New Timberwolves center Walker Kessler is the reigning Naismith Defensive Player of the Year, and Tuesday as he and two of his fellow draftees, Wendell Moore and Josh Minott, fielded questions for the first time as teammates, Kessler was asked if defense was always his strong suit.
"That's a negative," Kessler said. "High school years, I didn't know what defense was. I was just a stretch big, skilled big, offensive player, that's all I did."
Kessler figured that out and became a first-round pick because of it. Kessler, Moore and Minott did a lot of shaking hands and showing off their new jerseys in the Target Center lobby as Wolves employees got an hour off work to come and cheer the newest members of the organization. It's the first time the Wolves have been able to hold a post-draft event like this since the pandemic, in part because they didn't have any draft picks a season ago.
Now the hard part begins. It's a draft class President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly and coach Chris Finch are not burdening with expectations to immediately contribute.
For the 7-1 Kessler, the 22nd overall pick from Auburn, he will work on adapting his defensive game to the NBA and learning how to improve his 20% shooting from three-point range at the college line.
"I've really been focusing on the mechanics of it," Kessler said. "I got away from that and the structure of it. I've had a lot of inconsistencies with my shot. Just being able to rep out that form, I feel pretty good about it."
Sitting to Kessler's left was Moore, the Duke forward who was the 26th overall pick.
Moore struggled in his first two seasons with the Blue Devils but took off in year three when he helped lead Duke to a Final Four appearance.
"This past year I was just a lot more confident in my game," Moore said. "My teammates I had around me obviously made it easier to step in there. Just putting it all together. The game kind of slowed down for me. I was able to play it at my own speed."
Moore improved his three-point shooting from 30% to 41% in his junior season, with Finch saying Moore is a player who can complement other great players well. That can be his value to a team with a core of Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards and D'Angelo Russell.
"Some players are built to be the guy and some players play better when there's better players around them because the things that they do don't translate on a score sheet," Finch said. "They can fill in a lot of cracks. I think we love his playmaking and he can be a heck of a secondary playmaker for us. … We feel he's somebody that can grow into a high-level two-way player."
Finch also sees a lot he can work with on offense with Kessler.
"He came in and had a shooting workout for us, shot it extremely well," Finch said. "… He has great hands. I was watching some film and he catches a lot of really tough passes. He does a good job of keeping the ball up high and finishing."
Not on the stage was the 50th overall pick, Matteo Spagnolo, who will remain in Italy. But the Wolves' selection at 45, Minott, who went to college at Memphis, was. Minott will join Kessler and Moore at Summer League in Las Vegas, where fans will get to see them together in action for the first of what the Wolves hope is many times.
"Everyone dreams about this," Minott said. "I don't want to get here and be happy with that. I want to get some accolades, some championships, and just really create a name and a franchise to remember."