The NBA Draft is two days away and the Minnesota Timberwolves remain essentially on the outside looking in.
They currently only have the 53rd pick, near the end of the second round, to play with, but have been calling around the league to gauge the market to see if there is a chance to go back to the first round, said league sources. Athletics. The sources requested anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly on the team’s draft strategy. So far, there has been no progress toward a deal that could spice up Thursday night’s draft, sources said.
Things can change quickly on draft week. Talks that weren’t underway last weekend may look more appealing the closer the draft gets. The Wolves don’t have a first-round pick this season because they traded it to Utah as part of the package to acquire Rudy Gobert. With a new collective bargaining agreement looming that will make it harder for expensive teams to stick together, the Wolves and many other teams are looking at the affordable deals that draft picks get at the beginning of their careers as a way to help control costs .
The wolves are getting really expensive. They will extend Anthony Edwards a max contract offer this summer and also hope to extend Jaden McDaniels to a lucrative deal and give Naz Reid a big raise. With Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns already on max contracts, and KAT’s supermax extension set to begin in 2024-25, keeping this team together for the long haul will be a challenge.
That has led to widespread speculation that Towns could be on the way. He’s younger and much more versatile offensively than Gobert, so he figures to have higher value if he was put on the trade market. But president of basketball operations Tim Connelly and coach Chris Finch have said publicly that their plan is to move forward with the existing core, believing both a full summer and training camp together, and improved health from Towns and Gobert, will be enough to to solve some of the offensive problems the team had last season. Owners Glen Taylor, Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez are also on board with that approach, sources said.
The oft-suggested deal by fans that would send Towns to Portland for the No. 3 pick, Anfernee Simons and other filler has no basis in reality at this point. There hasn’t been anything of substance for Towns, Taurean Prince – whose contract for next season won’t be guaranteed until after the draft – or any of the other players on the Wolves roster.
Although the Wolves appeared to move Towns, it’s conceivable that his value around the league isn’t what it once was after a season in which he missed 52 games with a calf injury and then underwhelmed in the playoffs against Denver. Connelly has spoken glowingly of Towns’ ability to bounce back from what they feared at the time might have been a season-ending injury. He hit the game-winning shots in their first two wins after his long absence and remains an incredibly talented offensive player. But the lack of playoff success in his eight years in Minnesota has, fairly or unfairly, put a target on his back.
And if that wasn’t enough, Towns was heavily criticized last week for comments he made ex-teammate Patrick Beverley’s podcast. While most experts fixed on a few of his commentsan answer he gave Beverley was much more relevant to the team as a whole, while not getting the same amount of attention.
When Beverley noted all the trade speculation surrounding Towns, KAT responded by saying, “The rumors are as true or as false as Minnesota makes them out to be.” That suggests Towns is like many of the fans out there, sitting back and waiting to see what happens.
Towns has a good relationship with Edwards and has talked about sharing the spotlight with him. He has a deep respect for Finch and his coaching acumen. He was also one of the Wolves players who openly welcomed Gobert into the locker room, changing positions to accommodate him and making efforts on the court to get him involved in the offense. He has shown no signs of wanting to move on and spoke after the season ended about how much he is looking forward to a more “normal” year in Minnesota next season.
But the sheer amount of criticism he received for his comments on the PatBev Pod, combined with the incessant trade speculation from fans and the media is hard to ignore. His vague response to the question about his future in Minnesota was an interesting way for him to put it. In a performance at “Bumper to Bumper with Barreiro” on KFAN radio on Monday, Connelly would not eliminate the possibility of a KAT trade, but he said he has never spoken in absolute terms with any player in his 10 years leading the front offices in Denver and Minnesota.
“I don’t think there’s any real expectation that our team will be much different,” Connelly said. “We’re pretty excited to have two elite guys in Karl and Anthony. … I love how the starting five looks. I’m fortunate to work with those guys and it’s a pretty strong group to start with.”
Among the players back in the team’s practice facility this week is Gobert, who said when the season ended that he planned to “have the best summer I’ve ever had and really come back like I’m going to have the best year of my life . career next season.”
Coming back to Minnesota from France is a good step in that direction. Edwards spends most of his summer training locally, a departure from previous summers where he spent the majority of his time at home in Atlanta. Having them together in the gym as much as possible this offseason is crucial for the Timberwolves to improve their 23rd-ranked offense.
The pick-and-roll chemistry between Edwards and Gobert developed slowly in their first season together. Edwards has rarely been a lob shooter at any level in his basketball life, and there were times last season, even in the playoffs against Denver, when he looked reluctant to pass the ball to Gobert near the rim.
Gobert also struggled to catch the ball cleanly at times. Knowing more about how and when Edwards will throw those passes could help reduce the number of turnovers and increase trust between them. They can help each other with Gobert setting screens to get Edwards free lanes to the basket and Edwards drawing defensive attention to open up easy buckets for Gobert.
Neither of them are going anywhere, so they have to figure out how to work together better than they did in Year 1. Spending time together over the summer should help that, as it did for Mike Conley when he first teamed up with Gobert in Utah. Familiarity doesn’t guarantee success, but it gives the Wolves reason to hope for better results in Year 2 of the partnership.
Gobert still hasn’t announced his plans for the FIBA World Cup, which will take place Aug. 25-Sept. 10 in the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia. Connelly has said the decision is up to Gobert. The organization will never interfere with a player’s decision to play for his country, something that is deeply personal to Gobert. But after emerging at training camp last season from a grueling run with France at the European Championships, there is no doubt internal hope that he will opt to sit out the summer so he can be fit when he reports for training camp in the fall.
Naz Reid lingers
As the Timberwolves opened draft workouts to the media this week, including one Monday with Gabe Kalscheur, Marcus Carr and other prospects who could be in when the Wolves pick late in the second round, a handful of current Timberwolves players were spotted at the facility.
Gobert got a lift in. McDaniels, Jordan McLaughlin, Wendell Moore and Josh Minott were also there. Reid, who will be an unrestricted free agent in 11 days, also sat on the field preparing to watch some of practice Monday afternoon.
In some ways, seeing Reid in the gym wasn’t surprising. He has typically stayed in Minnesota during the summers to work on his game instead of moving to an NBA summer hot spot like Los Angeles, Miami or Houston. He has a good camaraderie with many of his teammates, especially with McDaniels, Nate Knight and Jaylen Nowell.
But it was a bit of a surprise considering he’s so close to becoming a free agent, and several suitors are expected to line up to challenge the Wolves’ ability to match the payroll and/or playing time they can offer. Oftentimes, players who are about to become free agents, especially players who think they are on their way out, will not work out in their team’s facility during the summer. And they almost never stay in Minnesota to train.
It all underscores how much both sides hope to find a way to make it work. Reid loves his teammates, respects his coaches, and has enjoyed his time in Minnesota, where he’s evolved from a doughy, undrafted free agent with an injured foot to a lean, vicious rotating piece with one of the best handles for a big man in the entire the league.
The Timberwolves want him back. This applies from the very top of the organization down through the front office and coaching staff. Taylor, Marc and Rodriguez are all involved in trying to get Reid back, sources said Athletics. Discussions about a contract have been going on all season and will continue. It’s gotten to the point where free agency is so close that Reid almost has to dip his toe in the water to see where the market is before making a decision. But the Wolves are very much alive in this situation, which was made even more evident by his presence at the training facility on Monday.
(Top photo of Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert: David Berding/Getty Images)