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.