INBOX: The 2014 NBA Draft Edition

Zach Lavine: Future Timberwolf?

Zach Lavine: Future Timberwolf?

The draft is tomorrow. It kind of snuck up on Punch-Drunk this year. Rather than micro-analyze each prospect’s interviews like last year, we haven’t paid the whole thing much attention at all.

I blame Kevin Love.

Anyway, we’ll dig into what we feel are the big questions facing the Wolves, and Wolves fans as we head into another NBA Draft – a draft that doesn’t promise to be memorable for the franchise, but certainly could be.

Who do you like at 13 when the Wolves pick first? (Eds. Note: Realistic candidates only, s’il vous plait.)

Patrick J: Realistic candidates only? Shoot, I was just about to vomit 1250 words of Chris Walker faux-fanboi fare. Now, I won’t.

There’s an amazing thing about this year’s draft, and it remains a closely-kept secret among most of the NBA’s die-hard: This might be the best draft since 2003, which featured LeBron, Carmelo, Bosh, Wade, and DARKO! other excellent players, but it might also be among the most boring since then, at least come the latter third of the Lottery. By which I mean, once you pass Smart City and Randle County and get to Stauskasville and Paynesylvania, you’re likely to catch the yawns. You might just decide on that nap you haven’t had all week rather than tax yourself paying attention to the blandness of the countryside.

Could the Wolves walk away with a nice player at 13? Ya, you betcha (Fargo voice). But can they walk away with one who’s both good AND cool? That’s a tall order this year.

On the one hand, guys like Gary Harris and Nik Stauskas are Very Fine Players. These Very Fine Players are going top-10 in some mock drafts. Both can shoot the three. Both can handle the ball. Harris, well, he can play the point, too. Stauskas? He’s long. Bottom line, the Wolves would do fine to draft either of these Very Fine Players or another Very Fine Player much like them. Here are players who have skills that right now might help the Wolves improve their wing play, an area that remained a weakness last season despite the signings of Chase Budinger and Corey Brewer and the acquisition of Kevin Martin.

One the other hand, it is unfortunate that neither Gary Harris nor Nik Stauskas is very cool. They’re Very Fine Players, but their upside is limited.

Let me ask YOU a question: Are you going to want to spend your hard-earned money on Wolves tickets next year so that you can see Gary Harris play the role of part-time game-manager? Are you going to put down cash to watch Nik Stauskas wait patiently in the corner, hoping the ball rotates his way, knowing that he’s going to be doing that his entire career as a fourth-best option (or fifth) on a playoff team?

No? Me neither.

 

Ticket sales anyone?

Ticket sales?

So what kind of player will put asses in seats while having the potential to be a difference-maker on a decent team? Zach Lavine is one such player.

Discussing Lavine here wasn’t a random choice, or one made due to sheer aesthetics and YouTube mixtapes. Earlier today, a rumor floated around teh twitterwebz that the Wolves have promised to draft  the UCLA guard at #13.

Look, Lavine is a polarizing player. I get it.  Most Wolves fans like at least two of Lavine’s teammates (Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams) more than they like Lavine. Lavine didn’t put up great NUMB#RS at UCLA. More than that, drafting Lavine would mean assuming Risk. Risk has burned the Wolves too many times before. Risk was never the same after David Kahn. Risk is bad. I like Anderson’s size and feel on offense and Adams’ knack for scoring.

But I like Lavine’s upside more than either of his teammates’ qualities for the situation I expect the Wolves to find themselves in.

The Wolves need talent. They’re at that critical juncture for the franchise they seem to find themselves in every few years when, on the cusp of a fresh rebuild, they have to decide between treading water or diving in headfirst. I would prefer seeing them dive in.

A key assumption undergirds my preference: After Kevin Love, I assume we’ll get worse before we get better. We didn’t make the playoffs last year. Put very simply, I therefore assume we won’t be making the playoffs next year while we rebuild.

If the playoffs are at-best a longshot, then gamble on talent. Lavine has talent. Elite talent, in fact. Not only that, but he isn’t Gerald Green. Yes, he dunkz hard, but unlike Green when he came into the League, Lavine is from a good program, and he has played with good teammates. He’s young. He was inefficient in pick ‘n roll situations, but he score in transition and on catch-and-shoots at an above-average rate. Lavine could bust, but where the Wolves are going, they’ll need someone with the potential to boom.

I’ll pay to see this live and in-person.

C’mon, Flip, your word is your bond. Keep the promise, roll the dice. Take Lavine. (Eds. Note: Patrick J takes deep breath and wipes brow.)

Okay, what say you? Do you take the plunge, or do you autopilot to the safe pick? You have to go one way or the other, right?

Andy G: No.

You’re forgetting about this year’s Croatian Sensation, Dario Saric. The 6’10” combo forward (not to be confused with “tweener”) just re-signed with his club in Turkey and won’t be coming over for at least two years.It is rumored that this news will affect his draft stock, and not in a good way. (He might’ve gone in the top 10 if he was immediately available to his NBA team.)

Which is just fine. It means he’ll be older, and better, when his rookie-scale contract begins. Depending on the Wolves salary situation – let’s say they’re all of a sudden paying a lot more money to Ricky Rubio and a certain shooting guard whose father knows Flip from their Gopher days – they might really stand to benefit from adding an impact player who doesn’t make impact-player money.

The Wolves gotta think long term, big picture with this pick. If Saric slips, they should take him over delusional hopes that somebody like Harris or Stauskas can contribute from Day 1. That just doesn’t happen very often.

Look, I understand the concerns. His first name, at first blush, looks kinda like Darko. And his last name looks like Jaric. And a player named Darko Jaric is enough to give Timberwolves fans nightmares. I get that.

But that isn’t his name, and he’s supposedly quite a player. From everything I’ve read he sounds a little like Danilo Gallinari.

So that’s who I hope they take at 13.

Who do I NOT hope they take at 13? Adreian Payne.

Adreian Payne

Adreian Payne

I don’t have a great reason for this, but I feel like his upside is Anthony Tolliver. And selfishly, from a blogger’s perspective I don’t want to have to remember how to spell out that version of Adrian for the next 3-4 seasons. I’d rather they just sign Anthony Tolliver and donate the pick to Flip’s favorite charity.

Moving on… since I agree with you that the top 8 or 9 seems stacked, let me ask: Where would you take Joel Embiid, who just underwent foot surgery?

Patrick J: I’d take him at #3. He’d clearly be the BPA there – he might be the BPA overall – and how often do get a crack (Eds. note: Pun intended) at the BPA in a stacked draft when you have the third pick. Remember that year when the Wolves had the worst record in the League and had bad luck in the lottery and ended up drafting Christian Laettner? (Eds. Note: No worries if you don’t, it just means that you’re one of our high school or early college readers.)

So do I. Now, if Shaq (#1 overall) or Alonzo Mourning (#2 overall) had suffered the Embiid injury and EITHER slipped to third, would you have taken him if you were calling the shots at 600 First Ave.? Yes, sir! In a nutshell, that’s why you take Embiid. If you’re drafting third, you’re the 76ers. When franchise-level talent falls into your lap, you aren’t in a position to be picky.  That’s a basic truth…or something.

kindergarten

That lesson might have been captured in this book.

How does 2014 stack up to 2013 from a Wolvesian perspective? Do you see any Shabazz Muhammads or Gorgui Diengs out there? (Eds. Note: What a weird draft year last year was.)

Andy G: Hmm, can I interpret that question however I want?

Patrick J: Yes.

Andy G: I think James Young is the Shabazz of this year’s crop, at least from a PDW perspective. I say that because a part of me kinda wanted Shabazz even though I didn’t really think or have any great reason to believe that he was the smart pick. I was more intrigued by the character than the player, if that makes sense. With James Young, I have similar feelings.

James Young

James Young

He was a highly touted high school player, like Shabazz. He has a nice NBA body, like Shabazz. (Well, if Bazz drops 10 or 15 L.B.’s, anyway.) He’s left handed like Shabazz. He goes out and gets buckets, like Shabazz.

And his representation is Shaun “Jay-Z” Carter, for fuck’s sake! To the best of my knowledge, Jay isn’t representing Shabazz (yet).

I’m guessing Flip drafts LaVine, or one of the Spartans, but if he does a Shabazz 2.0 and goes with Young, just know that I’ll at least be entertained.

And the Gorgui comp? Hmmm.. Dieng was truly a diamond in the rough, falling to 21 and then performing like a quality veteran by year’s end. (Eds note: Gorgui earned 2nd Team All-Rookie despite logging barely 800 minutes.)

I’m not up on the whole draft class like many others, but it sounds like Kyle Anderson from UCLA might fall into the 20s despite having killer metrics and a skill set that just about everybody finds intriguing. If Flip somehow adds another first rounder — like he did last year — maybe he goes all in on UCLA with both LaVine and Anderson?

Would that be enough to convince K-Love to stay? (Eds. Note: Perhaps a better question is, Do we know that Flip knows that that plan wouldn’t work?)

***

Okay a few quick hits.

Patrick J: Name your top-5 body hunters in the draft.

Andy G: Julius Randle, Marcus Smart, Dante Exum, Elfrid Payton, and Shabazz Napier.

 

Andy G: Who is the most NBA-ready player in this draft? (And that has to include defense, too. (I see you typing Jab–)

Patrick J:  Marcus Smart. Then Julius Randle. (Yes, Jabari Parker will score a ton, but he’s pretty f*uckin’ far from okay in terms of the NBA-readiness of his defense. [Marcellus Wallace voice])

 

Patrick J: Random question: Who’ll go down as having a better NBA career? Shaun Livingston or Kyle Anderson?

Andy G: Damn, you caught me off-guard! A fair question though. It is a damning statement about Anderson’s [lack of] athleticism that you’re comparing him to a guy with a catastrophically-injured knee. But then again, Livingston came back looking good last year in Brooklyn. Livingston will have the better career. I already know that he’s pretty good. (Eds. Note: Alright, if we’re talking about Shaun Livingston then we’ve gotten pretty far off track.)

I’ll close in saying that it doesn’t sound like much is happening with the Kevin Love trade talks (at least not with teams in the lottery – the Warriors deal, by some accounts, is just a matter of final details) so it might be a relatively uninteresting night for the Wolves. The “draft fan” in me would like to see them move around (ala David Kahn) and make it a fun night, but the Wolves fan hopes they improve the club as best as possible.

I do think the Saric pick would help them, long term.

Any parting shots?

Patrick J: As unlikely as a draft-day Kevin Love trade seems, as of this moment, I’m curious about who Flip would target if the Wolves flipped Love and moved up to, say, #6 (Boston’s pick).

That decision would tell us a whole lot more about the post-Love team Saunders envisions than whatever we end up doing at #13. At #6, you’re looking a (probable) decision between Marcus Smart, Julius Randle or Aaron Gordon, or possibly even Joel Embiid if he drops.

If you were Saunders in that situation, would you go small, medium, or large? And how would that decision fit into your larger rebuilding strategy?

These are decisions that will likely need to be made at some point in the not-too-distant future; the Wolves would be unwise *not* to deal Love before the season begins. Don’t expect the happenings of tomorrow night, however, to reveal much about their plan.

(We have a plan, right?)

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10 Comments

Filed under INBOX, NBA Draft, Timberwolves

10 responses to “INBOX: The 2014 NBA Draft Edition

  1. Nathan Anderson

    I’ve now watched two Lavine tapes. If you’ve watched more, please fill me in.

    I watched LaVine vs. Oregon and the video you all posted (workout). In the workout, Lavine looks very athletic. In the Oregon game the guy goes to the basket in the half-court and shoots awkward layups. He reminds me of DWill in this way. Super athletic. Great jumper with a running start but horrible, horrible footwork on drives to the basket.

    Why should I hold out more hope for LaVine than for Dwill? Are there other videos out there that show him finishing with authority in traffic or must I hope for “growth”?

    You all called it last year on Shabazz. I remember the huge Shabazz piece on this blog and I was all like “what a waste of time. no way they draft this punk.” Whoa. That article gave me the tiniest bit of hope after the draft.

    Let’s go LaVine. Say no to Payne.

    • I really know next to nothing about LaVine outside of that mix tape of him dunking uncontested. I know a little bit more about the guys we otherwise might take (Harris, Payne) from watching them play in the Big Ten.

      13 doesn’t excite me much, but who knows what might go down.

      Buckle up!

    • For me, the big difference between Shabazz and Lavine is that (contrary to what many Wolves fans believed at the time) Shabazz had NBA-ready skills, which he displayed last season, and Lavine doesn’t right now. I think that a calculated risk here–the high-risk, high-reward, cliche–actually made sense for the Wolves. But unlike Shabazz (and Gorgui, as we saw in abundance toward the end of last season), they’re unlikely to see any meaningful reward until Lavine’s second season. Patience isn’t the strong suit of Wolves fans, but it’s essential at the moment due to circumstance (READ: the Kevin Love situation).

  2. Grim Reaper

    LaVine dropped about 3 f-me bombs after being drafted, which leads me to believe that this site remain punch-drunk for at least a few more years.

  3. CC

    LaVine didn’t look happy to be drafted by Minnesota. I say F that dude, he went higher than he should have (didn’t even start as a Bruin) and should be thrilled. On balance though, I think it was a poor choice by the Wolves

    • He “clarified” his reaction to the announcement fairly convincingly in today’s Wolves press conference. The reason I’m not worried about the reaction, and am willing to give Lavine (that’s how I spell it) the benefit of the doubt is because his agent, Bill Duffy, certainly knew the Wolves were going to take him at #13. Ergo, Lavine also knew. And he’s smart enough, as evidenced by all of his statements last night and today, not to react that way–negatively–on national tv, with the world watching and NBA Twitter dissecting. Clean slate, as far as I’m concerned. What matters is what he does on the court, not what happened in the Green Room.

      On the pick itself: Basically, I don’t think you’re wrong. I just think a calculated risk was the right move for a wolves team that has decent depth, but no “star power” (at least once they trade Love for bits and pieces, most likely Klay Barnes, David Lee, and maybe Harrison Barnes). Someone is going to need to play that two spot eventually–I expect Kevin Martin to be traded with Love–and Lavine has the tools to (potentially) be (very) good at that position, which is a weak one league-wide. Would Gary Harris have been a better pick? Possibly. We’ll see. For me, Harris would help more immediately but in the long term he would have a lower ceiling than Lavine, primarily because of Harris’ height (6’2”) and good-but-not-great athleticism. I don’t think you can judge this pick until you see how Lavine is performing in the 2015-16 season, and especially his third season, 2016-17.

  4. Grim Reaper

    Patrick,
    You’re not alone in your opinion, but wrong to dismiss it casually as an awkward start. The reaction was very telling to his real/raw emotions and his intelligence/maturity. I’ve heard some say this is just how blacks talk, which is insulting to blacks. To pretend that f-me or f-anything is a way of expressing jubilation is ridiculous. It takes a heaping amount of rationalizations/spin to dismiss this. Just like pretending Love wants to stay if we only win a few more games next year. I hope Levine at least becomes a Sprewell and not just a dunk champion.
    The combination of Love and Levine has left me punch-drunk. This team desperately needs good, positive, and tough leadership from exceptional players. We haven’t drafted it and it’s not coming by free agency based on Love and Levine’s reactions. By some miracle maybe we can turn the perception of our franchise around and get “lucky” like Green Bay’s signing of Reggie White and trading for an unproven Bret Favre. Good luck Flip.

    • Nathan Anderson

      F* me is a legitimate way to express jubilation. If I found out I won a $100 million dollar lottery, I might say “F* me.”

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