D-League, overseas frontcourt targets for the Wolves
Since Thursday’s waiving of Andre Miller, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ roster has sat at 14 players. As of Saturday, the Wolves had yet to finalize a rumored buyout with Kevin Martin – but if it is completed (as expected) by the Monday deadline, it’ll leave the team with yet another roster spot to fill. With only 20ish games remaining of another non-playoff season, and the team a bit shorthanded on the wing and in the frontcourt, Milt Newton and the rest of the front office ought to give a D-League or overseas player a shot on the roster.
A few ideas on who that could be…
Cory Jefferson, Bakersfield Jam, NBA D-League
Some of you may remember Jefferson from those Baylor teams of a few years ago (Pierre Jackson, the Quincys Acy and Miller, Brady Heslip, Isaiah Austin) that made a couple of runs to the Sweet Sixteen. A 6’9 power forward, Jefferson was the final pick of the 2014 NBA Draft by San Antonio and was traded to Brooklyn, where he appeared in 50 games (averaging 3.7 points and 2.9 rebounds) his rookie season.
He made the Phoenix Suns’ opening night roster back in November, but was used only sparingly, making just 8 appearances before being waived. He signed with Bakersfield in the D-League on February 1st and has impressed during his time with them, averaging 19.5 points and 12.2 rebounds on 54% shooting in 6 games.
The only catch with Jefferson: he’s already 25, so signing him wouldn’t exactly be swinging for the fences. He isn’t an outside shooter and is a bit undersized (at around 210 pounds), so he’s a bit of a tweener, but he has a great work ethic and would be motivated to impress with whatever opportunity he’d be given.
Jordan Bachynski, Westchester Knicks, NBA D-League
Hey, how about another Canadian on the Timberwolves, eh? The 7’2 Calgary, Alberta native averaged 7.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and an astounding 2.6 blocks per game over his four year career at Arizona State. After going undrafted in 2014, he bounced around from the Hornets’ summer league team (2014), a team in Turkey, the Knicks’ D-League affiliate in Westchester, to the Magic and Raptors’ summer league teams (2015), to a training camp stint with the Pistons, and back to Westchester again, where he currently plays. In 55 career D-League games, he’s averaged 10.9 points, 6.3 assists and 2.4 blocks on 56% shooting.
The excellent D-League reporter Chris Reichert had a Q&A with Bachynski over at Upside and Motor back in January, which is worth your time whether the Wolves sign him or not. He’d offer some rim protection, obviously, as well as size down low, but like Jefferson, his age puts a ceiling on his upside (he was a four year player at ASU and turns 27 in September). Still, a prolific shot blocker like him may be fun to bring in for a 20-plus game flier, and good luck trying to score on a frontcourt featuring Towns and Bachynski together.
Michael Beasley, Shandong Golden Stars, Chinese Basketball Association
Just kidding. But he really does want to get back into the league, though. But yeah, no. No thanks.
Raphiael Putney, Rio Grande Valley Vipers, NBA D-League
When I asked D-League Digest contributor Adam Johnson who the Wolves should sign with their open roster spot(s), he described a potential Putney acquisition as “playing with house money.” Here’s an idea of why:
Standing somewhere between 6’9 and 6’11 (he’s listed different heights on different websites) with 7’3 wingspan, the 25 year old UMass alumnus is averaging 18 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists and 2.6 blocks per game on 54% effective field goal shooting, including 37% from beyond the arc (while taking more than 7 threes per game) for the Rockets’ D-League affiliate this season.
Despite all the buzz he’s generating in the D-League this year, he wasn’t regarded as much of prospect when his college career ended. He was deactivated twice by Rio Grande Valley during the 2014-15 season, and spent the spring and summer of 2015 on a journey through Saudi Arabia (seriously, Saudi Arabia has a pro league?!?), Australia, and Malaysia before landing back with the RGV Vipers.
Look – his handle is suspect, he’s kind of a gunner, he’s slight of frame for his height, and there’s a reason his Draft Express profile is more bare than the attendance at pro game in Saudi Arabia (I cannot get over this new fact I just learned) – but why the hell not try to catch lightning in a bottle? It’s 20-some-odd games at the end of another losing season, and if it doesn’t work out, so what?
Check back in tomorrow for part two, where I will highlight a few shooting guards and small forwards that should be on the Wolves’ radar.