MINNEAPOLIS - The NBA Draft is Thursday night, which means Tim Connelly’s phone probably won’t stop ringing until the Minnesota Timberwolves are on the clock with the No. 19 pick.
That’s assuming they stay at 19, and don’t move the pick. Connelly was just hired as the Timberwolves’ new president of basketball operations a month ago after running the Denver Nuggets front office for nine years, and will make his first big decision with Minnesota Thursday night. In that time, he’s been busy getting to know his new front office staff and debating how to add talent to a team that made the playoffs for the second time since 2004 last season.
So what’s the most fun part for Connelly?
"Probably the uncertainty. It feels like the one night of the year where you feel like you’re actually doing your job as a front office guy. It’s fun, we don’t know. We sit there and argue 10 hours a day and none of us really know what it’s going to look like," Connelly told reporters on Wednesday at Mayo Clinic Square. "They’re going to grade us on Thursday night, the grade should be in three years to see if it’ll work out."
It’s the first time in a while the Timberwolves enter the NBA Draft not having a lottery pick. A few names have been thrown out as possibilities at No. 19: Auburn center Walker Kessler, Ohio State forward E.J. Liddell and Kentucky guard TyTy Washington to name a few.
They've also been linked to talks involving acquiring Rudy Gobert, and Clint Capela.
The Timberwolves could go a few directions. Do they get a center to pair with Karl-Anthony Towns? Do they get a guard with D’Angelo Russell facing an uncertain future in Minnesota? Who will the best player available be? Can that player make an immediate impact on a team that won 46 games last year?
"We’re drafting tomorrow night for the next three to five years. If we expect the No. 19 pick to make an instant impact on a team that’s in the playoffs last year, it’s unfair for that player," Connelly said. "How much you want to swing for the fences depends on who is there."
Will they trade the pick? Connelly isn’t ruling anything out.
"We’re super open to it. We’ve had countless conversations about using that pick to add a more quickly impactful piece. About 99 percent of those conversations are just theoretical. Today, tomorrow they take on a more actionable tone," Connelly said.
Not to be forgotten is the fact that the Timberwolves own three second round picks – 40, 48 and 50. It presents a scenario where those picks could be packaged to move up in the draft.
"It’s unlikely we’re going to have a roster with four rookies. We also have to not be scared to mess up. The reality is the hit rate in the second round is unbelievably low," Connelly said.
The path to getting there can be complicated and involve many twists, turns and phone calls. But ultimately, the Timberwolves need to find a way to improve through the NBA Draft Thursday night, and build off getting to the playoffs.
"It still comes down to your goal is to add good players to win games. The ultimate goal is to do that, so if you can add a quality piece and culturally is going to fit, let’s add a quality guy regardless of where he is or where he might be mocked," Connelly said.