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.
Positives: There are a lot of teams for whom Otto Porter would be a heck of a draft pick. For instance: Any team that needs a very large body who can play well out of a pick-and-pop would be well served with Porter. Any team that needs a player who scored 1.53 points per possession off the dribble in college would be well served with Porter. Any team that wants a potential game-changer defensively — a 7’1 wingspan and the ability to close out on perimeter jumpshooters — would be well served with Porter. Anybody who wants a smart basketball player with great passing instincts would be well served with Porter.
Unfortunately, I don’t think the Timberwolves are that team.
That being said, Porter is a fun prospect. He has never played AAU ball, so he was mostly unheralded before the season. But it’s pretty clear how well his game might translate to the NBA. His mid-range game is very efficient. He does most of his rebounding below the rim, and his defensive instincts are quite good, which counteracts his lack of athleticism. There are a lot of stretch-4s in the NBA at this point, but it’s not hard to imagine Porter easily fitting into that mold, given his size, wingspan and skillset.
Negatives: While many of the stretch-4s entering the league are also extremely gifted athletically (for example: Derrick Williams), Porter is neither particularly strong nor athletic. His lateral quickness makes scouts wonder what he can contribute defensively, especially as a small forward, and his 200-pound 6’8 frame will get bumped around in the NBA. He makes up for this by being a very hard worker, but he will need to add pounds of muscle to be successful at the next level.
Porter also struggles to shoot from deep range. As a small forward, he will need to expand his range to the 3-point line, and it wouldn’t hurt for him to expand it even as a power forward. That said, competent shooting is one of the easier skills to teach for NBA coaches. So while Porter would probably be a project offensively, it’s certainly possible (probable, even?) that he will get to a point where he can be effective from behind the 3-point line.
Bottom Line: Porter is a bit of an investment, since he will need to add muscle and as much athleticism as the NBA can teach. He will also need to expand his range. But Porter is still very young, and every indicator points to his motor being good enough to make him an effective player.
An effective player, mind you, who doesn’t play for Minnesota.
Timberwolves Fit: No bueno. Although Porter could become a solid small forward or stretch-4, the Wolves need neither. What they need is a good shooting guard and a back-up center, and someone who will help them win immediately. Porter fits none of those categories, particularly the latter. Minnesota is playing to keep their stars, most notably Rubio and Love. On a young team that’s a couple of years away from competing in the playoffs, Porter might make a lot of sense. But for a Wolves team that wants to make a solid playoff run as soon as possible, Porter would be a bad move.
Positives: You wanna talk about wingspan? It may not appear that a 6’6 small forward is an overly special thing, but a 6’6 small forward with a 6’11 1/4 wingspan is a special thing. Coupled with his athleticism, this could make him a good defender some day. Notice how I said “someday”? The knock on Muhammad is that he gives an inconsistent effort on defense, like another Bruin we all know and Love (See what I did there?), but that effort is apparently determined by his performance on offense, which tells me that he’s a young player who needs a coach to ingrain that defensive mindset in him regardless. So, to me, having that room to grow despite not being a good defender now is a positive. And if Rick Adelman could get Derrick Williams to exert some energy on defense with fewer physical tools, then he could with Muhammad — I hope.
Of course, the big thing about Muhammad is his ability as a scorer and his ability as a spot-up shooter; the latter of which could be of especially great value to the Timberwolves. While he may not be a strong pick and roll player now, playing next to Ricky Rubio will either make him work to improve that, or not and be a less than ideal fit. Still, he’s an above average college shooter, which tells me he can at least be an average NBA shooter and with the Timberwolves being a below-average shooting team, that would be an upgrade.
He also happens to be a decent rebounder for his position, which isn’t guaranteed to translate to the NBA, but if he has the instincts and the physical tools that could very well carry over to the next level.
Negatives: Well, there is his defense, but that is fixable. He also doesn’t make a ton of plays for others, but if he’s going to play for Rick Adelman he is going to have to or he won’t play. Ideally, the combination of playing with superior teammates against opponents with superior talent and physical ability will force him to be less-selfish at times. However, given his age I don’t see anything here that isn’t fixable, which is encouraging.
I’m also not worried about his lone tournament performance. It’s a small sample size against inferior competition, with inferior teammates, and every player has bad games.
Bottom Line: Muhammad is a young player who has strong offensive skills and is also a quality rebounder for his position. However, he does have a lot of room to grow, but certainly can as long as he is willing to work and lands in the right fit and system.
Timberwolves Fit: If Adelman returns to the bench this could be a great place for him to improve his passing, defense, and expand his offensive game. Currently, he would work great with the second unit as a scorer, but I am curious how he would perform next to a high-usage player like Kevin Love, especially being one himself. As I said above, the Timberwolves could use a strong spot up shooter to knock down shots, something they missed (no pun intended) this season.
If everything goes right, Muhammad could be a steal at the Timberwolves’ draft slot.
Positives: I guess it’s Indiana week on HTW. On Monday, Tom so nicely laid out the prospects of Victor Oladipo, perhaps the best fit for the Wolves in the whole draft. I highly suggest you give it a read. And now on to the next Hoosier. For those of you that only watch college basketball come March Madness, you likely got the wrong idea of Cody Zeller. The sophomore center carried much of the burden that was created from a Sweet Sixteen ousting to the hands of Syracuse and that deadly 2-3 zone. In that game, Zeller went just 3-11 from the field in that one as the Orange suffocated Zeller in all facets on the offensive side of the ball. But take Zeller’s entire body of work and he’s one of the best big men in the country. The biggest positive to Zeller is his polished game as just a 20-year old. Unlike the top-ranked center, Nerlens Noel, Zeller has the ability to score from the low block all on his own. He can expand his range and hit from the elbow too, which adds diversity to his game. Watching him extensively during the Big Ten season, Zeller, even for a near 7-footer — some claim he’s a legit 7-feet tall — he’s an extremely spry runner, a very efficient athlete who sprints rim to rim very effectively. Along with his speed, he’s very quick which gives him an advantage over many other centers in the NBA already.
Negatives: Unfortunately, I have to troll back to that Syracuse game I spoke of in the positives section. Arguably the biggest knock on Zeller is his lack of intensity, particularly on defense. And once panic sets in, his offensive game turns sloppy in a hurry. He allows it to get the best of him which turns into poor shot attempts at the rim and easily contested, and often blocked, shots. You saw it in two notable games against Minnesota, when the likes of Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams turned Zeller back on some vicious blocks, and the Syracuse Sweet Sixteen matchup, where Zeller had no answer against that impenetrable zone. And he doesn’t have the physicality to overcome any struggles. NBA centers will have no trouble boxing Zeller out on the board and having their way with him in the paint. So either he has to bulk up severely or continue to improve his interior game with better footwork and sheer deception.
Bottom Line: Zeller strikes me as the epitome of this draft; full of kids that will be able to crack rotations and make bad teams better but probably not turn any franchise around on their own. Zeller is bound to be a good player but nothing great, even if he does improve on his weaknesses. I see Zeller as nothing more than a strong rotational guy or a starter on a bad team, and he sorta reminds me of a more skilled and polished version of Tyler Hansbrough, which can be good or bad, however you want to take that. Regardless, he’ll end up being a top-10 pick and likely to fall in the range where the Wolves could get him.
Timberwolves Fit: Countless talks and arguments with friends and family have me defending the state of the Timberwolves. This incoming draft class doesn’t change my mind about that at all. Most free agents, if they decide to go down that route, will likely be better players immediately than 95% of this draft. That’s where I struggle with drafting Zeller if I were David Kahn. Who’s to say that Zeller will be any better than Dante Cunningham next year? I wouldn’t bet on it. Zeller is a good fit as a fourth or fifth big, which the Wolves do need, but I don’t take him unless I’m convinced there aren’t better options out there, especially in free agency.
Positives: Perhaps the single biggest reason I struggle to watch and enjoy college basketball, aside from the tournament suspension on my favorite team (UConn), is the 35-second shot clock. When a team can run a set, fail, run a set, fail and run a third set all in one possession, it puts the defense at an enormous disadvantage while at the same time slowing the pace to a crawl.
This makes what Victor Oladipo can do on the defensive end all the more impressive, since he does it consistently for 35 seconds. There are a few perimeter defenders in the NBA who can hound ball-handlers as well as Oladipo (Avery Bradley and Tony Allen are the first two who come to mind), but where Bradley and Allen both struggle to score consistently offensively, Oladipo had a breakout season at Indiana as an offensive threat. He finished the season shooting a stellar 59.9% from the field, including 44.1% from 3-point range. 28.2% of his offense came in transition, which is cool because he’s unbelievably athletic and OMG RUBIOOPS ALL DAY EVERYDAY YES PLEASE. He’s also very good at cutting to the basket, so, you know, more Rubioops.
What’s more: Oladipo is a solid rebounder, especially on the offensive glass. With his offensive efficiency, his hounding defense and his rebounding, Oladipo is likely to be high lottery pick this year.
Negatives: While Oladipo’s solid offense is much improved from last season, he still isn’t a “go-to” scorer. He is turnover-prone in isolation and has an unfortunately predictable tendency to go right. He’s also not much of a ball-handler, preferring straight line drives to the basket. There are also plenty of questions regarding his upside, which makes comparisons to NBA superstars like Dwyane Wade a little bit foolish. Is Oladipo simply a scorer/slasher? Or can he be utilized in other ways as well? These questions will determine how high he ends up going in the draft.
Bottom Line: While Oladipo’s upside may be limited, there’s also little question as to whether or not he belongs in the league. His defensive pressure would help any team, and since he can defend up to three different positions in the NBA, it’s not implausible to imagine Oladipo hounding opposing point guards up the floor and forcing opposing offenses to start their sets late in the shot-clock, which, in the NBA, has considerably more effect.
Oladipo is not Dwyane Wade. But he might be a better version of Avery Bradley or Tony Allen, and that’s a fun prospect to imagine.
Timberwolves fit: There’s a reason Derek spent the last (excellent) prospect breakdown salivating over Ben McLemore, and it’s the same reason I’m salivating over Victor Oladipo in this one: The last time Minnesota had a decent shooting guard was…well…never. Oladipo has the potential to be a PERFECT fit in Minnesota, for lots of reasons, and I outlined a lot of them in the positives. He’s an excellent cutter, which is great when the Wolves have a player like Rubio. He’s a scoring option for teams that already have scoring options, and Minnesota has Kevin Love, Derrick Williams, and (perhaps) Nikolai Pekovic and Andre Kirilenko. If Oladipo can produce and defend the way he looks like he can, the Wolves could have a starting five that includes an increasingly-healthy Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love, Nikolai Pekovic and the evolutionary Avery Bradley. That, my friends, is a starting five that can win more than regular season games. That could win a couple of playoff series.
For my money, Victor Oladipo is the best choice for Minnesota in the draft, and several media outlets, including Sports Illustrated, are picking him to go to the Wolves. McLemore is the clear choice if they somehow win the lottery, but a defender and an efficient scorer like Oladipo is more likely to fit into Minnesota’s offense, and the defense he offers makes him an extremely intriguing prospect.
Positives: Ben McLemore and the Timberwolves are different in that McLemore can shoot, and the Timberwolves can’t. Currently, the Timberwolves are 30th in the league in three point shooting and 24th in free throw percentage. What’s this? Oh, McLemore shot 41.6% this season at Kansas. That’s cool, but can he make his– he made 87% of his free throws, too?! And, good grief, 55% from the field, Ben McLemore? Stop. This is just too good to be true. Well, with the projected seventh pick in the draft it sort of is too good to be true.
On the other side of the ball, McLemore possesses a 6’7.5 wingspan to go with his 6’4 frame, which is good, and enables to help him defend the two guard possession well in college, and should mostly translate to the NBA as well. It helps having good instincts, which by all accounts he does, and would also fill the need of a two-way guard that can play big minutes.
Negatives: A major knock on McLemore is that he is not a strong ballhandler and while that is something that can certainly be improved considering his age, it may make for a frustrating few early years for McLemore as he adapts to going up against bigger, faster and stronger players than he faced in college. Because of his poor ball skills, he struggles to create his own shot and shoot off the dribble. This is also a potential worry if his shot isn’t falling and what he is going to do to keep the offense from stagnating. We’ve seen young guards get taken out of games on nights when their shots aren’t falling, and McLemore is going to have to be able to do other things to get involved in the offense if his shot isn’t falling.
Bottom Line: McLemore already has a nice base of offensive skills at a relatively young age, and while he needs to improve on some things, also seems to have some good basketball instincts to aid him. After all, ask Anthony Randolph, you can’t teach things like awareness and instinct. Defensively, I don’t expect him to be elite because his physical tools are just good and not great for the NBA. Actually, I’d say that his ceiling sounds like a starter on a playoff team, but if he’s your best player life may not be so good.
Timberwolves Fit: Considering how awry this season has gone for the Timberwolves and how you could make the case that they probably shouldn’t even be here, getting McLemore would be some serious good fortune for the Timberwolves. He fits two needs: an uber athletic two that can shoot and play some defense. With a point guard like Ricky Rubio he would be able to be a knockdown shooter as he develops his ballhandling skills and the two could also potentially make a formidable tandem in the backcourt on defense. Even if he can’t create well for himself now, as long as he can be average at moving without the ball Rubio will set him up for good looks, which we can guess McLemore would hit since he was so efficient from within the arc in college.
It’s probably a dream to think that the Timberwolves move up high enough or fall low enough to get McLemore, but if either somehow happened, it would go a long way to further brighten the Timberwolves’ future.
First off, welcome to the first post of a new series at HTW. We will be covering the NBA Draft in depth and it begins with our Draft Prospect series. Every Monday and Wednesday, treat yourself to read about all the new NBA-bound prospects. The Wolves currently own their own lottery pick and the Grizzlies’ 1st rounder, which will likely be in the low 20′s. So for all your draft needs and desires, be on the look out for these posts. And, as always, feel free to comment on here or on Twitter. We love discussion! Enjoy!
Positives: Just a few months after Kentucky’s super freshman center Anthony Davis was drafted first overall in the NBA Draft to the New Orleans Hornets Pelicans, Coach Calipari was blessed with yet another bouncy, defensive-minded center. Only this time, he might even be better at what Davis was really good at: Blocking shots. One of the purest shot blockers in college, Noel makes his impact on the court without the ball in his hands. Long, tall and explosive, Noel is a coach’s dream as the mainstay of any defense because of his athletic abilities. And he’s not the kind of player that let’s his athletic gifts speak for themselves. He has quick hands and a feel for playing active and aware defense, which is why his steals are just as important as his blocks. At 6’11″, Noel has the size to rebound at the NBA level, although he’ll probably need to add some strength and size to his frame in order to do so on a consistent basis. But at the college level, he was one of the better rebounders, grabbing 9.5 rbg. Also, a huge benefit to any team with an eye on Noel as a draft prospect is his age. Noel turns 19 in just over a week, and to my knowledge has not lied about his age unlike some of his peers. That’s a big plus in a league that puts youngsters at such a premium.
Negatives: As the consensus number one in most mock drafts, it’s difficult to pinpoint serious strengths in Noel’s game. Other than his pure rawness and lack of experience playing at a high level, I can’t really nitpick. Certainly his offense is the most glaring weakness in his overall game. Noel doesn’t really have anything resembling an effective post move, which is certainly limiting his offensive potential. I quickly noted Noel’s lack of strength in the positives section, even though that’s more of a negative. But bulking up will ultimately help his ability to get scrappy offensive rebounds and put backs. The biggest negative surrounding Noel is the torn ACL injury he suffered from earlier this year that cut his promising freshman campaign short. Noel’s injury is significant enough and all too familiar to Wolves fans, having just seen Ricky Rubio just start to regain form after tearing his ACL a whole year ago. It is indeed a year-long recovery, which cuts into the positive of being young. And we also have to wait and see how Noel recovers mentally from such an injury, which can be the most difficult aspect of the whole process. The injury is a serious setback and is leaving front offices asking, “Will Noel ever return to his explosive form after recovery?“
Bottom Line: I don’t see Noel sporting the KG-like potential of Anthony Davis. Instead, I see him as more of an athletic and explosive, defensive-minded center that will protect the rim at will and grab a whole mess of rebounds. He’s not afraid to get down and dirty, which mirrors his skill level of being raw. All in all, Noel strikes me as a more athletic Joakim Noah with the chance to make a bigger impact earlier on in his career. Noel, before his injury, has shown that he only gets better with more experience, which certainly translates to the NBA game.
Timberwolves fit: We all know the real story of the Wolves’ offseason begins and ends with the Nikola Pekovic saga. The goal has to be to resign him but within reason in terms of a dollar amount (My best guess is they’re hoping no more than $10-$12 million a season). But with the Trail Blazers still lurking for a center in the dark and the ill-feelings they already warrant towards David Kahn and the entire Timberwolves franchise, you never know how things will turn out. For that very reason, a backup plan for a starting center has to be in place — that is unless they think Kevin Love can slide over and allow Derrick Williams to start at the power forward slot. But that’s an entirely different story for an entirely different day. That’s why Noel must be atop the Wolves draft board; he gives the Wolves a defensive-minded center that will assume the load of protecting the rim off of Love’s in-game to-do list, which is actually a better center option in the lineup, in my opinion. The odds of the Wolves stealing a top-three pick to nab the likes of Noel are slim-to-none. But a draft board doesn’t take chance or luck into account.