Thursday, June 13, 2024

Three things to know about the Timberwolves as NBA draft looms

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The last and only other time the Timberwolves were coming off of a trip to the Western Conference finals, they didn’t have a first-round pick in the 2004 NBA draft as the final bit of punishment for their illegal contract with Joe Smith.

Twenty years later, the Wolves have a paucity of future draft capital because of the Rudy Gobert trade, a much better use of resources as evidenced by his Defensive Player of the Year award this past season.

But they do have a first-round pick in 2024, No. 27 overall, and they also have the No. 37 overall pick early in the second round.

Those two assets could prove essential as the Wolves try to continue to build on the foundation laid this season. Assuming they don’t make any huge offseason trades, their core will return almost completely intact next season.

But this still is a roster with needs and holes. As such, here are some things the Wolves could be thinking about with the draft looming in two weeks, as I talked about on Tuesday’s Daily Delivery podcast:

*The most obvious need for the Wolves is an heir apparent to Mike Conley Jr. at point guard. Conley was excellent as a stabilizing force this past season, but he will be 37 when next year starts. He’s under contract for two more years after signing a mid-year extension, and a succession plan would be wise.

Could the Wolves find their point guard of the future at No. 27 overall? That was the upshot of a recent ESPN look at first round needs for every team. The piece mentioned international point guard Juan Nunez and Marquette point guard Tyler Kolek as options for the Wolves.

*Minnesota already has a stable of young players that are having a tough time cracking an experienced rotation. Maybe the Wolves decide that one or two of them — particularly Leonard Miller as a Kyle Anderson replacement — are worthy of minutes next season.

And perhaps they decide that a backcourt solution, someone who can ideally take some playmaking and shot creation pressure off Anthony Edwards next year and into the future, is more readily available in a trade that involves this year’s picks.

*Overall, the Wolves are in a position of strength. They can attack the draft in the way the old Spurs teams used to when they were always picking in the late 20s. They have the luxury of watching other teams draft for need or upside, and they can simply take the best player available to help them win.

Here are four more things to know today:

*The Star Tribune’s Randy Johnson joined me on Tuesday’s podcast to talk Gophers football recruiting. P.J. Fleck and his staff are hosting several recruits during Summer Splash.

*Chris Paddack was excellent for the Twins in their win Monday, and has been quite good this year against everyone except the Yankees. In that way, Paddack is something of a microcosm of the whole Twins team this season.

*Aaron Rodgers is skipping the Jets’ mandatory minicamp, which sure seems like a needless distraction.

*The Star Tribune’s Rachel Blount will join me on Wednesday’s podcast to talk about PWHL Minnesota and the eventful last few weeks.

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