Grading the Minnesota Timberwolves' 2013 NBA Draft Decisions
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My oh my, what are we to make of the 2013 NBA draft? I'm still not entirely sure what I witnessed.
On a night where seemingly half of the potential draft field was traded away at some point, rarely did a pick come and go without eliciting some sort of crazy reaction. It was truly an NBA draft for the ages as the excitement helped fans overlook the fact that the talent pool was average.
At the end of the night, it would be unreasonable to say that things fell into place for the Minnesota Timberwolves, although they played the hand they were dealt very admirably. There is no doubt that they got better Thursday night.
Let's recap, shall we?
Timberwolves select Michigan's Burke with ninth pick; trade Burke to Utah for picks No. 14 and 21.
Oh no, another point guard? I thought David Kahn was fired.
Relax, before the media had another chance to run rampant with this pick, Burke was immediately sent to Utah in a deal for two other first-round picks.
This pick has to be looked at in the grand scheme of things. It was certain that Minnesota was looking at a number of players with their top pick, none of whom were named Trey Burke.
The way the draft unfolded meant that head coach Flip Saunders had to call an audible. In his post-draft news conference, Saunders expressed his disappointment in the way things unfolded.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was long rumored to be the choice for them at No. 9, but the Detroit Pistons spoiled that plan by taking him one pick earlier. Ben McLemore's slide ended at No. 7, Victor Oladipo was gone and Cody Zeller was also long gone, eliminating another player they had looked at.
The three best players left on the board were Burke, Michael Carter-Williams and CJ McCollum—all point guards. Saunders said prior to the draft that they were not taking a point guard, so the team was not in a position to make the most out of the hand it was dealt.
Judd Zulgad of 1500ESPN.com reported Saunders' reasoning:
The first pick when (Anthony) Bennett was taken off the board, I think that set the tone pretty much for the whole draft. Going into the draft, we had four scenarios planned out and we were at the fourth scenario.
In other words, Saunders had already exacerbated plans A, B and C. Plan D was the only option available.
Taking the best player available and trading him for two other assets was not exactly the sexiest move, but it had to be done. Any non-point guard taken at No. 9, considering who was left, would have been a big reach. The only thing keeping the deal from being better was that the Timberwolves did not get a little more in the trade.
Timberwolves use 14th pick on UCLA shooting guard Muhammad
Shabazz Muhammad was also the best player on the board at pick 14. We know the kind of baggage he brings with his supposed attitude problems, the situation with his age and his Tourette's syndrome.
The bottom line is that Shabazz Muhammad can flat out score. Scoring 18 points per game as a freshman in the Pac-12 is no joke.
For whatever reason, Muhammad was projected as a small forward. Saunders referenced Muhammad as a shooting guard in his post-draft news conference. Muhammad sees himself in the same light.
Muhammad joins a team desperate for outside scoring. He gives them exactly that with his versatile repertoire and should eventually fit right in, provided he can keep his head on straight.
The fact that the Timberwolves were able to move back a few spots and still get the guy that likely had ascended to the top of their board makes it a value pick.
Overall, Muhammad seems excited to be able to team up with Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, according to Timberwolves writer Mark Remme of NBA.com.
Muhammad has a killer instinct and a well-rounded offensive skill set that is undeniable. He does need to improve other aspects of his game, such as defense, passing and shot creation, but for now, he will only be asked to knock down open shots and feed off of Rubio. He should do just fine.
Timberwolves select Louisville center Gorgui Dieng at No. 21
Minnesota used its other pick obtained in the deal with Utah on the defending national champs' defensive anchor, Gorgui Dieng
In this league, sometimes all it takes to stick is one undeniable skill. Dieng can rebound and play some serious defense.
At the not-so-tender age of 23, he is not only a tremendous shot blocker but an all-around good defender. He has quick hands and a noticeable ability to defend the pick and roll. He not only is shifty enough to stick with point guards if he goes under screens and switched off his defender, but also shows outstanding instincts when hedging out on ball-handlers.
Dieng is an upgrade on the front line. Greg Stiemsma blocked his fair share of shots, but Dieng is more of an overall force on the defensive end. He does not project to turn into much of a scorer, but does have a nice touch around the basket. He is also a capable passer from the high post.
This was a quality pick in the back half of the first round.
Minnesota trades 26th pick and Lee to Golden State for future second-round pick and cash
This seemed to be a questionable move.
It is understandable that Minnesota does not want three guaranteed first-round rookie contracts on the books for next season, especially with Nikola Pekovic's restricted free agency looming. While the move does clear up space, it does not bring much value in return.
Future second-round picks are the typical throw-ins to even out NBA trades. The T-Wolves essentially turned this pick and Malcolm Lee into a salary dump. In the grand scheme of things, it is puzzling that they could not couple some of their picks into one big asset.
With 52nd and 59th picks, Minnesota selects Brown and Dubljevic
Bojan Dubljevic's value is anybody's guess. The Serbian forward is a polished big man with limited athleticism that will most assuredly be another "draft and stash" player. Stay tuned to see what he amounts to.
NC State point guard Lorenzo Brown was a great pick this late in the draft at 52. The guy is a great ball-handler and a phenomenal passer who should have value to this team down the road as Rubio's backup, albeit a very capable backup.
Lorenzo saw his draft stock dip largely to NC State being the most disappointing team in college basketball this season. He averaged over seven assists and two steals a game in the ACC and was not much at fault for their underachievement.
Late second rounders rarely amount to much, but Brown has a good shot to make a name for himself in this league.
A good night for Timberwolves
Overall, Minnesota made the most of what it had in a draft that was pegged from the start as a deep one, but not stacked at the top.
Don't forget Muhammad's overall talent level. He can be grouped in with such former picks as Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger and Derrick Favors as big high school recruits who were held to impossibly high standards in college, resulting in them slipping in the draft.
Muhammad and Dieng are quality pieces that will help from Day 1. Meanwhile, Shabazz has the ability to become an all-star at shooting guard—a position which is sub-par across the league.
Saunders earns brownie points for not lying to the media and telling it how it is. He acknowledged that things did not go as planned, which hails in stark contrast to Kahn spinning pipe dreams to the media that Rubio and Jonny Flynn can share a backcourt.
Final Grade: B+
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