2024 NBA Draft: Contending Timberwolves swing big by moving into lottery, landing Rob Dillingham (2024)

The first round of the 2024 NBA Draft brought plenty of trade activity, but for all the league-wide buzz of veterans possibly moving teams, only Deni Avdija and Malcolm Brodgdon will be wearing new uniforms after Wednesday night’s events. A total of six first-round picks ultimately changed hands throughout the first 30 picks —Thursday’s second round begins at 4 p.m. ET — none of the deals more noteworthy than Minnesota trading a 2031 unprotected first-round pick, plus a top-1 protected 2030 first-round pick swap, league sources told Yahoo Sports, in exchange for San Antonio’s No. 8 pick and the right to select Kentucky guard Rob Dillingham.

Entering the night, Dillingham had interest as high as No. 5 from Detroit, San Antonio at No. 8, Utah at No. 10 and Miami at No. 15, sources said. There was word circulating among league personnel that both the Heat and Timberwolves were considering moves up to No. 9 with Memphis, sources said, in order to trade in front of the Jazz. It proved to be one spot sooner the Timberwolves sent their only first-round pick left in the cupboard to go get Dillingham. Minnesota will get access to its 2032 first-rounder once this draft concludes.

2024 NBA Draft: Contending Timberwolves swing big by moving into lottery, landing Rob Dillingham (1)

It’s a massive gamble that Dillingham will grow into the optimal future running mate for Anthony Edwards in Minnesota’s backcourt once veteran table-setter Mike Conley ages out of the Timberwolves’ contending window. Dillingham weighs just 164 pounds at 6-foot-1, leaving various teams with concerns about his size and ability to defend. But Dillingham’s physical profile stands quite similar to that of Bones Hyland, the Clippers guard whom Minnesota president Tim Connelly once drafted when he was piloting the Denver Nuggets. And if there’s a roster that could compensate for any shortcomings guarding Dillingham’s position, it’s this nasty, long Timberwolves unit that boasted the league’s best defense over the 2023-24 regular season. Minnesota did all that work while staying at No. 27, where the Timberwolves were still able to land Illinois senior guard Terrence Shannon Jr., a microwave scorer who was under consideration, sources said, as high as Chicago at No. 11.

Donovan Clingan sweepstakes

Where UConn center Donovan Clingan landed was arguably the most intriguing subplot looming through the top of the first round. Rival executives believed Clingan was under consideration for Atlanta’s No. 1 pick, and then Clingan interviewed with San Antonio over Zoom last weekend, Clingan confirmed to Yahoo Sports during Tuesday’s media availability in Manhattan.

All that positioned Houston to field trade calls from various teams about the No. 3 pick, from most notably the Portland Trail Blazers, who held the seventh selection, and the Memphis Grizzlies, who entered the draft at No. 9. But once it was clear to Houston that Reed Sheppard would be on the board, the Rockets didn’t give teams much opportunity to trade into that slot, sources said, as Houston had long targeted the Kentucky guard who shot 52.1% from three this past season.

After Stephon Castle, Clingan’s point guard with the Huskies, proved to be San Antonio’s guy at No. 4, there was plenty of speculation in corners of the league that Detroit would simply take Clingan and deal him to the highest bidder. Instead, the Pistons swung big on G League Ignite guard Ron Holland — perhaps the biggest surprise of the entire draft — leaving Charlotte in strong position to engage with both the Blazers and Grizzlies.

The Hornets discussed trading down from that No. 6 slot with both Portland and Memphis, sources said, as Charlotte was on the clock. The Trail Blazers seemed to have been the Hornets’ preferred partner, as a good portion of league executives believed San Antonio was targeting 6-foot-9 forward Tidjane Salaun at No. 8. The French prospect shares an agent with Spurs centerpiece Victor Wembanyama, and Memphis’ No. 9 pick would have been a risk Charlotte didn’t ultimately feel was worth rolling the dice over. So the Hornets got their guy in Salaun, and then Portland got Clingan.

Blazers’ big night

Portland has to be thrilled about landing Clingan without having to sacrifice any future draft capital. The Blazers had pursued the 7-footer who anchored UConn’s national championship throughout this entire pre-draft cycle. It presents some questions about Portland’s crowded frontcourt with Deandre Ayton and Robert Williams already on the roster, but there are plenty of scouts and NBA talent evaluators who believe Clingan presents All-Defense-worthy intangibles, in addition to his fluidity at his staggering size.

Acquiring Avdija was an interesting piece of business as well, as the Blazers landed the 23-year-old forward in a move that sent out Brogdon and got them under the luxury tax threshold. By swapping Brodgon’s $22.5 million salary for next season in favor of Avdija’s new four-year, $55 million deal that begins in 2024-25, that now leaves Portland roughly $1 million under the luxury tax. The Blazers have projected an interest to compete for the playoffs next season, but this was not a roster that any front office would have felt was tax-worthy. And Avdija has been a developing defender who’s drawn interest from various contenders, to the point Washington had been telling interested teams it would take a pair of first-round picks to part with the Israeli forward. Avdija’s new deal is considered a value contract by team strategists, particularly if he can continue to improve during his fifth NBA season.

The price to save all that money and land a rising player, however, was surely steep. Not only did Portland hand Washington the No. 14 pick that became Bub Carrington out of Pittsburgh, but the Blazers also sent a 2029 first-round pick, plus second-rounders in 2028 and 2030. It’s quite the return for the Wizards, as Washington’s new front office under Michael Winger has done absolute surgery to the team’s roster and assets.

What’s next in Washington?

League personnel believe the Wizards will be able to find trade value for Brogdon this season, but how long he remains on Washington’s roster could put veteran point guard Tyus Jones in a curious position. Jones will be an unrestricted free agent and is expected to command in the neighborhood just south of Brogdon’s dollar figure for next season. Perhaps the Magic will actually deliver on the league-wide rumblings they harbor interest in adding Jones, but they also have to consider the large payday that’s coming for Jalen Suggs, too.

Washington has netted some significant draft capital after first dealing Bradley Beal to the Suns last summer. Landing a first-round pick for Daniel Gafford at the trade deadline was a win. Two for Avdija is a bigger bullet point on the Wizards’ dossier. Maybe Kyle Kuzma will follow those veterans out the door. Sacramento had discussed some type of framework to acquire Kuzma and flip the No. 13 pick for Washington’s No. 26, sources said. If the Wizards’ package for Avdija is any indication, one can only suspect Washington’s price for Kuzma is going to stay sky high.

Second-round picks galore

There were so many second-rounders dealt Wednesday, it was difficult to keep track. Denver traded three seconds, including the No. 56 in Thursday’s draft, sources said, to move up six slots from No. 28 to No. 22, and select Dayton center DaRon Holmes II by way of Phoenix. A few slots later, OKC traded five second-round picks between 2025 and 2027 to New York, sources said, in order to move into the back of the first round and land Dillon Jones out of Weber State.

That will set the tone for Thursday’s second day of the NBA Draft, where the Toronto Raptors will resume activity at No. 31. It will be interesting to see if any teams splurge another bounty of future seconds for either of the last two names remaining from the green room: Duke’s Kyle Filipowksi and Kansas’ Johnny Furphy. Another prospect still available that league personnel believe could entice a team to trade into the early second: former G League Ignite center Tyler Smith.

2024 NBA Draft: Contending Timberwolves swing big by moving into lottery, landing Rob Dillingham (2024)
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