The Minnesota Timberwolves were the biggest winners at the lottery drawing, but their choice at the top of the 2020 NBA Draft isn’t an easy one. Here are their top 3 options with the No. 1 overall pick.
Wins and losses don’t tell the full story of a season that saw the Minnesota Timberwolves finish with the third-worst record in the NBA at 19-45 and fail to reach the postseason yet again. Karl-Anthony Towns only played 35 games due to nagging injuries, Jarrett Culver failed to live up to lofty expectations as last year’s sixth-overall pick, and Minnesota trotted out a defense (111.6 DRTG, 20th) that was almost as uninspiring as its offense (107.6 ORTG, 24th).
It was a year marked by constant, unceasing, painful losing.
And yet, it was also marked by drastic change and franchise-altering decision-making that could make or break the Wolves’ hope of a return to the playoffs in the near future.
Gersson Rosas, hired away from the Houston Rockets last year to be the architect of a revamped, new-look Wolves organization, decided to make some moves in his first full season in the Midwest. Major ones.
On Feb. 5, Rosas shipped two-way forward Robert Covington to the Houston Rockets in a massive four-team, 12-player deal that brought in Malik Beasley, Juan Hernangómez, and Jarred Vanderbilt from the Denver Nuggets. Two days later, he would make an even bigger splash, offloading 2014 No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins, a top-3 protected 2021 first-round pick and a 2021 second-round pick to the Golden State Warriors in exchange for All-Star guard D’Angelo Russell and matching salaries.
The latter was a move that was unmistakably made with Towns in mind, an attempt at (understandably) appeasing the franchise center by pairing him with a talented scoring guard and, most importantly, someone who Towns views as a brother.
There is still four years remaining on the five-year, $190 million super-maximum contract extension he signed in September 2018, but there’s reason to believe that extended time in the doldrums of the league could lead to Towns looking for greener pastures in the next few seasons.
There now appears to be the vague outlines of a vision, a Wolves roster featuring Towns’ offensive stardom as a mid-post hub and elite long-range shooter in tandem with Russell’s stylings as a pick-and-roll playmaker and pull-up aficionado. Two All-Stars, both 24-years-old, both from the same draft class (’15), both on the same timeline. The duo only played one game together — a 137-126 loss to the Toronto Raptors in February — but the duo’s potential brilliance on offense was evident.
The edges of this vision need refinement, though, which takes us to a pivotal offseason with more signings, more picks, and more deals to be made with the clear intent of competing next season. Beasley (20.7 points, 42.6% 3PT) and Hernangómez (12.9 points, 42.0% 3PT) were electric in their first 14 games with the team and should be retained as restricted free agents, due to their potent play-finishing next to Minnesota’s stars, but they’re bound to see offers from teams with cap space.
The area that requires the most attention, though, is the 2020 NBA Draft, with Rosas owning a trio of valuable picks: their own second-rounder (33), the No. 17 pick from Brooklyn, and the No. 1 overall pick from their luck at this year’s lottery. Finding a complement to Towns and Russell is no small task. Whoever is selected first must mesh with the two stars on offense while simultaneously surviving on the defensive end, where both players are notorious for their wide-ranging shortcomings and failings.
Likely without their first-rounder next year, the ramifications of this selection cannot be understated. There is so much at stake, and the Wolves’ front office knows this.
With all that said, here are Minnesota’s top three options with the No. 1 pick.