Editor’s note: Please give a warm welcome to Aidan Berg, the latest edition to our Canis family! Aidan is a terrific writer with a bright basketball mind who (unfortunately) roots for the Celtics outside of the Wolves. I’m very excited he’s on board and will bring some great draft coverage over the next couple weeks. You can follow him on Twitter @AidanBerg_ .
The Minnesota Timberwolves are not yet in a position where they need to prioritize the present over the future. After all, they have a 20-year-old star in Anthony Edwards, a couple of impressive young forwards in Jarred Vanderbilt and Jaden McDaniels and a firmly-in-his-prime Karl-Anthony Towns coming off an All-NBA season.
Still, it’s important for this franchise to continue its forward momentum coming off its best season in 18 years. The 2021-22 Timberwolves surprised some by making the playoffs, but now the expectations will only elevate; it’s in Minnesota’s best interests to at least examine avenues to acquire talent that will help this core improve substantially next season, even if it comes at the cost of future assets.
The best piece Minnesota has in pursuing that route is its first-round pick in the upcoming NBA draft, No. 19 overall. If the Wolves decide to trade that pick, here are some ways they could put it to use.
Stealing Anunoby in a Gobert trade
Wolves receive: SF OG Anunoby
Raptors receive: C Rudy Gobert
Jazz get: SG Gary Trent Jr., SG Malik Beasley, 2022 first-round pick from MIN (No. 19 overall), 2024 first-round pick from TOR, 2022 second-round from MIN via WAS (No. 40)
Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer indicated earlier this week that the Toronto Raptors could make OG Anunoby available in a trade that would net them a rim-protecting center, and that Rudy Gobert could be a target. In this scenario, the Wolves emerge with Anunoby, a physically imposing wing who would add another major defensive presence and complementary offense to the rotation.
Anunoby is a great fit with the Wolves because he’s a great fit anywhere. He’s a long-armed, thickly-built forward who can guard multiple positions, has shot at least 36 percent from 3 in each of the last three seasons and upped his scoring output every year up to 17.1 per game in 2021-22. He may seem slightly redundant with McDaniels, but if there’s anything we’ve learned from the Warriors and Celtics making the NBA Finals, it’s that having a plethora of wings with versatile skillsets on both ends at your disposal is very valuable.
Fischer also reported that Gobert’s high salary could make a matching package “too rich” for the Raptors, which is where the Wolves come in. Minnesota adds a couple of picks and a shooter in Malik Beasley to sweeten the pot for Utah.
This trade only really works if Utah decides to blow it up and trade all their current contributors for draft capital. If the Jazz want to keep Donovan Mitchell and stay competitive, they will surely require Anunoby’s services as a potential answer to their perimeter defense issues. Even if it does turn the page completely, Utah could decide that it’ll only make the trade if it gets Anunoby; that’s how coveted he is in the league.
Bringing in Another Perimeter Defender
Wolves receive: Luguentz Dort
Thunder receive: Jaylen Nowell, Leandro Bolmaro, 2022 first-round pick from MIN (No. 19)
It’s very plausible that Oklahoma City doesn’t want to move on from Dort, and especially not at this price. He’s only 23, is a known bulldog on defense and is steadily improving offensive player who averaged 17.2 points per game this season (albeit on poor efficiency for a putrid team).
However, Dort will be an unrestricted free agent after this upcoming season. If the Thunder don’t move him, they could lose him for nothing or be forced to overpay him early in their timeline, and we know how much Sam Presti loves to stockpile his picks.
From Minnesota’s side, this is a gamble that Dort is the intense defender who catalyzes the Wolves on that end while providing enough offense to keep opponents honest. They would have his bird rights and could re-sign him next offseason after D’Angelo Russell and Patrick Beverley’s current contracts are off the books and before Towns’ and Edwards’ pricey extensions kick in.
Nowell is a talented player, but his defensive inconsistencies prevented him from cracking the rotation consistently. Perhaps he and the developing Bolmaro can find a bigger role with the Thunder.
Upgrading the Bench Sniper
Wolves receive: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Jalen Johnson
Hawks receive: Malik Beasley, 2022 first-round pick from MIN, 2022 second-round pick from MIN via WAS
I promise I don’t hate Malik Beasley; it’s just that the Wolves don’t have a lot of contracts that will net them impactful win-now players.
Bogdanovic is four years older than Beasley and slightly more expensive over the next two years, plus he carries a player option for 2023-24. He’s also unquestionably the better player of the two, bringing similar 3-point marksmanship while adding more playmaking (Bogdanovic averages 3.4 assists for his career to Beasley’s 1.2) and defense. Adding more secondary creation is crucial to a bench unit that needs more players who can play off the catch.
Bogdan Bogdanovic was named the defensive player of the game
7 REB (all defensive)
Bogi grabbed the most defensive rebounds out of every player in the game tonight.pic.twitter.com/A4I5dbMZWz
— Kevin Keneely (@KevinKeneely1) February 16, 2022
The Wolves also take a flier on Johnson, a talented forward who got essentially zero playing time from Nate McMillan.
The Hawks’ side of this trade may seem puzzling to some, but it seems real change could be coming to Atlanta. If the Hawks want to make a major retooling effort, adding the No. 19 pick could be helpful in pursuing names such as Jerami Grant and Deandre Ayton. Plus, they get a younger and cheaper player who can fill some of Bogdanovic’s role.
Which trade would you most like to see the Wolves make?