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Now that we know the full draft order following the results of the 2023 NBA Draft Lottery, the Timberwolves’ summer ahead got significantly more interesting.
- San Antonio Spurs
- Charlotte Hornets
- Portland Trail Blazers
- Houston Rockets
- Detroit Pistons
- Orlando Magic
- Indiana Pacers
- Washington Wizards
- Utah Jazz (their own pick)
- Dallas Mavericks
- Orlando Magic (via Chicago Bulls)
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Toronto Raptors
- New Orleans Pelicans
Notably, Portland jumped into the top four, and Charlotte landed in the No. 2 spot, which muddies the projection waters after San Antonio selects Victor Wembanyama No. 1 overall in next month’s draft. G-League Ignite star point guard Scoot Henderson was widely viewed as the second-best prospect in this draft class before Alabama wing Brandon Miller vaulted up draft boards with an impressive freshman season in Tuscaloosa, where he won SEC Player of the Year, SEC Tournament MVP and was selected as an AP First Team All-American.
With those two now standing much closer to 2A and 2B than 2/3, it creates a potentially enticing opportunity for the Wolves.
Would the Hornets, who already employ All-Star point guard LaMelo Ball, take another lead handler? If they didn’t, Miller could fill a serious need on the wing considering Gordon Hayward is entering the last year of his contract and restricted free agent Miles Bridges — who was charged with felony domestic violence and child abuse after assaulting his partner in front of their children, and is suspended for the first 10 games of next season — may never suit up in the NBA again.
That could leave the Blazers holding important cards at the trade table over the next few month. According to a report from Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes, the No. 3 overall pick is on the table in trade talks.
Portland, in an effort to continue building a contending roster around its star Damian Lillard, is expected to make the pick available for a trade, league sources tell Bleacher Report.
While General Manager Joe Cronin said following the lottery that there are “some really good players at three that could be great for us, or somebody else, depending on how we approach this draft” the expectation is that the team will make one final effort to build around Lillard, per Haynes.
Lillard, the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, has communicated to the front office of his desire to bring in veteran players to facilitate a fleet turnaround from the two previous seasons of underachieving, sources say.
The Trail Blazers and Lillard seem to be on the same page right now.
If the two parties are on the same page and move to trade the No. 3 pick for a win-now star, the Timberwolves are certainly a team that makes sense.
Realistically, Minnesota cannot keep its core four of Anthony Edwards, Jaden McDaniels, Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert together beyond next season as a result of new financial penalties imposed by the league’s new collective bargaining agreement. Instead of waiting until next summer, when they won’t have any leverage in trading one of Towns or Gobert, it may make sense to trade Towns now and take advantage of a star-hungry team in Portland, who has interest in KAT according to Heavy’s Sean Deveney.
Keep in mind that 1) Towns cannot be traded until July 7, so the Blazers would have to select Henderson at No. 3 and wait until Towns is eligible to be dealt in order to make it happen, and 2) there are significant financial hurdles to jump through in order to make the salary match in a deal between Portland and Minnesota. Fanspo’s Trade Machine is a great resource here.
Beyond that, the Wolves do not have a discernible plan at point guard in the long-term. Mike Conley has been a godsend in Minnesota since arriving, but he turns 36 in October and is only under contract for one more season.
Trading Towns in a package that includes Henderson could check three boxes:
1) Balance the team’s cap sheet and positional flexibility moving forward
2) Get another young star on the Edwards/McDaniels timeline while insulating them with veterans in Conley, Gobert, Kyle Anderson and Taurean Prince
3) Create a runway for Naz Reid to earn more playing time
However, it would send out a proven All-NBA-caliber player in KAT, and the elite complementary shooting and scoring that this team desperately needs beside Anthony Edwards, who cannot do it all himself for a second season in a row.
So, with that in mind, would you be interested in a deal centered around a Towns-for-Henderson swap?