Minnesota Timberwolves: 3 Players to Keep Eye on in the NCAA Tournament

Tyler EssigContributor IIIMarch 20, 2013

March 15, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UCLA Bruins guard/forward Shabazz Muhammad (15) celebrates after the game against the Arizona Wildcats in the semifinal round of the Pac 12 tournament at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. UCLA defeated Arizona 66-64. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Through 65 games of the TimberwolvesNBA season, they have cemented themselves in the NBA lottery yet again.

Though they currently sit as ninth worst in the NBA standings, it would not be a surprise if they moved down a few spots. The Wolves are currently two games back of the 10th-worst Toronto Raptors, but stand only two games ahead of the third-worst teams, Cleveland and Detroit.

With that in mind, they could potentially land themselves a top-five pick in this year's NBA draft.

It is obvious that the Wolves need better scoring production from the backcourt. If they can land a pick in the three-to-seven range, these three players are who Minnesota fans should keep an eye in the 2013 NCAA tournament.


Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA

As the No. 2 recruit in 2012, according to ESPN.com, expectations were very high on the UCLA freshman this season.

Muhammad proved his No. 2 ranking was no fluke by showing that his high school scoring could translate well to the college game.

In his first season of play, Muhammad ranked in the top 10 in the Pac-12 in PPG (17.8), FG percentage (.448) and free-throw attempts (170). He scored double figures in points in every game except one, and had a season high of 27 points.

At 6'6" most project Muhammad to be a small forward in the NBA, but with his scoring ability he could find minutes with the Wolves next year.


He can score in a variety of different ways. He is very strong for a freshman and can finish with the best of them in the NCAA, and he also shows good range as he shot 40 percent from three this season.

Many Minnesota basketball fans probably will not be rooting for Shabazz in this year's tournament as UCLA plays the Golden Gophers in the first round on Friday night.


Otto Porter, Georgetown

A Wooden Award finalist, Porter has improved in nearly every statistic in his sophomore season.

At 6'8", 200 lbs, Porter is one of the most sought after players in this year's draft and the Wolves would definitely need to sneak into the top five for them to snag the Georgetown product.

Despite leading the Big East in FG percentage (.489) and ranking ninth in PPG (16.3), Porter is largely regarded as being an elite defender.

With a career defensive rating of 87.1, according to sports-reference.com, Otto ranks in third in that category in Big East history since the stat was recorded starting in the 1998-99 season.

Porter also helped lead Georgetown to a No. 2 seed in this year's tournament by collecting 7.4 boards per game, 2.7 assists per game and 1.9 steals per game. All were improvements from the year before.

With Andrei Kirilenko not getting any younger at age 32, the Wolves could be in the market for a long-term small forward in this year's draft.



Gary Harris, Michigan State

Gary Harris is thought of as the third-best prospect at the shooting guard position in this year's draft. With Victor Oladipo being more of slasher with an inconsistent jumper, he would not be a tremendous fit with Minny despite a great season, and Ben McLemore will likely be a top-two pick.

Gary Harris will be a much better fit for the Wolves as he has shown an ability to get to the rim as well as show pretty good range for the Spartans this year. 

Despite not having elite stats in his freshman season, Harris is still looking at being a top-10 pick due to his upside.

He was the second-leading scorer on a veteran Michigan State team with nearly 13 points per game, and was very efficient by shooting 46.3 percent from the field and 41.3 percent from deep in 4.5 three-point attempts per game.

At only 18 years old, Harris would be a high-risk high-reward type player, but any 2-guard would get plenty of opportunities to prove himself on the current Wolves squad.

The only reason Minnesota would not have a chance to draft Harris would be if he decided to stay another year with Tom Izzo and the Spartans. ESPN NBA draft expert Chad Ford writes that there is a 50-50 chance Harris comes out this season.