It’s finally here: NBA Draft Day, 2017. We’ve assembled the crew to discuss all things draft-related from the Wolves’ perspective. Without further ado…
ONE: Unfortunately, the Wolves probably don’t have the resources to trade for Paul George, Jimmy Butler, AND Kristaps Porzingis. Theoretically speaking, if the Wolves could build a package around the 7th pick to trade for just one of those three players, which would you want them to target? And how much would you be willing to include in a potential deal?
Lucas: I had actually been thinking quite a bit about this question before seeing it posited here and, to me, the answer is Kristaps Porzingis. Both Butler and George are tremendous players with skillsets that the Wolves are in desperate need of, but I think ultimately Porzingis’ skillset (and age) is an even better fit. His ability to step in and be the rim protecting presence that the Wolves are desperate for would take some pressure off Towns to become an impactful defender immediately. I think that alone would allow Towns to streamline his focus on his defensive development, perhaps looking at improving his communication and off-ball defense first, rather than trying to improve at everything right away. Additionally, Prozingis would add another threat from beyond the three-point line and would make for an incredible frontcourt combo with Towns (and that might be underselling it).
But, if we’re honest with ourselves, none of these moves have that much of a shot at happening. It might not be 0%, but it’s pretty close. That being said, my starting offer would be something like the 7th pick + Rubio + Dunn, but would be willing to swap out Dunn for LaVine if it meant getting the deal done.
Bill: On the surface, Kristaps is the obvious answer, as he’s still just 21 years old and a frontcourt of KAT and ‘Staps would be crazy town banana pants. But All-NBA wings are in short supply, and big men are becoming less and less important, even multifaceted monsters like Towns and Porzingis. In the name of roster balance, Butler or George might be the better target. And since George has just one season left on his deal until he is, by all accounts, bound for Tinseltown, that leaves Jimmy. My dear, sweet Jimmy, who I love, and who’s signed through at least 2019 for under $40 million, total (with a player option through 2020 at $19.8 million). So, Jimmy. The answer is Jimmy. And I’d be willing to part with Wiggins, straight up, or Wiggins and Dunn, or some combination of LaVine and the 7th pick to do it.
Andy: I’d choose Kristaps because he has (by far) the best contract situation and his age aligns with Wiggins and KAT’s better than the older George and Butler. With two full seasons left on Zinger’s rookie-scale Kahntract, the Wolves would effectively hold his rights for at least six seasons. He and KAT both project as star or superstar-level bigs in this modern NBA that rewards athleticism and shooting. I’d trade the #7 pick and Zach LaVine for Porzingis. A team can only have so many players in its long-term “core.” Wiggins, Towns and Porzingis would have as high a ceiling as any young trio the league has seen.
Patrick: I’d also take ‘Zingis. Highest upside, best contract, and a nice fit with our core. I’d give up Zach LaVine + #7th + whatever else it would take on the margins to get that deal.
Tim: I’m on the Porzingis bandwagon as well. If the Wolves had gotten into the top 3, I would have had serious hopes that a deal would have surfaced. But if the reports are true, and they’re targeting Josh Jackson with a done deal, the Wolves’ odds don’t seem good.
But man, can you imagine a KAT-Zinger-Wiggins frontcourt? On paper, that is absolutely terrifying to think about. In action, I can’t really envision a scenario where they don’t find a way o thrive, especially in a situation with a pass first point guard good at spreading the ball around. Hopefully they can find one of those guys if they trade their current starting point guard. Sorry, I remain tentatively salty. I digress..
TWO: Let’s pretend for a second that the Wolves are NOT going to flip the pick and spare parts for a star veteran, and will instead use it for themselves – who would you like them to draft with the 7th overall pick?
Lucas: As I mentioned in the discussion piece with Bill from last week, Jonathan Isaac would be the perfect pick for the Wolves. He’s a bit of a project, but he projects to be good, if not great, on defense, has a shot of having a pretty reliable outside shot, and has perhaps the best switchability of anyone in the draft (though O.G. Anunoby is might be better). His versatility is pretty unparalleled in this draft and would be a perfect fit with the Wolves’ current starting lineup. But I don’t see him lasting that long. I bet he’s gone by pick 7, perhaps even in the top 5.
Bill: I would like them to draft Dennis Smith, Jr. Let’s get weird.
Andy: My heart is telling me Dennis Smith Jr – it’s fun to think about a stud scoring guard who can fly to the rim and dunk on people – but my mind is telling me Jonathan Isaac from Florida State.
If Thibs-Layden, LLC keeps and uses the #7 pick, they will presumably select a 19 or 20 year old player who they believe can become a part of this team’s long-term future. With that in mind, they have to decide what their future starting lineup looks like, and take “need” into consideration – at least as one factor of many, considering all of the uncertainty that accompanies EVERY draft selection, but particularly those after the first couple picks. If you assume that Smith and Isaac each reaches (something close to) his potential, which would you rather have playing with LaVine, Wiggins, and KAT?
I think it’s a fair question without an obvious answer. You might prefer Smith because neither LaVine nor Wiggins – as of yet – seems to respond well to full-throttle perimeter defense that often stymies the Wolves in second halves that follow a halftime lead. I think that there’s a reasonable chance that LaVine plays out his career as a great jumpshooter who never quite establishes himself as a slashing/playmaking-for-teammates threat. I also think there’s a reasonable chance that Wiggins never develops a smooth perimeter handle that allows him to be that Paul George or Tracy McGrady-type of forward who operates like a point guard in Winning Time. If neither guy can grow into an alpha playmaker, the team would probably benefit from having one. And Smith might be one.
But Thibs and the Timberwolves powers that were before him have invested so much in LaVine and Wiggins and the results have been pretty damn good so far, even if imperfect and – in some ways – slow to develop. I would bet on at least one of them eventually growing into a playmaker, which mitigates the need for a “special” point guard and instead makes an off-ball shooter, defensive-minded player like Isaac the much better supplement. (And in the shorter term, they still have Rubio as the set-up guy.) Isaac has freakish physical tools, stuffs the non-points columns of the stat sheet, and seems like the sort of “passive” offensive player who would be more than fine spotting up in the corners to maintain proper spacing. He will “DO HIS JOB” (Thibs voice) rather than trying to do it his own way. I think that some simplicity on offense and upside on defense would help the Wolves core in the future, and Isaac seems likely to provide those qualities. He isn’t the most exciting pick, but – for the Wolves – I think he’s the best one.
Tim: I’m in on Jonathan Isaac if he falls, but I don’t expect him to, so I’m good with rolling with Markkanen in that case. I’m aware that the Wolves have defensive issues they need to address, and I know that Markkanen doesn’t solve any of those, but he does do one thing at an extremely high level. He shoots the ball like a mad man, and the shots go in a lot of the time.
The Wolves were last in threes last year. Defense needs to be addressed, but so does shooting. This, in a way, is a “draft for fit” move, but I think it’s okay if you do that here. With all the assets Flip/Thibs has acquired, a home run swing can happen in the way of making a trade.
THREE: Is there a scenario where you’d like to see the Wolves trade down? For instance, is there a short list of players who would, if they’re all selected, prompt you to advocate moving back? Or are you certain staying put is the right call, no matter what? (Basically, the question is, “How deep do you think the top crop of players in this class is?”)
Lucas: I think the Wolves should think long and hard about trading down if Isaac is gone. Depending on how the first 5 picks go, it’s possible that someone like Jayson Tatum or Dennis Smith Jr. may still be around when the Wolves pick. But Tatum would be a clunky fit next to Wiggins and the optics of taking Smith Jr. the year after Kris Dunn wouldn’t be great. Obviously, optics shouldn’t be taken too much into account, but I’m pretty sure that Tom Thibodeau is still sold on Dunn being Ricky Rubio’s replacement. Essentially, Isaac is really the only player that makes total sense in my mind at 7. If he’s gone, the Wolves should probably trade down and look at selecting the likes of Zach Collins or someone else.
Bill: If all of Fultz, Ball, Jackson, Isaac, Dennis Smith, and Monk are off the board, the Wolves should trade down. I like Markannen, Tatum, and Fox just fine as prospects, but not enough to take them at 7. And really, I’d be very open to them trading out of the first round entirely if they can get the right kind of veteran for the pick.
Andy: I don’t think so — I think it’s at least 7 deep with players the Wolves should be happy to draft. I’d include Fultz, Ball, Jackson, Tatum, Fox, Smith and Isaac in this group. At this point, it seems like Smith or Isaac is the one of that group most likely to be on the board at 7. They should draft whoever it is.
Patrick: It all depends on who Thibs is targeting, who he expects to available at a certain spot, and what he would get in return for the pick. I think the draft is deep enough that the Wolves probably should stand pat and use #7 on someone who could be a really good player and fit with our current core, even if that player is a point guard.
Tim: I like Bill’s take here. I’d rather trade out than trade down if the Wolves don’t see anyone they’d like. If there’s a guy they absolutely love, more than the guy projected at 7, sure. But not only can moves like that be risky, it can be hard to find a trading partner that wants the guy you “pick”, all while seeing your guy fall to that team. It’d have to be somewhat of a perfect storm.
FOUR: Is there a player who’s projected to go later in the first round that you’d love to see in a Wolves uniform, but would worry about reaching for him at 7?
Lucas: OG ANUNOBY. I’m so sold on this guy. He’s projected to go 20th in the latest DraftExpress mock draft, but I think he’s a top 10 talent when he’s healthy (he’s currently recovering from ACL surgery). His defensive versatility is arguably better than Isaac’s and he was a very solid finisher around the rim at Indiana. His shot leaves a lot to be desired, but I think with some work he could shoot 35ish% from 3. Picking him at 7 is probably a reach; I think picking him in the 10-15 range would be more appropriate, but I also don’t know how much of a reach grabbing him at 7 would be. You’d have to be confident in his work ethic and dive deeply into his medical records to do it, but I think Anunoby is a prime candidate for the “Wait, how’d he not go in the top 10?” award 2-3 years down the road.
Bill: I think D.J. Wilson is going to be very good. He’s 6’11 with a 7’3 wingspan and can both handle the ball and shoot. He’s not much of a rebounder or defender, but there’s a lot to like about his offensive game. If his body fills out, and he lands in the right spot, I see no reason why he couldn’t be a big small forward or a stretch big. He fits the mold of where the league is headed.
Patrick: Not in particular. But I guess I’ll say Frank Ntilikina, because he’s got that “unknown European guy with upside” factor in his favor.
Andy: I don’t know about “love,” but I’m intrigued by Harry Giles. (Eds note: I remained intrigued by Greg Oden for about 3 years too many. I guess I’m a sucker for injury-spoiled upside.) Giles was widely considered a top-tier prospect even after blowing out his left knee in 2013 while playing in the FIBA U16 tournament. Then he blew out his right knee in his senior high school season, which led to the usual reconstructive surgery and then another arthroscopic surgery when things weren’t quite right. Giles posted averages of less than 4 points/4 rebounds per game in limited minutes at Duke, before declaring for the draft. Whatever team drafts him will show faith in its medical and training staffs and hope that Giles can eventually turn his bigtime frame (6’10” with 9’1” standing reach) and long-developed skills into NBA production. His realistic remaining upside is probably as a defensive-minded center who also knows how to catch pick-and-roll passes and dunk. Late in the first round, that seems like a good thing to get.
Tim: Terrance Ferguson belongs nowhere around the 7th pick, but he intrigues me. He decided to forego college to go play overseas in Australia last year, and his results were mixed. But, as past evidence has proven (Brandon Jennings in Spain, to a degree), international results don’t always translate to how good they’ll be in the NBA. The one big thing for Ferguson: he can shoot like a mad man. If you go look at the Nike Hoop Summit from a year ago, you get an idea for what he can do from deep. Not a top tier guy, but definitely a guy I’ll be watching.
FIVE: Bring out your hate: who is one player you are confident will fail to live up to their draft slot?
Lucas: Lauri Markkanen. Right now he’s projected to go 7-15 depending on where you look and I just don’t see him as being a top 10 talent. His one skill is shooting (which, granted, is elite), but doesn’t really do much else. He’s a poor defender and even worse rim protector, his inside game on offense leaves a lot to be desired, and he isn’t all that great of a passer. It’s possible that he develops those skills in the NBA, but that’s a lot to bank on. To me, he seems like a Channing Frye-type. He’ll hit 38-40% of his threes, but not provide much else. Don’t get me wrong, that type of player is valuable and I think he’d be a fine pick in the 13-15 range, but I just don’t see a top 10 player there.
Bill: Zach Collins. He’s Meyers Leonard. And Meyers Leonard sucks.
Patrick: I’m with Bill here. Collins.
Andy: If I have to pick one, I guess I’ll go with Malik Monk. I think he’s going in the Top 10, and it wouldn’t shock me if his tapped-out potential is something like Eddie House.
Tim: Markelle Fultz. Dude sucks. Bad at basketball.
SIX: Fill in the blank: Ten years from now, we will all recognize that __________ was the best player from this class.
Lucas: Markelle Fultz. The guy does it all and I think he’s going to a place in Philadelphia that will allow for him to succeed (barring everyone on that roster staying healthy). There aren’t many holes in his game and I just don’t see how he isn’t the best player if he’s able to stay healthy. Though, I think Dennis Smith Jr. and Josh Jackson are good sleeper picks. Lonzo Ball isn’t really a sleeper pick, but if his shot translates, I wouldn’t be shocked if it were him. Basically, this is a pretty deep draft with many players that have bright futures.
Bill: WHOEVER THE WOLVES DRAFT. (Just kidding.) It’s almost certainly Fultz. The handle, the shooting, finishing at the rim, athleticism, intelligence – he’s another James Harden. He’s going to be a truly magnificent player. Can you imagine if your team had the top pick, and traded his rights to an up-and-coming division rival? Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha, I’d be so depressed.
Patrick: Fultz. He will be filthy together with Embiid and Ben Simmons if #TheProcess can stay healthy.
Andy: (LaVar Ball voice) LONZO BALL! BIG BALLER BRAND!
Tim: For fun: Lonzo Ball. I love his passing, I love his size, and I love his fluidity on the floor. It could easily be Fultz, but all y’all are picking him. I’m an individual. Plus, I really think Ball could be special.
SEVEN: Last one: who will be introduced to the media on Friday as the newest member of the Minnesota Timberwolves?
Lucas: According to my head, I think the Wolves probably take Lauri Markkanen. According to my heart, I think the Wolves trade down and take Zach Collins. But according to my soul, GIVE ME OG ANUNOBY.
Bill: I truly believe two things: 1) Isaac will be gone and 2) the Wolves will make some sort of trade involving the 7th pick. That makes a prediction tough. But I will try to be optimistic and say that Minnesota keeps the pick, Jonathan Isaac will slip through the cracks and end up here.
Patrick: I don’t think Isaac will fall to 7. If this leaves Thibs with a choice between Lauri Markkanen and Dennis Smith, Jr., I think he might roll the dice on DSJ’s upside as the point guard he thought he was getting when he took Kris Dunn at 5 last year.
Andy: Markkanen. Agree with Patrick on Isaac being off the board, disagree that Thibs-Layden takes the Dunn Mulligan. I think they remain committed to Kris while either keeping Rubio or signing a veteran point guard more of their liking, and add Lauri for some shooting.
Tim: Every year, I hope for madness. Madness that I’ll end up enjoying, of course. It doesn’t happen often, though. My prediction is that, while I prefer Isaac if he falls, I agree that he will be off the board. I expect Lauri Markkanen to be introduced with Thibs on Friday.