2017 Draft, NBA draft

To keep the pick or trade it away: an AWAW debate

We’re kicking off our draft coverage at A Wolf Among Wolves by debating not who the Wolves should take (though we will certainly get to that), but rather whether they should take anyone at all. If Thibs/Layden, LLC has the chance to flip the 7th pick (or package it with anyone not named Towns or Wiggins) for a veteran who can help right away, should they do it? Or is it best to just stay put and take the best player available?

Bill Bohl and Lucas Seehafer debate that very topic. Without further ado…

Bill: So, summer’s already flying by. The Stanley Cup and NBA Finals are over, we’ve already had a rainy season, a dry spell, and so much hail that a Minnesota town had to bust out its snow plows. Must be early June.

Anyway, the draft is fast approaching – it’s only nine days away! – and we need to hammer out whether the Wolves should keep the 7th pick, adding another young piece to their talented core, or try to trade it for a veteran piece (especially a shooter) who can help them win now.

I’ve been a pretty vocal advocate for the team adding established veterans to the mix, especially one that can start and help lead the young Wolves. But you, Lucas… I’ve been following Twitter, and you seem to be in love with several prospects. So what say you? Do the Wolves NEED to keep the 7th pick?


Lucas: I’ve gone back and forth since Lottery night, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I believe the Wolves do need to keep the pick. In an ideal world, I’d love to see them take Jonathan Isaac out of Florida State (most draft sites have him going between 6-8) because he fits in perfectly, both in terms of talent and timeline.

At 19-years-old and nearly 7-feet tall with a wingspan just a hair longer, Isaac projects to be a versatile defender, with some even saying that he’ll be able to guard 2-5 at his peak. He shot 34.8% from three on 2.8 attempts per game in his lone season in Tallahassee and also posted 7.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.5 blocks, and 1.2 steals per game. Whatever your stance is on college stats and their transferability to the NBA, Isaac proved to be a well-rounded player who has the potential to mend many of the Wolves’ more obvious deficiencies (cough defense cough modern NBA lineup cough).

That being said, Isaac is often thought of as more of a project than a player who will step in right away and make an impact on both sides of the court (at least, that’s what people who watch a lot more college ball than I do say). With the Wolves’ post-season drought now sitting at 13 seasons, I’d typically say that the they need to acquire talent – whether through the draft or by trade – in order to break that slump sooner rather than later.

But after watching the playoffs and the Finals, I can’t help but think that drafting more of a project than a sure thing is the way to go right now. The Warriors, whether we like it or not, aren’t going anywhere any time soon and the road to the Finals will go through Oak…San Francisco for the foreseeable future. Let say in 5 years, if the Wolves take Isaac and he develops into what we believe he can, their starting lineup may look something like (age in parentheses): Dunn (28) – Lavine (27) – Wiggins (27) – Isaac (24) – Towns (26). That’s an incredible lineup (whatever you think of Dunn as not only a point guard, but the point guard of the future, for now, Thibs seems set on him being the guy), all in or approaching their prime, ready to dethrone Warrior dynasty.

But I have a feeling you disagree, don’t you, Bill?


Bill: I can’t disagree with your assessment of the timing, that’s for sure. The Gentrifiers Warriors will be the prohibitive favorite for at least the next 3-5 years, so the long view is probably the right view. And the Wolves’ cap situation would be aided by the smaller, locked-in rookie scale deal the 7th pick would receive, especially since Dieng’s extension kicks in now, Shabazz’s (perhaps) in July, with Wiggins, LaVine (both in 2018) and Towns (in 2019) not far behind.


13 years away from the playoffs is a long-ass time, and while adding another blue chip prospect sounds enticing, sometimes those “high-upside” players are more Noah Vonleh or Ben McLemore than Gordon Hayward or Paul George.

The “3-5 year timeline to the Wolves’ contention” that everyone likes to talk about makes many assumptions that make me rather uneasy. The Wolves are top-heavy with prospects and short on veterans who can both a) play and b) help establish a winning culture. There are legitimate questions about Wiggins’ motor and attention to detail, LaVine’s defensive awareness and fit, and Towns’ ability to anchor a playoff-caliber defense. There are zero veterans on the team who can look them in the eye and say, “I’ve been where you want to go,” then go out on the floor and help lead/hold them accountable in between the lines, where it really matters.

Granted, a couple of the guys who could best do that (Paul Millsap, Serge Ibaka) are on the free agent market, but the argument can be made that the Wolves have their foundational talent (Wiggins, LaVine, Towns) and now must support them. They need a leader and an established two-way player who can shoot. Maybe they can’t trade for the leader (hopefully Karl becomes one), but with the 7th pick and another piece, perhaps they can target the latter in a trade.

But before I start naming names, let me throw it back to you. I asked you about keeping the pick, and you immediately mentioned Jonathan Isaac. Let’s say he’s off the board… is there a scenario where the first six picks shake out in such a way that makes you more open to a trade? Or are you content that the 7th spot will yield a “must-take” prospect, no matter what?


Lucas: If Isaac is gone before 7, and I could see that happening rather easily, I think it would be smart of the team to trade back to the 10-13 range. OG Anunoby, a versatile defender from Indiana, and Zach Collins, a sort of do-it-all big man from Gonzaga, project to be available in that range and would also fill some of the Wolves problems. However, both of them are more projects as well (Anunoby will probably miss the beginning of the season recovering from ACL reconstruction and Collins is young and raw).

I can’t disagree with your assessment that the Wolves need to get older and more experienced; I championed that thought all of last season. But I think in a draft this deep it would be a mistake to trade out completely. When you have the opportunity to take someone with as much talent, whether it’s solidified or projectable, as Isaac (or, to a lesser extent, Anunoby or Collins) you have to do it. The Wolves can always worry about fit, money, the lack of veteran presence, or what have you later.

And, you’re right, with drafting another youth and projecting that the Wolves will be contenders, or at the least really, really good, in 3-5 years assumes quite a bit and is heavily based on speculation. But by trading the pick away completely you don’t allow those assumptions to have any chance at coming to fruition. Sure, Isaac might not become what we think he will, but what if he does? If he ends up not on your team because he gets drafted a spot or two before, that’s one thing. But if he ends up not on your team because you didn’t allow for that opportunity, that’s another.

I guess, the foundation of this conversation is kind of built on the idea of what’s more important: championships (or at least being in the conversation) or the more nebulous team success (so, for the Wolves that might simply be making the playoffs)? I don’t want to dive too deeply into this idea as I think that’s a discussion for a different day, but whether or not the Wolves trade away their pick or keep it (whether at 7 or later on in the first round) will determine where they stand in that discussion.


Bill: A couple things:

Firstly, the argument that the Wolves “can always worry about fit, money, the lack of veteran presence” later… Well… If they eek into the playoffs with the 8th seed next season (a very real possibility), their pick transfers to the Hawks (from the Adreian Payne deal). You can say that’s an argument for keeping the pick, but it’s equally valid to say it’s an argument for trading it, if the right situation comes up. This might be the Wolves’ last quality trade chip for awhile. Maximizing it is paramount.

Who would I have in mind? I mean, there’s nothing supporting this, but if the Wolves were to, say, flip the 7th pick and something else (perhaps Gorgui Dieng, in a three-team deal) to Charlotte for Nicolas Batum, I’d be overjoyed. I don’t know if Charlotte wants to rebuild, but that’s the kind of player I’d have in mind. Or, if the Wolves got a little crazy and gave away anyone not named Towns or Wiggins, plus the pick, to the Knicks for Kristaps Porzingis… I mean, that’d be amazing, wouldn’t it?

Is any of that likely? Hell no, and I feel insane for even typing that last paragraph, but Boogie got traded for Buddy Friggin’ Hield and a protected pick! Let me dream, is what I’m saying.

Secondly, regarding whether the team should seek “success” or a “championships,” I’m a big believer in Kanye’s line that you need to crawl before you ball. They still have so much work to do before making the leap from “good playoff team” to “real title contenders.”

Really, I don’t know what the trade market is like, and it’d be a fool’s errand to do any more guessing than I’ve already done, but my point is, I hope trading the pick is very much on the table for the next week and a half, and all the way through draft night.


Lucas: All very good points, Bill. Though we disagree on what the Wolves should do with their pick, I think we can both agree that this off-season is going to be a whirlwind and, perhaps, one of the most important for the team in recent memory.


Bill: Honestly, so long as Derrick Rose isn’t a Wolf on Media Day, I don’t really care what else happens.


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3 thoughts on “To keep the pick or trade it away: an AWAW debate

  1. I’m kind of torn as well on this question. If they believe they could get better players who might be a little unknown in the middle of the first round, I might just trade this pick to a team like Portland who has the 15th and 20th picks. All of this happens if Jonathan Isaac goes to the Magic, which he certainly might. Isaac is my top choice in this draft for the Wolves. I am not as high on Josh Jackson and Jason Tatum for the Wolves. I think Tatum has “Wes Johnson” written on his back and Josh Jackson is a poor man’s Andrew Wiggins. I think Phoenix would be a great home for Josh Jackson and a place like Charlotte for Tatum. If we are going to trade Rubio this summer, I’d like to trade him to a team like Philadelphia and reap their four 2nd round picks. I’d want at least two of them and a TJ McConnell or a Richaun Holmes. Yeah Simmons has been called the primary ball handler, but Rubio would be a wonderful backup PG and a wonderful leader for this core of international players.

    I have heard there is a 7’5” kid from Slovakia who can shoot the lights out that could be a 2nd round pick. I also like the 7’2” Latvian. These would be cheap shot blockers for the wolves.

    As for the development of this bench and Free Agent ideas, I would like to see Cole Aldrich become the Minnesota Caravan PR Guy, play with the Minnesota kids and do every PR event available. Cole should be our 15th man this fall. That means say goodbye to the following contracts: Jordan Hill, Adrian Payne, Brandon Rush, Shabazz, Omri Casspi. I’m not a fan or Derrick Rose on this team, or a Paul Millsap, as I find it hard to believe we offer them anything that says “Western Winner” this season. We have to leap frog Denver, Portland, OKC, LAC, and Dallas sometime in the next two years. That is a big jump from the 31 win 2016-17 Wolves. As for fun FA’s, I would certainly offer JaMychal Green a 20M contract, I think he would play great next to KAT and Memphis would have a difficult time matching that. Same with Iguodala. I’d also take Ryan Anderson’s contract from Houston as he can shoot the lights out. I also love the idea of bringing in PJ Tucker. Other guys who have been rumored are Taj Gibson (maybe), Serge Ibaka (no!), Patrick Patterson (no!).

  2. Essentially, these trades always involve bad contracts going one way or the other and/or the team trading the pick moving down in the draft. The Wolves don’t need to shed contracts, and what’s the point of getting a pick back when that a) means they’d be getting a worse veteran and a worse prospects? The second scenario could easily lead to them getting an 8th man and an Adreian Payne-type prospect, which wouldn’t exactly be worth the patience needed to develop a starter.

    The only clear winner when trading a top-10 pick for a player would be the Celtics, since they got Ray Allen for the 5th pick in a year where the pickings were slim after #4. The Wizards probably did okay getting Antawn Jamison for Devin Harris and Jerry Stackhouse, but Deng and Iguodala were also still available. The others (the Wizards trading the 5 for Miller and Foye, the Knicks trading the 7 and Marcus Camby for Antonio McDyess) probably regretted their moves. Possibly not getting Jonathan Isaac is also a bummer, since Malik Monk, Dennis Smith Jr., or Lauri Markkanen don’t provide the same potential level of help unless Monk can actually play PG.

  3. I think the point Twister is making is that too many times in Wolves history, we have taken the “most NBA ready” player at our draft position and then three years later, players like Paul George and Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler etc. surface as stars and our pick is traded or leaves as a bust. Just because you trade down doesn’t mean you are going to get a poorer player. Many times it means you get a guy that is more affordable and just as good.
    Your Adrian Payne analogy doesn’t really apply here because that draft was not as deep as this year’s draft and Flip actually traded to get him, not traded back to get him. Trading back worked in the Shabazz and G year, but imagine if they would have selected Giannis and Gobert with their traded down picks. Trey Burke was the selection and luckily we didn’t take him, but traded back to get Baz and G.

    As for second round picks, I think with the Iowa Wolves, getting guys that need time in the G league on small contracts could be a way to add depth to a team that may not attract key vet FA. IF Ricky is not part of the future for Thibs, he should trade him now and get as much as he can.

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