Timberwolves enter draft with flexibility and options — a rare luxury
After making the postseason with a young team last season, the Wolves have options on draft night Thursday
Tim Connelly is still quite fresh on the job in Minnesota and was quick to remind media Wednesday that he doesn’t yet have a house in the area to call his own. He’s living out of a hotel while he navigates the first important roster decisions he’ll make as Timberwolves’ president of basketball operations — not ideal, but it’s part of the gig in a sport without much of an offseason.
Still, he’s enjoying the process, one that’s moving quickly. The Timberwolves welcomed an exorbitant number of prospects to their practice facility over the past few weeks while Connelly and his first front office additions, Matt Lloyd and Dell Demps, got acclimated to their new surroundings and worked with the existing front office.
Connelly is excited for Thursday, draft night, one of the few nights where non-self involved top executives feel as though they’re actually doing something.
“The staff’s been amazing. Those guys and girls have done an awesome job of getting me up to speed. Finch and his staff have been great giving me a sense of where we are and what we need to do to improve and some of the options we might have,” Connelly said.
“It’s always a fun night,” he added. “It’s super unpredictable, but we feel pretty excited about (draft) night about getting someone to make impactful contributions to the team.”
The unpredictability might be his favorite part. Minnesota’s front office members spend hours daily arguing about how it’s going to unfold. The truth is no one really knows. Connelly was surprised as of Wednesday afternoon that more trade conversations around the league weren’t further along, while noting one phone call can change all of that.
Uncertainty is just as prevalent when it comes to the actual prospects. There is no exact science to diagnosing which draft entrant will become a star. Connelly, a scout through and through, tries to identify characteristics within players, from work ethic to role acceptance to willingness to listen.
He added that drafts shouldn’t be graded until three years down the line, noting there were hardly any rookies contributing on teams that made deep playoff runs this season. The Wolves might be good enough that there won’t be a player they can select at No. 19 who can make an instant impact, never mind their three second-round selections.
So while Minnesota has needs — rebounding and playing with a lead were two Connelly pointed out Wednesday — the draft might not be the best place to address those. Maybe that makes trading the pick all the more likely.
“We’ve had countless conversations about using that pick to add a more quickly impactful piece, but 99 percent of these conversations are just theoretical, we’ll see if they’re actionable,” he said.
“It’s hard to get trades done,” he added. “It’s a lot of different motivations, there’s a lot of fear involved with trades. I think teams can be a bit overly cognizant of winning or losing a trade. But it’s like the players, if your team is better, you win the trade.”
The Wolves also could address their needs through other avenues, such as free agency or trading veteran players. If so, Minnesota can simply select the player they feel is the best available when it’s on the clock Thursday. That’s what the best teams do, a luxury the Wolves may now be afforded.
“I think the biggest mistake we could make is passing on a guy because of where we are presently and we look up a year or two from now and the guy is a special player,” Connelly said.
Given Minnesota’s current position after making the playoffs with a young team last season, all options are truly on the table. Because of that, Minnesota has the flexibility that can lead to optimal decision-making — a pretty good place for Connelly to start.
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