In which we discuss the Timberwolves at the midseason point, Ricky Rubio trade rumors, how the Wolves’ young core compares to others, and potential 2017 draft prospects.
Category Archives: NBA Draft
After last season’s stank tank, the Wolves got lucky in the lottery for the first time in their history. With the first pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves selected Karl Towns of the University of Kentucky (Adam Silver voice).
The Wolves got their man. They gave the people what they want. The celebration is on. Enjoy the moment.
The 1st Round: Towns as the now-inevitable #1 pick.
Andy G: First off, Happy Draft Week. Whatever this says about us, and the team that we cheer for, this is usually the highlight of our NBA season and a time clearly marked off on our calendars. This is an especially big one, what with the Wolves picking first overall for the first time ever. (Eds note: But this year’s will join the last two top picks on the Wolves roster, who came over in the K-Love trade. Thanks, LeBron!) Also, the Wolves are picking high in the 2nd Round. There’s some question as to whether they’ll keep both picks, or use them on players that will immediately join the NBA, but the fact is they have them and that means more to discuss.
I’ve written some things about the Wolves top pick; specifically, whether they should use it on Karl Anthony-Towns from Kentucky, or Jahlil Okafor from Duke. For a while, it seemed like Flip was going to take Okafor, a player he was (reportedly) enamored with all season — possibly to the extent that the possibility of drafting Okafor helped motivate the season’s big tanking decisions, like holding Ricky Rubio out of games for much longer than he had to.
But late in the college season, the general scouting consensus (Draft Express and the NBA scouts who talk to Chad Ford) shifted from Okafor to Towns as the draft’s best prospect. The best stats projection models also prefer Towns to Okafor. Now it is widely believed that Flip’s mind has changed as well. There was a period of time when it was rumored that the Wolves personnel staff preferred Towns, but Flip still preferred Okafor. This was disconcerting to read, not because of the conclusion itself (I’m on record as loving Okafor’s potential, and even slightly preferring him to Towns based on what I watched) but because of what it suggested about the team’s structure and process.
(Eds. Note: This is the second part of a three-part series of guest posts from friend of the blog Jon Wallace (@jonwallace3), a Duke graduate, current Washington, DC resident, great American, and die-hard Blue Devils fan.)
Draft Notes from a Dookie
Hi again, I’m Jon W. You might be familiar with me from Part I of this series, on Jahlil Okafor’s NBA prospects, or from the post I wrote here a while back in which I compared and contrasted John Wall and Ricky Rubio.
Please excuse my brief indulgence into the draft and NBA career prospects of the Duke early entry candidates from an unabashed Duke homer. This team has been one of my favorite sports teams to follow in my lifetime so there is no way I can be unbiased in the evaluation of these three players. That said, I will try to give you my honest and candid opinions as to the strengths, weaknesses, and NBA prospects of Jahlil Okafor, rising prospect Justise Winslow, and Minnesota native Tyus Jones. There’s bigtime interest in these guys in Timberwolves circles–and for good reason.
I’ll spend this post on Winslow–who is the most athletic of the three and is projected to go as high as fourth overall. Part III of this series will be on Tyus Jones. Read on below the fold for more on Justise Winslow.
(Eds. Note: This is a guest post from friend of the blog Jon Wallace (@jonwallace3), a Duke graduate, current Washington, DC resident, great American, and die-hard Blue Devils fan.)
Draft Notes from a Dookie
Hi, I’m Jon W. You might be familiar with me.
Please excuse my brief indulgence into the draft and NBA career prospects of the Duke early entry candidates from an unabashed Duke homer. This team has been one of my favorite sports teams to follow in my lifetime so there is no way I can be unbiased in the evaluation of these three players.
That said, I will try to give you my honest and candid opinions as to the strengths, weaknesses, and NBA prospects of Jahlil Okafor, Minnesota native Tyus Jones, and rising prospect Justise Winslow. There’s interest in these guys in Minnesota.
This is for good reason. I’ll spend this post on Okafor–who is the most realistic future T-Wolves player, and the best prospect of the three. My next two posts will be on Jones and Winslow.
Punch-Drunk Podcast, Episode 10: Wiggins and the Rest (Plus GERALD GREEN!, Injuries and Tanking, and the NBA Draft)
In which we discuss Andrew Wiggins, Shabazz Muhammad, Anthony Bennett, Thaddeus Young, Mo Williams, Zach LaVine, Gerald Green’s performance, injuries and tanking, and some NBA Draft prospects who intrigue us.
Check out the podcast below the fold.
Andy G: So, LeBron made another Decision. He’s going home to Cleveland; a decision that many in the media began to expect a few days ago. He wrote a great letter explaining everything, published by Sports Illustrated yesterday.
It did not take long after the announcement for the conversation to turn toward the Timberwolves. Specifically, it was previously reported (by Adrian Woj, no less) that the Cavaliers had been pursuing a trade for Kevin Love that would be contingent on them signing James. So, now that they signed James, everyone is wondering about that Love deal…
The obvious player that the Wolves covet is Andrew Wiggins, the number one pick in the most recent draft. So far, the Cavs are reportedly not willing to part with Wiggins. Instead, they’re only willing to go as far as (something along the lines of) Anthony Bennett (LAST year’s top pick) and maybe Dion Waiters and one more guy to make the salaries match up. Maybe they’d throw in a future draft pick or two.
The Wolves, by all reports to date, will not trade Love for the Bennett-Waiters package. They need Wiggins.
So here we are, waiting for Dan Gilbert (or Flip Saunders) to blink.
Let’s start with the big question:
Do the Wolves end up with Wiggins?
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.
The Wolves open their season tonight in Minneapolis against the
already-tanking-for-Wiggins hard-charging Orlando Magic, who’re 0-1 after last night’s season-opener loss to Indiana.
(Eds. Note: Is there anyway to figure out how many fantasy teams there are this season named “Tanking for Wiggins” or some variant of it? I don’t know how many fantasy teams there are total, but I’d still take the over on at least 10k “Tanking for Wiggins” teams this year. Maybe 15. There were probably fantasy league owners everywhere trying desperately to change their league rules at the last minute to allow them to use their auction money to bid on the rights to the “Tanking for Wiggins” team name instead of on draft-able players.)
Anyway, there’s a lot of interesting stuff to watch for, much of which could provide information on the questions we asked in our season preview post about the team’s starting lineup, defense, offense, and rotations.
Always Be Closing – (1:00), NSFW depending where you work
Last night Andy G wrote about Michael Beasley’s latest drug-related arrest. Today, the NBA dismissed Wolves first-round pick Shabazz Muhammad from its Rookie Transition Program–an achievement shared by a select few. Yes, Mike Beasley is one of Shabazz’s compatriots in this exclusive club. [Eds. Note: Is Basketball Reference tracking this statistic yet? You can almost smell the bling for the petulant blogger who first exploits these ANALYTICS(!)].
Anyway, the story probably goes a little something like this:
From ESPN TrueHoop’s assessment of the Las Vegas Summer League’s top rookies, here’s Justin Verrier’s take on Shabazz Muhammad:
Shabazz Muhammad, Timberwolves
8.5 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 0.8 APG, 41 FG%, 38 3P%
The good: The fit is there. Muhammad has the build of your everyday athletic, break-you-off-dribble wing scorer, but he thrived at UCLA mostly in situations where he didn’t have to dribble — off the catch, running the break, posting up. And on a team like the Timberwolves, with a scorer/rebounder and ball handler as its two cornerstones, it’s those “other” areas where Muhammad will need to do his work.
Despite the lure always present at summer league to isolate everything, Muhammad primarily stuck to that script, floating around the arc and running off screens, and looked right doing so. His rebound numbers in Vegas were ho-hum, but he can be a great wing rebounder with his size, if he puts in the effort. He also shot 41.1 percent from 3, better than his college average (38 percent).
The bad: The production was not there. The 20-year-old (we hope) Muhammad averaged just 8.5 points on 41 percent shooting. Which isn’t awful. But when a player who lives off offense can’t produce, particularly against inferior competition, the deficiencies in the rest of his game become more noticeable. And in Muhammad’s case that’s his ambivalence toward passing (five total assists) and mediocre defense despite the tools to be pretty good.
Bottom line: Muhammad has a lot to work with, and you’re inclined to dismiss some of the disappointment to playing a defined and limited role, but it’s hard to write all that off after a drama-filled freshman season. That age stuff doesn’t matter anymore, but can he be happy with an even smaller role in snowy Minnesota than the one he griped about in Los Angeles?
— Justin Verrier
It’s hard to argue with Verrier’s take. We know the following:
Eds. Note: This mock isn’t necessarily intended to predict what teams will do, but to spell out what WE would do at each pick. Some of that is likely to map onto what teams actually end up doing on Thursday, some isn’t. Part 1, which covered picks 1-8, is here.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves – Shabazz Muhammad, SG/SF, UCLA
Patrick J: If the draft were to unfold as we outlined it here, there won’t be any great options left for the Wolves at #9. That said, the Wolves need a shooter and scorer on the wing. Shabazz Muhammad is a shooter and scorer who plays the wing. Most fans hate Shabazz. They don’t like that his dad RON HOLMES (!) forged Shabazz’s birth certificate. They don’t like that Shabazz never collected any assists. They don’t like that Shabazz didn’t play well against the Gophers during the only game most of them probably saw Muhammad play all season long. Me, I don’t care about Shabazz’s age, his Daddy issues, his passing, or his putative attitude problems, which is (at this point) overblown since we don’t know beyond vague RUMINT that Shabazz has any attitude problems. What I do care about is obtaining a scorer who is taller than 6’1’’ and can score without being ball dominant. Shabazz does that in his sleep. He wouldn’t be a great fit for every team, but I think people are selling short the fit he could be on our team.
To close, I will quote RON HOLMES:
“Bazz is going to blow up in the NBA lets team up and blow this thing up!!!” Holmes wrote to a Times reporter in a text message. “I’m going to need a publicist anyway why shouldn’t it be you. We can do some big things together.”
Doesn’t that convince you?
(More of Ron’s Ruminations are here.)
Eds. Note: This mock isn’t necessarily intended to predict what teams will do, but to spell out what WE would do at each pick. Some of that is likely to map onto what teams actually end up doing on Thursday, some isn’t.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers – Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky
Patrick J: I think the Cavs go with the conventional wisdom here. In a draft without a sure-thing superstar, you go with talent and size, especially when there’s a seven footer with potentially upper upper level shotblocking skills and defensive instincts.
Andy G: Can’t disagree, here. It’s not so much that NERLENS is can’t-miss as much as there’s probably not a sure thing anywhere in this draft and it’s pretty easy to see how his game carries over to modern NBA defense, often times built around roaming paint protectors.
Plus, that flat top.
Quite a last 24 hours for Punch-Drunk Wolves. Andy G is in Chicago. I’m leaving today for Manila. And Anthony Bennett.
Allow me to humblebrag for a moment.
As I was getting home from work yesterday, I got an email from Jon Wallace, who guest-blogged a story recently on the Wizards’ draft strategy.
Jon wrote to me and Andy G:
Did you guys see the picture on Anthony Bennett’s instagram? http://instagram.com/p/ae2FzoqVWY/
Later, at 8:21 Eastern , Jon wrote back again, saying:
This is a special guest post by my friend and fellow DC resident Jon Wallace. Jon is a Duke grad and a Wizards fan, but we try not to hold that against him. Below, he discusses the Wizards’ situation in the upcoming NBA Draft.* – Patrick J
A View of the NBA Draft from DC
by Jon Wallace
A Wizards fan finds him or herself in an interesting position this offseason. The team finished another year without reaching 30 wins, yet there is more than just guarded optimism for the future. After John Wall’s return from injury, the ‘Zards played good to excellent basketball to close out the year.
With the full(ish) complement of players, Washington played well enough to have the fan base thinking playoffs next year and potential deep runs in the postseason in following years. In an admittedly small sample size, the Wizards were 17-7 with Wall, Beal, and Nene on the floor at the same time. They were 24-24 with just Wall and Beal. Projected out over a full season, these data points have Wiz fans excited about April and May basketball in 2014.
All this optimism – a distinctly weird emotion for Wizards’ fans to experience – was augmented when Washington jumped five spots in the NBA lottery to obtain the third overall pick.
Our cup runneth over.
But which prospect would most help the Wizards as they look to end an era of lottery teams and move into an era of playoff basketball?
Alexey Shved: Minneapolis is Moscow and Moscow is Minneapolis and I like Moscow so therefore I like Minneapolis
Andy G: Amid all of the
pre-draft Playoffs craze, we haven’t devoted nearly enough (any?) attention to our favorite Timberwolf, Alexey Shved.
For some background, in case anyone forgot, here is the best visual representation of how Shved met “The Rookie Wall”:
It was tough to watch, both as a fan of Shved the player, and the Timberwolves team. His off-season will be as important to the team as anything it does in the draft or free agency. The team needs help at shooting guard in a bad way, and Alexey has had/might continue to have the opportunity to make the job his. He just needs to get [a lot] stronger and more consistent with his jump shot.
He gave an interview in Russia recently, which was partially interpreted in a Canis Hoopus thread by commenter RussianBeesnyestEenterest.com (I love that moniker, btw.) Shved had this to say about his rookie season, and hitting the rookie wall:
“I was not able to sustain that level of play for the season – mainly because it was very tiring. Other players also warned me that could happen to me. Avoiding these slumps was not possible though. Playing 82 games in five and a half months – that’s quite a prize (ironic). It is, for example, possible to have 5 games in just 7 days! And if the coaching staff gives you 25 to 30 minutes of playing time it is very hard to give them good basketball until the end of such a stretch. At the end of the day I had very pleasing games and very unpleasing ones. It gave me experience. And for next season, I will know what to expect right from the start. Of course I will work to ensure that I will play much more consistently.”
Importantly, he goes on to say that he’s returning to Minnesota on June 25 to work individually with the team on his off-season program.
Andy G: We attended Wolves-Wizards last January. The Wiz were barely beginning to hit their stride (which made the ass-kicking that much more painful — we didn’t totally see it coming, despite Mickael Gelabale being a starter) and in particular their young backcourt duo of John Wall and Bradley Beal looked mighty impressive. The synergy that Ernie Grunfeld envisioned when he drafted Beal (and reportedly turned down a James Harden trade (!)) was coming to fruition before our eyes, even with Randy Wittman at the wheel.
John Wall created shot opportunities. Bradley Beal took advantage of them. In the course of their first season together — largely limited by injuries — the duo thrived. On average they were +3.6 per game, best of commonly-used Wizards player pairings. I think many will predict big improvement from Washington next season, including a playoff berth, in large part because they’ve put together such a talented and balanced backcourt.
I bring this up because the Wolves also have a magnificent playmaker at point guard, a dearth of capable 2’s, and a pair of first rounders in the upcoming draft. Also like Washington, Minnesota has veteran frontcourt talent. Basically, everybody’s waiting for that shooting guard to arrive. Whether it be with the lottery pick (9) or the one received from the Grizzlies (26) it seems likely that a wing player will don a Timberwolves cap on June 27.
We’ve already talked Victor Oladipo and Shabazz Muhammad. ‘Dipo is not Beal. Whether better all-around or worse, there’s a clear difference in style; in tool sets. And Shabazz, well… it’s probably best we lay off that one for a bit. He’s controversial, putting it mildly.
If they end up going lottery wing, that likely leaves Kentavious Caldwell-Pope from Georgia (if they stay at Number 9) or Ben McLemore from Kansas (if they trade up). Both can shoot it.
Which is the way to go, all things considered?
(NSFW, depending on where you W.)
OG Ron Holmes, the forging father of potential Timberwolves first-round pick Shabazz Muhammad, is in trouble again. So what’s the story here?
From CBS Sports:
Ron Holmes, father of former UCLA star Shabazz Muhammad, has been indicted on federal bank fraud and conspiracy charges. He is being detained in Las Vegas pending a detention hearing, according to a report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
“[Shabazz] Muhammad might be the most controversial prospect in the draft. Blessed with both terrific scoring skills and a tremendous amount of hype, he was widely regarded as a potential No. 1 pick coming into his freshman season.
But expectations can be a tricky thing. Seven months later, Muhammad finds himself fighting to stay inside the lottery. Were the glowing scouting reports on him in high school just wrong? Or is Muhammad’s evaluation more complicated?”
That was Chad Ford’s take in his enlightening post yesterday about Shabazz Muhammad, and the lottery-prospect’s experience at Peak Performance Project. It’s an athletic training facility focused on biomechanical and neuromuscular assessments to help athletes improve on any physical weaknesses that they may have. Apparently the computers are impressed with the Bruin prospect’s leaping ability (he’s a “quick jumper”) but suggest he has work to do in the lateral quickness department. More than anything the article indicates Shabazz is doing all he can to identify and improve his weaknesses.
This matters because the Timberwolves might draft Shabazz Muhammad with the ninth pick in the upcoming draft. It’s interesting because a large contingent of Timberwolves fan base (basically, the entire Canis Hoopus commentary community) hates the idea of the team drafting this particular player.