Whether you believe or not the NBA Draft Lottery was rigged to screw the Wolves, ending up with the second pick might not be the worst thing that could have happened to them. In fact, I believe it’s the best thing that could have happened to David Kahn and Associates.
Grabbing the number one pick would have probably pigeonholed this front office with making the hilarious/meme-ish decision of whether or not they were going to draft another point guard. With Kyrie Irving as seemingly the only sure thing in this draft, it could have lead to Minnesota grabbing him and then jettisoning Ricky Rubio in a trade of certain desperation. It would have also meant that the first draft of David Kahn was officially marked down as one of the worst of all time (considering Flynn’s struggles and Wayne Ellington being the “best player from 4 first round picks).
Or if they passed on Irving because they believe in Rubio and his eventual residency in Minneapolis and Irving turned out to be the better point guard, Kahn would surely get buried over and over again for believing in an unknown prospect instead of the sure thing from Duke.
Kahn no longer has to worry about facing this dilemma. The Wolves have dropped to the second pick in the draft and will now have more options than dilemmas on their hands. Most likely, those three options are going to be drafting Derrick Williams, drafting Enes Kanter or trading the pick.
Let’s explore those three options.
Option 1: Drafting Derrick Williams
If you followed the NCAA Tournament at all this past March, you were probably served a heaping helping of everything Derrick Williams is capable of doing on a basketball court. He is a physically fit individual. He runs fast. He jumps high. He dunks hard. He shot the college 3-point ball extremely well. He has a wealth of NBA grocery list items.
He has unusual size for an NBA player. He’s not particularly big enough to be a traditional power forward and he’s not quite quick enough to be a traditional small forward. While we’ve begun the process of a positional revolution and transitioned into the idea of putting your best five guys out there to play, there is still some value in guys being able to fit into positions. Specifically, being able to defend certain positions in the NBA is still extremely important.
If you’re going to draft Derrick Williams and play him at the traditional or stretch-4, that means you’re probably going to have to slide Kevin Love to the 5 to have them on the court together. We don’t know if Williams is tall enough to really guard big power forwards in the NBA. He measured under 6’9”, which doesn’t make him short but it doesn’t make him big either. While Love has shown some pretty good production at the center position (great post at Hoopus), I’m skeptical to think it’s a great plan long-term to have Love as the center and put an undersized power forward next to him for defensive purposes.
Sliding Williams over to the small forward position, keeping Love at the 4 and trying to acquire a decent 5 (you know, assuming Darko doesn’t finally break through in year 9), could also prove to be a problem defensively. Derrick Williams is almost 250 lbs and while he carries it and moves well with that weight, I really have my doubts about his ability to consistently guard quicker small forwards in this league. The upside would be (if/when Rubio comes over) you could run a huge lineup of Rubio-Wes-Williams-Love-Center Not Named Darko. This would potentially be a really good lineup for the Wolves because they’d have a ton of size and length to make up for a lack of team quickness defensively. They could cover more area with their reach and hopefully deter a lot of offense by challenging shots on closeouts and keeping driving lanes clogged up.
That’s all assuming that they could play together defensively as a unit with Williams being too slow to consistently slow down SFs and hoping Love can continue to show some of the help awareness we saw in the second half of the year.
Offensively, Derrick has some good skills. If he can extend his range out to the NBA 3, it adds another shooter for this team. He can certainly attack the basket on the offensive boards, moves well without the ball and may have enough ball skills to get some scores in isolation. I don’t think his footwork is very good though. His steps can be slow and a bit sloppy. We might see a lot of travels before he puts the ball on the floor. He also seems a bit uncomfortable going left. The good thing is if he can get to the hoop, he’s so strong that he can bounce off of defenders, absorb the contact and finish at the rim. Put Williams on the block against small forwards and he’s going to overpower them. Everything is a bit awkward with his moves at the basket, but he has a good sense of gathering himself for the actual shot itself.
If the Wolves end up with Derrick, a lot of people will look at it as a plus draft. Personally, I’m not sold on him as a future star. But he would be an upgrade overall over Michael Beasley in the long-term. Yes, Beas showed some good scoring last season (albeit not that efficient) but I think Williams will give the team a better well-rounded player at the position, in case Beasley can’t put it together.
Option 2: Drafting Enes Kanter
This is a bit of a wild card.
Enes Kanter is the top big man in this draft, while being a complete unknown. I know this already sounds sketchy and maybe it is. However, if anyone in this draft was going to be worth the risk, it’s probably this guy. Kanter is a HUGE guy. He’s 6’11” and 260 lbs. His wingspan isn’t anything special compared to a lot of NBA centers but considering he’s only 19 years old, his size makes you think he could end up being one of the bigger, physical guys in the NBA. Not only is he a big guy, but he is also an extremely physical player.
Offensively, you instantly see Kanter fighting for deep position in the post. It’s a lot like what we saw from Pekovic on multiple occasions, except he’s less clumsy in the way he does it. Kanter gets low on the block, holds his position with good leverage and makes it as difficult as possible for the defender to get lower than him to cut off angles. Kanter has an array of strong moves on the block and is able to show good scoring touch around the hoop. He’s great about knocking defenders off balance on his moves by really getting into their chest.
Kanter also shows that he can extend his scoring out to the perimeter. His jumper is approaching the 3-point line with a lot of comfort and he has decent ball skills for a young guy his size. The nice thing about this versatility is he doesn’t really rely on it as the easy way out. He’d much rather mix it up inside, put pressure on the interior defense and dominate that way. He’ll keep the defense honest with the jumper, but he won’t use it as the primary weapon.
Defensively, this is where the water starts to get murky. He’s a fantastic rebounder. His physicality keeps him stuck to a man as soon as the shot goes up and he does a great job of controlling him in the boxout. The problem is Enes isn’t a great athlete. He’s not a horrible athlete but we don’t see a lot of elite movement and reaction time from him. Putting him next to Kevin Love could either work out stupendously because of the rebounding and size, or it could work out stupidly if they’re slow-footed and unable to rotate defensively.
The reason things seem so sketchy with Kanter is he’s fairly unknown. There hasn’t been a lot of game film on this guy because he hasn’t played a lot of basketball. He played pro basketball in Turkey as a young player, decided to come to the states to attend Kentucky and was ruled ineligible by the NCAA because of his time as a professional in Turkey. So he’s been hanging around Kentucky, going to school and doing some side workouts with the Kentucky staff.
Drafting Kanter is a risk because of the unknown, but since there isn’t a lot of sure-fire talent in this class, you’re probably not passing up on a future franchise player by rolling the dice with him.
Option 3: Trading the pick
This is where the train pulls out of Speculation Station and we are simply just guessing at what could be available.
There was the rumor of a Danny Granger deal that could include the #2 pick, Michael Beasley, Ricky Rubio, half of the Target Center, 2003 Kevin Garnett, Kevin Love’s offensive rebounding abilities and probably future cash considerations. All of this would be fine and good if we hadn’t seen Danny Granger play since the 2008-09 season.
There is also the thought that Josh Smith could be available from Atlanta. After he had such a rocky conference semi-finals against the Bulls, maybe you can trade the #2 pick and a young asset (Beasley?) for Smith and hope he becomes the good version of Josh Smith on a consistent basis.
There is the idea that the Wolves could trade this #2 pick to the Clippers to regain the rights to Minnesota’s own 2012 first round pick. Personally, I don’t see why the Clippers would ever make this deal. You’d have to throw in someone like Rubio to get it done, and I’m not sure that it makes this team any better. Even with next year’s draft class being stacked, I’m not sure this team can afford to wait essentially another 2 years at least to get some significant momentum in building this roster back up again.
This team has plenty of young assets to deal, and we all saw last year, especially in fourth quarters, that this squad needs some veteran leadership. If you could acquire a really good veteran for the #2 pick and cap relief, which would be ideal. But David Kahn isn’t really in the position to panic here because drafting a player at #2 and adding him to the stable of trade assets for down the road, could end up being the best move.
I think the Wolves should make a selection at #2 and see what they have with him. With the new Collective Bargaining Agreement coming up, we don’t know what the team’s financial layout is going to be. They might end up being in one of the best situations with the bevy of cap space the team has. Or they might be no better off than a lot of young teams with low salaries because the entire playing field is leveled. We just don’t know yet.
Unless this team can get a steal by using the #2 and someone like Beasley or Randolph as something of value, I hope Kahn makes the pick and we get to see who in this roster should be kept long-term.
It’s good to have options.