We are just over a month away from the NBA Draft (Nov. 18), where the Wolves have the No. 1 overall pick for just the second time in franchise history.
The first time they had it in 2015, they wisely chose franchise big man Karl-Anthony Towns. At that time, they were clearly at the start of a long rebuild after winning just 16 games the year before. The duo of KAT and Andrew Wiggins was much-hyped, but major success never materialized.
A single playoff appearance — helped greatly by Jimmy Butler — and a single playoff game victory was quickly forgotten as Butler left town and eventually was followed by Wiggins at last year’s trade deadline.
Five years after the Wolves last had a crack at anyone they wanted in the draft, they are again in an obvious rebuild. But their circumstances are different.
They are trying to build around Towns and D’Angelo Russell, the top two picks from that 2015 draft, and timelines are different when your projected cornerstones are in their mid-20s instead of below legal drinking age.
Combine that with the notion that there is no sure thing at the top of the draft and there emerges the notion that the Wolves might trade the top selection instead of keeping it.
It’s rare for a top pick to be dealt before playing for the team that held the pick; the last time it happened, in fact, was when Wiggins came to the Wolves in 2014.
But this year, it’s a intriguing combination of something rare being perhaps more likely to happen than not — at least according to betting markets.
Online bookmaker Sports Betting Dime this week put the odds of the Wolves trading out of the No. 1 spot at 4 to 5 — better than even money. Adding to the intrigue, the site listed Anthony Edwards (3 to 2), James Wiseman (3 to 1) and LaMelo Ball (7 to 1) as the most likely No. 1 picks — hardly a consensus.
Wolves President Gersson Rosas hasn’t tipped his hand, but clearly all options are on the table. In short, the Wolves are trying to be competitive sooner than later without taking shortcuts. This quote from an interview conducted by Chris Hine in August offers perhaps the most telling crystallization of Rosas’ philosophy.
“For this organization, patience is probably more important than anything because as the Jimmy Butler-Tom Thibodeau experiment showed, the benefit of being all in and getting in the playoffs one year set this organization back,” Rosas said. “I understand the concern with guys going into free agency, but there’s also the unknowns, positive unknowns that it’s not like we’re going to try and tank or lose over the next three or four years. We’re trying to win.”
The No. 1 pick in a no-sure-thing draft will probably never have more value than before it used. For a franchise that believes strongly in analytics and value, that leverage could be all the enticement needed to make a deal.