The Timberwolves had two separate media availability sessions this week, underscoring the rapid pace of the NBA offseason.
On Tuesday, they introduced first-round draft pick Josh Okogie and second-rounder Keita Bates-Diop, with head coach/president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau and GM Scott Layden also there to field questions. Two days later, Thibodeau and Layden addressed free agency, which begins this weekend.
The draft and free agency are intertwined, of course, as two of the ways the Wolves can improve on last year's 47-35 record.
As such, this seems like a good time to ask: How much should Okogie and Bates-Diop expect to play as rookies, and how much will their presence impact how the Wolves go about looking for more wing players in free agency?
In terms of their playing time, I decided to try to use history as a guide. In Thibodeau's seven seasons as a head coach (five with the Bulls and two with the Wolves), only two of his first-round picks have even managed double-digit minutes: Tony Snell (16.0) with the Bulls in 2013-14 and Kris Dunn (17.1) with the Wolves in 2016-17. Jimmy Butler averaged 8.5 minutes as a rookie in 2011-12.
So in that context, Okogie and Bates-Diop shouldn't expect to play much. Dunn was still just No. 13 among NBA rookies that year in minutes played.
Thibodeau also has a history of doling out playing time sparingly to reserves — and plenty of rookies at least start their careers coming off the bench.
That said, Thibodeau was also coaching playoff teams with a lot of veterans in his Chicago years and again last year with the Wolves. In those scenarios, he was often trying to work players picked outside the lottery into stacked rosters. Rookies on bad teams with plenty of playing time available have a much easier time getting minutes.
Okogie, who is similar in some ways to Butler, would probably like to play more than Butler did when he was a rookie under Thibodeau.
"I think it's important," Okogie said Tuesday when asked about contributing as a rookie. "Is it the most important [thing]? Probably not. But if I was given a chance to produce and help this team win, nothing would give me more joy than that. So hopefully it happens."
Some of that will depend on the second factor: Whom the Wolves pursue in free agency. Okogie and Bates-Diop can both play on the wing, where both have defensive potential and the ability to make three-pointers.
All of those traits are needs for the Wolves — who don't have much depth beyond Butler and Andrew Wiggins with Jamal Crawford opting out of his deal — but that doesn't mean they consider that need fully met.
"I think versatility is the buzzword now," Thibodeau said Thursday. "Guys that can play multiple positions and fit into a team. Still the needs of defense and the three-point shot are critical."
What sort of pecking order gets established will be dictated in part by the market and in part by how much trust both draftees can earn starting with early workouts this week and beyond.