Assuming the Wolves' draft night deals with the Jazz (No. 9 for Nos. 14 and 21) and the Warriors (No. 26 for a future second-rounder and cash) stay in tact and represent the final moves for the Wolves, this draft was an absolute disaster for the Wolves.
Chad Ford's mock drafts had the Wolves selecting Georgia's Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at No. 9 for most of the draft process, even stating that it was the pick he was "most sure of." When Detroit stole Caldwell-Pope at No. 8, the Wolves had to adjust. That adjustment went horribly wrong.
The Wolves drafted Trey Burke at No. 9 for the Jazz, trading his rights for the Nos. 14 and 21. At No. 14 they selected Shabazz Muhammad. Earlier today, I ranked Muhammad as the most overrated player in this draft (you can find that analysis here), but I'll give you the short version.
Shabazz Muhammad ranks toward the bottom of almost every analytical model, ranking as the worst projected first round pick in Kevin Pelton's WARP projections. The only number that looks favorably upon Muhammad is points per game, but his scoring ability is questionable because of the amount of shots it took to score those points and the fact that he has no right hand.
Drafting Muhammad was a terrible idea, but that isn't even the main problem with this trade.
The trade looked pretty fair on face, but the hidden factor that needs to be considered is the fact the Wolves also had the No. 26 pick in the draft. Once the Wolves picked at No. 21, they realized they didn't need or want two new project players in the 20's, so they dealt No. 26 for cash and a future second-rounder that will probably end up in the 45-50 range, meaning they didn't really get anything of value.
Essentially, they traded for No. 21, then realized they didn't want both picks in the 20's and gave away No. 26.
The other problem is that the guy they drafted at No. 21, Gorgui Dieng, might have been available when they drafted at No. 26, and even if he was taken, there are other guys they could've taken that are close to Dieng in terms of skill set.
Jeff Withey and Rudy Gobert both could have been available. Withey is a little more polished, but maybe a little less desirable; and Gobert is longer, and two and a half years younger than the 23-year-old Dieng.
Dieng is nothing more than a backup center and possible defensive presence in the NBA and although he has come a long way offensively, it's doubtful he'll ever be a real threat considering his age. In short, he's not a great asset.
The Wolves moved down five spots in the lottery to move up five spots in the 20's for a player that might have been there anyway, and a player whose skill set could easily have been found at that point even if he was gone.
The Wolves took a huge step down from a guy like C. J. McCollum, who was available at No. 9, to Muhammad at No. 14.
McCollum would have been great beside Ricky Rubio as a shooter, or an asset they could move for something better down the road. He's a high-character guy that understands the game and is very articulate and professional. Muhammad, on the other hand, has been followed by trouble throughout his young career.
Flip Saunders is off to a rocky start in Minnesota, confusing fans with puzzling draft day decisions strikingly similar to his predecessor, David Kahn. It's a bad day to be Timberwolves fan, as this draft may be a sign of things to come in the future.
While many teams, Phoenix and Philadelphia to name a few, spent this offseason moving in a smarter, more data-driven direction, the Wolves made a long-term investment in a GM that thinks "the will to win" and "intensity" are better indicators of success than empirical data.
Maybe next year I'll declare and wow Flip with my intensity to show him exactly how much it really means. The NBA is moving in a new direction, and judging players using vague, extremely subjective criteria, will ultimately lead to this team being left behind, and being wrong more often than not.
Lorenzo Brown is a nice player and Bojan Dubljevic is someone they can stash, but ultimately those picks don't really matter. Assuming the Wolves are healthier next year and are ready to make a push for the playoffs, this might have been their last chance to add a meaningful piece through a high draft pick and they wasted it. Timberwolves fans will have to continue to wait for better management.
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