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Ahhh May. That magical time of year when the majority of the NBA world turns its attention to the playoffs, where legends and legacies are made and written on a daily basis. The best players and teams in the world do epic battle upon the Field of Hardwood from coast to coast. The pools of talent are wide and deep enough to drown a man, and the rivalries feature more bad blood than the entire Saw franchise.
Meanwhile, back in Minnesota, May annually means something else: we are that much closer to the NBA Draft! And the draft means…hope! And stuff! It’s like spring training all over again! Ehhhh….
Anyway, 2011′s NBA Draft is being wildly heralded as one of the worst in recent memory. With promising college stars like Harrison Barnes of North Carolina and Jared Sullinger of Ohio State both deciding to return to college for a year, the draft lottery at a glance appears to be low on future All-Star level talent.
Fortunately(ish), Minnesota’s chances of getting one of the top 3 draft picks are very high, and they can slip no lower than 4th, as they are the proud owners of the worst record in the NBA. We will leave unasked the question of how Minnesota managed to obtain the worst record in the NBA when the hapless Cavaliers are still in the league. (Actually…no, we won’t. How the hell did the Minnesota end up with the worst record in the league?!)
But! While this year features few (if any) surefire future All Stars, there are certainly some very nice players Minnesota could choose from, and we here at Howlin’ T-Wolf have you covered! Here’s our first in a series of prospect breakdowns, starting with a player many experts agree will be the number one pick on June 23.
College: Duke University
Position: Point Guard
Scout’s Comparisons: Chris Paul, Mike Conley
Reasons to Howl: There are MANY. While the prototypical NBA point guard seems to be evolving into the Westbrook/Rose mold, incredible athletes without much of a jump shot, Irving is more old-school: smart, efficient, and confident; more than capable of taking over a game offensively, but wise enough to defer to his teammates the way great point guards should. Irving’s size, strength, and lateral quickness should translate well on the defensive end. He has NBA three point range, a nice pull up jumper, a variety of nasty crossovers and sneaky moves in the lane (including a GORGEOUS Euro-step), and, by all accounts, a hyper-competitive streak, and swagger that alerts everyone on the court to who the alpha dog is. Now read that paragraph again…and remember that the kid is 19 years old.
Reasons to Worry: (Resisting…the…urge…to…be…snarky…and…failing…) Does it count as a reason to worry that the Timberwolves are now known around the NBA for unnecessarily drafting point guards, and yet Luke freaking Ridnour still started almost every game this past year?
No? Ok. (Calming myself…) Then back to Irving. One possible concern is Irving’s raw speed. While he can change directions quickly, he’s not as explosively fast as many current All-Star NBA point guards. He just doesn’t possess that second gear like MVP Derrick Rose (Not many do). It remains to be seen whether Irving can stay with the likes of John Wall on defense, or even another prospect who will be analyzed in the next few days…UConn’s Kemba Walker. On a slightly pickier note, Irving also missed most of the regular season with a toe injury, robbing us of a more complete look at his game. Fortunately for Irving, he performed admirably in the tournament, dominating the offensive end for Duke, so this might be just picking nits.
Benefits to the Wolves: Looking at the Wolves roster, the biggest holes are pretty clearly at the 1 and 5 positions, and Irving, the #1 prospect in the draft, is a point guard. If Minnesota wins the lottery, Irving will presumably be chosen. In addition to his many talents, he is reportedly a high character guy, someone you absolutely want to have in your locker room throughout a long, grueling NBA season.While the question marks surrounding his athleticism are mildly worrisome, his confidence and savvy would be invaluable at such an important position for this Timberwolves team. Better yet: he’s a cool head, a good shooter, and excellent at finding the correct shot; the kind of player who is invaluable when you are trying to close out a close game. I don’t know if you noticed…but Minnesota can’t close out close games. Ever. Ever ever. Ugh.
Plus, any time you can draft a player scouts are comparing to Chris Paul…well…
The Howlin’ Verdict: Granted we get the top pick, we take him, despite the Rubio drama. If for some reason he slides to us, you still take him. No questions asked.