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: So, summerâs already flying by. The Stanley Cup and NBA Finals are over, weâve 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 – itâs 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.
Iâve 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, Lucasâ¦ Iâve 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: Iâve gone back and forth since Lottery night, but Iâve come to the conclusion that I believe the Wolves do need to keep the pick. In an ideal world, Iâd 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 heâll 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 Wolvesâ 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, thatâs what people who watch a lot more college ball than I do say). With the Wolvesâ post-season drought now sitting at 13 seasons, Iâd 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 canât 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, arenât 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). Thatâs 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, donât you, Bill?
Bill: I canât disagree with your assessment of the timing, thatâs 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 Wolvesâ cap situation would be aided by the smaller, locked-in rookie scale deal the 7th pick would receive, especially since Diengâs extension kicks in now, Shabazzâs (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 âhigh-upsideâ players are more Noah Vonleh or Ben McLemore than Gordon Hayward or Paul George.
The â3-5 year timeline to the Wolvesâ contentionâ 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 Wigginsâ motor and attention to detail, LaVineâs defensive awareness and fit, and Townsâ ability to anchor a playoff-caliber defense. There are zero veterans on the team who can look them in the eye and say, âIâve been where you want to go,â 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 canât 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. Letâs say heâs off the boardâ¦ 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 âmust-takeâ 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 itâs 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, youâre 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 donât 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, thatâs one thing. But if he ends up not on your team because you didnât allow for that opportunity, thatâs another.
I guess, the foundation of this conversation is kind of built on the idea of whatâs 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 donât want to dive too deeply into this idea as I think thatâs 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 âcan always worry about fit, money, the lack of veteran presenceâ laterâ¦ Wellâ¦ 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 thatâs an argument for keeping the pick, but itâs equally valid to say itâs an argument for trading it, if the right situation comes up. This might be the Wolvesâ last quality trade chip for awhile. Maximizing it is paramount.
Who would I have in mind? I mean, thereâs 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, Iâd be overjoyed. I donât know if Charlotte wants to rebuild, but thatâs the kind of player Iâd 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 Porzingisâ¦ I mean, thatâd be amazing, wouldnât it?
Is any of that likely? Hell no, and I feel insane for even typing that last paragraph, but Boogie got traded for Buddy Frigginâ Hield and a protected pick! Let me dream, is what Iâm saying.
Secondly, regarding whether the team should seek âsuccessâ or a âchampionships,â Iâm a big believer in Kanyeâs line that you need to crawl before you ball. They still have so much work to do before making the leap from âgood playoff teamâ to âreal title contenders.â
Really, I donât know what the trade market is like, and itâd be a foolâs errand to do any more guessing than Iâve 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 isnât a Wolf on Media Day, I donât really care what else happens.