Welcome to the Friday edition of The Cooler, where efficiency is important. Let’s get to it:
*The NBA does a ton of things right, and the NBA draft is still a great event filled with drama and intrigue.
But even good things could use some improvement, and a common refrain from NBA fans during Thursday’s draft was this: The practice of having picks who were involved in trades walk on stage wearing hats from teams they will never play for is growing increasingly ridiculous as more deals are made.
The ruse is largely a by-product of the NBA’s strange offseason schedule, whereby the draft happens before the new league year begins. In the NFL, for instance, the new league year starts in mid-March, and the draft follows more than a month later in late April.
But in the NBA’s more condensed offseason, the draft happens very soon after the finals end — and the new league year doesn’t start this year until July 6.
So you get a situation where the whole free world knows Anthony Davis is going to be traded to the Lakers, but it’s not official for two more weeks and therefore the draft pick involved (No. 4, which went to New Orleans and then Atlanta and became De’Andre Hunter) is in a state of limbo.
Hunter strolled onto the stage in New York on Thursday in Lakers gear and with a Lakers logo in the background, knowing full well he was two teams removed from actually playing there.
The Wolves were caught in this trap as well after dealing the No. 11 pick and Dario Saric to Phoenix for the No. 6 pick, which they used on Jarrett Culver. Because of salary cap issues with the Suns, the deal can’t become official for two weeks.
So Culver was wearing a Phoenix cap on Thursday (AP photo above). Wolves President Gersson Rosas couldn’t talk about Culver specifically when addressing the media late, late, late last night (more on that in a minute). The Wolves had to scrap a planned news conference Friday afternoon at which their No. 1 pick would normally be introduced in person to the local media and fans. And Culver won’t even officially be a member of the Wolves when summer league begins July 5.
Wolves players tweeted congratulations to their new teammate, even though it’s not official yet.
Welcome to Minnesota, sort of.
Most of this will be forgotten in a few months, but for now it’s as awkward as it is bizarre. It’s also easy to rectify. The NBA league year should start before the draft. Since the NBA season lasts about 100 days longer than the NFL season (no joke), it’s a tighter squeeze. But what about this:
Start the free agent negotiating period in late June. Start the league year July 1 every year. Trades can become official. Free agents can sign. Make the draft the first Thursday in July. And start summer league the weekend after the draft. It would make for a much cleaner draft and a much more streamlined offseason.
Oh, and while they’re at it: There’s no reason a two-round draft needs to take five hours — and I imagine part of the reason it took so long last night was that teams were trying to make complicated deals. Either split the draft into two nights or tighten it up.
*Did the Wolves make a good trade up to No. 6 and a good decision to take Culver?
On the first part, I get the logic. I like Saric, but part of his value is his current contract (last year of his rookie deal this season, around $3.5 million). If he has a good year this year, he easily will make $12-15 million a year beyond this season. That might become cost prohibitive for the Wolves. And as much as I liked Saric’s potential, he might not be a perfect fit alongside Karl-Anthony Towns. Using him as a trade asset now to move up in the draft has merit.
As for Culver, I was not blown away by him at the Final Four, where he struggled with his shot for Texas Tech — but a sample size of two games is about as small as it gets.
The Wolves have drafted nothing but wing players each of the last two years — four total: Josh Okogie, Keita Bates-Diop, Culver and second-rounder this year Jaylen Nowell — and it was surprising to given their point guard need to see Minnesota pass on Coby White after Darius Garland went No. 5 to Cleveland. Add Andrew Wiggins and Robert Covington to the wing mix, and the Wolves have the opposite problem they had under David Kahn: Not enough point guards, possibly too many wings.
Rosas talked about taking the best player available and also says he wants Covington to play some at the 4, which he will have to do with Saric gone. But even then, you have to wonder if more moves are coming to alleviate the roster imbalance.