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Grading the Minnesota Timberwolves’ 2022 NBA Draft

The process was terrific, but how should we feel about the selections themselves?

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Tim Connelly Minnesota Timberwolves Predident of Basketball Operations Introductory Press Conference Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

The Minnesota Timberwolves were very active on a night during which they were involved in four trades, two in each round, and walked away with four players, three of whom project to be with the Wolves right away.

“A fun night. You never know how these nights are going to go. I feel like we got better. The staff was amazing. They were so, so, so good. Sach[in Gupta], Matt [Lloyd], Žarko [Đurišić], Manny [Rohan], those guys crushed it,” President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly said following the draft. “We felt like we got pieces that fit here culturally and hopefully can make us a better team.”

Connelly made it clear he wanted to bring in high character players who fit the budding culture Head Coach Chris Finch and Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Sachin Gupta have laid the foundation for in Minnesota. In drafting culture fits, Connelly believes the team got better on Thursday night.

“You’ve got to be super talented, because this league is so supremely talented, but we’re going to put an unbelievably huge emphasis on the people,” he explained. “When you have such a good young core as we have with KAT, Ant, DLo, Jaden and these guys, we have to support them with special people and big-time pros, self-motivated people, guys that we’re not going to hold their hand to get into the gym. The guys that we were fortunate enough to select this evening all checked those boxes.”

Though he made it clear there will be limited expectations of what their selections will immediately provide the Wolves, Connelly is excited about the long-term fit of the team’s draftees. That excitement is a byproduct of the team’s process, which was full of positive fighting and advocating in the team’s war room.

“You kidding me? I’ve already had a couple beers, I’m so sick of it. There’s a beer over there right by the WNBA balls. No shortage of arguing, which is great. No shortage of debate. Wouldn’t have it any other way,” Connelly said with a laugh. “When they’re in the room, there’s no hierarchy, let’s just beat these guys up.”

The collaborative nature of the team’s front office — one of the deepest in terms of talent and experience in the entire league — will continue to be important as there is a massive two-week stretch ahead of them. In the mean time, let’s assess their performance in Thursday night’s draft.

Jacksonville State v Auburn Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images

First Round

Trade: No. 19 to MEM for Nos. 22 and 29 | Grade: B

Tyler: C-. Judging trade backs is always difficult because our boards are always vastly different than the team’s. However, to trade back three spots, see three guys get taken who were better talents, and then also pass on E.J. Liddell was a tough experience.

Aidan: B+. Given the number of talented players still on the board when the trade was made, this was a solid move. You can haggle with the players the team ended up selecting, but getting two shots in the late-first instead of one is good process given how much of a crapshoot the draft is.

Jack: A. From a process standpoint, this couldn’t have been any better. According to Sam Vecenie of The Athletic, both Walker Kessler and Wendell Moore Jr. would’ve been in play for the Wolves at No. 19. The Minnesota front office trusted their research and based on how the board fell, traded back to collect two first-round picks used in select two players that they would’ve been in consideration if they held at No. 19. Regardless of your feelings about Kessler or Moore Jr., that’s a great process.

No. 22 - Walker Kessler | Grade: C+

C | 7-1, 245 pounds, 7-4 wingspan | SO, Auburn | 20.9 years old

Tyler: B-. Kessler had been heavily linked to the Timberwolves in the last week, so the pick isn’t shocking, but it feels like a heavy reach. Kessler provides shot blocking, rebounding, and vertical spacing that the Timberwolves need, but there were players with more versatility on the board that felt like better fits and better value.

Aidan: C+. My issue isn’t with Kessler as a player so much as his value at this pick as compared to other options. Jaden Hardy and TyTy Washington would have provided on-ball offensive juice, and as much as I believe in Kessler as a rim protector, that’s a skill found more easily with less prized assets.

Jack: C. The Wolves are in a unique situation where the versatility and long-term security of their core allows them to take high potential swings. Like Aidan said, Kessler is not that and his optimized skillset doesn’t cost as much as that of a wing or guard. He functionally fills a need of a drop coverage center who can play a bit out at the level, but I don’t think this pick moves the needle all that much in the interim. Kessler was No. 33 on my board.

NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament - Sweet 16 - San Francisco Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Trade: No. 29 and two SRPs to HOU for No. 26 | Grade: B-

In this deal, Houston received the draft rights to TyTy Washington Jr. and the Wolves’ 2025 and 2027 second-round picks.

Tyler: B-. The move itself is fine. Moving further up in the first while offloading two future seconds doesn’t bother. So, the machinations of the trade are fine. What they did with that pick, though, felt vanilla.

Aidan: C. Again, I’m all about taking multiple attempts in the draft. I didn’t see the value in giving up two future picks to move up three spots when plenty of players I had ranked in the late-teens and early-twenties were on the board.

Jack: A-. Two future second-round picks don’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things if it means getting a guy at surplus value according to your team’s board. Like I wrote above, Moore Jr. was a player linked to Minnesota at No. 19, so I understand moving up to go get him. Connelly and company recouped future second-rounders with later trades in the second round, which makes this move look better after the fact.

No. 26 - Wendell Moore Jr. | Grade: B

Wing | 6-5, 215 pounds, 7-1 wingspan | JR, Duke | 20.7 years old

Tyler: C+. Moore is a young junior and improved a lot during his time at Duke, but again, it’s tough for me to get overly excited about this pick. Moore provides some wing depth, but I’m not sure who I see him being an improvement over. The shooting leap he took next year needs to be real, otherwise I’m not sure he’s more than a toolsy 9th man in a rotation.

Aidan: C+. Another case where my gripe is with a missed opportunity rather than the player himself. Moore has proven he can contribute to winning basketball and has a solid all-around game. He’s not a player likely to be picked on in any way, I just wonder if we’re going to remember him as a guy with no strengths rather than a guy with no holes.

Jack: A-. I had Moore Jr. No. 26 on my board, so I thought the value was spot on here. Moore Jr. has all the tools necessary to be an excellent complementary player at the NBA level. He’s long, strong, and understands angles well defensively, plus he plays well without the ball in his hands as a catch-and-shooter and cutter on offense. I see him contributing more from Day 1 than Kessler, given his very solid secondary playmaking upside beside Jordan McLaughlin and Malik Beasley off the bench and his ability to play on or off-ball very comfortably.

Cincinnati v Memphis Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images

Second Round

No. 45 - Josh Minott | Grade: B-

PF | 6-8, 205 pounds, 7-0 wingspan | FR, Memphis | 20.5 years old

Tyler: C+. Timberwolves fans’ favorite John Hollinger had Minott as his 10th ranked prospect. Take that how you will. Minott has great physical tools and a high motor, but he is the definition of a project. His shot needs tremendous work, and his defense needs to be more disciplined. The second round always gets wonky, so it’s not a bad upside swing. He has tremendous upside, but he is no where close to ready for NBA minutes.

Aidan: B+. The Wolves rightly took a swing on athleticism and upside with one of their second-round picks. Minott may not be ready for NBA minutes for multiple seasons, but his range, effort and defensive instincts make him a solid selection as one of the last potential difference-makers on the board at this point in the draft. Get this man all the Jaden McDaniels tape possible.

Jack: B-. I didn’t have Minott on my 45-player board, but I understand the appeal here and the process of taking a swing on an insanely athletic, rangy defender with raw offensive skills is correct process for a second-round pick made by a playoff team. Trust your development coaches to build up his offensive skills as a two-way player with the Iowa Wolves for a couple seasons and then see what you have a couple years down the line.

No. 50 - Matteo Spagnolo | Grade: B

PG | 6-6, 200 pounds, 6-8 wingspan | Italy | 19.4 years old

Tyler: C+. The best thing I can say about Spagnolo is that he’s a lot of fun and really creative. Similar to Minott, though, he’s nowhere near ready for an NBA rotation. He struggles with ball security, dies on screens, and has in inconsistent jumper. The good news, though, is that Spagnolo has a hefty buyout, so we likely won’t see him for at least two, likely three, seasons. Plenty of time to improve. He’s not a bad bet as a draft and stash guy, but I also wouldn’t hold my breath on ever seeing him in a Timberwolves jersey.

Aidan: B. Everyone had to know this would be a draft-and-stash, and Minnesota could have done a much worse job with that kind of selection than an efficient shooter with Spagnolo’s level of production in a professional league as a 19-year-old. He’s certainly got his warts defensively, but he also has the best projection as an offensive role player of any international prospect available here.

Jack: A-. There was no way the Wolves bring four rookies onto the roster — full-time or two-way — next season so a draft-and-stash player like Spagnolo makes a ton of sense. He was another guy I didn’t have on my board, but was aware of because of his insanely fun highlights. Once described as the Italian Ricky Rubio, it’s easy to see why. He’s got a fun handle at 6-6, throws some insane passes and has some pop off the dribble as a self-creator, too. If you need to move on from the “just wait until Leandro Bolmaro develops” takes, the “just wait for Italian Ricky Rubio to come over to the Wolves” ones will be even better.

Overall Grade: B-

Tyler: C+. This draft just felt uninspiring. All of their picks felt like egregious reaches when there were a lot of players on the board who provided more versatility and reliability. Obviously this is all subjective and I hope I’m wrong, but walking away without a player in my top 35 leaves me rather dissatisfied.

Aidan: B-. A solid second round wasn’t enough to totally offset that rather lackluster first. However, Kessler and Moore do fill needs at rim-protector and ball-moving perimeter role player. If they just fill those roles well, we may forget about some of the bigger swings that were on the table. I personally won’t be shocked, though, if Minott is the best player from this crop when all is said and done.

Jack: B. Based on the value of their selections relative to our composite big board, the Wolves had the 27th-best draft. I gave the first round a 70% weight and the second round a 30% weight to reduce the penalty for teams who took swings later in the draft on high-upside guys. That’s not a great place to be, but hey, the Grizzlies finished last by a considerable margin if that’s any consolation. I liked the process the Wolves took by getting two guys at No. 22 and No. 26 they valued at or around the No. 19 pick; I may not love the Kessler pick, but clearly the Wolves see something in him. Connelly and Finch deserve the benefit of the doubt given the rep they’ve earned in Denver and Minnesota, respectively. I love the Moore Jr. and Spagnolo picks, which is enough to keep me excited until we get a resolution on the D’Angelo Russell situation, one way or another.

What grade would you assign the Wolves’ draft? Join the conversation in the comments!