Wolves Preparing For Interesting NBA Draft

by Mark Remme
Web Editor

We’re inside 48 hours from Draft night, and the Wolves are trying to decide what their best scenario will be in choosing their No. 13 selection in the first round. A lot of scenarios could play out between now and then, particularly which players are on the board by 13. And as we all know, Draft night is full of trades and surprise picks.

So who will be the surprises this time around? We’ll find out for sure beginning at 6:30 PM CT. You can watch Timberwolves.com’s Live Draft show powered by Coors Light, and you can also watch live coverage of the Draft on ESPN.

The first wildcard is, of course, the health of Kansas center Joel Embiid. A consensus top-3 pick, Embiid suffered a fractured right foot and, combined with already existing questions about his injured back, make him a bit of a red flag when considering the long list of bigs who have been unable to be productive in the league due to lingering, long-term injuries.

But Embiid’s status shouldn’t affect the Wolves too much, considering even if he falls out of the top 3 he will surely not be on the board past the top 10. The only caveat to that might be if he reaches a point in the latter portion of the top 10 and is snatched up by a team that would otherwise select someone more closely linked to the Wolves’ draft board/needs.

What the Wolves do need is a player that embodies at least a combination of these three skill sets: two-way play, 3-point shooting and desire/accountability. They’ll likely be in the running for a wing player or a power forward at 13 to add some depth in those areas. Yet they will also keep an eye on best available in this year’s draft. Whomever they decide might be the best NBA-ready athlete could very well be their pick regardless of position.

“When you look at the Draft, there’s different philosophies,” Flip Saunders said on Tuesday. “You get what you feel is the best ready-made player that can come in and help you. You can get a player that you feel in how the culture of your team and how you want to move forward—whether it be a two-way type player, you can get someone like that. Or you decide…’you know what, we have to take him and put confidence in our ability to develop the player’ that we know within two or three years, if he came out, he’d maybe be the No. 1 pick in the Draft. There’s a few players that have the ability, that could be like that, that still might slide a little bit. Not that they’ll slide to us, but they could slide a little bit.”

So here we go.

Looking at the Draft board and who might be of interest to the Wolves at 13, there are a few players that fit specific roles. At shooting guard, Michigan State’s Gary Harris is kind of an all-around player who could provide defense as well as shooting and intangibles. UCLA’s Zach LaVine, looked at as possibly a combo guard, could be off the board but is young with incredible athleticism and a nice shooting touch. Michigan’s Nik Stauskas, another one who could be off the board, is one of the top two pure shooters in the draft. Kentucky’s James Young has the size, length, shooting and youth that could be great for this particular team.

At small forward, Duke’s Rodney Hood stands out because of his size, shooting, slashing and feel for the game. Doug McDermott, one of the college game’s all-time top scorers, could be available and give the Wolves another chance at a top-notch shooter. UCLA’s Kyle Anderson has the possibility of being a long point-forward in the NBA, and Arizona’s Aaron Gordon is an athletic, defensively-sound player who will need to find a home at either the 3 or the 4 in the NBA.

And then there’s Michigan State’s Adreian Payne, a power forward that scores with great efficiency at the rim, can hit the 3 and rebounds exceptionally well.

No question, there is no shortage of shooters and scorers in the middle of this year’s first round.

“There are more shooters,” Saunders said. “The two ones, when you look at Stauskas and McDermott, you know if they get an open shot they’re going to make it 80 percent of the time. That’s just what they do. So those two guys do put a little bit of, I guess you could say, shooting priority in the Draft because those two can shoot and they’ll be in the upper end of the Draft.”

So how does Saunders and the front office approach the upcoming days? They’re still going over film to complement the workouts and the scouting they’ve done over the past several months. They’re fielding phone calls—Saunders said from morning to late at night—and they’re trying to figure out the best scenario for the team come Thursday night.

Saunders said the team is preparing for anything.

“I know there’s going to be some things; I don’t’ know if there’s going to be a lot at the top,” Saunders said. “I guess we’ll have to wait and see. I thought there might be some if Embiid hadn’t got hurt. But now with him hurt, I believe that the top is pretty much zeroed in on what they’re going to do.”