In a trade last year involving the Phoenix Suns and New Orleans Pelicans, Minnesota put their 2014 first-round pick on the line with Phoenix, however the pick is lottery protected. This means that as long as Minnesota finishes with a top-13 pick, then they will keep the rights to that pick.
Although once thought of as a legit contender for one of the last Western Conference playoff spots, the Wolves now sit five and a half games out of the eighth and final spot. Then add on the inconsistencies they’ve experienced all season, and the current slew of injuries to Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin and the lottery is looking more and more like the final destination for the Wolves this season.
If the season were to end today, DraftExpress.com has Minnesota picking in the No. 12 spot, putting them in a position to land an immediate contributor for next season. With weaknesses on the wing at small forward and the question of Kevin Love possibly packing up shop and leaving Minnesota, the T-Wolves need to land a stud who can come in and contribute right away.
Let’s take a look at the five best players for the Timberwolves in the upcoming 2014 NBA Draft.
Adreian Payne will be shooting up many teams’ draft boards as he finally becomes 100 percent healthy and continues to play well for the remainder of the season.
At 6’10” and 245 pounds, Payne is a beast. The big man from Michigan State can do just about everything. This season, he’s averaging 16.4 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, while shooting 52.5 percent from the field and 42.6 percent from downtown.
He’s a great rebounder and a very good ball-handler for someone of his size. He also can score in the post and has a very nice outside shooting touch. Based on all of these skills, he can be directly compared to current Minnesota star, Kevin Love.
With the looming possibility of Love leaving Minnesota becoming more and more realistic, Payne could come in and provide many of the same skills. Although Payne is not the star that Love is, the drop-off of production at power forward won’t be nearly as severe with Payne on the roster.
James Young doesn’t get the same attention as some of his counterparts at Kentucky, but throughout the season, Young has been the most consistent scorer on the roster.
At 6’6” and 215 pounds, Young is versatile and athletic. He’ll be able to play either wing position in the NBA and has the ability to score in multiple ways.
Young has a beautiful left-handed shooting stroke and has range beyond the three-point line, although scouts would like to see his percentage go up a bit. Averaging 14.6 PPG and 4.6 RPG, Young will bring a team athleticism, solid defensive capabilities and a great shooting stroke, with the ability to go off when he heats up.
For the Timberwolves and their blatant lack of a starter at small forward, James Young could come in and provide an immediate upgrade at the position. With Ricky Rubio’s passing abilities, he should be able to find Young on the perimeter early and often.
At 6’9” and 225 pounds, Aaron Gordon is very talented but still is growing as a player, especially on the offensive end. Frankly, his offensive skill set is lacking quite a bit. He is still learning where he should be on the court, going back and fourth between the 3 and the 4.
Where Gordon excels is on the defensive end. He is a freak athlete, an elite defender, a solid rebounder and a very good passer. Also possessing a very good motor, Gordon is sure to outwork almost anyone he goes up against. To give a sense of the athlete he is, Gordon most often is compared to Blake Griffin, whose athletic ability speaks for itself.
Gordon is averaging 11.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. He may struggle from the perimeter, but he finishes well at the basket, being where most of his points come from, on offensive rebounds and lobs.
Minnesota blatantly needs help on defense, having the 19th worst scoring defense in the league. Gordon is young, extremely athletic and an elite defender, which could make him a very nice fit in Minnesota. Bringing in his current skill set and having his offensive skills coached up in the NBA, Gordon’s potential is endless.
It could be argued that the 6’10” and 223-pound Croatian product is the most versatile prospect on the draft board. Dario Saric is relatively unknown in the United States, but internationally, he’s already a well-known commodity and is only improving.
He has been tearing up the much-respected Adriatic League, averaging 15.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. For anyone who hasn’t seen him yet, I would suggest checking out this highlight video.
Saric is not an elite athlete and will need to improve his jumper just a bit. However, he possesses great size for the wing position, phenomenal court vision, great ball-handling skills, solid rebounding and acts as a consistent and reliable scorer.
He would fit right in with the Timberwolves as either a big small forward or a stretch 4, being able step in for Kevin Love if he ends up leaving Minnesota. With the multitude of skills he possesses, Saric could come in and either start at small forward or provide a unique threat as a stretch 4.
Rodney Hood is a flat-out scary offensive weapon. Hood gets overshadowed by Jabari Parker when Duke plays, however Hood is nearly the same offensive player as Parker and has the ability to score from anywhere on the floor.
At 6’8” and 215 pounds, the lengthy guard possesses great size for the position and has a huge offensive arsenal. He’s lights-out from downtown, shooting a blazing 45 percent from three this season. If you close out too hard on his outside shot, he’ll go right around you and attack the basket, with the ability to pull up for the mid-range jumper or continue on for a vicious dunk.
The Timberwolves would benefit greatly from having Hood, giving them another big-time scorer on the wing (averaging 16.2 PPG), who can finish in a multitude of ways. He would help on defense as well, possessing a long body and even longer arms that go along with his natural athletic ability, making him a very solid defensive presence on the wing.
Small forward is obviously a position of need for the Timberwolves. Minnesota’s current small forwards Chase Budinger, Robbie Hummel and Shabazz Muhammad all combine for a whopping 11 PPG.
Rodney Hood would come in and start right away at small forward for Minnesota, providing an instant upgrade in all facets of the position, with the ability to score from anywhere on the court as well as having the size and athleticism to defend NBA wings.