The Timberwolves brought in six potential second round draft picks on Sunday for a morning pre-Draft workout at Target Center led by President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders and other members of the front office/coaching crew. The group is the second collection of players the Wolves brought in during this pre-Draft workout season.
This particular group included Michigan State guard Keith Appling, Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin, Syracuse forward Jerami Grant, Mizzou forward Jabari Brown, Stanford forward Dwight Powell and Bosnia forward Nedim Buza.
It was a Sunday morning, but the workout itself didn’t feel like it. It was all business. The group pushed one another to the point where Appling said their best shined through.
“Once you see one guy step it up competitively as far as the competitiveness, you always want to raise your level and keep things balanced,” Appling said. “And I feel like each and every guy did that today. That’s what made the workout go so much better.”
Appling is a player currently projected to be a fringe second-round pick, but being a Big Ten guy who played under coach Tom Izzo and his successful Spartans teams puts him on the NBA radar. He suffered a wrist injury in February that did impact his game a bit during the rest of the 2013-14 season, but he—along with teammates Adreian Payne and Gary Harris—are going to get looks from NBA teams because of their play at Michigan State and the type of ball Izzo instills in his teams.
Appling said the two things he wants to show teams are that he’s healthy and that he can be a lock-down defender at the next level.
“I feel like it’s not a lot of guys that want to do it on a consistent basis, but I feel that’s something that comes naturally to me and something I can do on a consistent basis,” Appling said.
As far as Appling’s health, Saunders said he thought Appling was having a good season until he got hurt. After that, he didn’t shoot the ball as well. His ability to show NBA teams that he’s fine will make an impact on where he ends up on the draft boards.
Grant is a 6-foot-8, 214-pound forward who Saunders views as a player similar to Thaddeus Young. He’s not necessarily a 3 or a 4, but he’s solid enough at both to make an impact on an NBA team. Grant knows he’ll need to prove he can be versatile—that he can make plays off the dribble and be able to knock down his shot consistently.
Minnesota was his second stop in his Draft workout list. He was in Chicago on Friday, and he’s got more coming up this coming week.
If he can hit his shots and bulk up his frame, he’s confident he can find a place in the league.
“I came out, tried to give them my all in these workouts,” Grant said. “Everybody wants an opportunity to make the team, and I feel like I did a pretty good job showing what I can do out here.”
Wilbekin had already gone to five workouts prior to the Wolves’ session on Sunday. He stopped in Utah, Chicago, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Memphis before coming here, he said.
He, like Appling, said defense is the main skill he wants to showcase while he’s working out for NBA teams.
“That’s my best asset,” Wilbekin said. “I love defense. I love to work hard on defense, and I think that’s something that is very valuable in the NBA. So I try to just focus on that.”
Wilbekin was part of the Gators’ squad that reached the Final Four this season, losing to UConn in the national semifinal. He said he and his teammates discussed the importance of team play and success in order for everyone to achieve their goals both in Gainesville and as they try to find places in the NBA.
“It was something we talked about at the beginning of the year and the tournament,” Wilbekin said. “If we play together and go far, then it will help all of us. We just tried to come together as a team and do what’s best for the team so we could all shine.”
- Saunders said these workouts are important, but just because they talk to players here or don’t invite players to stop by Target Center for a workout doesn’t mean the Wolves will or won’t draft them. Last year, you’ll remember that Gorgui Dieng didn’t come in for an individual workout with the team. That’s partially because the Wolves were familiar with Dieng’s play from his time at Louisville and didn’t feel the need to have him in for a look. Saunders said the Wolves didn’t bring in Kevin Garnett or Stephon Marbury, either, but both ended up on the team in the mid-1990s. “A lot of it is where you are from a comfort level and the guys you’re looking at,” Saunders said.
- Look for a feature on the Michigan State group of Appling, Payne and Harris coming soon on Timberwolves.com. Payne and Harris should be first round picks, and Appling is trying to make his case to be drafted in the second round. But this group is indicative of the type of players Izzo produces in East Lansing on a regular basis.
- The Wolves’ next Draft workout is slated for June 11. You’ll likely start seeing the prospects slotted for the No. 13 pick between that workout and the NBA Draft on June 26.
- Wilbekin on how Saunders ran the workout: "Coach Saunders is funnier than I imagined, so it was good, light."