Draft Talk, Take 1

In this late juncture of the too-long NBA regular season and with the Wolves’ absence from the Race for the 8 Seed, we’re going to begin talking some DRAFT.  We’ll try to make this a weekly series but as with all things Punch-Drunk Wolves, that’s subject to change based on, well, whatever we feel like doing.  In any case, here’s Draft Talk, take 1.

Best Fit, or Best Player Available?

Andy G: It’s a common question faced by teams of any professional sport that drafts players: Do we draft a player that fills a need, or do we draft whoever we’ve pegged as the best player available, regardless of position or fit?  In 2011 — the last time the Wolves had a lottery pick — this was a pressing question as there was a perfect storm of clear-cut “best player available” (only he wasn’t, but who’s counting?) that played precisely the same position as the Wolves’ All-Star and best player.  Of course I’m talking about Derrick Williams.  It’s been mostly a disaster with D-Thrill because a) he can’t play anything except the 4; and b) he’s not even that good at the 4.  Looking back, the Wolves woulda been better off going purely for need and drafting or trading down for a wing like Kawhi Leonard or Klay Thompson.  Oh well.

The Wolves remain without talented wing players.  They have a good point guard, a good power forward, and — assuming he is re-signed — a good center.  Do they absolutely have to draft a wing in the 2013 lottery, or what?

Patrick J: No. I mean, it depends, really. Let’s pretend for a moment that they get lucky in the Lottery and end up with the #1 pick overall. Or even that they move up anywhere in the top-3. In those cases, you swing for the fences if you believe a star is available and sort out the positional deathmatches later. In the lower lottery – where I expect us to be – you’re in more of a grey zone. This is where the smart GMs end up with guys like Paul George or Greg Monroe. (Okay, I’m using Monroe to make a point – Dumars has made so many good and bad moves over the years that he’s clearly neither Robert Langdon or Forrest Gump. Casting Tom Hanks in separate high-profile films both as one of the smartest and dumbest men alive remains a stroke of Hollywould genius.)

So, what if there’s no George or Monroe available? Drafting for need starts to make lots of sense. You fill gaps. You get better. You win more games. You have better chemistry ‘cause there are fewer ongoing deathmatches that you helped create. Eventually, you escape being in Lotto Purgatory for the rest of the 20-teens. You might even keep your job.

That’s my generic philosophy. It isn’t particularly controversial.

Here’s the thing. The Wolves – whether it be McHale, Kahn, or some bizarro AdelKahn combo – have done a terrible job at job at determining which of those two worlds they’re in. I guess they got the best player available in the Love trade, but that was far from obvious at the time and it seemed like McHale was drafting on ManCrush alone, Al Jefferson be damned. When David Kahn grabbed the wheel in 2009, he got the BPA and then the WPA (worst player available) at the same position – not a position of need despite Rubio’s buyout situation, given the bevy of pg talent still on the board and attainable lower. When they managed to luck into #2, everyone was playing it safe in saying Williams was the obvious choice. And I think they thought (and I include me in “they”) they’d be getting the best of both worlds, that is to say, both the BPA and a guy who could fill a position of need at SF (boy were we wrong on both accounts).

What do you do if you never get it right?

In the Wolves’ case, you pray for Ben McLemore. And then you say more hail marys. And then some more. As Williams showed, no one is an NBA lock based on a limited college sample, but McLemore looks as close to the business as I’ve seen in a while. And he plays the wing. He’s pretty much the anti-Wes Johnson and that’s a very good thing.

What you do also depends on what you’re going to do with impending Kahntracts, particularly Pek’s and Bud’s. Are those guys around? If not, you’ve suddenly got a worse roster, AND more specific needs to be filled. Do you puke in your mouth, grimace, swallow it back down, and go with ALEX LEN(!) a few slots higher than you would’ve otherwise if re-signing Pek isn’t going to be feasible? God help us. That said, the answer might be yes if you can also pick up a decent wing and have a serviceable, balanced squad around Rubio, Love, Shved, and others who figure to be around.

Drafting for need should always be a last resort except in the rarest of circumstances, but for this team this year it might make sense. We’ll have to keep an eye on those ping-pong balls. (Oh yeah, we can’t, because of the totally non-transparent process that David Kahn awkwardly accused the NBA of rigging on their live Lottery telecast. Good times.)

Andy G: My take on this issue, this year, is pretty simple: I do not want the Wolves to Kahnvince themselves that they can — or should — look for instant three-point shooting help in a 19 or 20-year old rookie.  Even McLemore.  I’d obviously love to get McLemore and he’s the obvious pick if the Wolves finally win that lotto.  But that’s because he’s also BPA material.  Rookies in the league these days just don’t have the NBA range figured.  It takes a few years.  So if they want to fill a need with a wing and they draft a Victor Oladipo or somebody else, fine.  Just don’t be doing it with the idea that his college three-point stats will immediately carry over to the pro game.  That’s an eye test thing all the way, and it’s rare.  There was J.J. Redick at Duke and Steph Curry at Davidson.  Not many others that you could watch play college ball and know you had an immediate impact shooter behind the NBA three-point line.  Let’s move on, because I’m belaboring this point.

McLemore, Noel, and…

Andy G: For a long while now, experts’ draft boards have been led by Ben McLemore of Kansas (currently #1 on Chad Ford’s, #2 on Jonathan Givony’s) and Nerlens Noel of Kentucky (#2 on ESPN, #1 on DX).  McLemore is a (redshirt) freshman with a silky smooth jumper that has RANGE.  (McLemore hits 43.4% of threes in high volume.)  He’s drawing Ray Allen comps.  Noel is a COACH CAL recruit with Anthony Davis qualities, but also a torn ACL. (Insert “He’ll fit in perfectly on the Wolves.” joke here.)  He has a flat-top that — by next NBA season anyway — will put Kid n Play to shame.

Is this the draft’s “top tier,” or should anyone be added to or subtracted from the list?

Patrick J: So a few guys are potentially in this convo; I’m thinking Otto Porter of G’Town, Shabazz Muhammed of UCLA, and Punch-Drunk Wolves’ favorite sleeper, Anthony Bennett of UNLV. I could easily be persuaded that Victor Oladipo of Indiana also belongs in this discussion, but I’m not quite there yet. I’d put these three (or four) guys in a “Tier-2” by themselves. Only Bennett, a bruiser whose talent seems to place his NBA prospects somewhere between Charles Barkley and MICHAEL SWEETNEY(!) – seems duplicative with the front line I expect us to have, though Porter might fall into that category as well. To me, Porter is the least impressive of this bunch, at least from a scouting/observational perspective. I’ve seen enough of him here in the DC area to be convinced that he WON’T be a special NBA player, though he may become a fairly solid, upper-upper-level glue guy.

So my final rankings, right now, for the Wolves would be:

1. McLemore – By a mile. I’m in love with this kid.
2. Noel (with or without Pek, with or without a functioning knee, and even with or without his bitchin’ flat top, this kid is a bigtime prospect you don’t pass up at #2)
3. Muhammed – Far from sold on his jumper, but like his NBA body much better than, say, Oladipo’s
4. Bennett – Hell, I just really like this kid. It’s an upside pick even if Kirlenko doesn’t opt out.
5. Porter – I’d probably trade down here, or think very hard about Oladipo if he’s still on the board. This is where need versus projected BPA gets very blurry.

Andy G: Noel is what he is at this point.  Unless we read that they cut open the wrong knee in surgery, he’s a Top-2 Pick in this draft.  So is McLemore but shit man, we’re just getting into this college season like every other hoops fan with good sense.  I’ll be catching more Kansas and the rest in the coming weeks.  As Roger Dodger would say, “Believe me, it is EARLY.”  So I’m not putting “final” on anything other than Nerlens Noel because we have no choice.

But I’m with you there, pretty much.  I like the look of Bennett because of his combination of rebounding and perimeter shooting.  Unlike, say Derrick Williams, his sweet shooting stats look SUSTAINABLE! because he has great shooting fundamentals.  He has some real Kevin Love qualities and if the Wolves are picking at #6 or #7 he’s worth a look.

I’ll leave you and readers with a scary proposition:

If Pek gets HIS SELF a big offer sheet — let’s say something like 4 years $52 Million from VULCAN — I wouldn’t be shocked to see Taylor Corp. convince itself that it can let him go and replace him with… you guessed it:

CODY ZELLER!

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Draft Talk, Take 1

  1. Nathan Anderson

    I humbly request that statements such as “[I] like his NBA body much better than [player X]” be banned from T-wolves draft discussions until the reign of Kahn is over. Gave me chills.

  2. In my opinion pek has not proven himself to be the 4 year 54 million dollar type of player. He needs to stay on the court. Hopefully the wolves dont end up over paying for an oft injured center. 3 years 10 million a year. Anything more hopefully they let him walk.

  3. Pingback: Draft Talk, Take Two (The Lowered Expectations Edition) | Punch-Drunk Wolves