We’re a little over a week away from the 2013 NBA Draft.
This used to be like watching a really good horror movie for Timberwolves fans. You’d feel all kinds of excitement and adrenaline coursing through your veins, but ultimately you knew the demise of many was coming at the end. But now with David Kahnye West gone from the front office and Flip Saunders in charge, we have a blank slate for the organization’s draft credit. We could either end up with good credit or bad credit starting with the 2013 NBA Draft, but we do know that it will be different than what David Kahn gave us.
For a big draft preview type of post, I figured we’d look at the options surrounding each draft selection (9 and 26), what the experts are picking for that selection, what I think the pick will be and the best/worst-case scenarios. This post is just looking at the No. 9 selection and there will be a separate post about the No. 26 selection.
No. 9 Draft Pick Options for the Wolves
Shabazz Muhammad, 6’6″ 222 lbs, 6’11” wingspan, 37″ max vertical leap, SG/SF, UCLA
After his freshman season at UCLA and the news that he’s actually 20 years old and not 19, people soured heavily on the idea of Shabazz Muhammad being a good professional player. And to be honest, I’m not really sure why everybody is so down on him. I don’t think he’s going to be a future All-Star by any means but the Wolves could do a lot worse than ending up with Muhammad at No. 9. Now, I also think they could do better than Muhammad but the more I watch tape of his good and bad tendencies, the more I am fine if they end up with him.
Here’s what I like about Shabazz: he can score (I think getting more scorers on this team can only be a good thing), he can shoot (not a deadeye but he’s not Wes Johnson either), he’s a good spot-up shooter (Rubio safety valve option?), he gets to the free throw line, a huge part of his game is getting out in transition (Wolves want to run), he rebounds well enough, and I think his wingspan turns him into a player with the potential to be a good defender. He only goes left, it seems but I still think he has the ability to become a well-rounded scorer. He also moves incredibly well without the ball and can post up a bit.
Here’s what worries me about Shabazz: he’s a bit of a tweener when it comes to playing shooting guard or playing small forward (which will plague him until he learns how to defend), he doesn’t pass at all (it’s both good and bad because he can’t be Derrick Williams out there but he also doesn’t turn it over much at all either), he’s not someone that generates a lot of turnovers (but that could develop), not a great athlete (length could make up for a lot there but he has to be quick, more than explosive), and he can’t shoot much off the dribble.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, 6’5.5″ 204 lbs, 6’8″ wingspan, 34.5″ max vertical leap, SG, Georgia
This is the guy I want the Wolves to draft. KCP isn’t as good as Victor Oladipo or Ben McLemore, but if the Wolves are serious about upgrading the shooting guard position and getting a real player in there that can fit seamlessly next to Rubio, Caldwell-Pope is the guy. He has a good wingspan, is a great athlete, and even though he’s a little undersized for the shooting guard position, he’s strong enough to make up for any height issues. And even then, it’s not like throwing Eric Gordon out there who is actually 6’3″. Pope is aggressive and would give us plenty of “KCP baptizes Timofey Mozgov at the rim!” jokes to make when he throws it down on the opposing big man. It almost seems too good to be true that he could be available at No. 9 but it’s a real possibility.
Here’s what I like about KCP: He’s an incredible athlete (dude finishes at the rim extremely well in transition and even though his vertical leap isn’t overtly impressive, he’s one of the more explosive jumpers), he can flat-out shoot the rock (percentage isn’t staggering but he has a great release point and is fantastic coming off screens), has great balance on his jump shot, he’s a good scorer in the pick-and-roll, he’s a very solid defender both with quickness and strength, he’s a great rebounder for his position, and he can create turnovers for the other team (plays the passing lanes like a fiddle, assuming he knows how to play the fiddle really well).
Here’s what worries me about KCP: he has a little bit of J.R. Smith in him (shoots too quick at times and can forget about attacking the rim), not a great ball handler when it comes to creating scoring opportunities on the drive, sometimes it looks like he’s dribbling a football, and he can get lost on defense but I think that’s something the coaching staff can iron out within two years.
C.J. McCollum, 6’3.25″ 197 lbs, 6’6.25″ wingspan, 38.5″ max vertical leap, PG/SG, Lehigh
McCollum might be the best player available at No. 9 when the Wolves pick, but it doesn’t mean he’s a great fit for what they need. He’s tall enough and rangy enough to spend plenty of time at the shooting guard position next to Ricky Rubio. I don’t know that he’s a full-time shooting guard in the NBA, but I wouldn’t be mad at him spending 20 minutes per game there as the Wolves use him in a super Sixth Man type of role. And with McCollum on board, it means the Wolves would be less reliant on J.J. Barea and Luke Ridnour on the roster, meaning teams in need of a backup point guard could possibly offer something valuable in return. But everybody would have to be comfortable with a piece that doesn’t quite fit perfectly and needs a bit of time to adapt to this role. That patience wasn’t evident with accepting Derrick Williams on this roster. Of course if McCollum plays well right off the bat, nobody will care.
Here’s what I like about McCollum: Again, he’s a guy that can really score the ball. Of the three players we’ve highlighted so far, they can all score the ball extremely well but McCollum is probably the most versatile scorer of the lot. C.J. likes to push the ball, he’s great with his handle, he has deep range, he can shoot the ball (although he had two years where he wasn’t that consistent), he’s lightning on the court and in the half court, he’s really good off the ball on defense, and he can hit the boards for a combo guard. He’s like a good version of Randy Foye.
Here’s what worries me about McCollum: the fit within the roster (again, he’s a combo guard), he’s not strong or explosive (that could affect how he finishes at the rim in the NBA), and he could end up being a bad defender on the ball. He has good length but we have no idea if he will be able to do a passable job in the NBA on shooting guards if he has to defend them. He could end up being a bad version of Randy Foye, otherwise known as Randy Foye.
Cody Zeller, 7’0.25″ 230 lbs, 6’10.75″ wingspan, 37.5″ max vertical leap, PF/C, Indiana
I’m sort of serious here. I think there is a real possibility this could end up being the pick if someone early in the draft screws up the Wolves’ options at bolstering the wing positions and they’re not comfortable after all with Shabazz Muhammad. And if the Wolves are worried about not being able to match an offer sheet to Nikola Pekovic if everything gets out of control, it will be smart to have a safety net for the interior earlier in the draft rather than later when you’re hoping Rudy Gobert isn’t actually a Stretch Armstrong doll. There are plenty of positives with Zeller and he wouldn’t be awful at No. 9, but that’s only if McCollum and KCP are off the board.
What I like about Zeller: He’s a pretty versatile big man (has a decent face-up game and can play around the rim), he’s great moving off the ball and quite mobile (runs the floor, moves well cutting to the basket, doesn’t seem tripped up by his feet ever), great option in the pick-and-roll (Rubio would make him a great target), scores with both hands (huge for an NBA big man), and has great body control for a big man. He also gets to the free throw line at a great clip, but not might be able to get that to translate to the NBA.
What worries me about Zeller: He doesn’t seem nearly strong enough to bang inside for rebounds and scoring opportunities in the NBA (but that can change with a little work in the weight room), he’s very blockable at the rim, he’ll be a decent defender but you probably want a very good defender if you’re drafting a big man this high, and his rebounding numbers aren’t overwhelming at all (although he’s good on the offensive glass).
Experts’ pick for the Wolves at No. 9
Chad Ford’s Mock 5.0 on ESPN.com (Updated 6.18): Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Draft Express Mock Draft (Updated 6.18): Shabazz Muhammad
Chris Mannix Mock 3.0 on SI.com (Updated 6.14): Shabazz Muhammad
Gary Parrish’s Mock Draft from CBSSports.com (Updated 6.11): C.J. McCollum
Who will the Wolves pick?
Right now, my money is on Kentavious Caldwell-Pope going No. 9 to the Wolves. While McCollum is a better overall player and Muhammad is a stronger, tamer player, I think KCP is the type of shooter and defender the Wolves desperately need at the shooting guard position. If the team can get Alexey Shved to develop and not regress like we saw during the second half of last season, the four-man combination of Rubio-KCP-Shved-backup PG (Luke or Barea) is a really nice way to rotate your backcourt. The key is making sure he’s still available at No. 9 when they pick. The biggest threat to KCP being off the board at 9 is if the Detroit Pistons decide to take him at 8.
And who wouldn’t want to see this kind of excitement in the Target Center?
Worst-case is definitely the Wolves taking Cody Zeller just in case they end up losing Nikola Pekovic to a team willing to pay more than the team is comfortable matching on an offer sheet. I think it sends a bad message to the organization and the fans involved that the Wolves are going to be more reactive in the Flip Saunders era than proactive and this team could definitely use some ProActiv to clear up the blemishes. Get it?
Zeller would be a fine backup center for the Wolves right away and they could save a little money right away next season by not bringing Stiemsma back. However, this would be a step to the side and potentially backward instead of moving the franchise and the roster forward.
Outside of trading the No. 9 pick and let’s say Derrick Williams to the Orlando Magic or Washington Wizards for the chance to draft Victor Oladipo or Ben McLemore, the best-case is bringing in someone like KCP to the roster when they’re in need of a playmaking shooting guard on defense that can shoot and finish on offense. But ideally, a move for the No. 2 or 3 picks in order to grab Oladipo or McLemore with that selection would be the best move. I am pretty firmly on record of not feeling like Derrick Williams has to go at all, but they could save some money and significantly add a position of need with a never-ending wingspan that can play defense and maybe knock down shots from the outside with Oladipo or they could add probably the best perimeter scorer in the draft with McLemore.
With Orlando having Nikola Vucevic, Andrew Nicholson, Tobias Harris, and Maurice Harkless on their roster already, they’re probably not looking to add another forward right now. The Wizards could possibly bring in Williams with the hopes of moving Nene or Okafor, but that would downgrade their defense, which is what they were so great at last season. More than likely, the Wolves will have a shot at The Pope with the ninth selection and that would be a great addition to the Wolves.