2018. He missed the first five games of his career this season, two from being in the concussion protocol after being involved in a car crash coming out of the All-Star break. He averaged 24.4 points and 12.4 rebounds in 77 games this season. He’s a star, but the NBA is all about super teams. The Wolves need to put talent around him if they want to contend in the Western Conference next season.
- Keep Tyus Jones: The Apple Valley native just finished his fourth season with the Wolves. He’s a restricted free agent, meaning he can explore offers from other teams in free agency. The Wolves can also match an offer that another team gives him. It’s something they should strongly consider, they were a better team on the floor with him. The stats won’t wow you – he averaged 6.9 points and four assists in 68 games, and shot 41.5 percent from the field, but the Timberwolves play better and under more control with him on the floor. Another factor Jones must consider – his mother is battling breast cancer.
- Support Andrew Wiggins: Acquired in the trade that sent Kevin Love to Cleveland, Andrew Wiggins has been nothing short of a polarizing player with the Wolves. The numbers are there: He’s averaging 19.4 points and 4.3 rebounds per game over his NBA career, but it’s his path to getting there that’s been constantly scrutinized. He loves long, contested two-point shots. He’s proven he can take over games with his athleticism, but too often settles for low-percentage jumpers. He’ll play for Team Canada in the FIBA World Cup, and he’s starting a 5-year, $147 million max contract. He’s getting paid $27.5 million this season. There’s work to be done to get that value out of him.
- Figure out free agency: There’s a lot going on with the Wolves and free agency. In addition to Jones, Taj Gibson, Anthony Tolliver, Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Jared Terrell, C.J. Williams and Jerryd Bayless are all free agents. It’s likely that several of those names will not be in Wolves uniforms this season.
- Jeff Teague: The 30-year-old just finished his second season with the Wolves, and most of it was plagued by injuries. He played in 42 games last season, scoring 12.1 points and getting 8.2 assists per game, but he shot just 33 percent from the perimeter. Teague opted in on his $19 million player option for this season. The Wolves haven’t had a consistent scoring threat from a guard in a while, and they need him to play like he can. It’s unlikely another team would take on his contract in a potential trade, largely because he wouldn’t get more value in free agency.
With current roster analysis out of the way, what will the Wolves do with the No. 11 pick?
The wide range of projections leave us to know one thing – We don’t know, and there’s several different directions the Wolves could go with the pick.
The four popular names are North Carolina small forward Nassir Little, Duke forward Cam Reddish and Gonzaga forwards Brandon Clarke and Rui Hachimura. The Wolves need a perimeter scoring threat, and they need players who can defend.