Before the draft, Timberwolves President Gersson Rosas said traditionally it was hard to move up into the top five of any NBA draft.
Perhaps that’s one reason why the Wolves stopped a bit short, trading up from No. 11 and sending Dario Saric to the Suns to take Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver with the No. 6 pick. The Wolves had looked into opportunities to trade up in the days leading up to the draft, and about an hour before it Thursday, Rosas pulled the trigger on the move.
"What we were able to do tonight is pretty rare,” Rosas said. “In reality, our staff deserves a ton of credit. We looked at every opportunity. They knew what was available and we were able to execute on it. When that happens it’s a good night, because a lot of times those things don’t come together. The draft, it’s tough to move up, and we were able to execute tonight.”
Culver’s selection isn’t official – the Wolves have to wait until July 6 to complete the trade with Phoenix because of salary-cap considerations with the Suns, so Rosas couldn’t directly comment on what he liked about Culver that he was willing to move up and trade Saric. Nor could he comment on why he dealt Saric.
Culver is known for his defense and Rosas has made a point of upgrading the Wolves defense after they finished 24th in defensive rating.
“We do need to improve our defense, and that starts by me helping the program with getting personnel in here,” Rosas said. “Our personnel staff did a great job of identifying targets tonight, and we were able to do that. In reality, as we go through it, you’re fortunate when you find talented guys that can defend.”
Rosas did reveal some of his views on how lineups and roster construction could work going forward after making this pick. By trading a power forward in Saric, the Wolves acquired another wing player in Culver. That gives them Culver, Andrew Wiggins, Robert Covington and Josh Okogie as rotational wings. That’s not so much a problem for Rosas, and he’s amenable to playing three wings at one time.
“Where we’re at in the NBA now, you have four perimeters. Point guard, three wings and a big,” Rosas said. “That could be a center. That could be a power forward. It’s just the game is played differently now. We feel like our wings are versatile. Robert Covington is a guy that has the most success at the four offensively and he’s a tough defensive guard that’s very active.
“For us to be able to put a group of wings like we’re going to be able to put on the floor at certain points this year gives us a lot of versatility, gives us some shooting.”
All this is to maximize the talents of Karl-Anthony Towns, Rosas said, and along those lines, the Wolves have had in-depth discussion about how best to surround Towns, especially at the four position. Do you go smaller or bigger?
“We talk a lot about putting a perimeter next to him or a guy that can play both spots to space the floor for him,” Rosas said. “But at the same time, his uniqueness in terms of being able to be a center who can step out and shoot 3s, and us having the ability to have, whether it’s a 4 or a 3, who can roll to the basket and be athletic, that puts a lot of pressure on the defense.”
Rosas said he looks at the Wolves’ selections Thursday (the team also grabbed Jaylen Nowell out of Washington with the 43rd pick) as the best players available, but also as developmental projects. Rosas will want them playing somewhere in order to do that, and that could be with the Wolves or the G-League in Iowa.
“Guys only improve when they're playing,” Rosas said. “So our young guys, they know what's being expected from them. And they're either going to be playing in the NBA or playing in the G-League. That's how you get better.”
Wolves snag Reid
The Wolves' night didn't end with the draft. Shortly after it, they signed LSU's Naz Reid to a two-way contract, a source confirmed. The 6-10 Reid averaged 20 points per game in his lone season at LSU, shooting 47 percent from the floor and 33 percent from three-point range.