Timberwolves wheel and deal, select Auburn center Walker Kessler and Duke's Wendell Moore in first round of NBA Draft - Twin Cities

Timberwolves wheel and deal, select Auburn center Walker Kessler and Duke’s Wendell Moore in first round of NBA Draft – Twin Cities

Tim Connelly wheeled and dealed in his first NBA Draft as Timberwolves president of basketball operations. In the end, Connelly turned what was one first-round pick – No. 19 – into the reigning national defensive player of the year and a two-way wing out of Duke.

Minnesota nabbed Auburn center Walker Kessler at No. 22 and Duke wing Wendell Moore at No. 26 on a busy first night of real action for the Timberwolves’ basketball boss in Thursday’s NBA Draft.

“A fun night. You never know how these nights are going to go. I feel like we got better. The staff was amazing. They were so, so, so good, ”Connelly said. “A lot of movement. Who knows if this was a good or great night. But we felt like we got pieces that fit here culturally and hopefully can make us a better team. ”

The Timberwolves had one clear weakness bite them in key moments of their first-round playoff loss to Memphis: They couldn’t rebound. Kessler can perhaps serve as a piece of duct tape for that hole.

At 7-foot-1, 245 pounds, Kessler is an imposing defensive presence in the paint. He led all of Division I basketball with 155 blocked shots en route to claiming national defensive player of the year honors. Kessler, who will be 21 years old next month, averaged 11.4 points and 8.1 rebounds last season as a sophomore for the Tigers. He showed the nimbleness necessary to defend at all levels and also was a strong finisher around the rim.

The selection of Kessler suggests Minnesota is serious about its willingness to play Karl-Anthony Towns at power forward, at least at times. Towns has operated in that type of role alongside certain other Wolves forwards in the past but rarely alongside a true center such as Kessler.

The pick is a pivot from the Gersson Rosas regime, in which Towns was rarely placed alongside even a legitimate power forward. Playing Towns at power forward takes defensive pressure off the all-star forward in certain matchups and could shore up Minnesota’s rebounding issues.

At the same time, centers often come along slowly in the NBA, so Kessler’s true impact may not be felt immediately. It seems unlikely he’ll start at center as a rookie, but he does seem like a good bet to serve as the Wolves’ backup center, likely with some minutes played next to Towns.

Minnesota acquired the pick by trading its No. 19 pick, along with a future second-round pick, to Memphis in exchange for picks No. 22 and No. 29 in Thursday’s draft. The Wolves then moved No. 29 to Houston in exchange for No. 26 and a pair of future second-round picks. Minnesota entered the night with a healthy allotment of picks in the cupboard, which allowed the team to be aggressive to grab a couple players from a range of the draft in which the Wolves and other teams felt there was depth.

Moore was a three-year player at Duke, with his 3-point percentage rising each year to where he shot 41 percent from deep as a junior. He also averaged 5.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists, displaying some playmaking chops. Moore is a well-rounded player who is an apt defender and could contribute early in his NBA career.

And in a league where wings win, the Wolves were able to add a depth piece behind the likes of Jaden McDaniels and Anthony Edwards – the latter was working out at the team facility during the draft Thursday.

The selections of Kessler and Moore show a commitment for Minnesota to the defensive end, adding to a roster that largely featured offense-first players as recently as last season.

“There’s no perfect teams, but you try to say, ‘Do we have enough shooters, enough playmakers, enough rim protectors?’ So the certain areas that we thought we got better at this evening, certain things that maybe we kind of lacked prior to this evening, ”Connelly said. “Only time will tell. You’re trying to be honest and self-critical of where you are and hopefully we addressed some of those needs this evening. ”

The Wolves continued to deal in the second round, ending up with Memphis forward Josh Minott – who didn’t play big minutes as a freshman for the Tigers, but does have big upside with his athleticism and motor – and 19-year-old Italian guard Matteo Spagnolo, who will stay overseas for at least the next season, Connelly said Thursday.

Briefly

Breck city David Roddy was selected No. 23 overall by Memphis, making him the second Minnesotan drafted in the first round, behind Chet Holmgren, who went No. 2 overall to Oklahoma City. Former East Ridge wing Kendall Brown was selected by Indiana with the 48th pick – a selection the Pacers acquired from Minnesota via trade.

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