Wolves Seem Destined to Trade #1 Pick This Year for a 1st Next Year

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With all attention in the Minnesota sports world currently on football, fans might be surprised when they look to their right and see the NBA Draft in the rear-view just above the, ‘objects in mirror are closer than they appear’, warning message. Draft night comes exactly 2 weeks and one day from today. The festivities will be kicked off, for now, by Gersson Rosas and the Minnesota Timberwolves.

But as I’ve written about already, the chances of Minnesota taking someone at #1, who will actually dribble a basketball in a Timberwolves uniform, are very very very very very slim. So in a 2020 NBA draft where nobody really wants the #1 overall pick, what will Rosas do?

The Timberwolves’ front office has come out of hiding recently and have shown their hand, if you’ve been paying attention. Let’s read between the lines.

Wolves Reportedly Won’t Pay Luxury Tax This Season

Yesterday, it was reported by many outlets that Glen Taylor had to dig a few extra bills out of his wallet for a roster that pushed over the luxury tax threshold last season. While that in itself isn’t a huge deal, its impact on the 2021 roster will be significant. To avoid repeater tax penalties, Rosas will make sure this roster comes in UNDER the luxury tax for this season.

According to Spotrac, the Minnesota Timberwolves are currently $36 million short of that luxury tax threshold. That’s without Juancho Hernangomez, Malik Beasley or Jordan McLaughlin counting against them. The average NBA salary last season was over $7 million.

Beyond re-signing pending free agents or grabbing new ones, they’ll have two first round draft picks (for now) to sign. Even if they trade away the #1 overall pick, the Wolves will have to allocate about $5-10M for draft picks.

If Glen Taylor wants to stay under the luxury tax for 2020-21 then they won’t be using the #1 overall pick in exchange for a star who is already under a max deal (Ben Simmons or Devin Booker). If they’re going to trade for an established star, it won’t be a high-priced one.

Relationship Builders… or not?

The Rosas-run version of the Minnesota Timberwolves likes to talk about “family”. They want their relationships with each other to stretch beyond basketball. That includes support for Malik Beasley, after he was arrested for housing a bunch of marijuana and pointing rifles at people.

If they were going to draft one of the three guys at the top of the draft, I’d sure expect them to start building one of those family relationships during the pre-draft process. That’s not the way things have played out, however.

Only recently did they even meet with Anthony Edwards and LaMelo Ball. Many see those two as likely candidates for the top pick. That’s better than what we are hearing about James Wiseman, the other potential #1 guy. He reportedly won’t talk or workout for the Timberwolves. Wiseman doesn’t see a fit with Karl-Anthony Towns (ESPN’s Brian Windhorst via The Scoop Podcast w/Darren Wolfson).

‘“Wiseman does not want to come to Minnesota because Karl Towns is there. From what I understand, Wiseman doesn’t even want to do anything with the Wolves.”

Brian Windhorst (ESPN) – via The Scoop w/Darren Wolfson

If the Wolves were going to invest a #1 pick into someone in this draft, I’d expect them to be working the relationship side of things much harder than what they are. They almost seem to be going through the motions with guys at the top of the draft. That’s a stark contrast to all the due diligence being committed to players who might be available at #17 (their other 1st round pick) or #33.

That doesn’t make sense for a team who is about to draft the future of their franchise (because they aren’t).

Timberwolves Don’t Own 2021 1st Round Pick

The Minnesota Timberwolves traded away their 2021 first round pick to the Golden State Warriors, when they dealt Andrew Wiggins for D’Angelo Russell. As of right now, they do not have a 1st-round pick in 2021 NBA Draft (unless it’s top-3). Next year’s class is expected to be loaded with way more talent than 2020.

Trading down a handful of spots could be enough to throw the Timberwolves’ hat back into the 2021 1st round. It would also allow Rosas to get plenty of value back for the 2020 #1 pick he seems so desperate to trade away, without worrying about hitting him in the 2020-21 pocket book.

Aligning Puzzle Pieces

If the Minnesota Timberwolves aren’t interested in players who are going to be taken at the top of the NBA Draft and they aren’t willing to pay the price of adding a superstar in a blockbuster trade… then the writing seems to be on the wall.

I expect this team to make a trade and for it to land them a 1st round pick next offseason. That would mean a season for KAT and Russell to gel on the floor together before this new Wolves regime makes its final move toward relevancy sometime next offseason, via draft or trade.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan