Timberwolves started the draft night with one of the first round selections. They ended it with two.
Tim Connelly, president of basketball operations, slid down the draft on Thursday and then back, making four different contracts, making his first draft with Wolves eventful.
As the Wolves finished 19th overall, they agreed with the Grizzlies to move back and take Memphis’ 22nd and 29th selections – but they didn’t.
Wolves held the first of these and chose Walker Kessler of Auburn Center 22nd, but before they could finish 29th, Connelly signed deal No. 26 with Houston and chose Wendell Moore from Duke.
Wolves’ busy draft room liked the night before them, and they thought they could get two high-quality players on target when they moved back. Connelly said trade talks started slowly, but around options 8 and 9, trade talks began to become “more operational.” He attributed chaos to his agency.
“This room did a fantastic job of predicting what we thought it might be. It allowed us a little flexibility because we had a pretty good layout of the land,” Connelly said. “… These guys were surgical. I’m just a stupid man trying to do it all.”
Wolves traded out of 19th place and sent in the second round of 2023 as part of the Memphis deal. Trading with Houston, who had previously finished 26th from Dallas, Wolves shared the 29th and two upcoming second-round selections.
The currency of the second round was circulating everywhere. Wolves switched from 40th to 45th with Charlotte and picked up the second round of 2023, which belongs to the Knicks. In 45th place, they took Josh Minotti out of Memphis, which Wolves liked. They then traded 48th for Indiana’s upcoming second-round selection and money, leaving their 50th choice to choose Matteo Spagnolo, an Italian guard who will stay there now and not join Wolves immediately, Connelly said.
Connelly could not comment specifically on Wolves’ first-round players or Minotti, as their deals were not final. He spoke in general terms about how the drafts could fit in more than now.
“We were looking for personality types. We were looking for men with whom we could grow in the long run,” Connelly said. “We don’t want to put too high expectations on their ability to bet right now. If you have a team that has been as successful as we are, it’s hard to put it on your shoulders.”
With their first choice, the Wolves were looking for the size and potential rider of Kessler, who was a big part of the Auburn season, when the Tigers earned the 2nd seed at the NCAA. Kessler was Naismith’s national defense player of the year.
The Wolves were able to use rim protection and size in the front square, and the Kessler, known for its impact-blocking capabilities, was a part of it. After moving from North Carolina, he scored a striking 4.6 strokes per game in his single season at Auburn.
Last season, Wolves played a defensive scheme that required the center Karl-Anthony Towns to be on the perimeter to throw screens and guard players along the perimeter. The players then scrambled behind Towns to guard the rim. Kessler could help them guard the rim if he can bet right away.
Connelly said that for Wolves, the priority this season after finishing last season was to be the third-worst defensive team to add rebounds to their roster. Kessler took an average of 8.1 table balls per game and scored 11.4 points. He hit 61% of the field, but only 1.5% per 1.5 three-point game. But where Kessler fits next season, if any, is a question mark.
In Moore, Wolves acquires a wing that flourished in his third Duke season after hardships in the first two seasons. Moore averaged 13.4 points in the Duke’s Final Four. He improved his three-point shots from 30% to 41% in the second year of the junior season.
Moore put the ball on a plate for him and instead of hitting it with his right foot it cannoned of his left shin wide of the goal. He was also a strong defender who was able to defend several positions. The wolves bet Moore will be able to move on from his junior year, overcoming some analysts’ lack of athleticism.
“I think we got better,” Connelly said. “I’m not going to set unfair expectations for what they’re going to do on the field. Most of the newcomers won’t have much of an impact, but I think if you add the people we added, I think the organization will improve.”
The second round options are Wolves development projects, as Minott scored an average of 6.6 points in his single season in Memphis, mostly from the bench. Minott is athletic for playing in the NBA, but he should probably struggle with his shot. Spagnolo scored an average of 12.2 points for Italy’s Lega As Vanoli Cremona. According to an Athletic report, Wolves also signed Theo John to Champlin Park as part of their summer league team.
In the beginning, the draft transactions were quiet, as the first 10 selections remained with all the teams that selected them. The wolves did not sit idly by, because soon after, transactions began. However, defender D’Angelo Russell, whose status has since been the subject of rumors, was still on the Wolves list as a draft on Thursday, the first major trading window in the middle of the season.
Connelly came into the night, waiting for her staff to argue and discuss the choice and strategy. He said he got what he wanted.
“Are you kidding? I’ve already had a few beers, I’m so tired of it,” Connelly said. “… There is no shortage of controversy, which is great. There is no shortage of controversy. There would be no other way.”
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