July 12, 2024

T-wolves jump in for Dillingham and draft exonerated Shannon, after Blazers go big with Clingan

Donovan Clingan walks across the stage after being selected by the Portland Trail Blazers as the seventh pick during the first round of the NBA basketball draft, Wednesday, June 26, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

By DAVE CAMPBELL AP Sports Writer

The Minnesota Timberwolves were committed to keeping their core together, coming off a trip to the Western Conference finals and in no position to enhance the roster through free agency or trades.

They got that done in the NBA draft Wednesday night, jumping in to get Kentucky guard Rob Dillingham after a trade with San Antonio for the eighth overall pick and finishing a productive first round by selecting Illinois guard Terrence Shannon Jr. at No. 27.

Seeking more scoring off the bench, particularly through shot creation and a faster pace of play, the Timberwolves found a promising backup point guard in Dillingham without giving up any current assets and snagged a dynamic scorer in Shannon with the pick they started the draft with.

The trade two years ago for Rudy Gobert depleted their supply of future first-round picks, and high-dollar contracts for Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns and the others on down has thrust the Timberwolves well above the salary cap and deep into the luxury tax.

“We think we have a chance. We’re at the big table, so it’s not time to get scared now,” president of basketball operations Tim Connelly said. “I don’t how we can add this level of talent via trades unless we want to give up core guys.”

For Dillingham, who’s still 19, the Timberwolves agreed to send a 2031 first-round draft pick and make a swap of first-rounders in 2030 with the Spurs, who had a pick to burn for future resources after taking UConn’s Stephon Castle at No. 4.

Despite being undersized at 6-foot-1 and 164 pounds, Dillingham is a proven scorer with an average of 15.2 points in 23.3 minutes per game for the Wildcats. He shot 44.4% from 3-point range.

“He’s a guy who, from day one, is going to have a role and a responsibility. Certainly it’s going to be hard for him, but I don’t think you’re that aggressive in the top 10 with a guy you don’t think can play right away,” Connelly said.

Shannon’s stellar final season with the Illini — he was the MVP of the Big Ten Tournament, among other accolades — was overshadowed by a pending rape charge in Kansas. He was found not guilty two weeks ago after a jury spent less than two hours deliberating the verdict.

The Portland Trail Blazers went big — literally, with the selection of Donovan Clingan from two-time national champion Connecticut at No. 7 overall. The 7-foot-2 shot-altering stud averaged 13 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game last season for the Huskies, expanding his offensive skills to complement his dominant defense.

Clingan dedicated his night to his mother, Stacey Clingan, who died of breast cancer at age 42 in 2018.

“I’ve got my mom over here on my side at all times,” Clingan said. “She’s looking down at me. She’s smiling, and I know she’s proud.”

Other draft details across the Northwest Division:

Portland Trail Blazers

Needs: Height, after ranking last in the league in rim protection last season. Their small forward spot was unsettled with Shaedon Sharpe injured.

Drafted: Donovan Clingan, Connecticut center, with the No. 7 pick in the first round.

Comparison: Clingan could track toward Gobert, the four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Needs: A future replacement for 17-year veteran point guard Mike Conley. More offense from the perimeter off the bench.

Drafted: Rob Dillingham, Kentucky guard, No. 8 pick in the first round after a trade with San Antonio. Terrence Shannon Jr., Illinois guard, No. 27 pick in the first round.

Comparisons: Dillingham profiles like Toronto’s Immanuel Quickley. Shannon could produce like Philadelphia’s Kelly Oubre Jr.

Utah Jazz

Needs: An athletic wing who can make plays on both ends of the floor and bolster a porous group that ranked last in the NBA last season in defensive rating (119.6).

Drafted: Cody Williams, Colorado forward, No. 10 pick in the first round. Isaiah Collier, USC guard, No. 29 pick in the first round.

Comparisons: Williams resembles Portland’s Jerami Grant. He is the first freshman from Colorado to be drafted, boasting enough length to effectively guard multiple positions. He’s also a dynamic scorer and deft ballhandler who can attack the rim and play at the fast pace coach Will Hardy prefers. Collier has similarities to Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox, a strong and dynamic point guard who can handle the ball well and make plays in traffic.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Needs: The Thunder had their rebounding deficiencies exposed by Dallas in the Western Conference semifinals and recently traded their best rebounding guard, Josh Giddey, to Chicago. They also have a centerpiece in Chet Holmgren who is slender and plays more like a wing despite his 7-foot-1 frame.

Drafted: Nikola Topic, Serbia guard, No. 12 pick in the first round. Dillon Jones, Weber State forward, No. 26 pick in the first round after a trade with New York.

Comparison: Topic could be the next Giddey. With good size at 6-foot-6 and strong court vision, Topic does most of his damage with dribble penetration. He’ll need to improve his 3-point shot, but his first priority is rehabilitation. The 18-year-old suffered a left ACL injury last month, and it’s unclear when he’ll be ready to play. Topic’s dad, Milenko Topic, was on Yugoslavia’s silver-medal winning 1996 Olympic team. Jones profiles like Utah’s Talen Horton-Tucker.

Denver Nuggets

Needs: A backup for three-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokic, who routinely logs major minutes. The Nuggets often struggled with offensive production when Jokic was off the floor.

Drafted: DaRon Holmes II, Dayton center, No. 22 pick in the first round after a proposed trade with Phoenix for the No. 28 and No. 56 selections and two future second-round picks.

Comparison: Holmes resembles Minnesota’s Naz Reid. Holmes is strong defensively around the rim and a capable passer, shooter, and rebounder and can score from the perimeter.