Minnesota Timberwolves Draft Board: Post-Lottery Edition
Minnesota continued tradition and wrapped up the 13th overall pick in the 2014 draft, sticking true to the franchise's futile fortune. The Timberwolves have never once moved up even a single slot in the draft lottery, picking either where they were projected to land or lower every single time.
Now, Flip Saunders has to look forward and worry about what he can actually control. The pending bomb hanging over his head in the form of a potential Kevin Love trade still remains, the situation only growing in urgency.
A franchise without a coach and with a superstar who has more or less informed the team he intends on suiting up elsewhere now finds itself with any number of options moving forward. With all the potential rumors and uncertainty floating around, it is already easy to forget that Saunders has to make a selection with his 13th pick. All eyes are now on Love.
Regardless, having the 13th pick in a deep and talented draft is not bad at all. Fans have to consider it a consolation prize for falling short of the playoffs yet again. It has gotten very old, but once again the Timberwolves will have a good chance of landing a very good player who can help the team for a long time come draft night.
The T-Wolves currently sport one of the worst benches in the NBA, so any player will be an upgrade. Any of the five guys on this Timberwolves' draft board would be a welcome addition.
5. Rodney Hood
The Duke product posted a very strong season in his one go-round as a Blue Devil and should most likely be available at No. 13.
Hood is a versatile offensive player who can give this team exactly what it needs off the bench as a good all-around scorer. Hood averaged 16.1 points at Duke while shooting 42 percent from deep. His three-point range was better than expected and would give Minnesota another shooting threat, which they desperately need.
Hood also measured out to be a legitimate 6'8" at the NBA combine and projects to have a very translatable offensive repertoire. He is not very long, so he may struggle initially on defense, but his shooting ability would give this team an immediate boost.
In order for him to maximize his potential, Hood has to get bigger and stronger so he can score more efficiently through dribble penetration. He netted a lot of his shots in college from the perimeter but did show on occasion that he can finish powerfully when he wants to.
He may not turn into a superstar, but Hood is a very safe pick and someone Saunders will likely have his eye on.
4. Adreian Payne
If a certain superstar stretch 4 is traded by Minnesota, would this not be the perfect guy to replace him?
The knocks on Payne are interesting. He tends to disappear for large stretches and go through offensive lulls where he looks invisible, has questionable timing on his shot-blocking despite a freakish 7'4" wingspan and apparently has decreased lung capacity that may affect his motor and how long he can stay in games. He is also already 23.
It's just so hard to think about things like that when you watch this.
The 13th pick may be a bit high for Payne, but boy is he something. He blossomed at Michigan State during his senior season and at times looked absolutely flawless. He sports a combination of punishing dunks and sweet outside shooting that maybe no other big-man prospect can rival.
Payne turned himself into a 42 percent three-point shooter to add to his status as a true banger in the post. His ability to pick-and-pop with Ricky Rubio would be a sight to see.
Few prospects in this draft have the kind of potential that Payne does, and while he still has some work to do in becoming more fluid with his motions, his shooting, post play and rebounding should translate from day one.
3. Nik Stauskas
Michigan's Nik Stauskas surprised some people at the combine and likely solidified himself as a lottery pick this June.
Stauskas was among the elite at the shooting guard position in the speed drills, posting the second-lowest lane agility time behind only Dante Exum. There were some doubts in the past about his athletic ability, but his size and athleticism are no longer question marks.
Throw in those quelled doubts with his improved ball-handling and passing this past season, and Stauskas may be turning into something special. Minnesota has to be hoping that he is not elevating his status out of their reach, because if he is available at No. 13 it would be a travesty to let him slip by.
Stauskas is right up there with Doug McDermott among the best shooters in this draft and has the mold of a prototypical NBA shooting guard. Everyone knew he was a great shooter, but the improved overall offensive game he showed and his ability to get teammates involved have pushed Stauskas this high on the draft board.
Minnesota is never a team without a need for a wing scorer. Kevin Martin is the only reliable one currently on the roster. Stauskas could be a huge upgrade and a key piece for a long time.
2. Doug McDermott
Not many people could have predicted the showing McDermott put on during the combine.
At Creighton, there were times where it looked like he was 100 percent overmatched athletically. He appeared glued to the ground and showed little to no lateral quickness on defense. But he proved that he is officially faster than the much smaller Russ Smith and has a higher vertical leap at 36.5 inches than guys like Marcus Smart, Dante Exum and Rodney Hood.
McDermott also could have pushed his stock up past Minnesota with his combine performance. He also is possibly a questionable fit should Kevin Love still be in town due to their similar skill sets, but you never know, since Minnesota's bench and perimeter scoring are so awful.
His 26.7 points per game last season tell you everything you need to know about him. That scoring ability is undeniable and will be his main asset in the league. He still has work to do on defense, but Saunders will have to take a long look at McDermott should he be lucky enough to see him available at No. 13. Other franchises may think that he has peaked already or that he will not be able to get his shot off very easily at the next level.
With the number of ways McDermott can score, it would be surprising if he didn't at least become an average offensive player in the league. Minnesota could really luck out if McDermott continues to build strength to add to his surprising athleticism. His "tweener" label became a little bit more questionable with his stellar combine performance, and he may actually fit the mold of an NBA small forward.
1. Aaron Gordon
This is where things start to get a little bit fun.
The NBA draft is unpredictable. It is a long shot that Gordon falls to No. 13, but all it takes is a few teams to get completely turned off by his broken free-throw shooting to make him slip a bit.
Remember the pre-ACL-injury-Ricky Rubio-led Timberwolves of 2011-12? That team was in possession of the eighth seed in the West when Rubio went down. Playing big minutes on that roster were guys like Derrick Williams, Michael Beasley, Anthony Randolph, Martell Webster and Wesley Johnson.
This past year, the Timberwolves were under .500, giving huge minutes to Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer and Chase Budinger. So what gives?
The fact remains that this team was more exciting, had a brighter future and was generally better with that first group of players. This is true because Rubio took the league by storm and had his team playing outrageous basketball behind dizzying flurries of alley-oops and fast-break threes. The 2013-14 Timberwolves had no athletes or shooters at all to get the most out of their young point guard.
Rubio was lost in the offense more often than not, simply dribbling past half court and handing the ball off to someone else or just chucking it down to Love or Pekovic in the post. A freakishly athletic big man with a nonstop motor is exactly what this team needs.
Gordon proved to be an elite defender in his one season at Arizona and showed on a nightly basis that he is just about the last guy anyone wants to try to meet at the rim on a dunk attempt. Defense and athleticism are arguably Minnesota's two biggest needs—and they are easily Gordon's two biggest strengths.
Gordon threw down a 39.5-inch vertical at the combine to go along with his unparalleled speed and quickness. Six players narrowly beat Gordon in the agility drill—all of them guards.
If the T-Wolves have to make a trade to move up then so be it. Gordon is exactly what this team needs to complement Rubio, especially if Love is on his way out. Scoring was not an issue with this team, so waiting on Gordon to develop his jumper is something they can do without worry.