The Timberwolves own the No. 5 pick in Thursday’s NBA draft and with any hope, the organization’s new brass will keep that pick and add another talented player to a core group that serves as bedrock for a promising future.
The Wolves remain remarkably youthful, but they should resist the temptation to package the pick in a trade for an established veteran if any transaction requires moving one of their young cornerstones.
That includes Zach LaVine.
Now is not the time to deviate from a plan that finally makes sense, a blueprint that inspires belief and real optimism.
The Wolves have been included in predraft trade speculation by national media outlets, which probably shouldn’t come as a surprise since the organization has new direction under Tom Thibodeau.
ESPN.com reported last week that the Wolves are interested in using the No. 5 pick in a deal to reunite Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler with Thibodeau. The draft pick alone wouldn’t come close to prying away a two-way All-Star player in the prime of his career.
(Speaking of which, would the Bulls truly be interested in helping Thibodeau in his new endeavor after their acrimonious divorce? Can’t see it happening.)
But for argument’s sake, the Bulls assuredly would want one of the Wolves’ top young players as well, likely either LaVine or Andrew Wiggins.
The answer should be a resounding “No thanks.”
That’s for either player, not only Wiggins.
I’d rather have Wiggins or LaVine and the draft pick than Jimmy Butler, or some other veteran of similar value via trade.
Followers of the NBA might argue otherwise on LaVine, but my opinion on him in relation to the overall organizational plan has changed substantially after watching his development this season.
He’s no longer only an all-world dunker searching for a position.
To give up on LaVine at age 21 would be foolish and shortsighted. That would be like a gourmet chef grooming a promising understudy, nurturing his growth, seeing his skills blossom … and then telling him to take a job in sales after two years.
Why not see what a Karl-Anthony Towns-Wiggins-LaVine triumvirate can produce under the direction of Thibodeau?
KAT is a superstar in the making. Wiggins, with improved outside shooting, could become an all-star. And LaVine’s upside might equal that of Wiggins’.
People inside the organization say LaVine is driven to be great. He works extremely hard on his game. He plays like a lightning bolt with supreme confidence.
LaVine’s dazzling dunks as a rookie were nothing more than a diversion from his inconsistency and erratic decisionmaking. The team’s waffling on whether he should play point guard or shooting guard complicated matters.
LaVine made important strides last season as an overall player, becoming more than a highlight dunker.
His scoring average increased. He shot the ball more accurately, most notably from three-point range. He logged more minutes but reduced his turnover rate. He shot 48.6 percent from the field (43.5 percent on three-pointers) over the final 39 games.
The Wolves hired Thibodeau for precisely this purpose: to take their young nucleus of Towns, Wiggins and LaVine and make them even better, individually and collectively.
Towns is 20 years old; LaVine and Wiggins are 21.
Imagine the possible reward of exercising patience and allowing that trio to grow together, learn together, fail together and succeed together.
Sure, an established veteran might accelerate the timetable for winning. But the Wolves still have miles to go before they can be considered legitimate contenders. They should take the long view on development.
Flip Saunders had a vision for rebuilding his organization. A lot of losing and a little luck put the Wolves in this position to remake their identity on the promise of young talent.
The organization already has bottomed out. The climb back to relevancy has begun. League observers believe the Wolves are primed to make significant improvement with Thibodeau in charge.
The Wolves should trade their draft pick Thursday night and include other players on their roster if a deal makes sense and clearly improves them.
Just keep Towns, Wiggins and LaVine as cornerstones of their roster construction.
Chip Scoggins firstname.lastname@example.org