Wolves Drafting 5th: What now?

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We now know where the Wolves will be drafting on June 23rd. Well, unless there’s a trade between now and then. Or a trade on draft night.

Anyway, the Wolves landed 5th overall last night in the lottery. They had the 5th worst record in the league, and the draft order went right in line with reverse league-wide rankings. For the first time ever, the draft order disregards the usual jumble of the lottery format.

About as soon as the order was announced, the takes started coming in hot. Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune immediately published a column that calls for the Wolves to draft Buddy Hield, the Oklahoma Sooner who won over the hearts of college basketball fans this past season, winning Naismith Player of the Year honors. Chad Ford published his 7th Mock Draft (!) — first after the order was known — and has Minnesota drafting Kris Dunn from Providence. Dunn is a point guard, and Ford speculates about a future Ricky Rubio trade. (Without such speculation, the choice makes little sense.)

As I write this, Twitter is running hot with takes about trading the pick. Maybe the pick gets packaged with Gorgui Dieng, or Shabazz Muhammad, or even Zach LaVine (or some combination of the three) to land a bigtime veteran like Jimmy Butler. I’ve been teasing the idea of “LaVine and the 5 for Boogie Cousins” for months, while realizing that is a long shot.

The main point is, with the fifth pick, there are countless ways that this could play out. After Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram, there is no consensus about who ranks third best, fourth best, fifth best, and so on. The Wolves do not have any clear idea right now about who will be available to draft at 5, and they will undoubtedly survey the league between now and draft night to discover any intriguing trade offers that might arise.

I think there are a few basic guidelines they should try to follow when making decisions with this prized asset that is the fifth pick in the 2016 draft:

  • If you trade it, only trade it for a star.

Along with the whole, “it’s your best chance of adding a star” thing, a lottery pick has value because it gives the team an opportunity to  hold a good player’s rights for 8 or more seasons.  You do not give that up in exchange for a veteran role player via trade who only has 2 or 3 years left on a contract before they either: 1) are no longer any good, due to age and injuries; and/or 2) decide to leave via unrestricted free agency.

You don’t give it up, that is, unless you are getting somebody good enough to justify it. When Boston traded away the 5th Pick (became Jeff Green) for Ray Allen in 2007, that was great for them. Allen was a star. They already had Paul Pierce and Al Jefferson (and quickly flipped Big Al for KG, even better!) and they were able to win a championship and build a mini-dynasty in the East.

Less cool was when the Wizards (led by Flip) traded the 5th Pick to David Kahn in exchange for Randy Foye and Mike Miller. The Wiz wanted to win now, and the move backfired. Whether Washington would have used it on Ricky Rubio like Kahn did, or Steph Curry, the decision to trade the pick for veteran role players proved to be a terrible one.

The Wolves will have a ton of cap room to target role players this summer. They should not use the fifth pick to land one.

  • Do not draft a player to fill a short-term need. Especially shooting.

You will see it written and hear it said over and over that the Wolves need to address their shooting need.

As it pertains to the use of the fifth pick in the draft, this is nonsense.

You use a high draft pick to try to find a long-term piece of the puzzle, and somebody who will realistically help your team win in a year or two, or sometimes three.

Not right away.

The Wolves can sign any number of 30ish-year old veterans to space the floor with basic, role-specific, spot shooting. They should not draft somebody with the idea in mind that this player will make a noticeable impact on their three-point shooting situation right out of the gates, and yes I am talking about Buddy Hield.

Plus, the Wolves “core” as we are sort of coming to understand it, includes Zach LaVine (good three-point shooter), Andrew Wiggins (will hopefully become a good three-point shooter) and Karl-Anthony Towns (great all-around shooter).

So when the Wolves think about adding a specific skill for the long term, shooting doesn’t really even register as a need.

  • If Thibs really wants to *win now* then draft a project.

This seems like stupid, twisted logic, but it really isn’t. The more “NBA ready” their draftee is (like Hield, for instance) the more that the player will likely end up in the everyday rotation and undergo on-the-job training while Thibs is trying to win games with an otherwise-good roster.

Or, alternatively, the Hield-like player (or Dunn, who also played 4 college seasons) will sit, and fans and the player himself will wonder what’s going on. You might recall JJ Redick’s experience as a young player with Stan Van Gundy’s Orlando Magic. Redick played 4 years at Duke and became one of the best college scorers in modern history. For that reason he seemed like an “NBA ready” choice, and it seemed like he was a bust when he wasn’t immediately good enough to crack Stan Van’s winning-team rotation.

Not the case. Redick was good, and he became a good NBA player. But it’s an adjustment no matter what, and it only puts more pressure on a rookie when he comes in with immediately-high expectations.

If the Wolves draft a younger player who is more of a project (Dragan Bender or Marquese Chriss, to name a couple possibilities) there will be no expectation of immediate performance, and Thibs can go on trying to win games now, while his assistant coaches work everyday with the newbie, developing him into a helpful player for the future.

Those are some preliminary thoughts. As longtime readers know, we enjoy blogging in the lead-up to the draft — with varying levels of seriousness — so we’ll be doing more of the same over the next month.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Wolves Drafting 5th: What now?

  1. biggity2bit

    Thank you for this post. I really appreciate your points:

    1) This is fantastic. You put into words what I’ve been bumbling around trying to say over at CH – the contract and length of team control matters significantly when it comes to valuing a young guy vs. a veteran. The example was if you should trade the #5 and Shabazz (or LaVine – can’t remember who) to Denver for the Manimal? I say absolutely not, because even before you get into the talent assessment side of it, I think you’re trading away a ton of affordable team control for $36 million of salary invested in an elite niche player who won’t nudge the overall needle of this team in any meaningful way.

    2) Shooting. Thank you for outlining what I’ve been thinking for awhile – shooting, at least amongst the starters, is not actually that big of a need. Zach and Bjelly are terrific three point shooters, and Tyus should be decent on the second unit. Wiggins should be an average guy, and could be better, and Towns is phenomenal. Even Gorgui is a sneaky good shooter who potentially could knock down corner 3’s pretty easily, if asked to do it. Shabazz is already a good to great corner 3 shooter, which leaves Ricky as your one big shooting wart. You can survive with one big shooting wart, especially if that guy if has phenomenal vision and passing ability, is great at drawing FTAs, and is playing with three guys who are all good to great high usage players on offense.

    Whoever Thibs and Layden choose at 5 (assuming they stay there), they need to be choosing for the overall net effect of the player 2-3 years from now, not because they fill one really useful niche.

    3) With that said, the guy I hope falls to us is Bender. In 2-3 years I expect that he will be able to more than hold his own against Simmons or Ingram in terms of net impact on a team. Really, really excited about adding him to this team – if it can happen.

    Where we disagree is that if Bender doesn’t happen, of many options I would be OK with, adding Dunn would be a sneaky good move, IMO. Here’s my rationale – and please challenge me on this if you think this is just wrong and misguided: the Wolves still have a clear need for another high level guard on the team. A third guy who can handle the ball and facilitate for others, add some scoring, and play rugged defense. Ideally you’d want to find a good backup to Zach, and someone who can fill in for Ricky if he gets hurt, or can play well with Tyus off the bench. I’m not sure Dunn fills all those roles, but I think he’s a good fit for all of them.

    Is he a ball handler? Good enough right now, and should be better. Can he create for others/facilitate the offense? Absolutely (we’ll get into his weaknesses in a second). Can he play rugged defense? This is the part that elevates him in my mind – dude looks like Thibs defensive guy. Physical, aggressive, can guard 1’s, 2’s, and maybe some 3’s. His ability to drive to the hoop and finish through contact is also useful on this team. Good enough size (perhaps a little short), great wingspan, very solid build.

    So what’s he missing? I’m not convinced that he has the scoring chops to be a great 2 in the league, or even a great backup 2. BUT, I think you could do far worse than a backup SG who gives you 10 pts a game with great defense. Not sure about his three point shot. Falls into the Shabazz category for me – could be really good at it, but needs to understand when and where to use it (and not use it). And that is the biggest issue with Dunn – he can be inconsistent and make some really stupid decisions. IF Dunn was a better decision maker – like a Ricky Rubio type decision maker – he’d be a top 2 pick in this draft. If we believe #Thibsdust is real, and Thibs’ track record of taking street guys and turning them into good to great players in Chicago is reproducible here, then Dunn to the Wolves could be a very terrific pick, because Thibs coaching and development ability mitigates the biggest weakness/downside to Dunn.

    Haven’t looked as much into Hield. Not really a fan of Murray – seems too one trick pony to me.

    Of course, the other guy I’m high on besides Bender is Deyonta Davis. He could be a very interesting addition in 2-3 years.

  2. jmndodge

    You lock in an immediate free agent upgrade – likely looking for a SF/PF who can defend and shoot the three. That free agent determines the need in the draft – although with PEK’s health and fit still a question – KG either done or in his last season – Prince likely gone (should be) and Rudez and Payne under-performing, there is room to add a couple draft picks (best available talent. If Payne/Rudez could be traded for a veteran backup PG our roster will have made a significant step forward. 2017-18 should then have a clear direction. PEK/Bjelica ? Dieng/Bazz/LaVine/Jones? We absolutely know that KAT/Wiggins/Rubio are three parts of the present and future – Jones/LaVine/Bazz/Dieng/Bjelica could all also be a major part of the plan going forward. Going to be interesting to see what moves Tibbs feel help us long terrm while advancing the next step. LaVine/Jones/Bazz all likely could be replaced for an immediate upgrade – but their upside potential is high enough it could be a one year upgrade – and a long term loss – hopefully Tiibbs makes good decisions.