Wolves select Leonard Miller after making a trade to the Spurs in the NBA draft

The Timberwolves didn’t just sit on their hands and wait for the draft with the 53rd pick Thursday night.

After trying for a while to move into a slot earlier in the draft, the Wolves, who didn’t have a first-round pick as a result of last year’s Rudy Gobert deal, executed a deal for the Spurs’ No. 33 pick and . He picked Leonard Miller of the G League Ignite with this selection.

In the deal, the Wolves sent the Spurs two future second-round picks—a 2026 second player they acquired from Utah in a three-team D’Angelo Russell deal and their 2028 second-round pick.

With the 53rd pick, the Wolves selected guard Jaylen Clark out of UCLA. Clark played three seasons and averaged 13 points and six rebounds last season before an Achilles injury ended his season in March.

Miller is a 19-year-old, 6-10 210-pound forward, forward from Toronto whose body type and ability to rebound and defend were attractive to the Wolves. He averaged 18 points and 11 rebounds last season for Ignite, which allows young NBA prospects to play against G League competition instead of players who attend college for one season. He shot 33% from three-point range and 55% from the field. Miller was teammates with guard Scott Henderson, who finished third overall to Portland.

His shot will need work, but the Wolves are like him in terms of size and athleticism, especially on the defensive end. Team president Tim Connelly couldn’t speak directly about Miller because the trade wasn’t official at the time he addressed the media early Friday morning, but he did speak generally about how evaluating young players in the G-League could help them develop in the MLS. for professionals.

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“League J is probably among the top six teams in the world,” Connelly said. “We think those numbers translate. If said prospect is an elite rebounder, they generally translate. Bouncing back is one skill that keeps coming up. If we’re lucky enough to get a player like that, that would be intriguing.”

Connelly can comment publicly on Clark, who is known for his defensive abilities and was considered one of the best perimeter defenders in college basketball last season.

“We’ve had a high first-round score all year,” said Connelly. “Unfortunately, he’s had an injury. We believe there is no better recruiting wing-back. He brings the aggression, toughness and intelligence that allows people like that to do so. We’re very excited to add him. He’s a no-brainer physical. We’re going to be very patient with him. Before the injury we thought That guy was an easy first-round pick.”

There has been no set timeline for when Clark will be ready to resume basketball activities. Clark’s side speed helps him protect multiple positions, and he averages 2.6 steals per game. He was Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.

“You don’t have to watch a lot of videos to see the way this guy locks people up defensively,” Connelly said. “He’s a great positioning size, an excellent rebounder. We think he’s a budding shooter. Very smart, very strong, and just an incredibly competitive guy.”

Connelly also said he admired Clarke sticking with the program and still developing as a player despite not getting the minutes he might have sought in his first two seasons.

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“We kind of like these self-taught guys,” Connelly said.

On Wednesday, Connelly said there was no close agreement for the Coyotes to move to earlier territories from the draft, but he already expected the recent first-round and early second-round picks to be up for grabs.

The Wolves made their move early, committed to the trade late in the first round, and hoped one of their targets was still around.

With Wolves facing a luxury tax this season and possibly overrunning it for the foreseeable future, they will need young talent on relatively cheap contracts to contribute. Second-round touchdown players allow the Coyotes to put more cost control into a prospect’s contract than draft him late in the first round, where salaries are decided.

“We came out of a bunch of first-round picks, so we’ll probably be a little bit more aggressive in trying to find guys who are maybe a year ago, or guys who’ve slipped through injury, for example, like Jaylen,” Connelly said. . “I don’t think we can just follow a lot of trends. I think we have to be creative and kind of endure.”

The Wolves didn’t have a first-round pick for the second time in three seasons and they won’t have one in 2025, 2027 and possibly 2029. Last season, they had two and selected Duke guard Wendell Moore Jr. and center Obern Walker Kessler, who went to Utah as part of a trade Gobert then finished third in Rookie of the Year voting for the season.

The Wolves handed the 16th pick to Utah this season, and with that the Jazz selected Baylor guard Keyonte George.

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