Category: NBA Draft

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


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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.

More on Shabazz Muhammed


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It all started when it was announced that the Detroit Pistons were going to select Georgia’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the guard the Timberwolves had so coveted, with the eighth pick.  Not even Ben McLemore’s selection at seven sent fans’ blood pressure soaring since we never believed he would be there anyway and that it was nothing more than a fun thought to entertain. No, as soon as KCP came off the board the question became, “Now what?” Do they take C.J. McCollum, the combo guard, as a consolation prize? Or would they be better served trading out of their position altogether?

Well, they opted for the latter, selecting Michigan point guard Trey Burke for the Utah Jazz in exchange for the 14th and 21st picks.

The game began again with what to do with the 14th pick. Some of the options remaining included Sergey Kerasev, Mason Plumlee, and UCLA’s highly scrutinized Shabazz Muhammed. As we know the Timberwolves would select Muhammed, igniting a portion of the team’s fans.

“They’re gonna regret passing on McCollum!”

“Why didn’t they just keep Burke?!”

“Muhammed is Michael Beasley 2.0!”

If you’ve been following the hype leading up to the draft you are well aware that Muhammed was going to be coming with some questions, so this reaction shouldn’t surprise you. To many it sounds like there is almost no point in Shabazz even trying and whatever team gives him a uniform is destined to an eternity of futility. It’s easy to speak definitively when we get emotional about a subject we’re passionate about that we forget to take a step back and re-examine the situation at-hand.

Yes, he only had 27 assists over the course of 32 games last season, but that was at UCLA. Here, he won’t be the team’s go-to player and neither will he be the team’s primary ballhandler. In fact, if he becomes a ball-stopper by refusing to pass, he won’t play. We’ve seen it with Derrick Williams where he gives him these in-game teaching moments by benching Williams if he’s trying to do too much on his own and is hurting the team. In reality, Adelman may be the strong coach Muhammed needs to succeed at the next level. Systematically, Shabazz can fill the role of the catch-and-shoot player off of Ricky Rubio passes while helping to open up driving lanes for Derrick Williams and others to cut to the basket. No, he wasn’t elite in college (37 percent), but that figure is still good and he’s certainly young enough to continue to improve further.

While Muhammed isn’t a spectacular athlete, he’s a good athlete and his 6’11 wingspan will help him compensate for that defensively. Using Williams as the example once again, we’ve seen Adelman make serviceable defenders out of players with inferior physical attributes, so there is reason to believe that Muhammed could grow into a capable defender along the way. You can certainly change a 20 year old kid’s mindset from scorer to more complete player as long as they have the proper coach to instill that in them. Again, if he wants to get minutes he’ll earn them by doing things like playing defense.

You can point to his past issues with his birth certificate or his perceived attitude problems as reason for concern, but part of the reason Muhammed wooed the Timberwolves was the fact that he did own up to his prior issues. He’s young, naive, and made some mistakes because of that, but taking responsibility for them is a sign of maturity. The Timberwolves were also enticed by the fact that he’s a gym rat and willing to put in the work to get better. Plus, it will only be an added bonus if Muhammed comes in with a chip on his shoulder having fallen from top pick consideration once upon a time to a fringe lottery pick.

Perhaps I’m being positive here, but it’s a choice I’d rather make than damning Muhammed to failure from the get-go. Like any other pick, there’s a chance that it works out and a chance that it blows up in your face; that’s the draft for you. It’s not as if they gave up a ton to get him, and arguably received more in return considering the alleged depth of this draft and the fact that they were swapping the ninth for fourteenth. Being able to use both picks to fill separate needs isn’t too shabby, either. So, there are many reasons this could be a disaster but there are also several reasons why this could be a bit of a steal.

2013 HTW Mock Draft


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Here is our long-awaited 2013 NBA Mock Draft. Derek and I took on the role of each and every team in the first round’s general manager role to complete this mock draft. Enjoy!

1Nerlens NoelKentuckyCenter7'0"206 lbs

The Cleveland Cavaliers are blowing serious smoke with all this talk about Otto Porter or Alex Len being their potential pick at the top. That simply won’t be the case when it comes down to it. They could very well trade the pick but in the end they’ll end up taking the player that makes the most sense to them paired with the highest upside of anyone in the draft. Noel is hands down their man come Thursday night. — Jonah

2Ben McLemoreKansasShooting Guard6'5"189 lbs.

Some teams might have Otto Porter higher-rated than McLemore, but for the Magic McLemore makes more sense. While they are a rebuilding team that should be drafting for talent and not need, they already have Mo Harkless as a developing small forward, meaning that Harkless and Porter splitting minutes could potentially stunt their development. McLemore will still give them some shooting and will be able to fairly split time with the veteran incumbent at the shooting guard, Aaron Afflalo. — Derek

3Anthony BennettUNLVPower Forward6'8"240 lbs.

The rest of the lottery is envious of Washington’s position in this draft. We all know there isn’t elite or guaranteed talent at the top of the draft but still very good players with potential all-star acumen. The Wizards will have a few players to choose from that will all help them now and maybe turn into that all-star down the road. Anthony Bennett has the best combination of those two components and gives them a great scoring option in the frontcourt, something they didn’t have last year to take the edge off of their star-studded backcourt of John Wall and Brad Beal. — Jonah

4Alex LenMarylandCenter7'1"225 lbs.

Damn Wizards, screwing everything up. Suddenly, this pick becomes a little more difficult. But, again, the Bobcats just drafted a player at Porter’s position, and they need the frontcourt scoring more than they do another shooting guard, so I’m taking Alex Len and his fused ankle for the Bobcats. — Derek

5Otto PorterGeorgetownSmall Forward6'9"198 lbs.

Otto Porter is a bit of a wild card in this draft. Because he’s probably the most polished player projected to go in the top 5, he could go literally anywhere. And because his game is so versatile from the small forward position, any team would be a great fit for Porter. Having said that, the Suns would grin ear to ear  if he were to fall to them at 5. This pick will come down toVictor Oladipo and Porter. With more wings with better shooting prospects towards their 30th pick than Oladipo, the Suns would be smart to go Porter and pick one of those up later. — Jonah

6Victor OladipoIndianaShooting Guard6'4"213 lbs.

FINALLY, the Oladipo slide ends here. While Al Faroq-Aminu has made strides on the wing, and they just paid Eric Gordon a lot of money to miss a lot of games, and they drafted Austin Rivers last season, passing up on Oladipo here is just unforseeable. If nothing else, Oladipo has a shot to be their healthiest and most productive guard next season. — Derek

7Michael Carter-WilliamsSyracusePoint Guard6'6"184 lbs.

There are four point guards that I really like in this draft. Michael Carter-Williams is probably my favorite, which is why I give him the edge to go to the Kings at 7. The Kings are guard-heavy, which may make this pick seem a little odd on the surface. But a closer examination proves that they still don’t really have an elite ball-handler, more so just great playmaking guards and then Jimmer Fredette. Carter-Williams has a ways to go on offense, especially with his poor perimeter shooting, but with all the weapons in Sacramento, somebody needs to run the show and make sure they all get their opportunities. — Jonah

8Trey BurkeMichiganPoint Guard6'1"187 lbs.

With Will Bynum and Jose Calderon entering free agency, leaving Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Knight as the Pistons only point guard capable players, they get a cheap replacement here that could be a long-term solution at the point. Plus he’s already made some Michigan fans very happy, so he should be a popular choice. — Derek

9Shabazz MuhammedUCLASmall Forward6'6"222 lbs.

Surprise! Many will disagree with this pick but here’s why it’s not all that bad. Muhammed gets a bad rap because of his disgusting year at UCLA. But some didn’t know that he was the top-ranked player in his 2012 high school class. And now that he’s all healed up and in much better shape than last season, his workouts for teams have been going extremely well. Flip Saunders said that Muhammed just knows how to score and not many can do that naturally. That’s a gift, especially for a team like Minnesota, who only has one player who can score 20+ points on a consistent, nightly basis, at the ninth spot. If you can look past the stigma Muhammed carries on his shoulders, you’ll realize he’s a great pick for the Wolves. — Jonah

10Kentavious Caldwell-PopeGeorgiaShooting Guard6'4"204 lbs.

Alright, so they need a center, which means my pick is probably wrong but this could be a nice young backcourt with Damian Lillard and KCP, while moving on past Wesley Matthews and his bruising contract. Besides, they can always pick up a center later on, in free agency, or give JJ Hickson $12m for the next four years (Kidding.) — Derek

11Steven AdamsPittsburghCenter7'0"255 lbs.

The 76ers have some trouble brewing and it all lies in their frontcourt. Upcoming free agent Andrew Bynum, who they gave up Andre Iguodala to get, never played a single game last season because of a bad knee. Beyond that, Spencer Hawes doesn’t know how to play 7-feet tall and Arnett Moultrie is too raw to just throw to the dogs. To give them some depth upfront or a replacement for Bynum — Knock on wood — Adams is a strong pick. Cody Zeller is also a solid option here. — Jonah

12Cody ZellerIndianaCenter7'0"230 lbs.

Tired of watching the Thunder roll out Kendrick Perkins time and time again? Worry no more! Not only that but Zeller is a great option on kick-outs at that 18-foot range. Now the Thunder can afford to marginalize Perk and work on playing more productive lineups.  – Derek

13CJ McCollumLehighPoint Guard6'3"197 lbs.

Chad Ford is claiming that the Mavericks are intent on trading this pick. Why? I’m not sure. They’re as old as the Celtics and need just as much help injecting youth into the organization. This is a wonderful scenario for them if McCollum were to fall to them. He immediately upgrades their backcourt and allows them to let OJ Mayo walk, if need be. — Jonah

14Shane LarkinMiamiPoint Guard6'0"171 lbs.

Because sometimes Devin Harris and Jamal Tinsley just aren’t enough. But in all seriousness, the Jazz seriously have the biggest hole at point guard, and although there aren’t many sure-thing guards in this draft, Larkin has some upside to his game. — Derek

15Dennis SchroederGermanyPoint Guard6'2"165 lbs.

The Bucks are kicking themselves if this indeed happens. First off, McCollum slides almost through the lottery to Milwaukee at 15. Then, Utah feeling slighted too, takes the next best point guard before the Bucks in Shane Larking. Doh! But Dennis Schroeder is a good consolation prize. He’s a little unknown because he played last season in Germany but he’s got sky-high potential, just as much as anyone else in the draft. If the Bucks can be patient, which it doesn’t seem like they want to be given the JJ Redick trade, Larry Drew hiring and more, Schroeder could develop into a great option for them in their dissolving backcourt. — Jonah

16Lucas NogueriaBrazilCenter7'0"220 lbs.

I am so sorry Celtics fans. He’s not much of a scorer, but he’s got the size and a ton of potential, so you all might not hate me in a few years. Then again, maybe you didn’t even notice I made this pick because your team did draft Fab Melo last year. — Derek

P.S. Tom is a big Celtics fan on top of being a Wolves roadie. This is what happens when he misses out on our draft and Derek takes over the ship.

17Kelly OlynykGonzagaCenter7'0"234 lbs.

The Hawks need big bodies. Lasting on Zaza Pachulia among others, the Hawks just didn’t have enough depth in the frontcourt behind Josh Smith and Al Horford. Kelly Olynyk provides them exactly that and is a great option too. Olynyk seems to be more NBA ready than other center options near the top-half of the draft, so this could be considered a steal for Atlanta. — Jonah

18Mason PlumleeDukeCenter7'0"238 lbs.

Ok, I need to get it together, but it’s unlikely this matters because I doubt they keep both of these picks at their current slots. If they wanted a guard, they could trade down, or if they wanted to find out what a Horford-Olynyk-Plumlee lineup could do… (they won’t do this.) — Derek

19Sergey KarasevRussiaShooting Guard6'7"197 lbs.

Steal of the draft? I’d say so. Sergey Karasev, another international player, is a straight sharpshooter from distance. The Cavs would be blessed to get him here, especially after taking a big body with the top pick. Karasev’s stock has been rising for weeks, and now that Dario Saric has officially removed his name from the draft, Karasev may just be the best international prospect available. He’ll be a huge boost to Cleveland’s perimeter game this year or next, depending on when he comes over. — Jonah

20Rudy GobertFranceCenter7'2"238 lbs.

With Karasev going off of the board, it’s between the seven-foot Gobert and a handful of limited wings, so why not? He won’t be forced into anything in Chicago behind Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, but could give them emergency depth if the situation arose. — Derek

21Gorgui DiengLouisvilleCenter6'11"230 lbs.

Gorgui Dieng’s stock is suffering right now because of some injuries but his championship season can speak for itself. At Louisville, Dieng was the Cardinals’ presence in the paint, part of the puzzle that helped them vault to the top. Dieng is a defensive stopper, the perfect rotational frontcourt player. The Jazz, having already grabbed a point guard in this scenario, move to help their frontcourt, which may be disintegrating this summer with both Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson becoming free agents. — Jonah

22Reggie BullockNorth CarolinaShooting Guard6'7"200 lbs.

Alright, this is another depth pick because Jerry Stackhouse won’t be around forever (Or will he…?) Hopefully, for the Nets’ sake, he makes them more fun to watch than last season. — Derek

23Giannis AntetokounmpoGreeceSmall Forward6'9"215 lbs.

The Pacers made quite the impressive run this season, huh? But the one thing I noticed in their playoff contests was that they lacked depth pretty much all over. They have capable players stepping in but no one that can really make a difference when needed. Giannis Antetokounmpo is a large wing from Greece with deep range. He may not be ready now but he’s the kind of guy who can become that top option off the bench. Plus, if any team can wait for someone like Antetokounmpo, it’s the Pacers. — Jonah

24Tim Hardaway Jr.MichiganShooting Guard6'6"199 lbs.

This is a little funny to me considering Knicks fans hated his Dad’s team — the Heat — in the 90′s and now they would get his son. Going deeper than that, Hardaway could give them added depth to the backcourt, but despite him being a good shooter he would need to improve his shot selection in New York. — Derek

25Ricardo LedoProvidenceShooting Guard6'6"197 lbs.

We get to the pick with arguably the best value of the first round. Ricardo Ledo, who didn’t actually play a game at Providence, is a top-notch scoring threat. Along with Muhammed, he may be the only one in this first round with the ability to average 20+ a game. Ledo is a great shooter, both spot-up and off the dribble. He’s the perfect player to consider a replacement for Chauncey Billips, if/when he ever retires. Plus, Ledo can shift to the small forward spot, where the retired Grant Hill has already left a place open. — Jonah

26Allen CrabbeCaliforniaShooting Guard6'6"197 lbs.

While Crabbe isn’t exactly a knockdown shooter, he was still average, meaning he could still bolster the team’s less-than-average shooting from deep next season. — Derek

27Glen Rice Jr.NBDLSmall Forward6'6"211 lbs.

No George Karl, soon to be no Andre Iguodala, the Nuggets are in a bit of trouble now. Although Karl may be irreplaceable, the Nuggets could get a headstart moving on from Iggy by taking Glen Rice Jr. He’s not the defensive mogul that Iggy was but he’ll certainly be able to chip in on offense. Rice Jr. is a great shooter with a good-sized body. He’ll give relief to Ty Lawson, Evan Fournier and Andre Miller in the backcourt. — Jonah

28Jeff WitheyKansasCenter7'0"222 lbs.

Because sometimes you just can’t stomach the thought of paying Tiago Splitter $13 million per year. — Derek

29Jamaal FranklinSan Diego StateShooting Guard6'5"191 lbs.

Jamaal Franklin is actually a top 20 prospect in my mind. Think of a poor man’s Kawhi Leonard. He’s not a great threat on offense or defense but he’s always going to play very hard, which makes him a coachable, lovable prospect. The Thunder could use someone like Franklin to sort of weed out Thabo Sefolosha, who had a pretty awful postseason. — Jonah

30Tony SnellNew MexicoSmall Forward6'7"198 lbs.

The Suns went small forward earlier on with Otto Porter, they still need wings. Tony Snell is soaring up draft boards right now, which means this is probably too low, but in these kinds of drafts where value is minimal, teams take exactly who they want, exactly when they can get them. For that theory and that theory only, Snell drops to 30th but the Suns are damn happy.  – Derek

2013 HTW Wolves Draft Board


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We all know the NBA Draft is tomorrow, right? If not, you’ve probably been living in a cave because this is the week of rumors galore plus endless hours of draft coverage everywhere you look. So only to pile on the onslaught you’ve probably already run in to, HTW has created our very own Timberwolves Draft Board, but with a twist.

Our rankings are legit. All three of us — Tom, Derek and myself — took time to create our individual lists and then compiled them into a comprehensive draft board based on the Wolves’ needs and value. But to make it a little less dry than your average draft coverage, which are typically based on nothing but rumors, we created blurbs to spice it up a bit and add just a touch of humor.

Snarky but accurate, here is our draft board:  Continue reading

A Few Ping-Pong Balls Short of a Lottery


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The title of this post is basically a warning to you that I know very little about this draft still, but still have enough knowledge of the lottery/draft and the Timberwolves’ situation to make penning some thoughts worth everyone’s time. Or at least I hope it is. If not, I’m sure both Tom and Jonah will have some thoughts for you guys. Still, there’s lots of ways they could go with this pick and you have to remember they are in a different position than they were at this time last year. Heck, they’re in a position as a team that they haven’t been in since I started high school and that was like a decade ago. *gulp*

A lot of fans on Twitter are saying trade the pick. Which is probably what I would do, but I would trade the pick altogether instead of trying to trade up since the likelihood of being able to move into position for Ben McLemore or Victor Oladipo is pretty unlikely. Moving up also likely means having to take back a bad contract or give up a valuable asset, which for a team like the Timberwolves vying for a playoff spot may not be the best idea.

The other reason it makes sense to move both the 9th and 26th picks if they’re not blown away by anything left on the board or a great offer comes by them is that they don’t need to get younger. They also don’t need a skinny project big or an athletic wing player still trying to work out that hitch in his jumper. The Timberwolves are still a win-now team that may need a backup center and shooting two-guard, but they need those types to be NBA-ready and cheap, too. If they think they can find that at nine and twenty-six, great, but they sure don’t need both and Flip even admitted as much after the lottery they don’t need two more 20-year olds on the roster.

Ideally, they’d be able to move the picks like last year for an established player, but there are not a plethora of teams with talented, cheap, and young players they are willing to part with for a draft pick.

If they do keep the picks, they’re likely out of position for any wings that could make an immediate impact or bigs at the same stage of development. That leaves the Timberwolves to choose from point guards (which they don’t need) and small forwards, which might work better if  they can land a combo 2-3. According to Jerry Zgoda the Timberwolves have already met with UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad and Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas, who gets props for not having me capitalize the “Shaun” in his name. As for point guards, the Timberwolves have been looking to move one of Luke Ridnour and JJ Barea since the last trade deadline, and…and…ok, I really can’t see them taking one with four players on the current roster capable of playing the position, so they’d have to move one.

That’s all I have for now, but I really can’t see them keeping both picks and I think we all know that they will be listening to offers for the 9th pick. Now, time to go bone up on this draft because I really need to learn more about the mid-lottery.

 

Bobcats 101: Why a Derrick Williams to Charlotte Trade Makes Little Sense


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As many of you reading this probably know, I took up covering the Charlotte Bobcats for SB Nation’s Rufus on Fire this season in addition to my work here and at Hardwood Paroxysm. Even when I first started at Rufus I always saw Bobcats fans clamoring for Derrick Williams. And tonight I’m seeing Timberwolves fans trying to figure out how they can trade Derrick to Charlotte to get the number four pick. Clearly these two fan bases have one thing in common: They know nothing about the other team. But since we’re a Timberwolves blog I’m going to talk about why the Bobcats wouldn’t do it– consider this Bobcats 101 or something.

 

First off, let’s examine the Bobcats’ roster a little since I received many questions about this.

PG: Kemba Walker/Ramon Sessions

SG: Gerald Henderson/Ben Gordon

SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist/Henderson

PF: Byron Mullens/Bismack Biyombo/Josh McRoberts/Jeff Adrien

C: Brendan Haywood/Mullens/Gana Diop (You don’t know what this was like, you don’t know the things I’ve seen!)

At first glance you may notice that many players  on this list are relatively undersized for their position, especially in the backcourt. In fact, the Bobcats played small quite frequently all year. Secondly, Kemba and MKG were lottery picks in recent years, so they’re not going to add another player at their position to take minutes away from them. Third, they’re thin on depth at the four and five, and they were also a very poor shooting team.

Detach from the Timberwolves fan mindset for a minute and think, do you think Derrick Williams would help this team? No, he’s an under-sized tweener-forward that is also a recent lottery pick. This isn’t to say that I don’t think Derrick has a purpose, because he does, it just isn’t best-realized the Bobcats. And since it takes two sides to make a deal, this is a problem.

Certainly, the Bobcats would not like to cut into the precious minutes needed for MKG to develop, but Derrick and MKG both thrived in similar areas this season according to MySynergySports:

- In pick ‘n’roll man situations Williams posted .98 points per possession (“PPP”; 1.00 being average) to MKG’s .94 PPP.

- Hand-off plays: Williams: 1.11 PPP v.s. MKG: 1.18

- In plays as the cutter: Williams: 1.06 vs MKG: 1.19

- Off of offensive rebounds: Williams: 1.03 vs MKG: 1.18

- In transition, each player posted 1.18 ppp as well.

If you think their strengths are similar, they each have similar weaknesses, too. It’s kind of weird.

- Both were terrible post-up players this past season, meaning that they could not play together from a skill set standpoint, as well as each player being 6’7-6’8 and 230 pounds. Williams averaged .71 ppp to MKG’s .76 ppp and each player shot under forty percent on those plays.

- Neither player was particularly strong trying to create in ISO situations, evidenced by Williams’ .64 ppp to MKG’s .83

- Nor was either player very good working off of screens, since Williams’ .73 ppp in those situations was about .30 points higher than MKG’s. This is surprising because Williams rated as average-to-above average in pick n rolls, but maybe those two things are completely unrelated and I’m only imagining there should be a correlation.

And here’s a chart from Basketball-Reference.com:

Chart courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com
Chart courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com

See, see?! Even with the most basic statistical metrics show they are very similar, with neither player really showing that they’re truly better than the other. Although, considering MKG was the youngest player in his draft class, and his defensive ability not reflected by stats that take into team effort like Defensive Rating, it may be fair to say that MKG would be more worth the Bobcats’ time right now. Especially since MKG is currently a better passer and has a more defined position than “off-of-the-bench-scorer.”

And since you couldn’t play them together either, a trade to Charlotte makes no sense. As far as size go, the Bobcats need more in the frontcourt. Diop, Mullens and Haywood are each seven-feet, but Diop is retiring; Mullens is Mullens; and Haywood is unlikely to be a long-term fixture. The next tallest player is McRoberts at 6’10 before the rest of their centers and power forwards check in between 6’9 and 6’7. Derrick being listed around 6’8-6’9 does not help them, and as we covered above, he would play behind MKG at the three. They need length and size at the 4-5, and Derrick just doesn’t help them with that need.

For now, Derrick is better suited with the Timberwolves. He’s an average rebounder, has a low turnover percentage and now exerts some energy on defense. With the Timberwolves, he can be a successful player because of his productivity in pick n rolls and while he isn’t exactly great in them, he can spot up well enough while he continues to improve his shot. So, Williams has a role on this team and dealing him for an unknown commodity like a 19-year old rookie who may wind up glued to the end of Rick Adelman’s bench.

It’s more likely that if they do make a move it will be one of JJ Barea and Luke Ridnour, but Flip did not sound optimistic about their ability to package one of those players with the nine pick to move up.

What Happened in Vegas


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In case you missed it because you didn’t have NBA TV or didn’t care because it was Summer League, I figured I’d write a quick post for those who just want a summary. Actually, this may not be quick-quick, but far from a dissertation. I figure this is also a good way to head off some common questions I get every day from my followers, since now I actually have some answers to a couple questions I couldn’t answer before. Of course, anything I say good or bad should probably have the, “It’s only Summer League” caveat attached to it.

“What about Paulo Prestes?”

This was one of those things I had no idea about. Since he was taken in the 2nd round in ’09 we’ve heard little about him. Well, here’s the deal. He’s 6-10 and 275 pounds; “plodding” is a good word to describe him. And he spent last season playing in Lithuania.

Last night he put up 5 points, 5 rebounds in 5 minutes, but didn’t see much action until later so the coaches could get looks at other players. Prestes would go on to finish with 9 points and 8 rebounds in 19 minutes of action and 4-7 shooting. However, he started out 1-3 and shot 42% last season in Lithuania, so don’t expect that 4-7 to be the norm.

Prestes did however shine on the glass and as an on-ball defender. He’s big and strong, but he’s by no means a quick player. Some of that he does make up for with his strength and smarts, but quicker opponents may exploit that at the next level, especially if they make him step out. Yet, he was a +8 and could not be moved once he established position.

With 3 fouls in 19 minutes, he would have to enter the NBA as a 3rd string center if those types of numbers held up. Thanks to his shooting he likely could never be higher than a #2 center on a good team. His best case would be if the Wolves brought him along like Nikola Pekovic and give him a year to adjust to the NBA game and then expand his role. He may never be the efficient scorer Pekovic is, but could certainly learn how to move his feet on defense like Pekovic to compensate for his slowness.

All-in-all, I like Prestes. I don’t know if he’ll be here or not, though. And remember, it’s only Summer League.

“Yo, What about Robbie Hummel?”

I think Rick Adelman may wear a Robbie Hummel jersey under his suit this winter. I’m serious; he’s going to love Hummel. Hummel was the shooter that was advertised (3-6; 6 pts), very active on both ends (+13) and the glass (6 rebounds), and showed some passing ability. If Robbie’s knees allow, he could be a potential Wayne Ellington replacement.

“Does Wes Johnson have a pulse?”

Well, I think you have to have a pulse to take 17 shots and only wind up with 16 points. The same player that could only get to the line 32 times last year somehow managed to get four attempts in one game. Shocking, I know. Unfortunately, that’s about where the praise for Wes’ game ends….and this paragraph isn’t even completely positive.

There were times tonight when he realized that he should be able to get to the rim at will against his competition, and did. Then there were other times when he continued to be the same passive player we’ve known. What’s more is his incredibly off-putting body language; give me Irrational Confidence Guy any day.

(If you didn’t watch the game, Wes attempted to post up late in the 4th in the high post but was pushed out by the three point line by his opponent. It was a little funny, but we now know that Wes isn’t very good at the shooting guard, small forward, and power forward positions. If you’ve seen him handle the ball you can imagine how good of a point guard he’d be and if you’ve saw his aborted post-up attempt you can imagine how well he’d do at the 5. Ok, now I’m just piling on. )

“What position is Derrick Williams?”

I answer this question every day, and tonight changed nothing as far as my answer. Before tonight I thought Williams was a power forward, and now I really think he’s a power forward. Yeah, he showed some things that a small forward would do, but his best moments were when he was at work down low. Losing weight has made him quicker, but it didn’t hurt him last night.

Williams still loves the three, but finished 1-4 from there. Derrick Williams is not most effective taking long jumpers, but when he’s aggressive and assertive in getting to the hoop for high percentage shots. Watch any Derrick Williams game, and this is apparent, yet I argue this almost every day.  I don’t know how else to convince people other than to point out he went 4-12 overall from the floor, if they didn’t watch the game.

(Hmm…what position is better suited for players who struggle with the outside game…)

Defensively, he worked hard and stuck with his man, for the most part. One post play bothered me was when Williams forced the defender to kick out and stand straight up while leaving his defensive stance. That is not a good look, but can be fixed. But, he sure could stick Adam Morrison!

Adelman actually joined the broadcast and was asked if he thought Williams could play the 3, to which he replied “No, I don’t. He’s never played it before!” As Jonah pointed out during the game, Adelman sounds like he just wants Derrick to work hard no matter what position he’s playing, even if Adelman isn’t sold on him.

Adelman did say that he is bigger and stronger than most NBA 3’s (I’d bet most power forwards are…), but will need to do the little things to get on the court. Most of this we already know. Ultimately, Derrick Williams can lose all of the weight he wants, but the number on the scale isn’t affecting his playing time, or job security.

The Timberwolves choose you, Robbie Hummel


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Robbie Hummel, the one you want to see win

Oh, Robbie. How I despised you for two straight years as you demolished my beloved Golden Gophers with devastating dagger after dagger from deep throughout your college career.

But Hummel offers something more than just a solid shooting stroke: An admirable story. Hummel, during his freshman year back in 2007, was a strong role player for a so-so Boilermaker team. But through the years, Hummel put in the hard work it took to make a name for himself in a strong Big Ten conference. He became a legit scoring threat by the end of his sophomore season. That hard work ethic made Hummel a team favorite and, ultimately, a leader. He was the guy everyone looked up to and idolized.

But Hummel got bit and bit hard. In February of 2010, during his breakout junior season, Hummel tore his ACL during a game against my Gophers in Minnesota, believe it or not. An ACL tear can be extremely debilitating to a college athlete, and possibly even hold them out of athletics for the rest of their short career. It was a fearful moment for Purdue’s faithful because everyone knew the ramifications.

Well, it didn’t just happen to Hummel once but twice.

After working hard to recover from that torn ACL, Hummel may have stretched his luck by coming back too early and eventually tore the same right knee up again during a practice in October of what was supposed to be his senior season. Fortunately, Hummel was granted a fifth year of eligibility but the news was just a baby step forward in what was going to be an extra long rehabilitation process.

Working even harder than he did to just prove himself in his first two seasons, Hummel returned stronger than ever and ready to go for his super-senior season. He led the Boilermakers to a 22-13 record, and led all scorers with his best season average of 16.3 ppg. He shot 37-percent from three-point land and a solid 83-percent from the charity stripe. It was really the comeback of comebacks from a college athlete in a sport where your ACL makes a serious difference on the court. Many may just have given up in his situation but Hummel knew the talent he possessed and that, if he worked hard enough, he could get drafted someday. And that’s exactly what happened.

You really can’t help but cheer for the guy, even myself. And now, coming to Minnesota, Hummel brings that great story and a wonderful work ethic which creates this sense of a hometown hero type of character, the one everyone wants to see succeed. Seriously, everyone will want him to succeed and make this team.

And that’s exactly what he can do. Hummel established himself as a scoring threat at Purdue, there’s no doubt about that. He carved his niche in the Big Ten as a sniping specialist from beyond the arc. But he isn’t all about shooting it though. At 6-foot-8, Hummel was actually a very active and reliable rebounder through his collegiate years, including 7.2 per game last season. His size also gives versatility to the lineup as a legit 3 or even a stretch 4, which bodes well for when the Wolves choose to go small and spread the court (Hummel could be lethal in the open court, trolling the three-point line).

You have to be real here, though. As much as you fall in love with the guy, a 58th pick isn’t going to be an all-star, or at least it’s not likely. Hummel has the chance to be a solid spot-up shooter off the bench as the 9th or 10th guy in the rotation. He has the skills but you really have to wonder, despite how much work he puts in, how well that knee is going to hold up in a league where the players are much faster and stronger than they were in college. Realism is honesty, even when it hurts.

Again, it’s the 58th pick. I feel as though you can’t do any better than what the Wolves got but don’t expect too much. Just enjoy the story and root for him as if you’ve known him for years. It shouldn’t be that hard.

This draft ain't that bad


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Here, Nick Bullock — Draft Guru — highlights how this draft isn’t nearly as poor as some of the analysts are saying. At least not compared to last year’s. Enjoy!

This is not hyperbole: After every single NBA draft, the experts collectively decide that the 60 players selected are no good.

Seriously, they’re bad. Maybe one will turn into an all-star. A few might be decent No. 2 options on bad teams. The rest are probably bench filler.

But there’s a silver lining!

Next year’s draft class? Just wait, because next year’s draft class is one of the deepest in years—YEARS!

Then the second a few of those college players step on a court the following season, the value of that upcoming draft class tanks faster than a Golden State Warriors team looking to keep its lottery pick. By conference play the class is mediocre. By tournament time it’s pathetic. And by May we are already fawning over the next season’s incoming freshmen.

Of course, some of this can be easily explained. Most future NBA players, about to become college freshmen, look like superstars when they play against high school kids that look like me. But those same players look rather ordinary when compared to their college peers.

Also, draft pundits tend to forget that part of why they initially professed their love for the upcoming draft class was the number of sophomores that decided after their freshmen season that they “wanted to win a national championship” (e.g. Terrence Jones, Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger and Perry Jones III). Well guess what? A few of the current freshmen we all expected to be one-and-dones have now decided to give it another year (e.g. Cody Zeller, James McAdoo, Adonis Thomas and Myck Kabongo).

Well, friends, I’m here to buck this trend and tell you that the 2012 NBA draft is much better than the 2011 NBA draft. (Sadly, this has often led me to wake up screaming “MARKO JARIIIIIIIIC!” in the middle of the night.)

Sure, Kyrie Irving would probably be the second pick, obviously not a far drop. But I am fairly confident the Timberwolves’ Derrick Williams would be seventh on a lot of draft boards right now — behind Anthony Davis, Thomas Robinson, Bradley Beal, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Harrison Barnes and Andre Drummond. Enes Kanter, the No. 3 pick in last year’s draft, would probably rank 10th this year. Guys like Nikola Vucevic, Iman Shumpert and Chris Singleton (Picks 16, 17 and 18, respectively) would be solidly in the second round. Norris Cole, Corey Joseph and Jimmy Butler (my guy!) would maybe even go undrafted. Yeah, I said it.

Just look a little closer. Norris Cole went at No. 28 last year. A point guard expected to be drafted around the same spot this season? Marquis Teague, maybe Tyshawn Taylor. I don’t think many teams would have selected Cole over Teague or Taylor if they went in the same class.

What about a guy like JaJuan Johnson, who was selected with the 27th pick in 2011? Georgetown’s Henry Sims seems like a good comparison to me, and he’ll probably come off the board in the middle of the second round!

One more: How about 2011’s No. 19 pick, Tobias Harris? A good comparison in my eyes seems to be a forward Jae Crowder, a favorite of a lot of Wolves fans and of mine since he played for my alma mater. But I think Crowder will be lucky if he can slip into the end of the first round. (Maybe MU can provide the 30th pick for the third straight year?)

I realize it’s impossible to know where a previously drafted player would land this year, but if that’s what’s stopping us from speculating, then why even bother with mock drafts in the first place?

What this exercise can illustrate, however, is that the Timberwolves have a very real chance of landing a starting-quality player if they play their cards right — admittedly a big “if” with this organization.

Oh, and just to continue with my theme: If I’m being honest, next year’s draft doesn’t even look that great to me. And we know it’s only downhill from here.