Wolves draft analysis; Why you shouldn’t hate Shabazz Muhammed

Shabazz Muhammed was taken 14th by the Timberwolves last night

And so concludes the 2013 NBA Draft. Although not chock-full of organization cornerstones or even all that talented players, the draft certainly had its fair share of twists and turns.

For starters, Anthony Bennett going first overall to the Cavs. That subsequently led to the fateful Nerlens Noel slide, which didn’t end all that badly for the Kentucky big man. Or how about Dallas’ moves that took them from 13th to 16th and back to 18th in the first round, just so they could save a little cap to go after Dwight Howard? Or even the Celtics’ plan to move up to take… Kelly Olynyk?!

Yeah, I know.

But let’s get to the reason why you’re here. How did our beloved Timberwolves fair in this draft?

Here’s a review of what they did:
– No one was available at the 9th spot that they really wanted, so the Wolves chose the B.P.A. in Trey Burke, only to trade him to the Utah Jazz from the 14th and 21st picks overall.
– The Wolves had options at 14 but opted for Shabazz Muhammed.
– With the 21st pick sent from Utah, the Wolves cold-called Gorgui Dieng (They apparently had no intention of drafting him in the first place) to be their selection.
– Originally they still possessed the 26th pick but then actually sold it to Golden State in a deal that also included Malcolm Lee for a future second round pick coming our way.
– The second round began with the Wolves having two spots, 52nd and 59th, and they kept both of them (Surprise).
– The 52nd pick was used on underrated guard Lorenzo Brown.
– The 59th pick led to a international draft-and-stash in Bojan Dubljevic.

As you can see, just on the Timberwolves behalf, a lot happened in the draft.

Starting with the pick that everyone cares about or at the very least has a strong opinion on: Shabazz Muhammed. In order to fully understand what happened, let’s go back in real time to break everything down.

Flip Saunders and the Wolves had a liking for Victor Oladipo — Who didn’t? But to move up and get him, the only real partner was Orlando and they were content on grabbing whoever with that 2nd pick because they just need bodies, talented ones at that. It would’ve taken a lot to get that pick, simply put, because of how prime Orlando’s position was, especially after Bennett had gone 1st overall. My guess is more than just a package of the 9th, 26th and Derrick Williams, which was rumored in just about every trade-up scenario possible. So because no deal was made, the Magic go home happy with a great player and the Wolves were forced to scratch player one off the draft board.

Their next target was Ben McLemore. He was more tricky to peg down in the draft because his talent is undeniable but his work ethic is questionable at best. Some were enamored, some weren’t. Regardless, he fit the exact profile Flip wanted in his 2-guard: Someone who could shoot lights out, doesn’t need to be the top scoring option and possesses good size at the position. McLemore slid compared to most mock drafts that had him in the top 5. For a brief moment, I legitimately thought he could’ve fallen to the Wolves at 9. But then I remembered this is the Wolves were talking about and, sure enough, Sacramento scoops him up with the 7th pick. That was tough to swallow because Sacramento is where talent goes to die a miserable death. Seriously, just go look at Tyreke Evans and Demarcus Cousins. It is not an ideal situation for McLemore and I truly hope his career doesn’t suffer because of it.

Moving on, there was still one player left who fit the bill of Flip’s ideal 2-guard: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. KCP wouldn’t be a lottery pick most years but because the lack of depth at the top of this draft, he was. Most mock drafts pegged him in Minnesota with the 9th spot. Hell, KCP even did too. But, in classic Minnesotan, heartbreaking fashion, the Detroit Pistons used the 8th pick on KCP, leaving nothing for Minnesota. Looking back, though, KCP wasn’t my ideal choice because he is unknown and could fizzle out very quickly in this league if he doesn’t have a good situation and doesn’t get out to a good start. But we’ll have to wait and see on that one.

So, just like that, Flip and the Wolves’ 1st, 2nd and 3rd scenarios for this draft were obliterated very quickly. They ended up taking Trey Burke — cue the point guard jokes from Bill Simmons — but surely not for their own. The pick was traded to Utah and they were left at the 14th pick.

Here’s where things get kind of weird. Rumor has it that the Wolves wanted Kelly Olynyk at 14. What the — If that truly would’ve been the case, Wolves nation may have considered sprinting to the nearest bridge on the block and hurling their numb bodies off. But no. Instead they stuck to the plan… Sorta. In Shabazz Muhammed, the Wolves get a pure scorer who’s done it his whole life. He’s not extremely talented or athletic or an amazing shooter but he’s been great at putting the ball in the hoop, which is the name of the game, right?

The Muhammed pick is still awfully disappointing to many out there, and I understand the pain because he wasn’t my ideal choice either. But as the timeline shows, it was the next-best option in a draft that had all sorts of twists and turns. Essentially, Muhammed was the fourth best option on the table, which really sucks that Flip had to resort to that, but at least it wasn’t the fifth, sixth or even seventh option, all of which David Kahn would’ve delightfully considered probably.

The best part is at least they didn’t have to reach for Muhammed. He was projected end of the lottery to the middle of the first round. It wasn’t clear who was willing to take the gamble but that’s where he was likely to go. So the fact that the Wolves were able to move down, accumulate a pick and still take their fourth best option is certainly a win in my books. That extra pick actually turned into Gorgui Dieng, who is more than capable of backing up Nikola Pekovic as a defensive specialist and someone who’s more efficient than Greg Stiemsma with a smidgen of upside.

The part I really don’t love about the trade/drafting Muhammed is what else we could’ve gotten out of Utah. What if they scored Alec Burks and the 21st pick instead of the 14th pick? Or how about the 9th and 26th picks for the 21st and Enes Kanter, who was reportedly on the block? There were better options available and now Flip is sort of holding his pants up, hoping Muhammed lives up to the pick. It’s also worth noting that the number one goal in this draft was to grab someone who could really shoot the ball, preferably from the 2-guard spot. They didn’t really get that. Not even in the second round. Muhammed is a capable spot-up shooter but he’s not going to wow from deep or be all that efficient either. That’s a big fail in my books. Even if they believe someone will be available via trade or free agency in a few weeks, we’re still looking towards 2013-2014 with no true starting shooting guard with a skill set that isn’t all that difficult to find. That is without a doubt the most frustrating aspect out of this whole fiasco.

So if you can understand that the draft simply didn’t play out to the Wolves’ favor, you should be able to comprehend the Muhammed/Dieng/Utah Jazz trade moves that swarmed the first round. All things considered, it made a great deal of sense based on both need and value to trade back and take a true scorer on the wing and a defensive-minded big. The problem moving forward is that there is still a gaping whole in the Wolves’ roster that will be difficult to fill moving forward into the offseason, when the draft would’ve been a useful place to fix it.

Without further adieu, here’s my grading of the Wolves’ draft:

  • Utah Jazz trade: C+
    Should’ve been able to get more from the Jazz utilizing Burke, the best point guard in the draft, as a solid leveraging point.
  • Shabazz Muhammed pick: B
    Bazz is a good player who gets a bad rep. He can flat-out score and that’s something the Wolves desperately need when Love and Pek are the only 16+ ppg scorers on the roster. His presence off the bench could be very helpful.
  • Gorgui Dieng pick: B-
    The Wolves knew they needed a wing and a big man in the first round. They got both even though Dieng wasn’t the best option. He does fill a hole on defense and could get better as he develops.
  • Trading 26th pick to Golden State: C
    There were some very talented shooting guards available here including Allen Crabbe, Alex Abrinnes, Glen Rice Jr., Ricky Ledo and Jamaal Franklin. Taking three first rounders isn’t ideal but when your need is available, you should cash in.
  • Lorenzo Brown: B
    He has first round talent, good size but was a major disappointment for NC State last season. A capable replacement for the injury-prone Malcolm Lee and at good value but that’s probably all.
  • Bojan Dubljevic: C-
    I don’t know who he is and we never will. Draft-and-stash players are close to worthless in the second round. Better off drafting someone like Trevor Mbakwe, making his night memorable and giving him a chance at a big-league squad.

By my math, that gives the Timberwolves a total draft grade of B- (And that’s rounding up), which makes this a passing and somewhat satisfying measurement of success.

Take note that this is simply the first day of draft analysis. We only have our intuition and projections to base this off of. That grade could very well go up or it could spin down faster than you could imagine. It’s all speculation to this point but at least it’s fun, right?

Now, as for the draft as a whole, it was entertaining. I can’t say that I’ve actually watched a draft from beginning to end before this one. I’m not entirely sure why that is but it might be the fact that all of these players — from Anthony Bennett to Janis Timma — are all graded so closely together. None are projected to be superstars but none are really projected as bonafide busts (yet) either. The talent pool, although not great, indeed had breadth, which made it fun all the way until the end.

My favorite moment: After a whole night of continuous booing upon the current and best commissioner the NBA has ever seen — perhaps the whole country has ever seen in any major sport — the tireless Brooklyn crowd gave David Stern quite the ovation on the 30th pick of the first round. Since Stern already announced his coming retirement, we knew that this would be the final pick he ever announces as the commissioner of the NBA. To thank him, the NBA faithful cheered him on as his career starts to wind down. Plus the Hakeem Olajuwon thing was pretty cool.

But that’s not even the best part. I lean over to my brother-in-law and say, “I bet they start too boo Adam Silver now.” And just like that, without missing a beat, Silver steps to the podium to begin the second round and is greeted to a wave of boos as playful but real as the ones belted out for Stern. The life of an NBA commissioner, huh?

My least favorite moment: Bill Simmons’ commentary. I’m not usually one to bash Simmons because I’m a Grantland junky and simply love what he’s done for bloggers and sports columnists everywhere. But the majority of his comments lacked any analysis whatsoever and at times seemed downright inappropriate  The fact that he brought up the Boston/Brooklyn trade about 8 different times made it difficult to view any longer with the sound on. I’ve been a fan of the tag team that is Simmons and Jalen Rose but the draft affirmed the fact that Rose out-analyzes Simmons on every situation in the basketball world. For entertainment purposes, Simmons is fine. But if you actually wanted something valid to spew out of his mouth, don’t get your hopes up. Oh, and by the way, his home team, the Celtics, royally screwed up tonight with that trade. Eat it, Bill.

About Jonah Steinmeyer

Been a Wolves fan for probably way too long to be considered a sane human anymore. An avid golfer in my free time. I cheer for Minnesota sports but live in Florida.