The Timberwolves started draft night with a first-round pick. They finished it with two.
Chairman Tim Connelly moved down and then up the draft board on Thursday night as he made his first draft with Wolves an eventful one.
As the Wolves came in at 19th overall, they struck a deal with the Grizzlies to drop back in the draft and take the 22nd and 29th picks from Memphis, but weren’t done with it.
Wolves kept the first of those picks and selected Auburn center Walker Kessler at No. 22, but before they could pick No. 29, Connelly made another deal with Houston for No. 26 and selected Wendell Moore of Duke.
Wolves traded the No.19 after selecting Wake Forest striker Jake LaRavia for the Grizzlies and also sent a 2023 second-round pick as part of the deal. In trade with Houston, which had previously acquired the No. 26 from Dallas, Wolves dealt the No. 29 and two future second-round picks.
With their first pick, Wolves went for size and a potential rim protector in Kessler, who played a big part in Auburn’s season in which the Tigers earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Kessler was the Naismith National Defensive Player of the Year.
Wolves could use a rim protector and waist in the frontcourt and they got some from Kessler, who was known for his ability to protect the rim and block shots. Kessler is renowned for his ability to block shots. Kessler shot 4.6 per game in his only season at Auburn following his transfer from North Carolina.
Last season, Wolves played a defensive scheme that required center Karl-Anthony Towns to be on the perimeter to cover screens and keep players along the perimeter. Players would then rush behind towns to keep the edge. Kessler could help them keep the rim if he can contribute right away.
Connelly said a priority for Wolves this offseason is to add rebounds to their roster after finishing last season as the third-worst team in defensive rebound percentage. Kessler averaged 8.1 rebounds per game and 11.4 points. He shot 61% from the field but only shot 20% on 1.5 three-point attempts per game.
In Moore, Wolves acquire a wing that blossomed in his third season at Duke after struggling in his first two. Moore averaged 13.4 points as he helped Duke reach the Final Four. Moore improved his three-point shooting 30% to 41% from his second in his junior season.
Moore earned high marks from draft evaluators for his ability to play on and off the ball and could score the dribble. He was also a solid defender who could hold multiple positions. Wolves are betting Moore can continue to progress from his freshman year while overcoming what some analysts see as a lack of athleticism.
At first, the draft was silent on trades, as the top 10 picks all remained with the teams that selected them. Wolves did not sit idly by as the trade began soon after. However, point guard D’Angelo Russell, whose status was trade rumored later, was still on Wolves’ roster as the draft took place on Thursday, the first major window for trades in the offseason.