There might be a few mixed emotions among Timberwolves fans right now. There was the winning of the lottery a few weeks ago, which provided a rarely-seen win in that situation for the Wolves who are now pondering how best to use that asset.
Meanwhile, former Wolves guard Jimmy Butler just led the Heat to the Eastern Conference finals. Perhaps there’s a little wondering “What could have been?” if the personalities involved all got along better here the way Butler seems to be meshing with his teammates and front office in Miami. We haven’t done a mailbag since the Wolves landed the top pick. Let’s get to it.
Q: @tonyz1986 -- Any word on the start of next season? Will it be done in a bubble? Or is it too soon to tell?
A: Too soon to tell. Reading the tea leaves from the national reporting that’s leaked out over the last few weeks, it could be a while before the new season begins. The Athletic reported that the dates for the draft and free agency will get pushed back, and it seems a new season may not begin until the new year, maybe not even until February. There’s a lot of unknowns related to that. For one, the league has to figure out what it’s going to do with the salary cap.
But I think a significant portion of this decision will coincide with news about a potential coronavirus vaccine and how quickly the makers can distribute it to the general population. This would allow the league to get fans safely back into arenas again and help mitigate losses in revenue. If the news is discouraging on that front, I wouldn’t rule out anything as it pertains to a new season, including it starting in a bubble or multiple bubbles. If there’s good news related to a vaccine, I assume the league will see what it can do to play the season with as close as possible to a normal arena and travel schedule.
Q: @saulo_marti -- Major targets with 1st pick package: Ben Simmons, Pascal Siakam, John Collins + Kevin Huerter, Jaylen Brown, Caris LeVert, Victor Oladipo, Otto Porter Jr. - Aaron Gordon, Bradley Beal or John Wall -- which is most realistic?
A: This question covers most of the questions I got, which is some variation of all of these (throw Devin Booker in there, too) players being available via trade for the No. 1 pick. We’ll be pondering questions like this for weeks, maybe months. Aaron Gordon would seem to make the most sense positionally for the Wolves with how they want to play and what the Wolves are missing – a forward with a decent defensive pedigree. There were rumors the Magic might be looking to unload his contract, which would have two more years on it and about $34.5 million. How serious are they? I suppose we’ll find out.
The two other names that are intriguing to me – Caris LeVert and Victor Oladipo. LeVert makes a lot of sense to me for the Wolves. He has gotten better each year of his career, has familiarity with assistant coach Pablo Prigioni who used to coach LeVert in Brooklyn and he’s co-existed successfully already in an offense with D’Angelo Russell. He’ll also be making less than the max over the next three years (around $53 million total). The Nets aren’t going to need much scoring alongside Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, so maybe there’s a deal out there the Nets would be willing to make.
The only thing that concerns me is next year the Nets are going to be in win-now mode. They may not want to wait for a pick to develop into a potential star. The clock will be ticking on their championship window. So what does that deal look like? It might have to involve a third team to contribute a complementary player who is a better fit for the Nets alongside Irving and Durant than LeVert is in order to grab that No. 1 pick from the Wolves. The Wolves might also have to say goodbye to a Josh Okogie or Jarrett Culver in a deal like that, or any deal like this for that matter.
There are rumblings about Oladipo’s availability. He’d be more expensive than LeVert and is going to require an extension after this season, possibly a max extension, which would stretch the Wolves’ books against whatever the salary cap will be. But Oladipo fits the mold of superstar player the Wolves and President Gersson Rosas want to be aggressive in acquiring. I’d rule nothing out when it comes to this front office. Well, except maybe the Booker stuff, as the next question asks.
Q: @SteveThomsonMN -- Why would the Suns ever trade Devin Booker especially for a top pick in a draft with no obvious #1?
A: This is the part I always come back to when I see fans tweeting about Booker. There is almost no incentive for them to do this from a roster construction standpoint. He is their centerpiece. With players like LeVert and Oladipo, there are others in place (Irving and Durant in Brooklyn; Domantas Sabonis, Malcolm Brogdon, TJ Warren in Indiana) to really build around. Booker is the standout, for as well as Phoenix’s supporting cast played during its run in the bubble. The way the Suns finished the season is only going to encourage them to run it back, looking to add more pieces around what they already have. Not tear it down. As I’ve said multiple times, I just can’t see it now beyond Booker asking out.
Q: @migguelangelAMI -- 1st overall plus more seems to much for Oladipo. But then that same package doesn’t seem like enough for a Booker, Beal, Simmons. So what type of players are in between?
A: I think this question gets at one that’s going to be fascinating between now and the draft – just how much are people going to value this No. 1 pick? It’s hard to tell right now. As front office types will tell you, deadlines make people reveal their hand. So until the league sets a firm draft date, and teams actually have to start making decisions about their future in the days just before the draft, we won’t know how much value this pick actually holds. I agree that the pick isn’t enough for Booker, Beal and Simmons, even if those players are available at all. Simmons is fun to think about, but Philadelphia seems determined to make that work with him and Joel Embiid. But stay tuned. It’s the NBA.