With the Boston Celtics in town for Monday’s game with the Timberwolves at Target Center, it’s a good time to remember how big an impact the Celtics had on the current Wolves roster.
At least when it comes to the draft.
The Wolves entered the June draft with the fifth overall pick. But, in the days leading up to the draft everyone knew Boston — with three first-round picks, including No. 3 — would have a big say in how it unfolded after consensus top-two picks Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram were taken.
Especially with Providence point guard Kris Dunn’s stock rising. But, on draft night, the Celtics’ Danny Ainge resisted trade overtures and, perhaps, went against some conventional wisdom and took California small forward Jaylen Brown.
After Phoenix went with big man Dragan Bender, the Wolves quickly took Dunn.
“Their activity at three really had the league in a buzz,” Wolves GM Scott Layden said of the Celtics at the time. Many people didn’t know what would happen until then. … It led to us being able to pick Dunn at five.”
Wolves President of Basketball Operations and coach Tom Thibodeau, on draft night, was clearly thrilled. “There were going to be some good options for us,” he said. “We thought this was the best one.”
It’s too early to grade the class. Statistically, Brown’s numbers are slightly higher than Dunn’s.
Dunn has shown he’s capable of playing defense at the NBA level. The rest?
“It’s clear, the offensive part of it, I’m just trying to find my role,” he said. “I’m trying to embrace it more and more, game by game, and just be aggressive.”
Though Dunn is from the New England area, he said he was a fan of Kobe Bryant and the Lakers growing up. While playing for the Celtics would have meant he was close to friends and family, Dunn said that goes two ways.
“That’s good and bad ad the same time,” he said. “You’re around ‘em too much. It can get overwhelming.”
Ultimately he’s glad where he landed: Great guys, great team, great coach,” he said.
An early mentor
Wolves center Karl-Anthony Towns and Boston center Al Horford have been friends for a while. They met in 2011 during the NBA lockout when Horford and the Dominican national team played an exhibition game against former Kentucky Stars in Lexington, Ky. Towns was 15, but he was there, and he met Horford. He also met his future college coach; the Dominican team was being coached by John Calipari.
The two became friends, and both have played for the Dominican team.
“Al was my KG before KG,” Towns said, referring to Kevin Garnett, who mentored him last year. “So me and him have always been tremendously close. And our families are tremendously close.”
Said Horford: “I just tried to really lead by example. He’s a very smart man, from a young age he was very mature, really good work ethic. We all knew it would be a matter of time that he’d be at this level and dominating.”
• Citing his high points-per-touch ranking, Shabazz Muhammad — who returned to action Saturday after missing three games because of a sore knee — suggested more consistent playing time would help his game. “It’s tough when you’re coming in and out,” he said. “It’s hard for me to get going. It’s something you have to deal with.”
• Brandon Rush, who hadn’t played since Nov. 5 because of a sprained big toe, returned to action Monday.