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Is the Wolves’ Biggest Need Hiding in Plain Sight?

Minnesota’s point guard situation is rock solid on paper. But it’s a little trickier when you dive below the surface.

Memphis Grizzlies v Minnesota Timberwolves - Game Six Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

As we have been without Minnesota Timberwolves basketball for the past month and a half, Wolves twitter has grown antsy enough for there to be mock trades of Damian Lillard or both Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert to the Wolves. While the offseason may never have brought superstar trades, we knew when the Wolves lost in six to the Grizzlies that this was going to be a pivotal offseason.

Then, the “desperate” Wolves stole Tim Connely from the Nuggets, KAT made Third Team All-NBA and became eligible for a four-year, $211 million dollar extension, and rumors came out that D’Angelo Russell was being shopped. The discussion this offseason has been around rangy forwards and rim protectors, but the Wolves biggest need may be the one group that currently has the most talent.

At quick glance, the Wolves’ PG situation is pretty damn good. Russell had a career year on defense and was the offensive equivalent of Thanksgiving mashed potatoes, bringing the whole team together and accentuating their strengths. Patrick Beverley became a Minnesota sports darling after just one year of intoxicating effort and enough trash talking to re-awaken the Garnettian ghost of the Target Center (easy to see where Kermit Wilts got it from).

On the bench, Jordan McLaughlin was mistake-averse and even managed to make the closing lineup in Game 6 of the series against Memphis. The over on Jaylen Nowell’s points prop was such a guaranteed bet that there was no single-game Wolves parlay I made without including it. He may not be listed at point guard, but his future on this team may be as one.

With four rotation-level point guards on the roster, the idea that it is a need seems ridiculous. However, here are some issues with everything above.

screengrab from Spotrac.com

Every single point guard on the Wolves is entering the final guaranteed year of their contract. Russell is already being shopped and I can’t remember the last time a player on a max contract accepted an extension worth less than the max.

Beverley will be 34 years old at season’s opening, and should not be counted on for anything more than the short-term future.

McLaughlin is a capable backup, but could he be a starter for the whole season? Probably not. Will the Wolves even keep his non-guaranteed deal around in two years?

Lastly, Nowell was frequently taken out of the rotation because of his dependance on off the dribble shots, as well as his lack of size and consistency on defense. He will also be a restricted free agent this summer if the Wolves decline his $1.9 million dollar option.

Leandro Bolmaro wasn’t initially listed because he spent the year in the G-League and saying he’s an unknown is like saying Minnesota winters are cold. There is no locked-in plan past this coming year at the position.

At shooting guard, the future is Anthony Edwards. At small forward, it’s Jaden McDaniels. At the 4, Vanderbilt is young enough, good enough, and cheap enough to be a good starter with two years remaining on his contract, if they can’t find a realistic upgrade. The future at center for the Wolves is obviously and insurmountably Karl Anthony-Towns. This piece isn’t as much about trades (Aidan Berg has that here), although with names like Reggie Jackson, Malcolm Brogdon, and Eric Bleds… I’m just messing with you guys.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Golden State Warriors Photo by Kavin Mistry/Getty Images

Much has been said about trading the 19th pick for known contributors. While it’s definitely an option for team building, the Wolves cap sheet is about to get really expensive, with extensions for Ant, KAT, and McDaniels on the horizon in the next 12 months. Adding for example, John Collins (who the Hawks are reportedly interested in moving) and the $102 million he’s owed over the final four years of his contract, for Beasley, the 19th pick, and assorted bits makes this roster super pricey in only the first year of Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez’ majority ownership.

That dynamic duo has already demonstrated a willingness to pay big for front office members, but everyone has the number they become uncomfortable with. Lore may have a net worth of over $4 billion, but his assets could be reinvested in his desert paradise and his food truck venture, Wonder, is a long-term investment. Hell, I’m sure A-Rod’s Rangers contract is not as healthy as it was in 2000.

Instead, it may be more sustainable to target TyTy Washington, who mimics many of the strengths of D’Angelo Russell at 1/12th the cost, or Jaden Hardy, a former top recruit who has star upside and dynamic athleticism that would create a backcourt so fun they would represent the Wolves in NBA Jam in any future remakes. Even Tennessee’s Kennedy Chandler, Arizona’s Dalen Terry, and G-League Ignite’s Dyson Daniels (a supercharged, young Pat Bev, if he falls) would be ceiling raisers, margin pushers, or whatever other cliche you want to use for a Wolves team that no longer lacks direction or guidance, but still needs to find their future at guard next to Edwards.

The draft, especially outside the lottery, is not just about finding immediate contributors, it’s about setting yourself up for the future. With the future of the Wolves at point guard completely shrouded in expiring contracts, it’s stupid to ignore an entire position group. If Mark Williams, a high-motored, two-way center out of Duke, is there, you can sprint the card in. The same can be said for Baylor’s Jeremy Sochan, Kansas’ Ochai Agbaji, or any of the “best available” prospects. It seems nonsensical to draft a player who would fit even when you know they may never be better than a bench player.

But when it comes to looking at team needs, every other position but point guard has *an* option. And if the Wolves want to continue their momentum, they need to continue to focus on the foundations first, not the landscaping.