The Minnesota Timberwolves season was lost almost as soon as it began. Therefore, many fans shifted their attention to the protected first-round pick Minnesota had. As everyone knows now, it would convey to the Golden State Warriors if it landed outside the top three.
Early in the season, it seemed like the Wolves would have no difficulty finishing with a poor enough record that they could retain the pick. Then Chris Finch was hired. Sure, the Wolves finished 23-49, but they showed a vast improvement by the end of the season. They started the year 8-30 and finished the season 10-9 in their last 19.
Those wins proved to be costly from the draft standpoint. Minnesota’s pick ended up at No. 7 and ultimately was relinquished to the Warriors. So let’s do what fanbases love to do, torture ourselves and think about something that will never happen. Who would have been the options for the Timberwolves if they kept their pick?
Scottie Barnes – Florida State
Barnes has the length and defensive dedication that scouts drool over.
He was all over the place on defense at Florida State, locking up guards and pushing out forwards while being the pulse on that end of the court. If you want a prospect with potentially the best motor who is relentless from start to finish, look no further than Barnes.
The shooting is a huge question mark, and Barnes is virtually invisible on the perimeter. At 6’7″ and listed as a forward, Barnes acted as the maestro for Florida State — he’s great at facilitating at setting up teammates. But his shooting may never be anything close to being a threat for opposing defenses.
Barnes could’ve been the spark defensively for Minnesota’s second unit. The Wolves have plenty of offense with Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards, D’Angelo Russell, and Malik Beasley, but their defense atrocious last season. The second-best overall defender in this class would’ve been an asset to this roster.
Barnes might not ever be a dynamic scorer or shooter, but he’s always been a good distributor. Imagine a lineup on the floor where Barnes is the ball handler and Russell and Beasley are coming off screens. Sounds pretty nice, right?
Instead, maybe the Wolves will opt to go for someone like Nicolas Batum in free agency. Carving out enough wiggle room to make any drastic moves in the offseason may be tough for Minnesota, and attracting key veterans has never been easy, but it doesn’t hurt to be optimistic.
Franz Wagner – Michigan
Wagner may have been the absolute perfect fit for the Wolves at No. 7. He is crafty defensively and can switch onto guards in the pick-and-roll. He’s a savvy player who rarely makes mistakes on either end of the floor, and he can walk into a 3-ball too. While he isn’t going to dazzle working off the dribble, Wagner can shoot the 3 coming off a screen or in spot-up situations with great efficiency.
He would provide the best fit possible for the Wolves on many fronts.
One, he’s a lanky forward who will grind out every game with the same level of importance. He’s really good defensively and can guard almost any position. He enters the league as one of the more NBA-ready prospects, and he’ll make an immediate impact wherever he lands.
Secondly, Wagner is especially unselfish. He couldn’t care less if he doesn’t get 10-plus shots a game. Shots can be limited with Towns, Russell, and Edwards on the roster. Wagner played his role at Michigan perfectly, and he also will in the NBA. It’s just a bonus that he can also be a reliable threat from the outside.
Instead of Wagner, maybe the Timberwolves look to target another lanky forward who can give good minutes like Derrick Jones Jr. If they want to go the 3-and-D guard route, Alec Burks will be hitting free agency as well. If they tip their toes into the trade market, maybe Marcus Smart becomes available.
There’s no denying that it flat-out blows that the Timberwolves ended up with no pick in the first round of the 2021 NBA Draft. But the trade had to be done. Andrew Wiggins needed a fresh start, and the Wolves needed to part with him. The deal landed them Russell, who is tight with Towns.
It never hurts to keep your franchise pillar more than happy by bringing in one of his good friends.
As a result of the trade, they’re left without a first-round pick, which means no Barnes or Wagner. And while both may be solid pros, neither project to be a franchising-altering, All-NBA caliber player. So if there’s a silver lining to be had, it’s that it’s not nearly as bad as what it could’ve been had they missed out on someone like Jalen Suggs or Cade Cunningham.
Glass half-full, Minnesota!