Thoughts From Wolves Group Pre-Draft Workouts
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Well, two basketball-packed days are in the books at Target Center as we wrapped up this year’s annual Pre-Draft group workouts, but as we head toward the Draft on June 27 these two days really are just quick blips on a six-week journey. On Thursday, the Wolves will regroup and have their own private workouts with individuals who project to be available at the team’s ninth and 26th overall picks. From there, the team will likely hold several more workouts for more players trying to find the right group to select with their two first and two second round picks next month.
Still, there was a lot that happened over these last two days and it’s important to quickly reflect before we move forward. I had a chance to sit in on all four group workouts, and during those six hours I picked up a few observations about the players and the annual event itself. Here are a few quick hits I observed over the past two days.
All eyes on Minnesota
It’s important to remember these two days were to evaluate players who are likely second rounders. They go through lengthy, tiring workouts and showcase a lot of different offensive and defensive attributes during their workouts, but most of these guys will be drafted with deals not guaranteed and so this particular event is a way for a lot of teams to get together and do one giant workout once, not several times over for multiple teams across the country.
So over the past two days, more than 70 scouts, coaches and executives from more than 25 teams came to Minnesota, gathered at Target Center and watched about six hours of drills, sets and 3-on-3 scrimmaging. Well-known personalities like Knicks coach Mike Woodson and Washington coach Randy Wittman were in attendance, and of course the Wolves’ front office led by President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders and coach Rick Adelman were both in the room.
The coolest part about having the event here in Minnesota is the exposure it puts on the Twin Cities. These personalities from around the NBA all congregate to downtown Minneapolis, watch basketball at Target Center and enjoy all the bars and lodging all within walking distance of the arena. They’re located right in the middle of the Central Time Zone, where it’s pretty equidistant for each franchise to send personnel.
During the workouts, the entire Wolves coaching staff is involved. All four assistants—Terry Porter, Jack Sikma, T.R. Dunn and Bill Bayno—as well as player development coaches David Adelman and Shawn Respert all lead the event. They’re front-and-center as coaches and executives around the league look on, giving great exposure to the personnel the Wolves have on their coaching staff.
And each player dons Timberwolves practice uniforms, putting Minnesota’s brand on each prospect’s chest. When they get interviewed and have those interviews put on YouTube or television, the Wolves’ logo is broadcast around the globe.
DeWayne Dedmon: The 7-footer from USC was all over the floor during Day 1. He really had a nice showing in the paint, and going head-to-head with a talented but young Mouhammadou Jaiteh showed he is mature around the basket. As far as bigs go at this workout, Dedmon had an impressive day.
Chris Babb: Babb is 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds at the guard position, and he showed he can be a physical player on the perimeter. He was hitting his shots, he took contact well and he finished strong at the basket. With that size, he won’t necessarily be a player who is pushed around at the NBA level, and he brings the tutelage of Fred Hoiberg with him from Iowa State.
Brandon Paul: The Illinois product can score in bunches, and he showed he’s a guy that can hit shots on Tuesday. Paul is the guy who hit the buzzer-beater against Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament this year, and a season ago he dropped 43 on Ohio State. But the promising thing about him is that he said defense is something he’s hoping to showcase more than anything at these workouts. The offense will obviously be there—he hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer during one of the late-shot clock drill emphasizing that point.
Matt Dellavedova: This St. Mary’s guard finished college leading his school’s record books in pretty much every statistical category, and he showed why during his workout. He’s 6-foot-4, 190 pounds and played primarily at the point, but he was fluid in his shot, quick in his drives, worked well after contact and had great court vision. He’s a guy who has played for the Australian National Team, so he’s gotten international experience to go along with four years of college. Dellavedova is a talented player who was probably the highlight of Wednesday’s first group.
Brandon Davies: Davies averaged 17.7 points per game this season for BYU and is also an efficient rebounder. He had several plays in the paint that showed he can make things happen both with his positioning and his agility. He stood out as a solid forward during Wednesday’s workouts.
B.J. Young Young decided to leave Arkansas after his sophomore year, but he showcased as a freshman the type of athlete he is. He shot 50 percent from the field, 41.3 percent from 3 and averaged 15.3 points per game as a freshman. Those numbers dipped in his sophomore year, but on Wednesday he was quick to the hoop and showed the explosiveness that likely got him invited to the Draft Combine in Chicago a couple weeks ago.
Best local storyline
Rodney Williams, Jr. worked out in his hometown at an NBA arena he first played in while at Robbinsdale Cooper and located just a couple miles from where he played college ball. A lot of local Gophers fans are interested in whether or not Williams will be drafted. He had a decent day in front of the NBA scouts, and he said he understands one of the biggest questions about his game is his jumpshooting ability. As far as his strengths go, he’s hoping teams will notice his athleticism and his defensive capabilities.
Particularly the Timberwolves, his hometown team.
“I think I could hopefully bring a little “Showtime” in here—get out in some fast breaks and get some nice dunks in there,” Williams said about playing for Minnesota. “Just a defensive guy—that’s where I feel to start out my career in the NBA, that’s where I’ll make my money on the defensive end. That’s where I want to make the most noise at.”
Most unique storyline
Elston Turner, Jr. is by far the most unique storyline in this group of 24 players. He is entering a league in which his dad is a well-known and well-respected assistant coach. This particular group workout was interesting because it was run by a coaching staff that, by and large, was with his dad at a couple of his stops over the past 10 years. Elston Sr. was in Sacramento and Houston under Rick Adelman, and a combination of Porter, Sikma, Dunn and Respert were part of those staffs in some capacity with him. Elston Jr. said he’s known Rick and most of these coaches since he was in fifth or sixth grade.
Random coincidence of the week
Arizona forward Solomon Hill participated in Tuesday’s second workout. He not only knows Chase Budinger and Derrick Williams—two proud former Wildcats—and has talked with them about the NBA Draft process, he was actually D-Will’s roommate in college. He said he’s always wanted to get up here and see Williams play but hasn’t found the time, so it’s a cool experience getting to work out on his home NBA court.
One thing I noticed was Flip Saunders has great presence in the room. He was able to coordinate with the Wolves’ staff, watch the action on the floor and also talk with scouts, coaches and executives around the league. He’s a guy who is well-known and has a lot of connections in the NBA.
The Wolves will continue their own individual workouts tomorrow at the LifeTime Fitness Training Center, where no other teams will be present. It’s the next phase in this Draft process that will lead us to the big night on June 27. This first group coming in includes Michigan guard Tim Hardaway, Jr., Georgia guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Providence guard Ricky Ledo, California guard Allen Crabbe, Villanova forward/center Mouphtaou Yarou and Creighton center Gregory Echenique.
For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter, and join the conversation at WolvesNation.com.