NBA Draft Lottery Details
Date: Tonight, Tuesday, June 22
Time: 7:30 PM CT
How to Watch: ESPN, the ESPN app
Full Lottery Odds: View them on Tankathon.com
Where: Join the Canis Hoopus crew tonight at Forgotten Star Brewery in Fridley, Minnesota for the NBA Draft Lottery!
We’ll be hanging out with Wolves fans beginning at 6 PM leading up to the lottery at 7:30 PM. Dane Moore will be recording a live show with Britt Robson of The Athletic immediately following the unfolding of the lottery, whether the Wolves keep their pick or not.
Yesterday, the Timberwolves made it official that Anthony Edwards will virtually represent the franchise at tonight’s NBA Draft Lottery.
Here’s the full list of teams’ representatives:
(Side note - how awesome would it be to have your title read, “NBA Legend”?)
The 2021 NBA Draft Lottery, broadcast live tomorrow night at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN, will determine the order of selection for the first 14 picks of the 2021 NBA Draft.— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) June 21, 2021
Below are the individuals who will represent their respective teams. pic.twitter.com/vXxYmdJxo7
The Lottery Manifesto
While the future of some NBA franchises hinges on their performance in a Game 7 in June, the future outlook for those like the Minnesota Timberwolves hinges on how the ping pong balls fall during the annual NBA Draft Lottery.
The Timberwolves are in the lottery for the 15th time in the last 17 seasons, with the two seasons outside the lottery coming in 2012 (pick traded along with Sam Cassell to the Los Angeles Clippers in a 2005 deal to acquire Marko Jaric and Lionel Chambers) and 2018, when the Timberwolves ended their playoff drought and subsequently lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Houston Rockets.
This time around, the franchise comes into the lottery with significantly different expectations for the immediate future. After winning last year’s draft lottery and selecting Anthony Edwards with the No. 1 pick to star alongside All-Stars Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell, the Timberwolves have a realistic shot at the playoffs in 2021-22, which few teams, if any, in the lottery outside of the Golden State Warriors and Indiana Pacers can accurately say about themselves.
If the Wolves were to land this year’s No. 1 pick, they’d become the third franchise in history to win the lottery in back-to-back years, joining the Magic in 1992-1993 — who selected Shaquille O’Neal No. 1 overall in 1992 and traded the 1993 pick to Golden State, who selected Chris Webber, for Penny Hardaway and three first-round picks — and the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2013-2014 — who took Anthony Bennett No. 1 overall in 2013 and traded the 2014 pick, along with Bennett, Thaddeus Young and a $6.3 million trade exception, to Minnesota (who selected Andrew Wiggins) for Kevin Love.
Unlike the previous two times Minnesota won the lottery, the Wolves currently sit outside the top three for best odds at winning the lottery. Minnesota has the sixth-best odds at securing the No. 1 selection, at 9.0%. The last time a team with the sixth-best odds won the lottery was in 2007, when the Portland Trail Blazers selected Greg Oden.
Keep in mind that in order for the Timberwolves to keep their selection, it must land in the top three. Why? Because Minnesota traded its 2021 pick with a top-three protection on it as part of its package to Golden State in the D’Angelo Russell/Andrew Wiggins swap. If the pick lands in the top three, the Wolves keep their 2021 pick and the Warriors will receive the Wolves’ first-round pick next year. If the pick lands outside the top three (fourth-14th) it will convey to Golden State and Minnesota will keep their 2022 first-round pick.
When you pool together the Wolves’ odds of getting the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 picks, Minnesota has an uninspiring 27.6% chance of retaining its 2021 selection.
Here’s a full breakdown of lottery odds
How the Lottery Works
- The NBA uses a convoluted ping pong ball lottery system that draws a certain combination of balls to determine the top four picks. To read more on the process, click here.
- Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum will announce the picks in reverse order.
- If a team, let’s say New Orleans in this example, moves back in the lottery and is announced at the No. 12 spot, and San Antonio has not yet been called at No. 13 or No. 14, that means San Antonio has moved up in the lottery. In their case, it would be to the top four. In the Wolves case, if they have not been announced by No. 6, it means they’ve moved into the top 4, and essentially have a three-in-four chance of keeping their selection.
Don’t freak out about the Wolves only having a 27.6% chance of keeping the pick. In the last 10 draft lotteries, nine have moved from outside the top three into it, and two drafts have seen this happen twice — 2011 (with the Clippers jumping from eighth to first and Nets jumping from sixth to third) and 2019 (with the Pelicans jumping from seventh to first and the Grizzlies jumping from eighth to second). There is definitely precedent for it, so no, the world is not ending.
- Dikembe Mutombo tweeted his congratulations to the Philadelphia 76ers for winning the 2016 draft lottery hours before the drawing was supposed to happen. The Sixers went on to win the lottery and select Ben Simmons No. 1 overall out of LSU.
- In that same lottery, after the public decried the legitimacy of the lottery following Mutombo’s tweet, the draft order remained exactly the same as the pre-lottery odds order, which was the first time that ever happened in lottery history (it carries an odds of 1000-to-one, or 0.10%). Some fans believe this wasn’t coincidence (and frankly, I don’t either).
- On May 4, 2017, Luke Walton said in an interview with We Need to Talk on CBS Sports and said the following:
“Magic’s already ensured me that we’re gonna get our top 3 pick this year, so I’m excited about that.”
- The Lakers entered the lottery, which was held on May 16, with the third-best odds at the No. 1 pick. Sure enough, they moved up to the No. 2 slot on lottery night and eventually used the selection on Lonzo Ball.
- In 2019, New Orleans won the No. 1 selection despite the seventh-best odds, and Memphis won the No. 2 selection despite the eighth-best odds. New Orleans is the smallest TV market in the league and at the time were widely expected to trade Anthony Davis. Memphis is the second-smallest TV market in the league and needed a reboot after conclusion of the Grit-and-Grind Grizzlies era.
- The Lakers were heavily favored to land Davis in a trade before the lottery, but they jumped from 10th all the way up to fourth. That No. 4 pick was used to acquire Davis just one month and one day later.
There’s plenty of rather speculative coincidences that have taken place in the last six years, and I’m sure there will be some after tonight’s lottery, too, no matter how it falls.
The Paths Forward
I am approaching the draft with the statistically probable assumption that the Wolves pick will land outside the top three and it will convey to the Golden State Warriors, so let’s start there.
Golden State Receives the Pick (pick lands anywhere from No. 4-14)
Golden State will also likely select at No. 14 (97.6% chance) and gets well on their way to surrounding Stephen Curry with the mercenaries needed for one last championship run. Minnesota, on the other hand, finds themselves with very limited assets to use in surrounding its core of Towns, Edwards and Russell without giving one of them up.
Back in March, Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas said broadly that his decision to stand pat at the deadline was that his team, which he massively shook up in the 12 months following his hiring, needed some stability and continuity. If the Wolves’ pick conveys to Golden State, I expect Rosas to continue that practice throughout the offseason, especially if 2020 first-round selection Leandro Bolmaro comes over from FC Barcelona, where he has been for years.
Back on May 4, Rosas seemed to confirm to KFAN that Bolmaro would be joining Minnesota next season:
“We’ve got a player we drafted last year who will be coming next year.”
Given that Bolmaro and Barcelona just won the Liga ACB, it would make sense that the 20-year-old Argentinian native would go out on top and begin his NBA career. If Bolmaro does come over, it would give the Wolves a significant lift.
He is a playmaking wunderkind who, at 6-foot-8, has advanced court vision and can make every pass in the book due to his keen understanding of spacing and angles on the floor. Defensively, his length and competitive fire have created an on-ball pest that navigates screens well and is aggressive jumping passing lanes. The biggest question mark on Bolmaro coming out was his shot, but he has quelled many of those concerns with an impressive 43.2% 3-point shooting mark between his games in the Euro League and Liga ACB this season. Granted it was on only 74 attempts, he shot 3.3 3s per 36 minutes, which is rock solid volume for a role player like Bolmaro.
Bolmaro was also recently named the Most Spectacular Player of Liga ACB, joining Ricky Rubio as current Timberwolves to have received the award.
Keep in mind that now-perennial MVP candidate said back in 2019 that the NBA was much easier from an offensive perspective than European basketball because of the bigger court and defensive three-second rule. Doncic played for the Real Madrid, who plays in the same leagues as FC Barcelona.
(Our Jake Paynting is cooking up a huge Bolmaro piece that will be excellent, and released in the coming days).
If Bolmaro comes over for the 2021-2022 season, I’d expect official confirmation soon, given that NBA Summer League will run in Las Vegas from August 8-17 and the Wolves will surely want Bolmaro to run with the summer Wolves.
Bolmaro solves a need for an upgrade in the primary bench playmaking role. Chris Finch opted to bring Russell off the bench for a few games following his return to the lineup in April; while running the 2s and closing with the 1s, Russell was extremely effective in elevating the play of those around him, specifically Juancho Hernangomez and Naz Reid. In a better world, Bolmaro fills that role so Russell can spend as many minutes as possible as an off-ball scorer when he plays with the second unit. The introduction of another gifted playmaker — especially one who has played under Šarūnas Jasikevičius, one of the smartest offensive minds in Europe — will allow Finch to get more creative with how he deploys his three explosive offensive cornerstones.
With Bolmaro in tow, I’d be shocked if Rosas moves off of Hernangomez (a Spaniard), whose $7.0 million cap hit for 2021-22 isn’t terrible, or Rubio, a proven mentor for Edwards and former FC Barcelona standout himself, unless their salaries are essential to make a needle-moving trade.
Outside of a needle-moving trade, which would come few and far between to begin with, the Timberwolves have very little capital to improve the roster. Currently, Minnesota is $18.75 million over the projected salary cap and roughly $5.44 million below the luxury tax, with three roster spots to fill.
Jarred Vanderbilt and will very likely consume one of those three spots on a near-minimum deal, while Bolmaro will likely consume a second of those three spots. If Bolmaro’s rookie contract (which is obviously yet to be signed) follows last year’s rookie scale, it would carry a cap hit of $2,284,800 next season.
If Vanderbilt’s deal is in the neighborhood of $2.5 million annually (definitely a low-end estimate), the Wolves would have less than $700,000 of wiggle room beneath the luxury tax line and one roster spot to fill, meaning roster shake-up is very unlikely without a top-three pick.
If this was the case, I’d fully expect Minnesota to leave it empty and instead sign two two-way players, whose salaries do not count against the cap. Thanks to a change made prior to this season, moving forward, two-way players will be able to be active for 50 NBA games per season, and have no cap on how much they can practice with the NBA team.
Given the Wolves financial situation, expect Minnesota to be active on draft night working the undrafted free agent pool, regardless of whether or not they keep their pick. Minnesota has hit the UDFA lottery with Reid and McLaughlin, but will likely move on from the latter when Bolmaro arrives.
If Minnesota were to attempt a needle-moving trade, there’s only one name that makes sense — Ben Simmons.
Simmons has been the subject of plenty of trade talk in the 36 hours since his disappointing performance in the Sixers’ epic home loss in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Atlanta Hawks, and rightly so.
Both Joel Embiid and Head Coach Doc Rivers not-so-subtly threw him under the bus in post-game press conferences, which first-year President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey couldn’t have been too happy about.
Full quote from Joel Embiid: "I mean, I'll be honest. I thought the turning point was when we — I don't know how to say it — but I thought the turning point was just we had an open shot and we made one free throw and we missed the other and then they came down and scored...— Rich Hofmann (@rich_hofmann) June 21, 2021
Rivers did some damage control in his end-of-the-season press conference yesterday, but the damage has already been done.
New ESPN story: Doc Rivers said Monday that Ben Simmons is prepared to do the work to fix his shot this summer — and that the Sixers have the plan to do it. “I believe we know what the right work is, and the right type of work, and the right way to do it.”https://t.co/AFH5JOuiFW— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) June 21, 2021
Ultimately, Simmons needs a change of scenery. The Process duo of Embiid and Simmons has run its course. The players (and coaches) around them have changed, but one thing has remained the same: they simply can’t get the team to the conference finals, which has eluded them since Allen Iverson got them there in 2001. For Simmons, he is evidently struggling with clearing mental hurdles of living up to massive expectations in one of the most ruthless sports cities in America, and it is taking a toll on him.
Back in November, I wrote a massive, comprehensive breakdown of Ben Simmons’ game, from the good to the bad and everything that makes him such a special, yet polarizing star in today’s game. If you want to read more about his game (since I won’t go into much detail here) I strongly advise reading it, especially if you are generally anti-Simmons.
Despite a let down performance in Game 7, he was still excellent in the playoffs.
Outside of his disastrous free throw shooting, he was rather excellent in the playoffs.
- Was a +113, third on the team behind Embiid and Seth Curry, and his average +/- was +9.4.
- Had a +12.3 adjusted net rating (NBA Stats stat), third only to Danny Greren (+16.1) and Embiid (+15.1).
- Had an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.93, which was fourth among players who played averaged at least four assists per game and had a usage rate above 15%, trailing only Monte Morris, Chris Paul and Damian Lillard. Embiid’s was 0.88.
- Had more than two times more assists than the next highest player on the Sixers.
- Averaged 11.9 points, 8.8 assists, 7.9 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 0.8 blocks per game in the playoffs.
- Shot 62.1 percent from the floor on 7.9 shots per game
- Shot 34.2 percent from the free throw line, the worst mark in NBA postseason history
- Defended 1-through-5 tremendously well, especially against Trae Young, against whom Simmons was matched up for most of Game 7, in which Young shot 5-of-23 (21.7%).
Lineups with him on the floor outscored opponents by an average of 13.7 points per 100 possessions, per Cleaning the Glass, good for the 95th percentile among lineups with more than 15 minutes played.
With Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid on the court together in the regular season, the Sixers outscored opponents by 16 points per 100 possessions played (98th percentile).— Cleaning The Glass (@cleantheglass) June 21, 2021
In the playoffs?
+19.2 per 100 possessions (99th percentile).
Largely because of his otherworldly playmaking, these lineups had an effective field goal percentage of 60.3, good for the 94th percentile.
And finally, with him as the best defensive player on the floor, these lineups ranked in the 78th percentile defensively, allowing just 108.8 points per 100 possessions.
There were only two players in the NBA this past season that did the following:— ShotQuality (@Shot_Quality) June 21, 2021
✔️ Over the 85th %tile in drive to the basket efficiency
✔️ Over the 95th %tile in FTR
✔️ Over the 95th %tile in Steals
✔️ Over the 95th %tile in Passing
Jimmy Butler and....
Concerns about Simmons mindset and his lack of aggression are overblown from a Timberwolves perspective. Assuming it’d take Russell and a first (at least) to acquire Simmons, the Australia native would serve more as a creator for Edwards and Towns, who are both more versatile and athletic offensive players than Tobias Harris and Embiid, respectively. Simmons would be able to be a tertiary scorer, or even a fourth option if Beasley wasn’t included in a deal, in Finch’s offense. The lineup would not struggle with spacing one bit if it was Simmons, Beasley, Edwards, Jaden McDaniels and Towns, or even someone like Bolmaro or Nowell playing in place of Beasley. I may be crazy, but that sure seems like the best lineup the Wolves franchise has ever had.
With Edwards’ development on the ball, you could also use Simmons as a screener and short roll creator, which is an aspect of Simmons game that needs to be tapped into for stretches of time. He creates loads of space as the hand-off man because of his huge 6-foot-10, 250-pound frame, so he would also serve as an excellent runway-clearer for Edwards in that respect, too. Not to mention the PnR potential a Simmons/Towns battery has. Simmons would be maximized in Minnesota’s up-tempo style that thrives in transition and semi-transition. There’s a reason Doc Rivers wanted Philly to play faster; it was to better maximize Simmons and his transition playmaking.
From a value perspective this path is wildly interesting because this is likely the lowest Simmons’ value will be on the trade market.
Note: to save space, I won’t get into NBA trade rule specifics in depth. I wrote about how they apply to Simmons in the longer breakdown.
I will make one note: Simmons has a 15% trade kicker, which in a scenario involving a non-max player would add 15% of the player’s remaining contract onto the remaining total, spreading out the addition to the cap hit across each year left on the deal. But because Simmons is already making the maximum money for a player with five years of experience, the trade kicker does not apply to him.
To me, there are three bridges the Wolves can cross.
The first is the Russell-and-stuff bridge, where D-Lo is the centerpiece, bolstered by a couple of picks and with Layman serving as for Minnesota cap relief.
This would leave Minnesota with two empty roster spots, $1.6 million in room below the luxury tax, and the option to create more space by sending one of Jarrett Culver, Rubio or Hernangomez to another team in a three-team deal in which assets can be spread out.
The Sixers get first they can use to surround Embiid, Russell, Harris and Curry with more of whatever they want: shotmaking, playmaking, defense, or bench scoring, while adding a second they can use on the fringes at next season’s trade deadline.
The second is the Beasley, Rubio, Reid, and picks bridge, which uses the combination of their salaries to match the 125% rule by taking Simmons in.
This would leave Minnesota with three empty roster spots, $1.6 million in room below the luxury tax and three roster spots. It’s an all-in move that would create an incredibly dynamic lineup of Simmons, Russell, Edwards, McDaniels and Towns. It would almost certainly force Minnesota to go into the luxury tax, but obviously for a good reason.
Philly gets a Dwight Howard replacement in Reid, one of the league’s 10 best shooters in Beasley, and a $17.8 million expiring salary in Rubio to get creative with next season.
The last bridge is an interesting deal that involves both Russell and Beasley.
Minnesota would have a full roster with $2.3 million left to play with here. The Wolves get Simmons, Curry and Isaiah Joe, a rookie sharpshooter from Arkansas, whom they pay two second-round picks for.
Philly gets two pieces that will be incredibly useful for them right away. Embiid gets two dynamic perimeter players offensively, and Morey gets a first he can play with to try and add defense with. Philly could still use the mid-level exception (MLE) to retain Danny Green for perimeter defense in this scenario, too.
I think this is the most likely trade from a value standpoint, considering Philly needs guys they can compete with right away.
Minnesota Receives the Pick (pick lands anywhere from No. 1-3).
If the Wolves land any of the top three selections, it will be a franchise-altering turn of good fortune that positions the Wolves as well for the future as any perennial playoff team in the West, with the exception of the Los Angeles Clippers (assuming Kawhi Leonard re-signs when he declines his player option this summer), the Phoenix Suns (who will likely re-sign Chris Paul this summer), and the Golden State Warriors (who have Klay Thompson coming back, a max contract to trade in Andrew Wiggins, and the No. 14 selection to pair with it to go hunting for fourth star).
The spot in which the pick falls will determine where they are in that pecking order.
The biggest question for the Wolves will be whether to go all-in on the Towns/Russell timeline and trade the pick, along with Beasley and Rubio, to get another max player such as Simmons or Pascal Siakam, or to have two separate timelines working in tandem: one with Towns/Russell and another with Edwards, the prospect they select, McDaniels and Bolmaro.
The battle of two timelines can work in the Wolves’ favor, for one key reason: they could have two legitimate young stars on rookie contracts, while also deploying two All-Stars on max contracts at the same time. I can’t think of any time in recent NBA history that something even close to this has happened.
If we assume the draft pick signs a contract for 10% more annually than Edwards’s, the Wolves would be immediately over the luxury tax by $10.6 million.
Unlike the scenario with the pick conveying to Golden State, this scenario would set off a chain reaction of likely chaos with the Wolves roster. Minnesota very likely would not want to pay that big of a luxury tax bill, so Rubio, Hernangomez, Culver and potentially Beasley would all be candidates to be moved in order to save money (and potentially unloading a future first-round pick in the process, depending on how it all shakes out).
However, your core would look something like this, simply removing the likely trade candidates (or their replacements) from the equation.
In this table, blue highlighted cells are team options, mustard highlighted cells are player options, and red text means it is an estimated salary (I’ve been working with these deals for the whole piece).
Having role players like Bolmaro, McDaniels, Vanderbilt, Reid and Nowell on the contracts they are currently on, combined with your two stars and two young studs, is pretty damn exciting. Okogie is a guy you can likely re-sign for less than the MLE (but you have his bird rights anyways) and would fit nicely with the floor spacers in that outlined core given the need for defense.
Financially, you can go in a ton of different directions, all of which are based on which pick you score. Keep in mind you cannot trade your only first-round pick in back-to-back years, so Minnesota has a couple options:
- Get either a 2021 or 2022 first-round pick back in a trade
- Make a selection on behalf of another team and finalize the deal after the selection
Let’s dig into it from most likely to least likely scenario, beginning with the No. 3 pick.
For more on fits of each prospect, please head over to the Dane Moore NBA Podcast, where today Dane and University of St. Thomas men’s basketball assistant coach Will DeBerg have a film review of each of the top three selections.
No. 3 pick - likely selection: Jalen Suggs | 6-foot-4 | CG | Gonzaga
If the Wolves keep Suggs, they’re getting the ultimate competitor. He’s a Twin Cities native and Minnehaha Academy alumnus who took Gonzaga to the National Title Game with a heroic heave to beat UCLA that will leave you with chills.
Suggs is a streaky/average shooter but is excellent at nearly everything else, especially with getting downhill and creating for others. He’s an incredible athlete who uses it to his advantage on both ends, and finishes as well as anyone in the class at the rim. He would be an immediate scoring punch off the bench and could probably close Beasley rather quickly because of his defensive capabilities.
The Simmons trade conversation gets interesting because you can probably pull off the Beasley/Rubio offer without giving up Reid and a second first-round pick. If I were Minnesota, I’d offer Jarrett Culver and a second first (call it 2024 or 2025) to try and secure Seth Curry. That may be pushing it, but Philadelphia will very likely not get a better asset/player than Jalen Suggs in any Ben Simmons trade. I feel safe saying Minnesota wouldn’t want to trade Russell and No. 3 for Simmons, but I wouldn’t argue much with a dissenting view.
Verdict: Make the Simmons trade, as tough as it is to trade a hometown hero
No. 2 pick - likely selection: Evan Mobley | 7-foot | PF/C | USC
Minnesota would think much longer and harder about keeping the selection if it fell at No. 2. Mobley would allow Finch to get very creative defensively because of his versatility. He can switch onto guards and wings on the perimeter and is by far the best interior defender in this class.
Between Towns, Mobley and Reid, Minnesota would have a dynamic stable of bigs they could throw at opposing teams. They could go 5-out with any combination of the 3 and aptly defend all-offense versions of 5-out lineups while also bullying them inside on the other end. Mobley isn’t the best shooter, but his shot is good enough to force defenses to extend out to him just enough to maintain great floor spacing for his teammates.
Defensively, a frontcourt of McDaniels, Mobley and Towns would be terrifying for opposing defenses. Having length at the 1 with D-Lo and strength with Edwards at the 2 wouldn’t hurt, either. If you needed more offense, swapping Beasley for McDaniels is more palatable, too, because Mobley is that good defensively.
The possibilities of getting what the Wolves can do with a guy like Mobley are pretty much endless on both ends of the floor.
Verdict: Keep the pick and select Mobley, unless you can trade back to No. 3 and then trade with Philadelphia for Simmons. Incremental moves like that to stack assets will be huge.
No. 1 pick - likely selection: Cade Cunningham | 6-foot-8 | PG | Oklahoma State
Cunningham can do it all at the point. He’s got elite playmaking skills, plays as smooth and under control as you can get, has excellent footwork and shot form, and a solid handle that he pairs with changing pace to create space from all over the floor. Defensively, he utilizes his 7-foot wingspan at the point of attack to prevent penetration and on the back side rotating over to block and contest shots at the rim.
For a shorter YouTube video that shows everything he’s capable of click here.
Landing the No. 1 pick could have a 2020 Suns-like impact on the Wolves. Cunningham is viewed as the presumptive No. 1 pick and scouts appear to value him significantly more than Mobley or Suggs. As a result, the trade value of the pick skyrockets compared to that of the No. 2 or No. 3 picks.
Not only do you have the clearest path to acquiring Simmons (if you choose), but dare I say you could also call the Portland Trail Blazers if Damian Lillard were to request a trade. You can offer Rubio, Beasley, Culver, Okogie, the No. 1 pick, and firsts in 2024 and 2026 (or swap Rubio and Beasley for Russell) to Portland for the superstar point guard and Robert Covington. Cunningham allows the Blazers to have another franchise cornerstone to build around, while also recouping a solid ancillary piece in Beasley and an expiring salary to play with in Rubio, and two future firsts to build out the rest of their roster around Cunningham, McCollum, Beasley and Nurkic, or Cunningham, Russell, McCollum and Nurkic.
Now, I don’t think Lillard will request out, but if he does, Cunningham is as good of an immediate piece as Portland can get. Simmons is naturally a centerpiece people will talk about, but I don’t think Philadelphia could compete with either package I laid out above.
Ultimately, I don’t think Simmons is worth giving up Cunningham for. The balance of value swings back too far in the Sixers favor if the Wolves were to trade Beasley, Rubio and the No. 1 pick. If you swapped Curry for Culver and added Isaiah Joe or Paul Reed, I think that makes more sense for Minnesota. Cunningham is that good.
Also keep in mind that Cunningham could be moved during the season/closer to the deadline, too. Minnesota wouldn’t need to trade him before, during or immediately after the draft.
If Minnesota keeps him, they have an incredibly dynamic backcourt that is very long (Russell has a 6-foot-10 wingspan, while Cunningham’s is 7-feet), can create for everyone else on the floor better than half the league’s best creators, shoot the hell out of the ball, and break down defenses in isolation. Russell would likely move to more of a shooting guard role with Cunningham running the point (simply because Cunningham has always played point guard and would need time to acclimate more to off-ball life). A closing 5 of Cunningham, Russell, Edwards, McDaniels and Towns is a 5-out dream that has no excuse not to get an open look every time down the floor, and one hell of a future core. Add in Bolmaro, Beasley and Reid off the bench and you’ve got yourself a near sure-fire perennial playoff squad, if everyone stays healthy, that will go as far as Towns and Edwards can take them.
Verdict: Throw the kitchen sink at Portland for Damian Lillard, but ultimately settle for Cunningham unless a crazy Simmons trade manifests itself.
No matter what happens, we’ll have it covered from every angle in between now and draft night.