2020 NBA Draft: 5 Trade Ideas to Get No. 1 Pick from Minnesota Timberwolves
The first overall pick of the 2020 NBA draft belongs to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
While the Wolves could use their draft-lottery winnings on whomever they deem the draft's top prospect, they could also make it available to the highest bidder on the trade market. After joining D'Angelo Russell with Karl-Anthony Towns at the deadline, Minnesota might seek more immediate help than a rookie can provide, or it could use this as a way to fill multiple roster holes by trading down for additional assets.
The reviews on this batch of budding ballers may not be overly glowing, but there's still an interesting collection of prospects at the top who will surely have the market's attention. So, where should Minnesota set its asking price? The following five trade ideas feel like they fall in the realistic realm.
Oh, and just to get out in front of a barrage of comments, don't go looking for a Devin Booker trade idea here. He's an easy choice to top Minnesota's wish list, but the Phoenix Suns have zero reasons to let him go. Maybe the Towns-Russell-Booker trio will surface down the line, but this isn't the time.
To Charlotte for Future First
Minnesota Timberwolves receive: 2020 No. 3 pick, 2021 first-round pick (top-10 protected)
Charlotte Hornets receive: 2020 No. 1 pick
Maybe Minnesota sees things differently, but its needs (wing stopper, two-way power forward) don't seem to align with the top of the draft board. The Wolves could surely talk themselves into LaMelo Ball or Anthony Edwards if need be, but they probably don't have a major preference at this juncture.
The Hornets are different. They're desperate for size on the interior—Cody Zeller is their only center signed for next season, and he'll be a free agent in 2021—and that should point them directly at James Wiseman.
"The Hornets have a major hole at the center position and Wiseman is the most physically equipped player in the draft to fill that," ESPN's Jonathan Givony wrote.
While factoring in team need can be a tricky proposition this early in the draft, Charlotte isn't exactly sacrificing upside to scratch its primary itch. Wiseman was the highest-rated recruit in his high school class. There's no guarantee he reaches his full potential, but if he does, he might offer rim running, paint protection, floor spacing and the ability to defend on the perimeter.
He could bring the buzz back to Buzz City. He could be their first star of the post-Kemba Walker era.
He seems such a no-brainer fit for the franchise that the Hornets can justify spending an asset (a first-round pick in a deeper draft) to climb up the two spots and guarantee he'll be available.
For Minnesota, this allows someone else to sort out the top three—Ball or Edwards works with this roster—and possibly greases the wheels for a future blockbuster. The Wolves own the Brooklyn Nets' first-rounder this year, and this gets them back into 2021's first round after they traded their selection in the Russell-Andrew Wiggins deal.
Do this deal, and the Wolves should have the trade chips to chase an established pro or climb up the draft board if a second lottery prospect catches their eye.
To New York for Picks, Prospects
Minnesota Timberwolves receive: 2020 No. 8 pick, 2020 No. 27 pick (via LAC), Frank Ntilikina, Kevin Knox, Reggie Bullock, 2021 second-round pick (via CHA), 2021 second-round pick (via DET)
New York Knicks receive: 2020 No. 1 pick, James Johnson
The Knicks didn't strike lottery gold. In related news, the sky is blue and water is wet. New York, which hasn't moved up since 1985, actually entered the night with the sixth-best odds and left the event with the eighth overall pick.
That's tough. It also means the bridge to LaMelo Ball—who multiple teams believe wants to be in the Big Apple, per SNY's Ian Begley—is at least temporarily broken. That's no minor development, as the 6'7" floor general seemed a perfect fit for the franchise.
"LaMelo Ball's star potential and playmaking should be a huge draw to president Leon Rose, general manager Scott Perry and new head coach Tom Thibodeau," B/R's Jonathan Wasserman wrote. "His passing and pace are solely needed from the point guard spot in New York's lineup."
This trade could drape Ball in blue and orange, and potentially end New York's perpetual search for a point guard. But it'll cost the Knicks.
While the Wolves can't get Mitchell Robinson or RJ Barrett, they can and should seek out Ntilikina (a versatile defensive stopper) and Knox (a physically gifted 21-year-old swingman who could get his career going by sharing the floor with more talented teammates than he's had in New York). Bullock, a career 38.5 percent three-point shooter, should be an easy, no-maintenance fit with Towns and Russell.
Sliding back seven spots may seem less than ideal, but it should land the Wolves within range to land a better-fitting prospect. Devin Vassell's three-and-D skills, Isaac Okoro's lockdown defense and Tyrese Haliburton's glue-guy game all should be instant-impact additions to what might be a 2021 playoff rotation. The extra first and future seconds arm the Wolves with assets to fuel further trades or flesh out the supporting cast.
To Atlanta for John Collins, Pick
Minnesota Timberwolves receive: John Collins, 2022 first-round pick (top-seven protected)
Atlanta Hawks receive: Jake Layman, 2020 No. 1 pick
Seven players averaged 19 points and nine rebounds both this season and last. This trade would make the Timberwolves the only team with two players on that list in Collins and Towns.
Collins doesn't quite have marquee billing among casual fans, but his numbers say he probably should. He's been a walking double-double ever since Atlanta gave him enough minutes to become one, plus he's improving as both a three-point shooter (59 triples at a 40.1 percent clip this season) and rim protector (career-high 1.6 blocks per game).
Throw in the fact that he's done all of the above before his 23rd birthday, and he sounds more like an untouchable player than a realistic trade target. Yet he is extension eligible this offseason, and Atlanta might have "hesitation" about giving him "significant money," per The Athletic's Chris Kirschner. The Hawks also created some roster redundancies when swinging a deadline deal for Clint Capela, as both he and Collins are best rolling to the basket.
If Collins can be had, he could be close to a perfect frontcourt fit for Towns. The duo wouldn't be the best defensive combo the league has seen, but offensively, they could harmonize with one another or with Russell in two-man actions where the third serves as a spot-up sniper.
This trade assumes the Wolves would be willing to pay Collins major money, but if they think the fit is as good as it looks on paper, that should be an easy call. And if they see more potential in him than anyone in this draft, there shouldn't be much hesitation in letting go of the No. 1 pick to get him. Plus, they still bring back a future first to have another asset to play with.
The Hawks, who already hold the sixth overall pick, suddenly become arguably the biggest power broker in this draft. They could stand pat and add two more players to their young nucleus (Edwards and Isaac Okoro could be a home run package), or they could put one or both of the picks in a separate swap for more win-now help. Either way, Atlanta gains a big asset for a player it isn't sold on as a long-term keeper.
To Indiana for Victor Oladipo
Minnesota Timberwolves receive: Victor Oladipo
Indiana Pacers receive: James Johnson, Jarrett Culver, 2020 No. 1 pick
The Russell-Towns dynamic duo is a fascinating fit on paper, but why stop at two stars when you can build basketball's next Big Three?
If Oladipo can get healthy—a not insignificant if given he's managed just 55 regular-season appearances since the start of last season—he'd be perfect for this trio. The Wolves are desperate for his dogged, versatile defense, and his ability to play on or off the basketball would expand the offense's menu. The pick-and-roll (or pop) options are endless between him, Russell and Towns, and all three can create their own shot.
The last time Oladipo played a full season, he averaged 23.1 points per game. That matches Russell's career high, while Towns leads the trio at 26.5. Assuming Malik Beasley returns in free agency and keeps the flamethrower he brought to the Gopher State (20.7 points on 47.2/42.6/75.0 shooting over 14 games), the Wolves might have the foundation for a top-10 (or better) offense.
This comes down to Indiana's willingness to hear offers for Oladipo, and the Pacers could be more interested than you might think.
If he doesn't ink an extension this offseason—the Pacers floated a lowball four-year, $80 million offer before the season and talks "didn't progress much from there," per SNY's Ian Begley—Oladipo will be a free agent in 2021. If it takes max money to keep him, maybe Indy cuts bait, given his injury woes and the fact he really has only one season of top-shelf production.
The Pacers would surely receive other offers, but this would be tough to beat. The No. 1 pick might bring back Edwards, whose two-way potential looks a lot like Oladipo's current form, only he's bigger, younger and without the knee problems. Throw in Culver (last summer's sixth overall pick) and Johnson (functionally, an expiring $16 million salary), and this seems sufficient for a player with injury concerns and an uncertain future.
To Chicago for Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen
Minnesota Timberwolves receive: Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, 2020 No. 44 pick (via MEM)
Chicago Bulls receive: Jarrett Culver, James Johnson, 2020 No. 1 pick, 2020 No. 17 pick (via BRK)
Ever wondered what the Timberwolves would look like had they not cashed in their trade chips in the June 2017 trade for Jimmy Butler? Well, so has Zach LaVine.
"I think everybody wishes and wonders, 'What could have happened,'" LaVine said in March, per Jace Frederick of the Pioneer Press. "But that's how the NBA is, man. You could always hope and wish maybe that'll come back again, but you never know."
Since this is an expect-the-unexpected kind of league, why couldn't the Bulls and Timberwolves hammer out another blockbuster that partly reverses the first one? Minnesota is again looking for more win-now help than it has on the roster, and an overhauled Chicago organization might be the perfect team to supply it.
Do the Bulls' new decision-makers think LaVine is worth his $19.5 million salary? Are they prepared to stay patient with Markkanen after a disappointing campaign? Or would they prefer to remake this roster with three top-20 picks (their own landed at No. 4) and a recent lottery selection in Culver? A future built around, say, Anthony Edwards, Obi Toppin or Deni Avdija, Coby White and Wendell Carter Jr. could easily be more coveted than Chicago's present.
The Wolves would have major defensive questions, but they knew that would be the case as soon as they linked Towns and Russell together. Adding a dynamic shot-maker like LaVine (25.5 points per game) and potential three-level scorer in Markkanen could rocket this offense from bottom-third to top-five. If they bring Beasley back, there isn't a weak link in this attack.
Maybe Minnesota never turns into a true championship contender, but it could be an annual playoff participant and a tricky postseason matchup given all its firepower. The Wolves could stand pat and perhaps eventually elevate their ceiling that high, but there's no guarantee it happens, and even if it does, it might take longer than the 24-year-olds Towns and Russell want to wait.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.