Thursday was just the first step. The Timberwolves took Providence point guard Kris Dunn with the fifth pick in the NBA draft. It was a move that, while considered a great value, created just as many questions as it answered, considering the team already has Ricky Rubio on the roster.
In the two months since President of Basketball Operations and coach Tom Thibodeau and General Manager Scott Layden came to the Wolves, they have analyzed the roster and gotten ready for the draft. Now they’re focusing on the free-agency period, which, with the salary cap set to balloon, promises to be the wildest ever.
“As you prepare, you sort of try to figure out the tiers, where people might fall,” Thibodeau said. “But you don’t know how it unfolds until it actually starts.’’
With free agency beginning at 11 p.m. Thursday, here is a look at five questions facing the Timberwolves:
What is Rubio’s future?
Immediately after drafting Dunn, Thibodeau emphasized Rubio and Dunn could coexist in a league where playing two points guards together is becoming common. “They have good size, they have good toughness,” he said. “It’s a different look.’’
But will Rubio be on the roster when training camp starts this fall? Indeed, will either be here?
Chicago and Philadelphia pursued Dunn before and after the Wolves picked him. Thibodeau clearly has Bulls star Jimmy Butler atop his wish list. Just because the draft is over, that doesn’t mean trade talks are. This could linger through the summer.
Will the Timberwolves continue to pursue Butler?
Given Thibodeau’s history with the veteran, a two-time All-Star, further talks would not be surprising.
Depending on how a potential trade would look, it could affect what the Wolves do in free agency should they need to add a veteran point guard to the roster. Or, conversely, not meeting all their goals in free agency could make the Wolves more likely to take another run at Butler.
When can Dunn contribute?
Because of his defense — many considered him to be the best defender in the draft — Dunn could get on the court quickly. Thibodeau hasn’t been known to play rookies a lot. But now that he is drafting them he will be more motivated than ever to see them succeed quickly.
At Dunn’s introductory news conference Friday, Thibodeau talked at length about Dunn’s ability to defend the pick-and-roll, an NBA staple. And he noted how Dunn’s 6-9 ½ wingspan could made entry passes more difficult.
And, of course, Dunn’s playing time could hinge on what the Wolves’ plans are with Rubio.
What are the team’s needs heading into free agency?
When asked about this Friday, Thibodeau talked about the same things he did before the draft: shooting, size, toughness.
Oh, and did he mention shooting?
The Wolves need a rugged power forward who can score and defend, and they need to add more defense-stretching perimeter shooters.
What is KG’s future?
Kevin Garnett has one year left on his contract, worth $8 million. Thibodeau said this week that he would keep any conversations with Garnett private.
Presumably Garnett would love to play a 20th season, putting him in rare company, and he’s unlikely to walk away from $8 million.
But at age 40 will the knee soreness that limited him to 38 games last season allow him to play?
The question is whether Garnett will ever again be healthy enough to be someone the team can rely on. And Thibodeau likely wants to start fresh with players he has chosen.