More on the Wolves’ draft

Benjamin Polk —  June 28, 2013 — 28 Comments

A few notes here annotating Zach’s excellent summary of the Wolves’ first round.

It’s important to remember just how much uncertainty plays into these decisions. Especially when you’re drafting in the middle of the first round, and especially in a draft as zany as this one, GM’s are constantly recalibrating their matrices of risk and reward. There’s no occult knowledge here, no hidden absolutes. The draft game is a set of shifting uncertainties. In all likelihood, someone taken in the middle of the first round will become a Kawhi Leonard or a Larry Sanders or a Ty Lawson. And when they do we’ll all heap scorn on those pathetic GM’s who missed out. But: anyone here know who that guy is yet? Neither do I.

So, our Wolves. They were dealt a piece of rotten, Wolvian misfortune when Detroit snatched their guy with the eighth pick. And so Flip and crew were faced with a dilemma: roll with one of the two best players available–Trey Burke and CJ McCollum–neither of whom fit well with what they want to do, choose a guy much higher than he ought to be chosen (this would be the Kahn/McHale move), or trade down. They traded down, and ended up getting a pretty good deal in the bargain. If, to paraphrase Zach, McCollum ends up being a more efficient, better-defending version of Randy Foye, this might be a huge mistake. If he ends up being Randy Foye? well played Flip. Either of those things are possible: Flip bet on the latter.

On to Shabazz Muhammad and on to more uncertainty. By the 14th spot in the first round, you are almost always making a bet on an incomplete player. You are betting that either a) his weaknesses can be coached up and/or b) he can find a role on your team that capitalizes on his strengths and minimizes those weaknesses.  Muhammad is a terrific spot-up shooter and cutter without the ball; he has great strength, incredibly long arms and a raging competitive fire. These are all things the Wolves need. He never passes, has terrible shot selection and is a raw defender. That, obviously, sucks. Could he become a more belligerent, less coachable version of Derrick Williams? Definitely. Could he learn to pick his spots on offense, getting his looks off of spot-ups and cuts and offensive rebounds without dominating the ball? Could he learn to use his physical and emotional gifts to become a solid perimeter defender? Yes to all of these. Muhammad was the most talented player remaining, by far. Flip is wagering that Adelman and Ricky and AK can bring out the best in him.

Gorgui Dieng was another case of the Wolves making a wager. In this case, Dieng was the player they wanted, for all of the reasons Zach and others have already enumerated (and rightly so, in my belief). The various mock drafts had Dieng being selected anywhere from 20th to 28th. So it’s possible that he could have been there at 26–or its possible that he could have been gone long before then. Flip made the safe bet and got the guy he wanted.

Any or all of these wagers could turn out to be losers for the Wolves. And if they do, we’ll all have a fun, sad time making bilious jokes. (I’ll be right there with you.) But the truth is, we don’t know yet. Let’s all watch and see what happens.

Benjamin Polk

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28 responses to More on the Wolves’ draft

  1. Im chubbing so hard looking at this draft!! go twolves!

  2. What makes you think he’s by far more talented than anyone who followed, aside from HS hype built on the back of misinformation concerning his age? Honest question.

  3. Benjamin Polk June 28, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    Just from looking at scouting reports and whatnot. Obviously, just like every other judgement we make about these guys before they play an NBA game, that could turn out to be wrong.

  4. So he lied about his age, is cocky, and not athletic. Im sure he will be better than Wes, Johnny, and corey. And he wasnt even in the top 10! haha

  5. I ask because it seems like you think all of the guys who pan out have never offered evidence that they would. Kawhi Leonard and Ty Lawson, for example, gave us lots and lots of evidence that they would play sound, smart basketball at a very high level. (In the case of Lawson, few prospects offered more measurable evidence upon which to base a decision.) So when you say…

    “There’s no occult knowledge here, no hidden absolutes. The draft game is a set of shifting uncertainties. In all likelihood, someone taken in the middle of the first round will become a Kawhi Leonard or a Larry Sanders or a Ty Lawson. And when they do we’ll all heap scorn on those pathetic GM’s who missed out. But: anyone here know who that guy is yet? Neither do I.”

    … I believe you encapsulate very well the basic difference between teams that draft well on the basis of measurable features of an individual’s performance, and teams like the Wolves who rely on crude numbers and gut feelings because “nothing is ever certain with these prospects.” The point is that certain guys are more likely to succeed, certain guys are more likely to fail. And we chose a guy who will have to be a massive exception to the rule in order to be a meaningful contributor.

    I’m glad you remain optimistic, but I can’t say I share your perspective on this. Thanks for the post.

  6. Still chubbin’!

  7. SidViciousHartman June 28, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    Not athletic. Wasn’t that one of the MAJOR knocks that every scout said about Love in his draft? How did that turn out? How Many 20-10 guys, rebound leaders, all-stars would people say are not athletic in the NBA?
    Just let the kid play before we discuss continuing draft calamity.
    My only concern is that Adelman is not gonna like him. And if doesn’t like you, it seems like he just glares at you constantly and doesn’t put any work into making you better. Looking at you, Derrick Williams.

  8. Benjamin Polk June 28, 2013 at 4:51 pm

    I actually agree with you in almost every particular. I think that the paragraph you quoted is a bit unwisely worded on my part–I didn’t mean to insinuate that all we have are gut feelings in evaluating players, though looking back on the paragraph I clearly did. Like you, I’m concerned that the Wolves haven’t embraced analytics the way that they should. And I definitely get that Shabazz is not projected very highly and that its possible that the Wolves drafted him too high. That said, I also believe that he has certain skills that can make him very useful to the Wolves. Asking honestly: who would you have taken at 14?

  9. This draft was obvously about saving money. Now if that means that they don’t think the talent was there, and they’d rather spend the money improving through the free agency period then i’m fine with the draft. They probably didn’t miss on a superstar, and might get a steal.

  10. Sergey Karasev. Done.

  11. Benjamin Polk June 28, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    That’s the only other choice that makes sense to me there.

  12. In Sergey Karasev’s case you wonder how self conscious the Wolves were about drafting yet another white player for their team. In Shabazz case I have seen him play, Karasev I have just read about so I really cannot say which would have been better. But that Gophers game… I want to this to be the right pick. But I have a feeling Wolves fans are going to looking back at this draft for years to come and play the “what if” game. I think KCP is going to be a star. What If we could have just moved up 1 spot!

  13. Benjamin Polk June 28, 2013 at 8:32 pm

    I wonder how surprised they were about Detroit taking KCP.

  14. Maybe this is a crazy question, but what about taking the guy Detroit was expected to take when they took KCP? I understand that Michael Carter-Williams is a point guard, but he’s a 6’6″ point guard who should seemingly be able to guard 2’s and take good care of the ball. Would that not have some benefits combining in the backcourt with Rubio? Seems like a better situation than matching Rubio with Ridnour or Muhammed, neither of whom may be able to play defense at SG very effectively.

  15. To be honest when Detroit took KCP and we took Burke I thought for sure there was a trade in the works between our two teams.

  16. So in the “doing my best to look at the positives”

    I dug up this from ESPN player analysis in regards to Shabazz:

    Quote: “Every single top UCLA player who has been drafted since 2007 has gone lower than they should have on draft night — some by a little, some by a lot.

    UCLA’s best draft year was in 2008 when Russell Westbrook went fourth and Kevin Love went fifth. In hindsight, they should’ve gone second and third behind Derrick Rose. That’s a small bump upwards, but it doesn’t reflect the genuine handwringing scouts had going into the draft about both players. Many scouts felt that Westbrook, especially, was a major reach for OKC given his production at UCLA. And while the stat heads loved Love (he was ranked No. 2 in John Hollinger’s draft rater) they thought Westbrook would be a bust.

    In 2007, Arron Afflalo was drafted at No. 27. Many scouts, including me, thought the Pistons made a reach at 27. A re-draft would put him in the Top 10 of the ’07 draft class. Hollinger’s draft rater didn’t have him in the Top 30 players of the draft.

    In 2009 Jrue Holiday fell to No. 17 despite being ranked as a Top-5 player coming out of high school. Darren Collison slipped to No. 21. Redo the draft three years later and both players would’ve been Top-10 picks. Again, the major concern from scouts was that both players didn’t exactly fill up the box score at UCLA. Hollinger’s draft rater — which had them at 13 and 18 respectively — still had both players underrated.

    In 2011, Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee, both elite high school prospects, slid into the second round.

    Hollinger, noticing how Howland’s players consistently performed well above their statistical draft projection, actually introduced a “Howland variable” into his draft rater formula to compensate for it.”

    Can we get a little history to repeat for us please!!!

  17. I just don’t buy that a guy who played no D in college is going to all of a sudden start in the NBA. How many players that have defensive potential, but don’t try that hard on that end in college, actually become good defenders in the NBA? I think he fits offensively, but I don’t think he’ll give us anything on the defensive end. The guys who become good defenders in the NBA at least show signs of effort on that end and I guess I just didn’t see it in any of the couple games I watched the Bruins play this year. I am also nervous about the lack of team play he displays. 2 assists in the last 7 games is a little worrisome to me and overall, he didn’t seem like much of a team player in college. He seems to still be in the mode where he is the man and he doesn’t show very much trust in his teammates. I’m a little worried about how he’ll adjust when he gets bumped down several pegs in the pecking order. I think it was a very high risk, high reward pick when we really just need consistent players that can push the needle for us. Ford mentioned we didn’t really push the needle as a result of the draft and that is a little worrisome considering we may have no cap space to work with come this summer and only D Will and backup PG’s available to land a starting 2. The draft results just make me skeptical that we will have a better option starting at the 2 than Bud or Shabazz and that worries me considering SG was the clear cut biggest need this offseason and we still have 0 SG’s on the roster.

  18. 0 SG’s is a really good point although it appears we’re back to “wings and forwards” even though we all know if you can’t guard the position you shouldn’t play the position. (Crabbe and Franklin were right there at 26 UHG!!)

    The only silver lining in all of this is if this kid actually has any talent at all, and at one time many thought he would be a top 3 pick. He absolutely has more to prove than any draft pick in Wolves history. Love had to deal with some of this, how many of us hated that Mayo trade?

    Seriously raise your hand.. /raise (we were wrong)

    But not even Love was hated for who he was (let me clarify that… as a Rookie), we were all disappointed in who he wasn’t (OJ Mayo).

    But this kid, not even the dude who drafted him wanted him. If this kid has an ounce of fight in him THAT is motivation. So this is the hand we’re dealt and guess what.. This blog thread will be ancient history before he ever plays his first game. So it’s time to suck it up and deal with it.

  19. Everyone getting too worried about this whole Shabazz and draft issue. First off, there is still a lot of time before the NBA season begins. Still lots of moves that we can make… especially on trading people and getting people. Second… I dont think Shabazz playing well or not should translate to our success next season. He isn’t going to be our go to guy. Love and Pek will still be the main scorers and Shabazz will ultimately be another shooter that surrounds Ricky’s court brilliance and Pek when he gets doubled or triple teamed in the post. Our draft concerns ended the moment we got Love, Ricky and Pek. We have our core now. Its all about getting the right PROVEN players and making sure they compliment our “big 3″.

    Our biggest concern in getting a 2 is not for offensive reasons but for defensive ones. Yeah sure you can make the case that we sucked offensively but that obviously stemmed from injuries. You’ve got our best offensive guy Kevin Love coming off a 26 point season, getting his hand broken twice. You’ve got chase budinger who was playing well for us defensively and offensively up until the time he injured his knee as well. Because of the lack of inside presence and any other offensive threats last year, Nikola Pekovic was getting doubled and triple teamed a lot which led to him getting injured a lot. Luke, JJ and Shved pretty much played 2 with Ricky on the floor. 2 extremely undersized SGs tasked to take guys like Kobe and Wade… Then you’ve got Alexey, good height but not enough upper body strength to take hefty 2 guards in the post. Malcolm Lee was showing signs of becoming the right guy for us (good defense and sub par wing player) up until he re injured his knee. IMO Shabazz was a good pick because he brings a little bit of everything. Shooting, moves well without the ball and heft. If he turns out to be a great player then its a big bonus for us. If he doesn’t, it shouldn’t mean the end of the world.

  20. Andy Charrier June 29, 2013 at 8:42 am

    I thought Zach’s analysis was right on, and this adds to the perspective. The better sideshow here is the reaction of the media – esp Dan B on KFAN – who think that we’ve passed up Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, or Kobe in favor of selecting the 2nd coming of JR Rider. The draft was vanilla and so the media voices have spiced it up by criticizing the heck out of Flip’s picks. And, it doesn’t cool the media fire one bit when the Gophers whip UCLA in the NCAA tournament, where the Gopher’s held SM to 5 points (0-for7 from floor) in the first half, playing mostly Hollins + 4 bench guys.

  21. As TheH noted, who knew Lawson, Sanders, and Faried were going to do well? Basically every advanced analytics assessment. I think there are sometimes surprises (and I hope that’s the case here), but to say nobody knew they’d be good is to overlook a pretty huge camp of commentators…

  22. I am going to randomly rant against smug assumptions that seem all the rage these days, that analytics guys pick the draft more consistently and accurately than anyone else. Ironically, the facts that you would think analytics guys would respect over all else show that they simply don’t.

    Hollinger’s draft rater had Sanders ranked 30th in 2010 and Faried 29th in 2011. It rated Lawson #1 overall which is certainly noteworthy, but if you in fact trusted that info and drafted Lawson #1 you would have missed out on Blake Griffin, James Harden, Steph Curry who are significantly better pros, and guys who are at least as good like Rubio or Jrue Holiday. It also had Tyreke Evans at #3 and Austin Daye at #4 that same year, and Hollinger took special care that year to piss all over DeMar DeRozan, rating him 54th and saying he had the highest bust potential of any lottery pick he has ever ran through his model. Fast forward to 2013 and while DeRozan is no superstar, it is hard to argue taking him 9th was a terrible move. It seems about right, actually.

    Analytics guys cherry pick after the fact to say “see, look at all the picks I got right and conventional wisdom got wrong” but go back and look at Hollinger and Pelton’s historical draft ratings from 2008 (it is all on espn.com). They have wild, wild variations in terms of identifying players accurately and inaccurately on the whole, the range of hits and misses are much wider than more conventional draft predictions like that of Chad Ford. If you look at Pelton’s 2010 WARP draft ratings for example, his top 10 looks like this:

    1. DeMarcus Cousins
    2. Greg Monroe
    3. Gordon Hayward
    4. Cole Aldrich
    5. Hassan Whiteside
    6. Xavier Henry
    7. Derrick Favors
    8. Patrick Patterson
    9. Paul George
    10. John Wall
    11. Jarvis Varnado
    12. James Anderson
    13. Daniel Orton

    Notable misses: Evan Turner (26), Larry Sanders (28), Lance Stephenson (33), Eric Bledsoe (34), Greivis Vasquez (43), Avery Bradley (44)

    Hollinger’s draft rater the same year looks like this:

    1. DeMarcus Cousins
    2. Evan Turner
    3. John Wall
    4. Greg Monroe
    5. Derrick Favors
    6. Xavier Henry
    7. Luke Babbitt
    8. Al-Farouq Aminu
    9. Wesley Johnson
    10. Greivis Vasquez
    11. Sylvain Landesberg
    12. Omar Samhan
    13. Damion James

    Notable misses: Paul George (16), Eric Bledsoe (21), Larry Sanders (30), Avery Bradley (45), Ed Davis (54)

    The two systems do find good players, sure. But they also raise utterly worthless players deep into the lottery and also often wildly vary on ranking the same players – Hollinger has Evan Turner rated 2nd, Pelton 26th. Hollinger has Vasquez rated 10th, Pelton 43rd, Hollinger has Hassan Whiteside rated 62nd, Pelton 5th(!), Hollinger has Patrick Patterson ranked 37th, Pelton has him ranked 8th. On the other hand both loved Xavier Henry (sixth in both systems), who has been a total bust. I am not saying that analytics aren’t interesting or that a lot of thought hasn’t been put into the modeling. However, I would ask — if you were on the board and needed to pick somebody at a certain spot, how would you take Hollinger and Pelton’s draft raters and actually use them to help you pick a player? You couldn’t in the least because they are just as likely to tell you to draft Austin Daye as they are to tell you to draft Kenneth Faried. So how do they really predict anything to any extent worth talking about? They don’t.

    In comparison here is conventional draft pundit Chad Ford’s final mock draft that year:
    1. John Wall
    2. Evan Turner
    3. Derrick Favors
    4. DeMarcus Cousins
    5. Greg Monroe
    6. Paul George
    7. Wes Johnson
    8. Gordon Hayward
    9. Al-Farouq Aminu
    10. Ed Davis
    11. Eric Bledsoe
    12. Avery Bradley
    13. Xavier Henry.

    Did advanced analytics show him up? If so I don’t see it. Ford got it more right than either Hollinger or Pelton, even though he is a stupid talk to scouts and watch the tapes guy. Funny how that works, if you actually care about how stuff works.

  23. I meant lottery, not top 10 but you see what I mean.

  24. Thanks, Mac, for that post. I think the formatting of the comments makes it less likely that someone will post lengthy comments like this one; hopefully, that can be modified by ESPN at some point, because this provides a lot more for discussion than a few sentences.

    To add on a little bit, there’s obviously concern when a player doesn’t measure up well statistically. But here’s a good example that played out in front of our eyes: Harrison Barnes. Depending on who is talking, he’s either a “future star” or a “below-replacement-level player.” More than likely, the reality lies somewhere in the middle.

    I find the stats debate to be somewhat condescending, as though each side has to be pissy in explaining their side. From Flip’s perspective, I can see how a guy who’s built successful teams in the CBA and (to an unclear extent) NBA for decades would be annoyed by the second-guessing of guys who haven’t done that. More than likely, the Wolves use more advanced stats than the casual fan assumes, but maybe not enough to give them a competitive advantage. It’s okay for a fan to feel like they should use more, but finding talent in the NBA will always require a recognition of ever-improving stats and watching tape (that’s becoming much more efficient to do because it can be organized so much better now).

  25. Ok Westy –

    Who are going to be the late 1st round players who succeed from this years draft? I implore you to use these advanced analytic assessments in your answer.

  26. Eh. What will happen to young impressionable Shabbazz when it’s not the humble AK47, but the… um. O.J. Mayo? (FWIW Mayo isn’t the biggest egoist in the world and if Shabbazz adapted to playing a role in the pros as well as Mayo has, I would be surprised and thrilled).

    Anyway, WRT Shabbazz, 14 is about right, but the thing that everyone misses is that we traded down from 9 in order to have the right to SELL OUR 26th PICK. McSmeagol is far more talented and less selfish than Shabbazz, is ultra-intelligent, ultra-competitive, and is an extremely good rebounder for his size. Just because he looks vaguely like Foye and measures the same doesn’t make him a clone.

    Mark my words, passing on McSmeagol will come back to haunt the Wolves.

  27. #freeGeraldHenderson

  28. Any early guesses on the starting lineup for next year?

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