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NBA Draft Prep And Three NBA Award Predictions

by Kyle Ratke, Digital Content Manager

Digital Content Manager

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This was supposed to be a spot dedicated to the NBA Finals. But it’s Friday morning and in about 14 hours, I’d imagine the Warriors will be wrapping up a sweep. Thus, that would make this the opposite of evergreen content.

We could talk about J.R. Smith’s Game 1 blunder (something that saved face for both George Hill and Ty Lue). Or we could talk about who will MVP after tonight’s game (probably Kevin Durant). But even with a great Game 1 and a very good Game 3, the Warriors are up 3-0 and we kind of know where this thing is going.

Instead, let’s hop in with our NBA Draft coverage.

From now until June 21, Julian Andrews and I will each be highlighting a prospect every day. Most are projected to go right around where the Wolves are at No. 20.

So far, we’ve covered Maryland’s Kevin Huerter, Duke’s Grayson Allen, Ohio State’s Keita Bates-Diop, Oregon’s Troy Brown and Miami’s Bruce Brown. We’ll have two more later today.

I encourage you to head to Timberwolves.com/Draft. We have mock drafts, Timberwolves draft history (more on this soon), galleries, past videos and earlier this week, I put together the top 20 players drafted 20th overall gallery. Probably an unnecessary exercise but a fun one nonetheless. Big ups to Sam Flood and James (Jimmy!) Bruno for helping out with that page.

Every year at this time, a big topic of discussion is past draft picks.

First off, the draft feels 45 percent random.

In 2015 when the Wolves drafted Karl-Anthony Towns first overall, three of the next four picks were D’Angelo Russell, Jahlil Okafor and Mario Hezonja. Two of these guys don’t play for the teams they were drafted by, and all three have contributed pretty minimally.

In that same draft, the Hornets were roasted for taking Frank Kaminsky over Justise Winslow. Since then, Kaminsky has 10.1 win shares while Winslow has 5.0. Towns, of course, leads that group with 34.9, more than double Myles Turner who ranks second.

Not all things are as they appear before the draft or immediately after.

I’m aware the Wolves don’t have the best draft history. I have heard rumors they took Jonhny Flynn over Stephen Curry.

But each draft is different. You never know what gem the Wolves could draft at No. 20. And then as we saw last year, there’s the possibility of a trade.

It should be a fun next two weeks.

3 THOUGHTS

The NBA Award Show is set for Monday, June 25 on TNT.

Two thoughts on this.

1: I think it’s a good thing the NBA has an awards show. A fun thing that is interactive and somewhat unknown with some of the awards. This year’s big draw will be the Rookie of the Year race.

2: I do think it’s incredibly late. It’s really hard for me to think of James Harden as the MVP when I’m seeing LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant light it up in the Finals. But I’m not Adam Silver, and as Julian and I discussed the other day, I would easily be the most unqualified commissioner ever and would do a very horrible job. So, keep up the good work, Adam.

With that being said, let’s make three award picks.

Rookie of the Year

Do I think it benefitted Ben Simmons to sit a season in the NBA, learning the NBA travel schedule, nutrition plans and getting to know his teammates? Of course. There are no negatives from any of that.  This experience is a huge part of the NBA game, and honestly, probably the biggest thing for rookies.

But the NBA qualifies Simmons as a rookie and I don’t make the rules. I see it both ways. It’s hard to call him a rookie in the same light as Donovan Mitchell, but at the same time, is it fair for Simmons to be penalized for being injured? I don’t have the answer for this which again, is why I’m a simple writer for this website.

Both players led their teams deeper in the playoffs than we thought. Prior to the season, I had the 76ers as a seven seed and Utah out of the playoffs. My advice is as valuable as those chocolate coins you thought were cool as a child.

Simmons averaged 15.8 points, 8.2 assists, 8.1 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game. And he did that without having a single ounce of a jump shot. He had the ability to get a triple-double on any given night.

Mitchell averaged 20.5 points, 3.7 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. He was a player who could go out and get buckets, something Simmons can’t really do yet. But overall, I thought Simmons did more for his team across the board.

There’s no wrong answer here, but I’ll go with Simmons.

Coach of the Year

Dwane Casey, who was fired from the Raptors, was picked by the NBA coaches for the Coach of the Year.

This is not the same as the NBA’s Coach of the Year Award, which is voted by members of the news media, so this doesn’t really have any impact on the award.

What I found most preposterous with the coach voting was that Boston’s Brad Stevens didn’t get a single vote. When the news came out that Stevens didn’t get a vote, it was May 9 and the Celtics just beat the 76ers in five games to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. Not fantastic timing.

If I had a ballot, which I don’t, here’s what it would look like:

1. Brad Stevens

A lot of this probably has a lot to do with what I saw in the playoffs. I realize that shouldn’t matter, but I can’t unsee that. This is where the timing of when these awards go out matters.

To go to the Eastern Conference Finals and push the Cavaliers to seven games without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward is amazing.

2. Mike D’Antoni

The D’Antoni experiment would have worked out just fine if it weren’t for those pesky Warriors.

3. Dwane Casey

Casey knew for the Raptors to take the next step, they had to change the way they played. Toronto won eight more regular season games and shot 33 3-pointers per game, up nearly nine from the previous year. Unfortunately, that didn’t result to much in the playoffs, which is why Casey was let go. But it says a lot about his character that he was able to change his ways on the fly and not let his ego get in the way. He’ll be just fine wherever he ends up, whether it’s this offseason or the next.

Sixth Man of the Year

This one goes to sweet Lou Williams.

Williams averaged a career-high 22.6 points per game for the Clippers and nearly willed them into the playoffs even though that didn’t seem to be the team’s plan after trading Blake Griffin. Williams had 15 games in which he scored 30 or more points on the season. Most Sixth Man candidates are players who lead the bench, but Williams was the leader of this entire team.

Williams, 31, also hasn’t aged since entering the league in 2005.

If Williams does win the award, it’ll be his second. He won it back in 2014-15 with the Raptors.

CALL THE FIRE DEPARTMENT!

For the next two columns, I’ll dedicate this spot to the player in the draft I’m most intrigued by.

This is supposed to be for HOT TAKES because it’s 2018 and that’s what the kids want. But until the draft, it’ll be about under-the-radar guys who could have solid NBA careers.

This week, it’s Kevin Huerter out of Maryland. At first glance, you might say that he’s just a shooter who is too skinny.

But watch the kid’s film. He can score at all three levels and has good size at 6’6”. He’s going to need to add some weight, but that will come.

What you can’t teach is Huerter’s overall feel for the game. While it’s easy to see a player like Huerter and instantly compare him to a 3-point shooter like Kyle Korver or J.J. Redick (of course he’d love to have careers like those guys, two of the best 3-point shooters the league has ever seen), I think there’s more to his game offensively than many think.

“A lot of people know shooting is definitely a strength of my game, but I want to show them I can do a little bit more than that,” Huerter said in Chicago when I talked to him at the Combine.

He’s also a player who can create plays for others. His shot selection was solid in his sophomore year at Maryland, which is why he shot 50.3 percent from the field (up eight percent from his freshman season).

Huerter was unsure if he was going to enter the draft heading into the Combine, but while there he solidified his position as a first-round pick. There weren’t many others who wowed basketball executives in Chicago quite like Huerter did.

I was watching some of his film in the office Tuesday night and I told Julian that this kid is going to be good. There’s a 65 percent chance I get a Huerter jersey wherever he lands. I could be wrong, because I’ve been wrong a lot, but I feel good about him.

He could go as high as the late lottery, but also could be in play when the Wolves are on the clock at No. 20. Certainly an intriguing prospect to keep an eye on.

HIGH 5

This isn’t the right platform to get political, so I won’t. But the Minnesota Lynx celebrated their 2017 championship by giving back at a community event in Washington D.C. on Wednesday instead of their normal trip to the White House.

The Lynx visited Payne Elementary, a D.C. public elementary school where all the students are low-income, and 30 percent are homeless. The team washed the students’ feet and fitted them with brand new sneakers donated by Nike, Jordan Brand and DTLR Villa.

Whether you’re a basketball fan or not, this is what America is about. Giving back. The Lynx are not only champions on the court, but off. And these aren’t athletes or people for just daughters to look up to. But sons, moms, dads and all of us. This group has done a great deal for society over the last seven years.

Congrats to the Capitals on their first Stanley Cup.

I know it’s been a long wait, you Las Vegas Knights fans. You’ll get there one day.

I know asking for help isn’t the easiest. We don’t want to seem weak. But please, please, please. If you’re going through something, talk about it. You have people in your life who love you and want to be there for you. They can’t be if you don’t let them, though. It’s better than the alternative.

RIP, Kate Spade.

The Greek Freak never disappoints. Someone get this man a pack of Gushers.

This is the savior the Twins need. After being aceless since the Santana/Liriano days, the Twins have their guy.

SO LONG

I’m wrapping this up around 10:53 a.m. after crushing a bowl of Captain Crunch. If you’re patrolling the site on Friday, look for Lonnie Walker and Donte DiVincenzo draft profiles.

If anyone is going to tomorrow’s Twins and Angels game, shoot me a note. I was hoping when I got the tickets that my guy Shohei Ohtani would be pitching, but it’s not his spot in the rotation and now he might not even bat due to a blister.

Until next time, Ohtani.

Baseball is so weird. One day I think the Twins are playing well, the next I look at they are actually 4.5 games out of first place in the AL Central.

As always, thanks for reading. Have a great weekend.