Editor’s note: Please warmly welcome Aidan Berg, the latest edition to our Canis family! Aidan is a terrific writer with a brilliant basketball mind who (unfortunately) roots for the Celtics apart from wolves. I’m very happy he’s on board and will provide great draft coverage over the next two weeks. You can follow him on Twitter @AidanBerg_ .
The Minnesota Wolves are not yet in a position where they need prioritize the present over the future. After all, they have a 20-year-old star in Anthony Edwards, some impressive young forwards in Jarred Vanderbilt and Jaden McDaniels and a Karl-Anthony Towns firmly in his prime coming off an All-NBA season.
Still, it’s important for this franchise to keep the momentum going after its best season in 18 years. The 2021-22 Timberwolves surprised some by making the playoffs, but now expectations will only rise; it’s in Minnesota’s interest to at least look at ways to acquire talent that will help that core improve significantly next season, even if it comes at the expense of future assets.
Minnesota’s best play in pursuit of this path is their first-round pick in the next NBA Draft, No. 19 overall. If Wolves decide to trade this pick, here are some ways to use it.
Stealing Anunoby in a Gobert swap
Wolves receive: SF OG Anunoby
Raptors receive: C Rudy Gobert
Jazz gets: SG Gary Trent Jr., SG Malik Beasley, MIN’s 2022 first-round pick (#19 overall), TOR’s 2024 first-round pick, MIN’s 2022 second-round pick via WAS (#40)
Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report said earlier this week than Toronto Raptors could make OG Anunoby available in a trade that would earn them a rim protection center, and that Rudy Gobert could be a target. In this scenario, Wolves emerge with Anunoby, a physically imposing wing who would add another major defensive presence and complementary attack to the rotation.
Anunoby is a perfect match for Wolves because it fits perfectly anywhere. He’s a long-armed, thick striker who can hold multiple positions, has shot at least 36% from 3 in each of the last three seasons and has increased his goalscoring tally each year to 17.1 per game in 2021-22. He may seem slightly redundant with McDaniels, but if there’s anything we’ve learned from the Warriors and Celtics doing the NBA Finalsis that having a plethora of wings at your disposal with versatile skills at both ends is very valuable.
Fischer also reported that Gobert’s high salary could make a matching package “too rich” for the Raptors, which is where Wolves come in. Minnesota adds some picks and a shooter to Malik Beasley to sweeten the pot for Utah.
This trade only really works if Utah decides to blow it up and trade all of its current contributors for interim capital. If the Jazz want to keep Donovan Mitchell and stay competitive, they will surely need the services of Anunoby as a potential answer to their perimeter defense issues. Even if he moves on completely, Utah could decide he’ll only make the trade if he gets Anunoby; that’s how coveted he is in the league.
Bring in another Perimeter Defender
Wolves receive: Luguentz Dort
Thunder receive: Jaylen Nowell, Leandro Bolmaro, MIN’s 2022 first-round pick (No. 19)
It’s very plausible that Oklahoma City won’t want to leave Dort, and especially not at this price. He’s just 23, a known bulldog on defense and steadily improving as an offensive player who has averaged 17.2 points per game this season (albeit on poor efficiency for a putrid team).
However, Dort will be an unrestricted free agent after this upcoming season. If the Thunder don’t move him, they could lose him for nothing or be forced to pay him too early in their timeline, and we know how much Sam Presti likes to stockpile his picks.
On the Minnesota side, it’s a bet that Dort is the intense defender that catalyzes Wolves to that end while providing enough offense to keep opponents honest. They would have his bird rights and could re-sign him next offseason after D’Angelo Russell and Patrick Beverley’s current contracts are canceled and before Towns and Edwards’ costly extensions kick in.
Nowell is a talented player, but his defensive inconsistencies have prevented him from breaking the rotation consistently. Maybe he and the developing Bolmaro can find a bigger role with the Thunder.
Upgrade Bench Sniper
Wolves receive: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Jalen Johnson
Hawks receive: Malik Beasley, 2022 MIN first-round pick, 2022 MIN second-round pick via WAS
I promise I don’t hate Malik Beasley; it’s just that Wolves don’t have many contracts that will net them hard-hitting winning players.
Bogdanovic is four years older than Beasley and slightly more expensive over the next two years, plus he carries a player option for 2023-24. He’s also unquestionably the better player of the two, bringing similar 3-point marksmanship while adding more play (Bogdanovic averages 3.4 career assists to Beasley’s 1.2) and defense. Adding more secondary creation is crucial for a bench unit that needs more players that can play off the catch.
Bogdan Bogdanovic was named Defensive Player of the Game
7 REB (all defensive)
Bogi grabbed the most defensive rebounds of any player in the game tonight.pic.twitter.com/A4I5dbMZWz
— Kevin Keneely (@KevinKeneely1) February 16, 2022
Wolves are also taking a flyer on Johnson, a talented striker who got virtually no playing time from Nate McMillan.
The Hawks side of this trade may seem confusing to some, but it looks like real change could be coming to Atlanta. If the Hawks want to make a major retooling effort, adding the No. 19 pick could come in handy when looking for names like Jerami Grant and Deandre Ayton. Plus, they get a younger, cheaper player who can fill part of Bogdanovic’s role.
What trade would you most like to see Wolves make?