When Adam Silver strolls out onto the Barclay's stage tomorrow night to announce the first pick in the NBA draft, there probably won't be much drama. He'll likely announce Karl-Anthony Towns, and many Wolves fans will breathe a deep sigh of relief. Now, perhaps Flip Saunders will throw everyone a curveball, but that seems extremely unlikely.
With everything we know as of today, it would be rather shocking to see anybody other than Towns head up on the stage to shake hands with the commissioner after the first pick is announced.
What's most interesting to me is how the Wolves will fare in the rest of the draft. With the first pick of the second round (unguaranteed contracts!) and the 36th overall selection in their arsenal, the real question might be: what should they do with these valuable second rounders? $3 million isn't the right answer.
During his end of the season presser, Saunders was clear, or at least as clear as he can be, that the team won't be keeping both second round picks. This, of course, makes perfect sense. The roster is already incredibly young. It's packed with nine players 25 and under. Adding multiple rookies to the team, yet again, doesn't seem like the smart move. There is such thing as having too many young players.
Adding two rookies that will play in the league next season should be the maximum number. The Wolves can swing for the fences on draft-and stash-international players to help. That might be a wise choice with one of the second rounders if they can't work out a deal to move up. Prospects like Guillermo Hernangomez (#32 on Draft Express), Arturas Gudaitis (#33), Nikola Milutinov (#35), and Mouhammadou Jaiteh (#39) are intriguing big men.
If the front office can't find a suitable trade to move up in the draft, or to obtain a veteran point guard with the picks, while ditching a non-factor like Anthony Bennett or Chase Budinger, than fans might see one of these international centers selected.
Each player likely won't be interested in coming over for a few seasons from the information I can gather. However, I wouldn't bet on this being the route Saunders, Newton, and company choose on Thursday. For the last month, Saunders has been vocal in his interest to get back into the first round, making the two second round picks valuable assets in any deal that could net them a pick between 20-30, conceivably to draft a point guard like Duke's Tyus Jones or Utah's Delon Wright, or a tantalizing forward with a high-ceiling like UCLA's Kevon Looney.
Keep your eye on Terry Rozier, too. I could see the Wolves jumping into the late first to snatch him if those three players are off the board. Rumor has it his workout for the team went quite well. They could also always sit back and see if he falls to 31. In that case, the Wolves could grab Rozier who projects as a nice backup point guard that can get into passing lanes (2.3 steals per 40) and get buckets (17.1 ppg on 0.51 true shooting percentage).
With pick 36 they could grab one of the aforementioned international centers and let them grow overseas for a few seasons.
Ideally, the Wolves will keep Lorenzo Brown (third point guard) and Robbie Hummel (wherever you need him) this season. That doesn't leave much roster flexibility unless the team can find takers for their scraps -- AB, Budinger, and Payne (who they won't trade because that would mean accepting they were wrong to acquire him from Atlanta in the first place, and I don't believe the FO is willing to admit that mistake so quickly).
On the other hand, they could bypass another rookie altogether by putting together the package plenty of folks have discussed before -- 31, 36, and Nemanja Bjelica -- to obtain the proven backup point guard they unquestionably need heading into next season. Preferably, the organization would sign Bjelica rather than dealing him before truly knowing what they have on their hands.
He won the Euroleague MVP! His skillset is vast. He's a do-it-all point-forward type that can run in transition with the youth in Minnesota. Considering the dire play out of the current power forwards on the roster, it's actually kind of insane to think the Wolves might not want this guy.
But my gut tells me Bjelica might not be suiting up in Minneapolis next season. I hope that's not the case.
So, perhaps this type of package is the best route to put on the table come draft night. Now the question is, what can they actually get in return? If I'm an opposing GM, I dig this package. Getting an intriguing international talent that's likely more ready to produce at the NBA level than Kristaps Porzingis or Mario Hezonja during their rookie seasons, along with the chance to add two high picks in the second round, which provides the chance to take two homerun swings on unguaranteed contracts, seems super appealing.
Here's what we know: the Wolves need a true backup point guard heading into next season. They also need a consistent option at power forward because Bennett, Payne, and Garnett will not offer consistency. Any trade on Thursday should be made with this understanding. If it doesn't help fill these holes, it shouldn't be done. Simple, right? Well, we know it's never simple around these parts.
What fans shouldn't want to see is the Wolves sell these valuable selections for cash, or attach either second rounder onto Budinger or Bennett simply to get them off the books. A move like that would be another slap in the face, another unwise use of assets that stinks of organizational ineptitude and carelessness. This draft could easily define the next decade of basketball in the Twin Cities. My only advice to the team is to be patient.
Patience was the key during the Summer of Love, when everyone clamored for Saunders to sell Love as quickly as he could. He didn't listen. He was patient. And then LeBron went back to Cleveland and the landscape changed, making Andrew Wiggins available. Patience helped deliver the organization one of their franchise cornerstones to build around. The best thing Saunders can do tomorrow evening is be patient.
Don't make a deal just to make a deal. There's nothing wrong with keeping both second rounders. Use pick 31 on the one player that inevitably will slip out of the first, and pick 36 on the top international player on the board. What's wrong with that?
I fully expect them to make a splash on draft day by trading at least one of their second round picks. But maybe patience, maybe sitting back and letting the draft come to them, not trading the picks, moving up or down, or ditching an asset simply to ditch one of the cruddy players on the roster, is the best move of all.
It just doesn't seem like that's what will go down.