A Bunch Of Thoughts From The Combine
Greetings, my friends.
Here I am in Chicago for the 2018 NBA Combine.
While the Timberwolves don’t have their own pick (Adreian Payne trade from 2015), they do have the 20th overall pick via Utah (via OKC) from the Ricky Rubio trade (and before that, the Enes Kanter trade).
For the last five drafts, the Wolves have had a lottery pick, so it has been a bit easier to hone in on a group of guys, making the Combine a bit easier on the content end.
But with the pick at No. 20, Sweet Baby Zeus. There are 10-15 guys who could potentially be there for the Wolves to draft, depending on what their big board looks like.
You might think to yourself, “Ugh. No. 20! Nobody good is ever taken at No. 20!!!”
Well, you’re wrong. Notable guys taken at 20 throughout NBA history: Tony Snell, Evan Fournier, Jameer Nelson, Zyndrunas Ilgauskas,Tony Campbell and Larry Nance Sr.
You might not get a homerun pick, but the draft is weird and unpredictable.
Your daily reminder that Donovan Mitchell was drafted 13th overall.
So, why do I enjoy the Combine so much?
It’s not so much about watching the players in drills or see what their Combine measurements are. We can see all of that online and on film.
Like anything in life, it’s about the people.
More than anything, to just talk to the players for a little bit. Get to know their personality and what they are like off the court. For the guys who didn’t attend big schools, these players didn’t have a lot of time with media, so it’s a new experience for them. Thus, they are a bit more honest and themselves than most players are, which is refreshing.
This column has a few tidbits from the first day of the Combine, which is always kind of a mess. But with 50-plus players, that’s expected.
3 Player Storylines
Grayson Allen Is Enjoying The Process
What a wild career it’s been for former Duke guard Grayson Allen. If you were a Duke fan, you loved him. If you weren’t, well, he had the J.J. Redick effect on many in the country to put it nicely.
You can't deny he’s had a pretty illustrious NCAA career, helping Duke win the 2015 National Championship (with Tyus Jones) before becoming one of the most well-known and impactful players in the nation.
He probably could have declared for the draft after his freshman season (and for surely after his sophomore season), but Allen stayed all four seasons and he didn’t sound like he had any regrets when addressing the media. In fact, you couldn’t wipe the smile off Allen’s face.
“It’s been a lot of fun. Getting to talk to a lot of different teams,” Allen said, grinning ear to ear. “Getting to come out here today, really for all of us to show what we have athletically and it’s fun. It’s a fun opportunity. I’ve watched this on TV since I was young and to be here is kind of surreal. I’m trying to really enjoy it.”
Allen has attitude on the court and isn’t afraid to get in his opponent's face. The dude is feisty and can shoot. There’s definitely a world where Allen lands on a team who trusts him the way that Coach K did and he succeeds in the league. He’ll need to be in the right system, much like any other player in the draft.
It’s nice to see him come to the pros after 27 years at Duke.
Allen was first at the Combine with a lane agility time of 10.31 seconds. It’s the same drill Devin Booker led Combine invitees back in 2016.
The Mystery Prospect
Anfernee Simons is taking an unconventional path to the NBA. Simons graduated from high school in Orlando before attending a post-grad year at IMG Academy last season. He’s only 18, but will be 19 when the draft starts and will be a year removed from high school, so he’ll be eligible to enter the draft, which he has done.
He’s an athlete, but he’ll need to put on some weight. His shot isn’t as consistent as it needs to be, but man, he's bouncy.
He’s projected to be a late first-round pick/second-round pick in the draft, but who knows if a team sees something it likes with him. And there’s a lot to like. He was a top high school recruit before choosing to reclassify to become eligible for the draft.
There was a cloud of mystery surrounding Simons at the Combine, and it’s something he was aware of.
“Not many people know who I am,” Simons said. “I’m the mystery prospect. Just try to learn who I am as a person and figure out where I am mentally at this point.”
Teams will try to unveil the mystery of Simons before the draft, but he’s right, people are intrigued by the unknown.
Fun fact: Being born near Orlando, his parents were huge Magic fans. His first name is a nod to former Magic great Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway.
Jimmy Butler’s Got A Fan
I chatted with Cincinnati wing Jacob Evans for a little bit during availability. Evans is projected as a first-round pick.
After three years at Cincinnati, in which Evans averaged 13 points and 4.7 rebounds per game in his junior season, he’s seen as a 3-and-D prospect. The one thing that sticks out the most for Evans is that he’s gotten better throughout his career.
Does he look up to any NBA player at all? Another guy who has improved throughout his career.
“I love Jimmy Butler, you know, just love the fact that he digs in and plays both sides of the ball,” Evans said. “He worked his butt off in the offseason to become a better offensive guy . . . He had to work on his shooting, but he prides himself on defense. You see him every night, he’s guarding James Harden or Kevin Durant or LeBron James, whoever the guy is on the other team, he takes pride in guarding him. That’s what I want to do also.”
(I was wearing no Timberwolves apparel, so this answer wasn't scripted for me.)
Butler was drafted with the last pick of the first round in 2011 and sat for the majority of his first season in the NBA. If anyone knows the draft process and believing in development, it’s Butler. And that’s something that Evans has learned from.
“I haven’t talked to him, but I am a huge fan of him and his game. Just watching him, even when he was in Chicago, just watching him dig in. And he works his butt off off the court, and that’s something I do too. To his diet, to how he trains.”
CALL THE FIRE DEPARTMENT!
This might not be the hottest of hot takes, so you can take off your oven mitts, but every friend I’ve talked to thinks DeAndre Ayton is going first overall. And I get that. He went to school in Arizona. He has the chance to be the state’s hero if he gets drafted by Phoenix and has a successful career with the Suns. He’s drawn comparisons to Patrick Ewing and DeMarcus Cousins, which is great company.
But if I’m the Suns, I pass on Ayton (even though this team could really use a center) and take point guard Luka Doncic. Yes, a 6-8 point guard is a real thing and most scouts have him projected there. The dude is a killer passer who also has the chance to become a great scorer. He can draw fouls and a lineup with Doncic, Devin Booker (6-6) and Josh Jackson (6-8) feels like it’s the definition of the modern NBA.
Doncic isn’t the most explosive guy, but he has such a feel for the game, it’s incredible to watch.
He plays overseas, so there’s a bit of fear with the pick for fans maybe with the unknown, but it’s 2018. These players are as well scouted as the top college players.
Plus, here’s the kicker, the Suns hired Igor Kokoskov as their head coach, who was Doncic’s coach on last year’s EuroBasket championship Slovenian national team. That will help Doncic’s transition to the NBA so much. It won’t ease all the learning pains, but my goodness, it’s a huge start.
Ayton’s going to be a great player, and whoever gets him will be thrilled, but if I’m the Suns, I’d take Doncic No. 1.
Neither Doncic or Ayton were at the Combine.
Without telling them why, I played "Yanny and Laurel" to my children and asked them to repeat what they heard. The boy (5) said "Laurel." The girl (1) said "Yanna." Make of this what you will.
— Scott Neustadter (@iamthepuma) May 16, 2018
I heard Laurel to start and thought people who heard Yanny were crazy.
Ten minutes later, I heard Yanny. We're all losing our minds.
This Marcus Smart effort literally made me gasp pic.twitter.com/pfTRI9qbqF
— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) May 16, 2018
I actually said the other day that Marcus Smart was my favorite player in the league. A guy on my softball team laughed at me. Maybe a wild statement, but I absolutely love the way the guy plays.
This Chris Paul pass is art pic.twitter.com/p05BsA7U49
— SB Nation (@SBNation) May 17, 2018
It feels like if Chris Paul were a real wizard, he’d be in Slytherin.
— Cheryl Reeve (@LynxCoachReeve) May 17, 2018
Holly Rowe. So inspiring to all of us. Keep doing your thing. It’s working.
NBA Draft Lottery is tonight (6:30pm CDT, ESPN).
For 1st time since 2004, the Timberwolves will not be involved.
— Alan Horton (@WolvesRadio) May 15, 2018
It was so weird. I forgot the lottery was even on Tuesday. I then recorded it. Turns out watching when your team isn’t involved isn’t all that exciting. But as far as content goes, it felt like there was something that we needed to produce, but nope. Let’s keep it that way.
The Wolves haven’t picked this late in the Draft in a while. What type of role player will they be targeting, and who are some guys you think could slide on Draft night?
— Kyle Ashton (@beefdaddy4) May 17, 2018
That’s right. The Wolves aren’t the in lottery and it feels weird. It’s a good kind of weird. Like when your mom cleaned your room for you as a child and the moment when you walk in the room you’re confused but also in a pretty good place because your dad will let you go play with your friends now.
I’m not sure if I can give you particular names I think the Wolves should target, but if you look at the roster, I think you can see there’s a big need for shooting. I’m guessing whoever the Wolves target in the draft (or whatever they decide to do with the pick) will entail this team getting better from the 3-point line.
We'll have plenty of draft coverage in the next month with content pieces using the information I got from the Combine, so stay tuned for that. That should introduce you to some more players and give you a look at what they think of their own game.
Who has the best in-game shoes for the Wolves/Lynx
— Ebro (@Ebrostradamus) May 17, 2018
I’m not a huge shoe guy, but this is what the people from our digital team have told me.
Lynx: Rebekkah Brunson’s off white Hyper Dunks, whatever Seimone Augustus is wearing and Maya Moore’s Jordan collection. Moore’s the first female basketball player to sign a deal with Jordan. She did so back in 2011.
Wolves: Butler’s Jordan collection (notably his Eminem Jordan 4s which are worth more than everything I own combined) and Karl-Anthony Towns’ Kickstradomis collection.
I'm hoping as this column evolves, we'll get some more questions sent in. Shoot them at me (@Kyle_Ratke).
I’m wrapping this up at around 7 a.m. here in Chicago on Friday. I’ll be back at the Combine this afternoon. This column (and the format) will change and evolve throughout time, but it’s going to be an every Friday thing here at Timberwolves.com and I’m giddy about it. It’ll be a fun space that I hope will be part of your reading rotation.
If you have any suggestions, don't be afraid to let me know. The goal is to give you news on the site, but also give you some entertainment. Hopefully we're slowly making that transition.
As always, thanks for reading. Enjoy your weekend.
This piece does not reflect the views of the Minnesota Timberwolves organization.