NBA

The Timberwolves Conducted Over 1,000 Interviews Before Picking Anthony Edwards No. 1 in the 2020 NBA Draft

It wasn’t long ago that the Minnesota Timberwolves showed promise with a young core of Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins and Jimmy Butler’s veteran leadership. However, after the 2017 playoffs, the team struggled to meet expectations. After trading Wiggins and hitting reset, luck handed the Timberwolves another No. 1 draft pick. They did everything in their power to ensure they didn’t botch the opportunity. 

Entering the draft process

The Timberwolves were a disappointment. After letting go of Tom Thibodeau the prior year, the team hoped Ryan Saunders could offset the damage done by Butler’s loud departure and the issues the team had with its former coach. However, Wiggins never fully lived up to his expectations as a Timberwolf, and Towns sometimes looked alone out on the court. 

The team made some midseason moves, trading away Wiggins for a young All-Star D’Angelo Russell. The team missed out on going to the Orlando Bubble and had lots of time to prepare for what was sure to be a great draft pick. They had an excellent duo to build off of but needed to bolster their depth to compete. 

As luck would have it, the team had good luck at the 2020 Draft lottery, and with the No. 1 overall pick of the draft, the team had all the makings of a successful offseason. 

A strange draft process 

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The COVID-19 outbreak inarguably affected the season in many ways. While other teams had a four-month suspension before finishing in Orlando, the season was over for Minnesota. Usually, that’s a two-month process in which they bring in draft prospects, interview potential players, and even out their roster based on everything they see. 

The pandemic changed everything. The draft, which usually occurs in June, was moved to November. Players could meet with teams, but workouts in a typical setting were frowned upon. However, while the teams had to rely more on tape than in-person data, NBA draft consultant Chris Ekstrand explained how the extra time could be an advantage despite the lack of March Madness to highlight players. He told NBA.com:

It’s a situation of expansion and contraction … There’s been a huge expansion in the amount of time teams have had to prepare. The contraction would be, well, we did not have the NCAA tournament; we did not have a 5-on-5 combine. There are a lot of components of it that we haven’t had.

… If you’re a team that has a lottery pick, you could watch every minute of every game that a guy ever has played and go through everything with a fine-toothed comb. But there has been a reduction in the events that you’ve been able to see.”

With that in mind, the Timberwolves went into overdrive to ensure they made the right pick, details The New York Times. They created a database of every draftable player through 1,000 interviews with players, coaches, and other personnel from across the country. They placed the players in 50 categories ranging from their talent to mentality. Finally, when the draft started, they were ready to make their pick. 

Who did the Timberwolves pick? 

Now-Timberwolf Anthony Edwards
Anthony Edwards gestures to the crowd | Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

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The Timberwolves will enter the new season looking much different than before. Aside from bringing back longtime point guard Ricky Rubio, who spent the last two seasons in Utah and Phoenix, they bolstered their depth. However, all eyes were on the pick. When everything was considered, from the interviews to analytical breakdowns, the team chose Anthony Edwards. 

A shooting guard out of Georgia, Edwards helps boost the Timberwolves backcourt next to D’Angelo Russell while taking some attention off Towns. Time will tell if the pick works out, but given everything the Timberwolves did, it’s safe to say they did their homework.