Maybe it’s because less than 7% of the NBA’s teams are still competing in meaningful games. Maybe it’s because summer has finally arrived. Or, maybe it’s because the NBA Draft is officially less than a month away. Whatever the reason, trade rumors, individual workouts, and mock drafts are all beginning to heat up as your favorite team prepares for how it will attack this upcoming NBA off-season in an attempt to strengthen its chances of ultimately losing to the Warriors in next year’s NBA Finals (I’m kidding...sort of).
If your favorite team is the Wolves, then this article is for you. Although the guys from the 612 didn't improve their draft positioning back in the NBA Lottery, there are still plenty of things to discuss with their impending off-season as well, including what exactly to do with the 7th overall pick in the draft.
As someone who performed extremely poorly in his college finance classes, I will be the first to attest that I am definitely not your go-to guy for stock recommendations and/or investment advice (I’m more of a “money-under-the-mattress” type). With that said, I do remember discussing the topic of “buy, sell, or hold” when it comes to stocks.
As it currently stands, the Wolves most valuable stock (if you exclude Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and Ricky Rubio’s fantastic new lion tattoo) is their draft selection this upcoming June.
La sonrisa cuesta menos que la electricidad y da más luz pic.twitter.com/fUepSAhiZV— Ricky Rubio (@rickyrubio9) May 25, 2017
While it’s not a top-3 pick, it still holds great value in a draft considered by most (including the ever indecisive Chad Ford) as the deepest draft of the last decade. With that in mind, let’s discuss exactly how the Wolves should handle that pick in this latest edition of “Canis Hoopus: Buy, Sell, or Hold.”
In this scenario, “buy” actually means “move up in the draft.” Do the Wolves have enough asset-related firepower to swap picks with Boston or Los Angeles in order to go grab a franchise PG like Fultz or Ball? Unless you’re willing to put Wiggins or Towns on the table (which no sane person would do), then the answer is probably not.
Could Minnesota entice Philly to swap picks by offering Tyus Jones as the “moving on up” expense? No. Kris Dunn? Ehh.... maybe? Zach LaVine? OK, Kyle, put the laptop down for a second. However, in this scenario, the Wolves (hypothetically speaking) would position themselves nicely to grab the third best player in a loaded draft (on a rookie deal) and pair him with Wiggins/Towns in an effort to either reset on a botched 2016 draft pick or avoid having to pay LaVine possibly $20+ million next summer. Does Thibs love Josh Jackson’s potential as an elite defender so much that he would already give up on his first ever draft pick as President of Basketball Operations? Can the Wolves afford to lose arguably their best outside shooter in an attempt to move up in the draft? Probably not, and definitely not.
What about Phoenix? The third youngest team in the league has a budding star in Devon Booker and both Marquese Chriss and Tyler Ullis showed they can clearly play, but after that the cupboards in the desert appear to be pretty bare. Would Phoenix and Minnesota want to swap picks AND starting PG’s (Rubio is a year younger than Eric Bledsoe and both players are due $30 million over the next two seasons). Would either team be tempted to swap positions if Minnesota send Gorgui Dieng for Dragan Bender (and contract fillers)? I’m not sure a Gorgui tax to move up 3 slots is a good idea, but I do love the idea of pairing Towns with Bender while also having the ability to select Jayson Tatum or even De’Aaron Fox, who is FOUR years younger than Kris Dunn and might be the fastest player in the league when he arrives this October (sorry, John Wall).
Outside of the top four, that leaves only The Flying V’s (Vlade and Vivec) and the Orlando Magic as potential trade partners in this scenario. When it comes to the Kings, literally any and everything is possible. The Sacramento franchise has long been rumored as huge fans of Rubio and a possible landing spot in a trade for the Spanish Unicorn; however, with Steph Curry 2.0 likely off the table, its hard to find much equal value currently on the Kings roster. Would the Kings swap Willie Cauley-Stein and #5 for Tyus Jones and #7? Considering Cauley-Stein nearly ended Rudy Gobert this past season, he would fit in nicely with another member of the “It’s My Duty to Smash on Rudy” club.
WCS would also be reunited with his former Wildcat running mate in Towns and would bring much-needed rim protection and athleticism to the Wolves front court. Or hey, what about Skal Labissiere?! Hello? Vlade? (I think he hung up).
As for the Magic, a week ago I would have spammed them with more phone calls than a Comcast telemarketer about a potential pick and player swap, but considering they just stabilized their front office by
hiding their whiteboard hiring John Hammond away from the Bucks, it now appears the Magic’s off-season plan just got that much harder to decipher.
Overall, the Wolves inability to trade a future 1st rounder because of the still-disastrous Adreian Payne deal really handcuffs the team from attempting to move up, which means its far more likely that they stay at #7 or...
Every Wolves fan within a 14,000 mile radius of the Target Center wants to win, including Tom Thibodeau and Karl-Anthony Towns, and they want to start winning tomorrow (hell, Thibs probably wants to start winning yesterday if that was somehow conceivable).
In today’s NBA, it’s nearly impossible to win under two criteria: your team is really young and/or your team doesn’t have enough assets. Considering the Wolves don’t control their future 1st round pick, have very little proven talent on their bench, and are building around Towns/Wiggins/LaVine (all of whom are 22-years old or younger), both of these conditions clearly apply.
So which veteran player could the Wolves target with their first round pick? Jimmy Butler’s name has been tossed around since Thibs took over last spring; however, considering teams like Boston and Los Angeles now have more valuable ammunition than Minnesota to possibly entice the Bulls into a rebuild, the Butler pipe dream may have stalled (or it might actually be dead).
Would the Bucks hit the reset button on Jabari Parker by shipping him for the #7 pick (giving them #7 and #17 and a ton of ammo to maybe move into the top three or four)? It’s very possible, considering they have already identified their franchise player and how strong the Bucks finished this past season after Jabari went down. As for the Wolves, considering Jabari tore his left ACL for the second time in three seasons (and just days after Zach LaVine suffered the same injury), I’m not sure Minnesota loves the idea of adding another injured player to the franchise, but it’s the type of move that could make sense for both teams.
In terms of “selling” the pick, the Wolves could also use that pick to move down in the draft, grabbing a veteran player of lesser quality, and still having the opportunity to add to the foundation. The Denver Nuggets seem like a potential dance partner considering their current blend of young players and slough of established veterans. How about Wilson Chandler, #13, and a 2nd rounder (or two) owed to them from previous deals in exchange for #7? The Nuggets get a third foundational piece to build around Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, and the Wolves get a player in Chandler who showed flashes of excellence as a small ball stretch-four this past season alongside Jokic. Additionally, the Wolves still get a chance to draft a player like Justin Jackson or OG Anunoby, while also restocking on 2nd round picks (which are now crucial for a franchise that just purchased a
D-League team Gatorade League team.
The Portland Trailblazers are another hot candidate to potentially “sell” to. With picks #15, #20, and #26, the Blazers will definitely be looking to move up in the draft, and have a logjam of players on the wing. Could the Wolves steal Al-Farouq Aminu and the #15 pick (plus a 2nd rounder) for #7? Aminu is owed only $14 million over the next two seasons and posted 10.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 1.0 block per 36 minutes this past season while playing a majority of his time at the PF position.
Overall, the purpose of selling the pick in this scenario would be to secure a proven veteran player that can help the team win now, while also continuing to restock the cupboard with future assets (a good team can never have enough). With multiple teams owning first rounders this year (Portland, Orlando, Brooklyn, and Utah) and teams desiring to go younger as they rebuild, June may be the perfect time for Thibs & Co. to make a big splash.
Or, you know, they could...
... just stay at #7 and take the BPA (best player available) which is also the BDSE (best draft strategy ever). Thibs reiterated this idea on Tuesday after the unveiling of the new Iowa Wolves name/logo:
Thibs: "Where we're picking, I think the best available player is what we need to do."— jace frederick (@JaceFrederick) May 30, 2017
Let’s look at Chad Ford’s current Big Board for a second (quick, before he changes it!) At #7, the Wolves are guaranteed their choice of at least one of Fultz, Ball, Jackson, Tatum, Fox, Monk, and/or Isaac. All of those guys would either be immediate upgrades or give the Wolves ammunition to flip a player currently on the roster for an established vet. We all know this draft is crazy deep, but the real Tier 1/Tier 2 cliff falls off after 7 (lol Knicks), meaning the Wolves can’t really go wrong.
What do you think? Leave your trade ideas, comments, and optimism below and let’s all hope this is the last “Canis Hoopus: Buy, Sell, or Hold” column we write about the draft until like 2028 or something.