The Minnesota Timberwolves need to get their hands on former Indiana University star Victor Oladipo.
With the ninth pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, the Wolves are no longer in the top five and are unlikely to see Oladipo fall to them. This means that they will have to make a concerted effort to get him.
The Wolves are in need of a shooting guard and Oladipo has three qualities that make him attractive: he has a great work ethic that drove him from a relative unknown to a lottery pick, he hit more than 40 percent of his shots from beyond the arc and plays sound defense.
The best route is to try and trade up for a pick. Instead of waiting for a team to select Oladipo and then trading with them, Minnesota should take an educated guess on where he is going to go and move up to get him.
In all likelihood, the Wolves will be dealing with either the Charlotte “We Might Become the Hornets” Bobcats or the Phoenix “We Like Washed-up Wolves” Suns. Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore and Otto Porter are most likely going to go one-two-three in this draft with Trey Burke and Alex Len also in the mix for the top five.
Unfortunately, Minnesota does not have any lottery busts to ship out to the desert (although maybe they could sign Jonny Flynn to a 10-day contract and see if Phoenix will bite). They do, however, have a player that might be of interest to both Phoenix and Charlotte: Alexey Shved.
Shved won over the hearts of many fans in Minnesota with his early season performance. Despite looking like a combination of George Hill and Adam Morrison in his FIBA profile picture, he did not let his Morrison genes get in the way of his game, and he even tapped into his Hill side every now and then.
Shved, according to HoopsWorld.com, will make $3.15 million this year and is under contract until 2014-15. He faded a little bit towards the end of the season in part because he did not play well with Ricky Rubio.
A natural point guard, Shved was moved to the 2 and often reverted to his point-guard instincts of putting the ball on the floor and looking to make a pass. His three-point percentage, which was around 35 percent at the beginning of the year, started to dip below 30 percent, and his athleticism was stifled.
The Russian transplant could serve as a backup to Rubio, but Shved has the potential to be an everyday starter in the NBA if developed correctly. The problem is that his playing time is going to be reduced because he does not mesh well with Rubio.
The Suns or Bobcats might take a flyer on Shved, especially if Minnesota is willing to toss in next year’s first-round pick.
It’s a gamble, for sure, but it could pay off big time for the Wolves.
If Minnesota wants to move into the top three of the draft, or acquire a top-tier NBA player, they would have to trade Kevin Love. He is the best power forward in the league and everyone knows that he was unhappy with his first few years in Minnesota. The Wolves would be wise to retain him, however, as David Kahn is no longer running the team and Love appears to be getting along with new team president Flip Saunders.
There is also a contingent of Wolves fans that would like to see the team trade shooting forward Derrick Williams while he has value. Their wager is that he played over his head at the end of the season and is going to regress as time goes along.
This is a riskier proposition than people realize. Williams is a versatile player that has incredible upside. Drafted No. 2 overall, he was reliable beyond the arc and could get to the basket for earth-shattering dunks as a collegiate player at Arizona. He may not become a franchise player in the NBA, but Minnesota already has two in Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, and it just need him to be a secondary scoring option at the 3.
What Williams can become is a reliable scorer that keeps defenders off balance, which is exactly what the Timberwolves need from that position.
The Wolves could wait and draft a shooting guard, their biggest need (assuming they re-sign center Nikola Pekovic), but they are unlikely to get a player with Oladipo’s upside.
C.J. McCollum shot over 50 percent from three last year, but he would have to be converted to shooting guard, something that did not work out well for Shved. Furthermore, he played in the Patriot League against few, if any, NBA prospects. In short, he may not be productive as a professional basketball player.
They could also go for a reach like Jamaal Franklin or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, but there is no saying if either player will make an impact in the NBA. Both are projected as mid-first rounders and the Wolves are still in the top 10.
Oladipo has a great work ethic, athleticism and can shoot from the outside. He is also a sound defender, which would make the Wolves backcourt one of the toughest to play against in the league. He will instantly make Minnesota a younger, more versatile team and give them a young core to build around: Rubio, Oladipo, Williams, Love and Pekovic.
Shved is a skilled player with a future in the NBA, and there is always the risk that the Wolves flop and next year’s pick is in the single digits. But this is worth the gamble. Best-case scenario: Oladipo flourishes in Minneapolis and either Charlotte or Phoenix gets a low first-round pick and a talented point guard. Shved will be missed, but the team has Rubio and J.J. Barea to back him up.