Timberwolves, Tim Connelly hit home run at NBA Draft

By all accounts, Tim Connelly and the Minnesota Timberwolves came out of the first round of the NBA Draft Wednesday night big winners.

The Timberwolves came out of the night with two high-end scorers, one a guard and the other a wing, made a big trade and didn’t have to sacrifice a current player to do it. Connelly sent a 203 unprotected first round pick and a 2030 pick swap to the San Antonio Spurs for the No. 8 pick. The Timberwolves took Kentucky guard Rob Dillingham, the team’s second-leading scorer last season and the SEC’s Sixth Man of the Year.

"We didn’t want to touch our rotation guys coming off this season. We were trying to find creative ways to get there," Connelly said Wednesday night. "We weren’t too optimistic when the night started, we were lucky enough to obtain a pick and get a kid we think can really help us."

He averaged 15.2 points, 3.9 assists and played 23 minutes off the bench last season for the Wildcats, shooting 44.4 percent from the perimeter. He scored in double figures in 27 of 32 games, and had at least 20 points eight times. Connelly said he’ll have an immediate role.

"I don’t think you make a move as aggressive as this and sit on him. He’s a guy that from Day 1 is going to have a role. I don’t think you’re that aggressive in the top-10 with a guy you don’t think can play right away," Connelly said.

With the No. 27 overall pick, the Timberwolves got Illinois wing Terrence Shannon Jr. They had him in town for a pre-draft workout, and liked what they saw. He filled the box score for the Illini, averaging 23 points, four rebounds and 2.3 assists per game, while shooting 36 percent from the perimeter last season.

He also made headlines off the court, being found not guilty of rape and sexual assault earlier this month in an incident at a Kansas bar last September. He missed five games for the Illini due to suspension, then got reinstated after filing a lawsuit for a violation of his civil rights. He went to trial, testified on his own behalf and was acquitted of all charges. Connelly said the Timberwolves did their due diligence on Shannon. He would’ve competed with Zach Edey for NCAA Player of the Year and been a lottery pick before the legal situation.

"The off-court reputation is sterling. We talked to the coaches at Texas Tech and Illinois, they don’t say good things, they say amazing things. Obviously he was on the wrong end of a really unfortunate situation," Connelly said. "I think it’s a shame it’s even a footnote. Often times the minute you’re accused, you’re found guilty. He went through the legal process, he chose to go to trial because he knew he did nothing wrong. It’s a shame he went through that."

Connelly was speaking for the first time since Chris Finch got a four-year contract extension, following Minnesota’s first run to the Western Conference Finals in 20 years and their first 56-win season over that time.

Finch is now under contract through the 2027-28 season.

"When you have a good thing, you keep it going. I’m a big believer in continuity, and our ownership is very much a big believer in rewarding a job well done," Connelly said.

Connelly also talked about extending his own opt-out clause with the Timberwolves until after next season. There’s currently an ownership squabble between Glen Taylor, Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore that’s being sorted out in court. Connelly re-worked his contract to make a call on his future once that dust settles.

"I’m here, I could’ve opted out. I’m very happy here, it’s become home. There’s a situation right now where there’s a bit of an unknown," Connelly said. "Any time you can extend the flexibility when there’s a bit of unknown, it’s probably wise. I’m ecstatic to be here."