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What Might the Timberwolves Do With Their Three Second-Round Picks?

Minnesota’s powered-up front office has decisions to make about its late-draft capital.

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The newly-superpowered Minnesota Timberwolves front office faces its first test later this month in the 2022 NBA Draft. A rightful amount of focus has been placed on how the team will use its first-round pick, but it’s entirely possible the Wolves’ draft will be remembered for how the team navigates the second round.

Minnesota possesses three second-round selections: No. 40 (from Washington via Cleveland), No. 48 (own) and No. 50 (from Denver via Philadelphia). Given the team’s existing depth and its contract situation, it’s hard to imagine the Wolves will use all three picks on players for the 2022-23 roster.

That, of course, begs the question: What will Minnesota do with those picks? Here are a few options.

Prospects to watch

Let’s start with who Minnesota could target at No. 40. This feels like an ideal place to select a big man who can provide some developmental depth and assist in the Timberwolves’ defensive rebounding woes. Arizona’s Christian Koloko, Arkansas’ Jaylin Williams, Paris Basketball’s Ismael Kamagate and Fresno State’s Orlando Robinson Jr. are among the centers who could go in this range. Kamagate worked out last week for the Wolves, too, per KSTP’s Darren Wolfson.

Koloko could easily be gone before Minnesota’s pick, but he and Kamagate project as athletic rim-runners and paint protectors if they develop. They have the athletic traits teams are looking for in young big men.

Another option at No. 40 is taking a shot at a high-ceiling, low-floor type. Even if Minnesota trades away one of its second-rounders, it will have enough capital to afford risking one selection for upside.

In this range, most of these swing players are big wings/forwards with athleticism whose skills are still in major development. This includes Florida State’s John Butler Jr., Memphis’ Josh Minott and UCLA’s Peyton Watson.

Butler displays some guard skills despite standing 7-0, but he has a long way to go in reading the game at a high level. The same knock goes on Minott and Watson, who earned their limited collegiate roles with athleticism and defense.

Nos. 48 and 50 present opportunities for Minnesota to draft-and-stash, which would allow the team to invest in a potential contributor without sacrificing a spot on its crowded roster.

Hugo Besson of the New Zealand Breakers and Gabriele Procida (who has worked out for the Wolves already) of Fortitudo Bologna are two intriguing options who could potentially stick in the NBA because of their perimeter scoring. The Wolves could also go back to the big man well by selecting Ibou Dianko Badji or Yannick Nzosa and keeping them on their teams abroad.

In the case that Minnesota shakes up the roster and needs to take a reliable contributor, there are a few options with solid skill sets. Gonzaga’s Andrew Nembhard has the potential to be the next Tyus Jones or Jordan McLaughlin with his savvy playmaking, while Colorado’s Jabari Walker and St. John’s Julian Champagnie project as all-around, role-playing forwards.

Trade back into Round 1?

Trading up into the first round from the second is usually a non-starter in the NBA because the value drops heavily from pick to pick. That may be the case again this year, but there are a few factors that make it slightly more plausible.

First is the uncertainty and difference of opinion around this draft class. The Athletic’s draft guru Sam Vecenie has stated multiple times — both in articles and on his podcast — that there is little to differentiate players who may go just outside the lottery and those selected late in the second round. Plenty of teams could see value in trading one first-rounder for two seconds if they feel all the players across that range are created somewhat equal.

In that vein, the second factor is the number of teams who possess a late first-round pick and no seconds. Teams who are up against the cap such as Philadelphia (No. 23), Milwaukee (No. 24), Dallas (No. 26) and Miami (No. 27) might want to pounce on the chance to get two shots at cheap contributors in the crapshoot that is the NBA draft.

All this is to say: If Minnesota sees a target it desperately wants after picking at 19, it’s not impossible that it could jump up and grab him. It all depends on how each team reads the draft board.

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Trade for a role player

Of course, Minnesota could split the difference and use one or two of the second-round picks to trade for a known quantity in the NBA.

According to the Athletic’s John Hollinger, the Los Angeles Lakers — who have no picks in the entire draft — are interested in buying a second-round pick. That should be the last-ditch option for the Timberwolves, but perhaps Minnesota can capitalize on teams who want to get into this draft.

The Suns, Nets and Jazz join the Lakers as teams with zero picks in the draft. Could veteran role players such as Torrey Craig or Patty Mills be available for a package based around a second-round pick or two?

The best avenue the team can take is to make its draft volume work to its advantage and try to cover all the bases. The Wolves should allocate one pick to a developmental big man (Kamagate or Koloko would be an ideal outcome) and one in a home run swing on a raw talent (Minott would give the team yet another bouncy forward defender and an underrated rebounder).

The other should be traded to a team without a pick that is willing to overpay to get into the draft. Unless Minnesota is willing to part from Leandro Bolmaro or Malik Beasley, it is unlikely to get anything resembling a true win-now impact player, so it makes sense to move the pick for future capital. Given the tenuous situations in Los Angeles and Utah, holding a Lakers or Jazz second-rounder in the next few years could be almost as valuable as a late first-rounder.

The volume of Minnesota’s second-round capital brings with it plenty of options. One thing seems certain though: Tim Connelly and Co. will have to do something about this plethora of picks.