The Runner Sports

Should The Timberwolves Keep Their Pick In The 2017 NBA Draft

With one week to go until the 2017 NBA Draft, the Timberwolves are unsure of what to do with the seventh pick. Should they keep it, trade up, or trade down?

The Minnesota Timberwolves currently hold the seventh pick in the upcoming 2017 NBA Draft and there are fierce debates occurring in Minneapolis about the status of the pick. There are three directions the Wolves can go. They can decide to stand pat and select the best available player with the number seven pick. They can decide to trade the pick and move down in the draft if none of the available prospects excite them. Finally, they can push all their chips into the middle and trade up in the draft to select a superstar player in the waiting.

Option number 1: Keep the pick

This seems to be the most likely outcome out of all the three options available to Minnesota and all the signals out of the front office seem to confirm this. With the seventh pick, there will still be potential All-Star players still on the board that can help contribute to the Wolves making the playoffs for the first time in 13 years. Anyone watching the playoffs in the Western Conference knows that no team is close to stopping that juggernaut in the Bay area.

With Kevin Durant likely to stay in Oakland there seems to be nothing anyone can do to stop Golden State from winning multiple titles. Teams like the Wolves would be wise to bide their time and draft young players who in five years will be ready to dethrone the Warriors. Moving up in the draft to trade for a veteran player would do little to frighten the Warriors and would make the team worse in the long-run by losing young players with high upside.

It makes financial success to keep the pick

Pick 1st Year Salary 2nd Year Salary 3rd Year Salary 4th Year Option % Increase 5th Year Option % Increase
7 $2,675,700 $2,796,100 $2,916,500 27.0% 34.1%

 

The Minnesota Timberwolves will have to get ready to pay players in the coming summers as both Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine will be eligible for rookie extensions in the summer of 2018 and both will be seeking max deals from the front office. The summer of 2019 will mean that Karl-Anthony Towns is eligible for his extension and he will receive max money. This will mean that they will have significant money invested in Wiggins, Towns, Lavine, and Gorgui Dieng, who was extended last summer. This will restrict the Timberwolves financial flexibility going forward. So, players on rookie scale deals will be an asset as they will have insignificant money that will count towards the salary cap, allowing for financial flexibility moving forward.

As Tom Thibodeau told Canis Hoopus’ Dane Moore, “I also feel you have to look at the age of the three young guys in Karl, Wigg, and Zach, and make sure that the windows match up.”  Based on this quote it makes sense that drafting a rookie makes the most sense as the player selected will be around the same age as the players on the roster so they can reach their peaks around the same time.

Option 2: Trade up in the draft

So far in his short tenure as president of basketball operations and head coach, Tom Thibodeau has yet to make a trade at all. Trading up in this draft would be a huge statement of intent that the Wolves are ready to compete for playoff consideration. This draft is a good draft to trade down, as there are plenty of players later in the draft who offer great value. So if approached with the right package, teams should be willing to trade down.

The Timberwolves should engage the Philadelphia 76ers in trade talks and try to acquire the number three pick in the draft. The rationale being that the top two picks are solidified and we know who the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers are going to select. After the second pick, there is some ambiguity but most experts expect Josh Jackson of Kansas to be selected and this is the player the Wolves should target. Jackson would offer defensive versatility and toughness to a team whose defense ranked in the bottom ten.

One possible package is sending LaVine, a 2019 lottery protected first-round pick, and the number 7 pick in the draft to Philadelphia and in return the Wolves get the third pick in the draft and Dario Saric. This trade works for Minnesota as they get a potential superstar player and in Saric a potential rookie of the year who can solve the Wolves’ power forward issues. The Sixers would like this trade as they get two draft picks of good value and a shooting guard on his rookie contract who shot 39% from three. This is a huge plus for the Sixers as they ranked in the bottom eight for three-point percentage.

This is by far the riskiest option for the Wolves to pursue but potentially offers the most upside. I would be shocked if the Wolves chose this option as Thibodeau seems committed to keeping the core three of Towns, Wiggins, and LaVine together.

Option three- Trade down in the Draft

If the Wolves feel that none of the available players are worthy enough to be drafted or can help solve the myriad of issues the Wolves have, then the smartest thing to do would be to trade down in the draft. There are several reasons this makes sense for the Wolves and this may end up being the strategy they choose to adopt. Trading down in the draft will enable them to acquire veteran players which the Wolves badly need to help contribute right away and foster a culture of accountability and winning in the locker room.

One possible team the Wolves could engage is the Chicago Bulls, who currently have the 16th pick in the NBA Draft. It was plain to see that by the end of the season the Bulls want to acquire young players and hit the reset button. The Wolves could dangle the pick for a veteran player like a Robin Lopez and the number 16 pick. If the Bulls are unwilling to engage in talks then another team desperate to move a bad salary and acquire younger players is the Portland Trail Blazers, who have the 15th and 20th picks. They would be willing to trade a player like Allen Crabbe, who is owed up to $62 million over the next three years if he picks up his player option in 2019-2020. Crabbe would be a useful player for the Wolves as he shot 44% from three-point range and seems to be a level-headed player and Minnesota has the cap space to absorb the contract. Portland likes this trade as they are salary cap poor and this would allow them some flexibility to sign players.

The players who will probably be available at number seven are very raw prospects that won’t be able to contribute right away. One name which has been heavily linked is Lauri Markkanen, who is an excellent shooter but a poor defender and one-dimensional player who needs a lot of work. Jonathan Isaac is the favorite to be selected but averaged less than 10 points and needs to improve his shaky jumper. Instead of selecting one of these raw rookies the Wolves will do well to trade down and acquire a veteran who can contribute right away.

Final Decision 

If it was up to me then my decision would be for the Wolves to stay where they are and draft the best player left on the board with the seventh pick. There are still players with high upside that the Wolves can draft like a Jonathan Isaac who is more of a project but can be a promising player going forward. This would be the safest option but safe isn’t always a bad thing. Keep the pick Minnesota.

Mustafa Noor

Mustafa Noor

Writer at Runner sports
London based writer covering the Minnesota Timberwolves for the runner sports. Mustafa is well aware that the Timberwolves have not made the playoffs for 13 straight years
Mustafa Noor