The Timberwolves didn’t just sit on their hands and wait to draft with the 53rd pick Thursday night.
After trying for a while to move into a slot earlier in the draft, the Wolves, who did not have a first-round pick as a result of the Rudy Gobert trade last year, completed a trade for the 33rd pick from the Spurs and selected Leonard Miller of G League Ignite with that pick.
In the deal, the Wolves sent the Spurs two future second-round picks – a 2026 second-round pick they acquired from Utah in the D’Angelo Russell three-team trade and their own 2028 second-round pick.
With the 53rd pick, the Wolves selected guard Jaylen Clark out of UCLA. Clark played three seasons and averaged 13 points and six rebounds last season before an Achilles injury ended his season in March.
Miller is a 19-year-old, 6-10, 210-pound forward from Toronto whose body type, rebounding and defensive abilities were attractive to the Wolves. He averaged 18 points and 11 rebounds last season for the Ignite, which gives young NBA prospects an opportunity to play against G League competition instead of players going to college for a season. He shot 33% from three-point range and 55% from the field. Miller was teammates with guard Scoot Henderson, who went third overall to Portland.
His shot needs work, but the Wolves like his combination of size and athleticism, especially on the defensive end. Team president Tim Connelly couldn’t speak directly about Miller because the trade wasn’t official at the time he addressed the media early Friday morning, but he spoke generally about how evaluating players so young in the G League could help them with developing in the NBA.
“The G League is probably a top six league in the world,” Connelly said. “We think those numbers translate. If said prospect was an elite rebounder, they generally translate. Rebounding is one of those skills that shows up pretty consistently. If we were fortunate enough to get a player like that, it would be quite exciting.”
Connelly could comment publicly on Clark, who is known for his defensive abilities and was considered one of the best perimeter defenders in college basketball last season.
“We had him as a high freshman all year,” Connelly said. “Unfortunately, he had the injury. We don’t think there’s a better wing defenseman in the draft. He brings an aggression and toughness and intelligence that allows guys like that to make it. We’re super excited to add him. He’s not physically there. We We’re going to be very patient with him. Before the injury, we thought the guy was an easy first-round pick.”
There was no definitive timetable for when Clark might be ready to resume basketball activities. Clark’s lateral quickness helps him guard multiple positions, and he averaged 2.6 steals per game. match. He was the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.
“You don’t have to watch a lot of video to see how that guy locks people down defensively,” Connelly said. “He’s got great positional size, great rebounder. We think he’s a new shooter. Super smart, super tough and just an incredibly competitive guy.”
Connelly also said he admired that Clark stuck with the program and still developed as a player, even though he didn’t get the minutes he might have sought in his first two seasons.
“We like these guys who are self-made,” Connelly said.
On Wednesday, Connelly said no deal was close for the Wolves to move into earlier regions of the draft, but he predicted late first-round and early second-round picks could be up for grabs.
The Wolves made their move early, committing to the trade late in the first round, hoping one of their targets was still there.
With the Wolves up against the luxury tax this season and potentially above it for the foreseeable future, they will need young talent on relatively cheap contracts to contribute. Landing players in the second round allows the Wolves to put more cost control on that prospect’s contract than drafting him late in the first, when the salaries are distributed.
“We’re out of a bunch of first-rounders, so we’re probably a little more aggressive in trying to find guys that are maybe a year early or guys that have slipped because of injury, like Jaylen, for example,” Connelly said. “I don’t think we can just follow too many trends. I think we have to be creative and kind of cross our fingers.”
The Wolves didn’t have a first-round pick for the second time in three seasons and won’t have one in 2025, 2027 and potentially 2029. Last season, they had two and selected Duke guard Wendell Moore Jr. and Auburn center Walker Kessler, who went to Utah as part of the Gobert trade and then finished third in this season’s Rookie of the Year voting.
The Wolves dealt the 16th pick to Utah this season, and with that pick, the Jazz selected Baylor guard Keyonte George.