The NBA Draft is less than 72 hours away, and the league is buzzing with rumors and scuttling with front office moves. Boston gifted Philadelphia the first overall pick, giving them the lead guard that’s eluded them for so many years of “The Process.” Jimmy Butler and Paul George may have new teams by the end of Thursday night. And Cleveland and Sacramento jettisoned front office mainstays, much to the dismay of their fans.
All is quiet on the Wolves’ front, though, as they settle in to make the 7th overall selection. We’ve spent a lot of time debating what Minnesota should do with it; draft Jonathan Isaac, Lauri Markkanen, Dennis Smith, Jr., OG Anunoby, or whether to trade it away for a veteran. The top-10 of the Draft appears to be pretty loaded, as a convincing case can be made for all the names mentioned above to be very good NBA players, so Thibs/Layden, LLC will be in an interesting spot once they’re on the clock.
But now, I’d like to shift gears and take a look at some second-rounders that’d be intriguing fits for the Timberwolves. Minnesota does not own its second-round pick (37th overall); it’s property of the Celtics, by way of the Suns, thanks to the Wes Johnson salary dump trade in the summer of 2012. Even if they hadn’t attached their 2017 2nd rounder in that deal, the Wolves have been notorious for selling off late first-round and especially second-round picks over the years, presumably as a cost-cutting measure. But it’s a new day, with a more savvy regime, so maybe, just maybe, the Wolves will pony up the cash to slide into the latter half of the Draft to take a high-upside player on an affordable contract.
If they do, here are five guys I’d love for the Wolves to target. The odds are long, but indulge my daydreaming:
He’s a wing who shot 45%/40%/83% last season, took nearly 5 threes per game, got to the line 8 times per game, and played plus defense in one of the best conferences in all of college basketball. He also has a great wingspan (6’10) for his height (6’5) and has an NBA-ready body. And his name is badass; I would never mess with a man named Sindarius Thornwell. Ever.
Due to his age and somewhat lackluster athleticism, he isn’t being viewed as much of a prospect by DraftExpress, though some advanced stats models really, really like his game. He’d be a reach in the early 30s, but if he gets to the 50th pick, the Wolves should pounce. His skill set reminds me a bit of Danny Green; while Thornwell may never be the defender Green has become, a poor man’s Danny Green late in the 2nd round is a hell of a steal.
The Wolves really don’t have a rim protector on the roster, and while Bryant is a raw talent, the physical gifts are ready-made for a defensive center: 6’11 tall with a 7’6 wingspan, a 9’5 standing reach, and a 33′ vertical. You can’t teach any of that, and that physical profile alone separates him from every other big on the Wolves’ roster.
Some areas of concern: he didn’t rebound particularly well for a man of his size, and it’s a bit difficult to see just how his offensive game will translate to the NBA. It was encouraging that he attempted nearly 2 threes per game last season, and made 38% of his tries from beyond the arc, but is his future really as a stretch five? And does he have the foot speed and athleticism to cover the pick and roll-heavy NBA game?
Bryant would be a bit of a project; the Hoosiers, after all, had the second-worst defense in the Big Ten and ranked 163rd in defensive efficiency last season, indicating Bryant isn’t single-handedly a difference-maker on that end, yet. Still, if the Wolves bought a pick in the 50s to take him, that’d be alright with me. He has a very high ceiling, and Minnesota could do a lot worse than having a stash-and-develop big man suiting up for their Iowa affiliate next season.
Oliver is a very intriguing prospect due to the shot-blocking and shot-making combination he brings to the table. Last season, he was one of the most prolific rim protectors in the country, averaging 2.6 blocks per game. He also hit 38% of the 4.9 (!!!) three-pointers he attempted per contest, the latter figure being second on his team. In other words, he was an important contributor at both ends, in areas that could translate nicely to the pros.
He also rebounded effectively and showed promise as an above-the-rim finisher in pick-and-rolls:
I suppose his weak conference competition, lack of a dribble-drive game, and tendency to drift a bit on defense contributes to his 2nd-round grade, but a 20 year old with his physical profile, jump shot, and athleticism would be a welcome fit in Minnesota, especially at a position of need (power forward).
In a group full of pipe dreams, Jordan Bell might be the most unrealistic one. There’s a chance a team in the 20s has fallen in love with his defensive upside and will snatch him up, and it’s difficult to imagine the Wolves ponying up to get to that spot.
But if there was one player that could entice Thibs, it could be the tenacious, versatile Bell, whose calling card is the defensive end of the floor. The 6’9 slasher can guard the 2-4 spots, and excels at coming from the weak side to swat away shot attempts and strip unaware ball handlers:
His offensive game is somewhat limited, but as long as he doesn’t try to do too much, he’s got potential as a rotation player that can offer you plus defense and off-ball cutting – both of which could fit nicely with this Timberwolves roster.
Minnesota, like every team in the league (save the Golden State Warriors), needs more shooting. If the team wants to take a flyer on a second-rounder who can hit outside shots, Dorsey might be their guy. The Oregon standout doesn’t have an elite physical profile, and doesn’t provide a whole lot of upside at the next level besides spot-up shooting and occasional ballhandling… but if the Wolves are hunting for a back-of-the-rotation sniper, he could be a fit.