First-round picks Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels have forced their way into the starting lineup for a few weeks now. Naz Reid has improved from his first season and become a reliable backup center to Karl-Anthony Towns on a salary-cap friendly deal.
Even 2019 second-round pick Jaylen Nowell had his moments this season when he showed he could be a rotational scorer at the NBA level.
These players make up the majority of Gersson Rosas' draft moves (or in Reid's case, an undrafted free agent move), and each player has shown glimpses of a bright future. Edwards and McDaniels, specifically, seem to have an untapped ceiling.
That makes it easy to forget that Rosas' first draft pick, Jarrett Culver, is still on the team, much less figures into the future of the franchise.
Culver hadn't played in five games and had been out of the rotation for weeks before the Wolves announced he would officially miss the rest of the season because of an ankle injury.
The sixth overall pick in the 2019 draft will undergo arthroscopic surgery on May 7 that will include "debridement of scar tissue and loose body" in his right ankle, which has bothered him since January.
That announcement officially sealed this as a lost season for Culver, who had his points per game, shooting percentage and minutes all decrease in part because of the injury he was seemingly trying to play through. The question going forward is: Where does Culver fit in from here? It's hard to see, the way the roster is currently constructed and playing.
Edwards and McDaniels are mainstays for the future on top of Towns, D'Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley. If Beasley ends up getting traded down the road, it will be for someone who won't be coming to Minnesota to ride the bench. Josh Okogie is more effective and more experienced defensively than Culver and while he struggles on offense, his numbers are still better than Culver's and he's having a much better second half to the season than his first half. Culver would likely be fighting for bench minutes, if anything.
Before suffering his injury on Jan. 25, Culver was still shooting just 26% from three-point range and only 60% from the free-throw line. It's not as if there was a night and day difference in his play before and after.
Coach Chris Finch only got to evaluate Culver up close as he was trying to play through the injury. He struck a hopeful tone regarding Culver's future Thursday.
"He's still a big part of our future as we see it," Finch said. "So we want to be sure that we give him the best chance to have the proper preparation going into next year, and it's important."
Finch said it was "obvious" the injury was limiting Culver's explosiveness and also said the unusual offseason with no regular training camp and a delayed start because of COVID had something to do with stunting Culver's development. Setting him up for a full offseason was one of the motivating factors in electing for surgery now.
"When you think about these young guys, they haven't really had a lot of preparation," Finch said. "So we wanted to get to [the injury] early. We felt that was the time to do it now."
The easy, reflective fan reaction to the news would be to trade Culver, but to trade him now would be to deal him when his value is about as low as it could get, which is usually not the kind of trade successful GMs make.
At this point the Wolves have few other options than to see how Culver develops over the summer. They'll have to make up their minds if they want to pick up the option for the fourth year on his deal next fall.
The emergence of their rookies and second-year players this year — and if they get another top three pick in the upcoming draft — might make it a little easier to decline that option and let Culver go, but it can be hard for any front office to admit a mistake.
Once Culver rehabilitates the injury, he'll have to prove he has that spot in the Wolves' future Finch discussed Thursday. Of late, they've been able to move on without him. That could eventually become a more permanent arrangement.