Another year, another draft to prepare for. That’s the feeling most Timberwolves fans succumb to every Spring. The only difference is that this year’s seems to be bittersweet. Bitter in the fact that the Wolves really shouldn’t be in this position at all. With a playoff-caliber roster and a bonafide superstar, we’d hoped the Wolves would still be clawing their way through the Western Conference playoffs at this juncture. But instead, Flip Saunders and company are spending countless hours and sleepless nights preparing for yet another lottery pick in the draft.
Have I gotten to the “sweet” part of the occasion yet?
This is obviously a sweet time to be where the Wolves are at in this specific draft. The Wolves hold just a 0.6 percent chance at landing the top pick (And I believe a 2-point-something chance at moving into the top three) but may be sitting pretty at 13, if all holds up. This is one of the deepest drafts in quite some time with potential superstars — note the “s” to make it plural — at the top of the draft. Right there at 13 could be a strong rotational player for a year or two with strong starting capabilities later on. Often times the 13th pick can be a gamble; a box of chocolates, not knowing what you might get inside. But this year there’s just a little bit less of a gamble and little bit more potential of that one player being a special “hit” and not a miss.
Now, I’m not going to get into who could be available for the Wolves or who they may or may not be interested in quite yet because we still don’t know where they’re going to pick from. Whether it’s 13th, 3rd, 2nd or 1st, things will drastically change. I’ll leave that for the crowd after the Draft Lottery takes place on Tuesday. Instead, I want to briefly go over some of the prospects in this year’s draft and also make some predictions on what I think might happen come draft night. If you must know, I’ve been a draft-savant for just about ever, and I’ve been scouting many of the players available this summer since they were underclassmen in high school. Don’t call me an expert, rather just a dude who really loves watching athletes develop into awesome basketball players as they mature. With that, here are just a few thoughts and predictions regarding the 2014 NBA Draft.
- The best prospect IS Andrew Wiggins. The 2nd best IS Jabari Parker. The 3rd best IS Dante Exum. Sorry, Joel Embiid, but all I see are the physical tools being controlled by a drastically underdeveloped basketball mind. Because of that, that’s who I think should go first, second and third. Embiid is certainly still worth the lottery pick but not in the top three. All I see is in Embiid is a mix between Andrew Bynum and Greg Oden. Oodles of talent and potential in a bruising, NBA-ready body but will struggle with consistency and the potential injury bug throughout his NBA career. Keep him healthy and fresh for a season, he can do what Bynum did in L.A. Ride him too hard and force him into action before he’s ready, his back could pop out and be subject to four microscopic surgeries that will keep him out for seasons at a time. You definitely still take him once Wiggins, Parker and Exum are gone but certainly not before or you’ll likely be sorry.
- There’s one player that I thought would be a darkhorse but is slowly becoming a household name. That’s Noah Vonleh from Indiana. Did you know he has the biggest hands of anyone in this class? Like, he could probably palm a basketball with his 9 3/4 inch hands! Anyways, with my ill-feelings towards Embiid and his red flags, I think that Vonleh should and will get drafted in the top four. Does that mean he goes before Embiid? I don’t know exactly. Depends on who’s drafting at the top. But someone is going to look at Vonleh and see a star in him. Maybe it’s overvaluing just a tad but look at what the Charlotte
BobcatsHornets did last year by taking Cody Zeller over some other big men like Alex Len and Nerlens Noel. Vonleh will be better than Zeller, so I still don’t think it’s overvaluing saying he will go top four.
- Shabazz Napier is well-renowned around the NBA after his magic in the NCAA Tournament. The story runs parallels all too familiar to Kemba Walker’s special run with UConn in 2011. Because of that, Walker’s draft stock rose drastically in the months leading up to the draft. I believe that Napier is going to have an even bigger rise. Now, part of that prediction is skewed because Napier’s pro prospects weren’t the best heading into this last season anyways. Definitely lower than Kemba’s, at least. But I think there’s a team or two that will fall for Napier’s heart and determination that they’d be willing to select him in the lottery after Marcus Smart and maybe even before Tyler Ennis. I believe that Ennis has the best long-term potential out of these point guard prospects but Napier has that chance to do exactly what Walker has in Charlotte. If he were to go in the lottery, as long as it’s after Ennis, in my opinion, it wouldn’t be a bad idea.
- I’m a big fan of Julius Randle. I believe that he might struggle to start his NBA career because his offensive game is so original that teams and coaches might struggle to find ways to use him other than isolations and pick and rolls. But once Randle gets comfortable with playing in the post against elite NBA defenders, he’s going to be an uber-athletic version of Paul Millsap. And I like the idea of that. He’s worth a top-five pick without a doubt.
- There are some really strong shooters in this draft. Gary Harris, Nic Stauskas, James Young, Doug McDermott, P.J. Hairston. All those guys can step up and make a big time shot, and what I love most, they can all play different positions at the NBA level. But if I had to narrow it down to the best “shooting” prospect, it’d have to be James Young. He’s streaky, no doubt, but he plays with swagger and has a J.R. Smith aura to him. I mean, he just signed with Jay Z’s agency and he sat next to Rihanna at the Brooklyn Nets game. Young, to me, is the best prospect who’s labeled a scorer because he’s not just a perimeter jump shooter. He has great NBA size at 6-foot-7 and can score in a multitude of ways. He needs to improve on his body mechanics while attacking as well as his handles but until he does, you could stick him on the wing as a spot-up shooter or baseline slasher until he adds more versatility to his game. I think Young is a great young prospect, who’s value seems to be falling from 10th to 20th. Or just in line for the Wolves to perhaps nab him.
- Now there’s a couple players, like Embiid, that I have some serious reservations about. The first being Aaron Gordon. The ultra-athletic forward has no real position, loves to dunk and can’t make a free throw to save his mother. In other words, Derrick Williams 2.0 minus the potential perimeter scoring touch. Sure, he plays really tough defense and is a great rebounder but his offensive game is a mess and needs to come a long ways before he ever comes close to putting up just double-digits on average. Another guy I worry about is Zach Lavine. He’s your prototypical risk-reward guy. He comes with so many flags with as young as he is but also has elite athleticism and has shown glimpses of great stuff. But he’s too much of a gamble, if you ask me. Finally, I would definitely stay away from Marcus Smart. It’s not because of the Texas Tech incident or anything like that. Rather it’s the fact that, even while staying an additional year at Oklahoma State, he didn’t really improve from his freshmen to sophomore year. His stats raised minimally, his on-court leadership was questioned. It was just kind of a mess. Marcus Smart should be a good NBA player, but probably only a starter given the right spot. If this was the only prediction I was wrong on, I wouldn’t be the least surprised.
That’s about all I have for tonight. Again, we’re going to be covering the draft significantly this summer because the Wolves have a serious stake involved. We’ll see just high of a stake they’ll have once the lottery takes place but I wouldn’t bet on anything crazy happening. For now, we’ll just have to cross our fingers, our toes, our legs, our arms and even our eyes and hope for the best. Come on lucky, Momma! Daddy needs a new star!