While this year’s draft class is regarded as weaker than usual by most analysts and does not have a blue-chip top prospect like Zion Williamson last season, the Timberwolves will welcome the good news after a campaign marked by losing, roster upheaval, tragedy and a looming sale.
Entering the season hoping to make the playoffs, Minnesota finished with a 19-45 record and the West’s 14th seed. Team president Gersson Rosas executed multiple trades at the deadline, shipping out Andrew Wiggins, a former No. 1 pick, to the Warriors in exchange for D’Angelo Russell and sending Robert Covington to the Houston Rockets. Then, the Timberwolves franchise was rocked in April when the mother of Karl-Anthony Towns died after contracting covid-19.
Shortly after the Timberwolves laid off numerous staffers in response to the pandemic, Owner Glen Taylor announced in July that he was exploring the sale of the franchise to buyers committed to keeping the Timberwolves in Minneapolis.
The Timberwolves’ new-look roster is built around Towns, a two-time all-star was the first pick in the 2015 draft. Surrounding the franchise center are Russell, 2019 lottery pick Jarrett Culver, Josh Okogie and Malik Beasley, a wing acquired from the Denver Nuggets at the trade deadline. All five players are under-25.
“We couldn’t be more pleased,” Rosas said in a statement. “We know with the number one pick we have the opportunity to draft an impact player who could immediately complement our young, strong core. The front office and I are prepared to get right to work with this new component for the draft and we’re confident we will be able to bring energy and excitement to our fan base with our next moves.”
Minnesota has needs across its roster, which ranked in the bottom 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency last season. There is no consensus top prospect in this year’s class, but Anthony Edwards, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Georgia, would be a relatively clean fit between Russell and Culver on the perimeter. A physical wing who projects to be a lead scorer, Edwards could theoretically help Minnesota fulfill its potential to be a potent and modern offense.
Towns’ presence makes it less likely that the Timberwolves will invest the top pick in James Wiseman, a 7-foot-1 center who played briefly at Memphis before he ran afoul of NCAA rules. As a lead ballhandler, LaMelo Ball, the younger brother of New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball, would seem to be redundant with the 24-year-old Russell, whom the Timberwolves view as a centerpiece.
Russell, a 2019 all-star who has played for four teams in five seasons, accepted the rights to select the top pick for the franchise on the televised draft lottery show.
“I’m glad I could represent for the state of Minnesota at the draft lottery the same way we plan to show out for our fans when we get back on the court,” Russell, who was selected second in 2015 after Towns, said in a statement. “The number one pick is exciting. There’s so much buzz and energy during the draft as a player. I know we’re ready to compete and I can’t wait to see who joins us next.”
Other top-ranked prospects in this year’s draft include Israeli forward Deni Avdija, French guard Killian Hayes and Dayton forward Obi Toppin.
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