NBA Draft 2024: Contending Timberwolves win big by hitting the lottery and landing Rob Dillingham

The first round of the 2024 NBA Draft brought plenty of trade activity, but despite all the buzz of veterans possibly switching 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 during the first 30 picks — Thursday’s second round kicks off at 4 p.m. ET — none of the deals more notable than Minnesota trading an unprotected 2031 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.

As the night started, Dillingham had as much interest as No. 5 Detroit, San Antonio at No. 8, Utah at No. 10 and Miami at No. 15, sources said. A rumor was circulating among league personnel that both the Heat and Timberwolves were considering moving up to No. 9 with Memphis, sources said, in order to trade for the Jazz. It turned out to be one spot sooner than the Timberwolves sending their only first-round pick left in the closet to get Dillingham. Minnesota will have access to its 2032 first-round pick once this draft is completed.

Rob Dillingham, right, poses for a photo with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after being selected by the San Antonio Spurs during the first round of the NBA basketball draft, Wednesday, June 26, 2024, in New York.  (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)Rob Dillingham, right, poses for a photo with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after being selected by the San Antonio Spurs during the first round of the NBA basketball draft, Wednesday, June 26, 2024, in New York.  (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

Rob Dillingham, right, poses for a photo with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after being selected in the first round of the NBA Draft on Wednesday, June 26, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

It’s a huge gamble that Dillingham will emerge as the optimal future running mate for Anthony Edwards in Minnesota’s backcourt once veteran table setter Mike Conley becomes too old for the Timberwolves’ contenders. Dillingham weighs just 164 pounds at 6-foot-1, causing several teams to worry about his size and ability to defend. But Dillingham’s physical profile is quite similar to that of Bones Hyland, the Clippers guard that Minnesota President Tim Connelly once drafted when he led the Denver Nuggets. And if there’s any roster that can make up for any shortcomings in defending Dillingham’s position, it’s this pesky, long Timberwolves unit that had the league’s best defense in the 2023-24 regular season. Minnesota did all that work while staying at No. 27, where the Timberwolves were still able to sign Illinois senior guard Terrence Shannon Jr. to land a microwave scorer under consideration, sources said, as high as Chicago at No. 11.

Where UConn center Donovan Clingan landed may have been the most intriguing subplot looming high in the first round. Rival executives thought Clingan was in line for Atlanta’s No. 1 pick, and then Clingan interviewed with San Antonio via Zoom over the weekend, Clingan confirmed to Yahoo Sports during Tuesday’s media availability in Manhattan.

All of that put Houston in position to answer trade calls from several teams about the No. 3 pick, most notably the Portland Trail Blazers, who had the seventh selection, and the Memphis Grizzlies, who went No. 9 in the draft. Because it was clear to Houston that Reed Sheppard would be on the board, the Rockets didn’t give teams much opportunity to trade that slot, sources said, as Houston had long targeted the Kentucky guard who played 52, 1% from three shot.

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

The Hornets discussed trading the No. 6 pick with both Portland and Memphis, sources said, with Charlotte on the clock. The Trail Blazers appeared to have been the Hornets’ preferred partner, as a large portion of league executives believed San Antonio was targeting 6-foot-4 forward Tidjane Salaun at No. 8. The French prospect shares an agent with Spurs star Victor Wembanyama. and Memphis’ No. 9 pick would have been a risk that Charlotte ultimately didn’t consider worth rolling the dice. So the Hornets got their guy in Salaun, and then Portland got Clingan.

Portland should be happy with landing Clingan without sacrificing any future draft capital. The Blazers had been chasing the 7-footer who anchored UConn’s national championship throughout the pre-draft cycle. It raises some questions about Portland’s crowded frontcourt, which already has Deandre Ayton and Robert Williams 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 and its staggering size.

Acquiring Avdija was also an interesting venture, as the Blazers acquired the 23-year-old forward in a move that eliminated Brogdon and put them under the luxury tax threshold. By trading Brodgon’s $22.5 million salary next season for Avdija’s new four-year, $55 million deal that starts in 2024-2025, Portland now drops about $1 million under the luxury tax. The Blazers have expressed interest in making the playoffs next season, but this wasn’t a selection that any front office would have thought was tax-worthy. And Avdija is a developing defenseman who has attracted interest from several contenders, to the point where Washington had told interested teams that it would take a few first-round picks to part ways with the Israeli forward. Avdija’s new contract is considered a valuable one by team strategists, especially if he can continue to improve during his fifth NBA season.

However, the price to save all that money and land an up-and-coming player was certainly high. Not only did Portland give Washington the No. 14 pick that became Pittsburgh’s Bub Carrington, but the Blazers also sent a 2029 first-round pick, plus second-rounders in 2028 and 2030. It’s quite a return for the Wizards considering Washington’s new front office under Michael Winger has done an absolute overhaul to the team’s roster and assets.

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 take the lead in the area just south of Brogdon’s dollar figure next season. Maybe the Magic will actually live up to the league-wide rumblings that they are interested in adding Jones, but they also have to consider the big payday coming up for Jalen Suggs.

Washington has picked up a significant amount of draft capital after dealing Bradley Beal to the Suns for the first time last summer. Landing a first-round pick for Daniel Gafford at the trade deadline was a win. Two for Avdija is a bigger point in the Wizards’ record. Maybe Kyle Kuzma will follow those veterans out the door. Sacramento had discussed some sort of framework to acquire Kuzma and convert the No. 13 pick into Washington’s No. 26 pick, sources said. If the Wizards’ package for Avdija is any indication, one can only suspect that Washington’s price for Kuzma will remain sky-high.

So many second-round picks were dealt Wednesday that it was hard to keep track. Denver traded three seconds, including the No. 56 pick in Thursday’s draft, sources said, to move up six slots from No. 28 to No. 22, selecting Dayton center DaRon Holmes II over Phoenix. A few slots later, OKC traded five second-round picks to New York between 2025 and 2027, sources said, to move toward the back end of the first round and take Dillon Jones out of Weber State.

That will set the tone for the second day of the NBA Draft on Thursday, where the Toronto Raptors will resume activity at No. 31. It will be interesting to see if teams will spend another premium on future seconds for one of the final two names left from the green room: Kyle Filipowksi of Duke and Johnny Furphy of Kansas. Another prospect still available who league staff believes could entice a team to move into an early second spot: former G League Ignite center Tyler Smith.