When it comes to trading away or trading for one of the top five picks in the NBA draft, the Timberwolves are relative veterans.
In 1995 the Wolves and Milwaukee essentially traded draft picks, the Wolves dealing Ray Allen (No. 6) to get Stephon Marbury (No. 5). Ditto 2008, when the Wolves unloaded Marko Jaric, Antoine Walker and Greg Buckner along with the rights to No. 3 pick O.J. Mayo on Memphis for No. 5 pick Kevin Love.
But usually, both with the Wolves and around the NBA, it’s rare that a high pick is used in a trade for an established veteran. Indeed, the last time was in 2009 when, on the day before the draft, the Wolves acquired the No. 5 pick in a trade that sent Randy Foye and Mike Miller to Washington. The Wolves took Ricky Rubio, which was good. But then the Wolves, who also owned No. 6, took Jonny Flynn rather than a fellow named Steph Curry. But that’s a different story …
So here we are again.
The Wolves hold the No. 5 pick in Thursday’s draft. New president of basketball operations and coach Tom Thibodeau, along with GM Scott Layden, could opt to sit and wait for whatever top talent falls to them at five — perhaps Kris Dunn, Jamal Murray, Buddy Hield? Or maybe a big guy like Dragon Bender or Marquese Chriss?
Or they can trade the pick away.
When he was hired, Thibodeau talked about why he wanted to be here, including what he called the best young roster in the league, the upcoming draft pick and cap flexibility in free agency.
“There is great flexibility,” he said then, “There’s a lot of assets here. I think we’re a great position.”
In other words, he has options.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean a trade. It hasn’t happened often in the past two-plus decades. Maybe it’s a case of teams overvaluing their assets. One team not willing to give up too much for a pick, the other asking a high price. There have been a number of trades that included fringe vets as part of a deal exchanging draft rights.
But a trade for a veteran who could provide immediate help could happen.
Last week a report surfaced saying the Wolves were dangling the No. 5 pick as part of a package trying to get Jimmy Butler from the Chicago Bulls. Whether the Bulls are willing to trade the outstanding Butler — or if the Wolves are willing to meet the price the Bulls would ask — remains to be seen. Another team coveting a player in the draft might jump into the picture, willing to trade a viable veteran talent for the pick.
Thibodeau knows the Wolves roster needs work, and he will be willing to use every avenue at his disposal.
“I do think that they’ll be happy with a fifth pick if there’s a guy they like there,” ESPN draft expert Chad Ford said. “But if they can package that fifth pick and maybe some of the other assets that are not Andrew Wiggins or Karl-Anthony Towns to bring in a Jimmy Butler type, someone like that, there’s going to be a lot of appeal there for them to do that. And I actually think it’s the right move for them.”
With the new Wolves administration operating behind a wall of near silence, the draft will be the first opportunity for fans to get an idea what Thibodeau and Layden think about the team’s roster.