Many Timberwolves fans will expect the team to draft a wing player in the upcoming lottery. It’s the position of need, after all. Flip and Rick should ignore the radio callers and message boards and draft without regard for position.
Why, you ask?
Because their goal will be a playoff appearance and a rookie won’t help them get there. They might as well try to find the best player available and look long term with the lotto pick. If there isn’t a potentially-great talent — a SINGULAR talent (!) — then trade up, down, or altogether out of the draft.
A little bit of evidence:
Of all playoff-team rookies this year, Harrison Barnes played the most minutes per game with 25.4. First, that isn’t that much playing time for a starter. Second, a big reason Barnes played that much was Brandon Rush tore his ACL. Third, Barnes did not play a key factor in the Warriors’ success. (Though, he has been very good as a stretch four in David Lee’s absence in the playoffs.) Take a longer look at that linked list and you’ll find very few rookies getting minutes for playoff teams. Patrick Beverley, Jared Sullinger and 36-year old Pablo Prigioni are about it.
The previous year was about the same. Iman Shumpert played 28.9 minutes per game on a 7-seed Knicks team that nearly imploded and didn’t have J.R. Smith until he escaped from China. Shump didn’t contribute offensively. Kawhi Leonard played 24.0 minutes for a great Spurs team. He was an exception to the rule, but still — he had the benefit of being a fourth or fifth option on a star-veteran-led team in San Antonio. Most of the players populating that leaderboard were on terrible teams. Ricky Rubio, a longtime professional rookie, played huge minutes on a Wolves team that was good with him leading it.
Rookies that contribute the most play for crappy teams. That’s how it works. The Wolves need to draft with this in mind and — assuming they keep the lottery pick — select a player that has the highest likelihood of becoming a good NBA player in a year or two. Yes, even if that player is a power forward. The lesson of Derrick Williams is not “Don’t draft another power forward.” The lesson of Derrick Williams is, “Don’t draft a bad player.” If Anthony Bennett becomes what we hoped D-Thrill could’ve, it would open up small ball opportunities with Love at center, and deepen the Wolves bench, while also providing far greater flexibility in making key roster decisions in the next five years.
I’m not trying to write another Anthony Bennett post. Because, if the Wolves somehow get lucky and draft in the top three, Bennett might not even be the Best Player Available. And the BPA might even be a wing in Victor Oladipo or Ben McLemore.
I’m just pointing out the huge mistake that would be made if the team bases its draft strategy around the idea that they’ll fill the wing void with a rookie in the lottery. That’ll be a great way to find themselves there again in 2014.