NBA Draft Preview 2011: 5 Guard Prospects Minnesota Timberwolves Should Target
The remainder of the 2011 NBA season is, and has been, a period of growth for the current Minnesota Timberwolves team. With power forward Kevin Love becoming an All-Star talent and the face of the franchise, general manager David Kahn must do what it takes to build a contender in the Twin Cities.
Some think Ricky Rubio is the answer at point guard, but that is definitely debatable as he might not ever wear a Timberwolves jersey. Rubio would prefer to play for a bigger market and also on the East coast, neither of which is Minnesota. It would be better to trade away his rights and pursue an elite point guard in this years' draft.
The guard position will be addressed in the 2011 draft and there are several studs waiting to play in the NBA. Kahn will need to make the correct decisions as he tries to improve the team, rather than make the team worse.
PG Kyrie Irving (Duke)
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Kyrie Irving is exactly what the Timberwolves need. Irving is a "true" point guard who can take a team to the next level. Listed at 6'2" and weighing 180 lbs, he is a good size for a point guard and his athleticism is overflowing.
He has the potential to be one of the best point guards in the NBA and plays a Chris Paul type of basketball (unselfish and elite). He is a facilitator who makes his teammates better and is a top-notch decision maker that understands what to do with the ball in every situation.
Aside from the mental aspects of the game, Irving is also a wonderful shooter with tremendous form. Irving can beat most point guards on a one-on-one level and can finish at the basket with either hand consistently. He is an overall great player and is a solid defender with good fundamentals.
What must not be forgotten is that even though Irving is 19 years old, he has an excellent work ethic and character issues are non-existent with him.
If not for his injury this season, Duke's freshman point guard might have been a finalist for the Naismith Award. Irving is averaging 16.4 points per game, 4.4 assists per game, and 1.5 steals per game. Currently he is in the NCAA tournament competing to bring yet another title to the Duke Blue Devils.
PG/SG Kemba Walker (UConn)
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The 6'0", 172 pound point guard from the Bronx, Kemba Walker, would also be a very nice selection for the Timberwolves. Walker is having a fantastic junior season as he averages 23.6 points per game, 4.5 assists per game, 5.5 rebounds per game, and 1.9 steals per game.
He is the total package as far as skill goes, but also is a phenomenal leader. Not many players can lead their team to five wins in five straight days, but Walker did it to win the Big East Basketball Tournament for the UConn Huskies.
Walker has a decent jump shot in his arsenal. While it isn't as polished as some may like it to be, it has dramatically improved every season since his freshman year which leads me to believe that he is a hard worker.
Walker's "bread-and-butter" is his ability to drive the lane and get well into the paint. This gives him many opportunities to finish at the rim, as he does so often, or kick it out to a fellow teammate for a good look at a jump shot. He plays a fearless game and has an aggressive mindset which allows him to be very effective on the defensive end of the floor as well as getting to the foul line.
The only knocks on Walker are his size and his decision making. He is only six feet tall so playing against some of the bigger guards in the NBA (like a Deron Williams) could be problematic. Walker tends to take bad shots in games and tries to force the issue when he shouldn't, which is also a negative.
Walker looks to be a very good NBA point guard in the future and could be extremely effective in Minnesota with Kevin Love and Michael Beasley.
PG/SG Alec Burks (Colorado)
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Colorado's Alec Burks has a good combination of size, length, and athleticism. He's listed at 6'6" and 195 lbs and has a wingspan close to 6'9". Burks projects to be a shooting guard in the NBA. He has all the tools necessary and more to be productive at the next level.
Burks is an excellent finisher at the rim whether it be a layup, dunk, or alley-oop. He has the potential to be a fantastic outside shooter because he gets good lift on his shot, has a smooth motion, and a high release. His height allows him to be an impressive rebounder for a player on the wing. He has underrated passing ability even though he has solid vision and adequate anticipation. His defensive skills are a bit raw but what he lacks he makes up for with quick hands and feet, long arms, and the ability to jump the passing lanes.
Burks needs to work on the consistency of his three-point shot. Also, he seems to be a better shooter off-the-dribble rather than as a spot-up shooter. Other than that, Burks has everything to offer to a team.
Alec Burks was the main reason why Colorado could have been special in the NCAA tournament this year, had they made it in like most thought they would have. He's averaging 20.5 points, 2.9 assists, and 6.5 rebounds per game this season.
PG/SG Jimmer Fredette (BYU)
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Jimmer Fredette is a well-known name this season even to the casual basketball fan. He's been lighting up the stat sheets as he leads the nation in scoring with 28.8 points per game and took Brigham Young University (BYU) to the Sweet 16. He has the prototypical size for an NBA point guard at 6'2" and weighs 195 lbs.
Fredette is an excellent shooter. There isn't a spot on the floor that Fredette can't hit a shot from, whether from it's five feet behind the three-point arc or a fade-away shot 15 feet out on the baseline.
The area that Fredette has grown in is his passing ability. His vision is great and his ability to drive the lane and dish it out for a better shot opportunity for his teammates has improved a ton. He finishes consistently at the basket whether it's a layup or a floater and isn't afraid of contact. Also, he is a great free-throw shooter.
Fredette has very few flaws to the offensive side of the game, but should continue to work on his defensive skills. Some NBA scouts worry that he lacks the athleticism to that of an average NBA point guard. They must be watching a different Jimmer Fredette, because he does have the athleticism a player needs to be great in the NBA. He has a tremendous work ethic and a team-first attitude. Fredette also has the want for the ball in late-game situations. Not only that but he comes through in those late games most of the time.
PG/SG Nolan Smith (Duke)
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Nolan Smith is Duke's backbone. When freshman phenom Kyrie Irving went down to an injury, it was Smith's great play that kept Duke a top five team in the nation. This season he has averaged 21 points, 5.2 assists, and 4.5 rebounds per game. His play has him in the running for the 2011 Naismith Player of the Year Award and has Duke a legit title contender.
Smith has an ideal size for a NBA point guard as he's 6'3", 185 lbs. He has a good understanding of the game of basketball by playing at Duke for four years under arguably the best college coach in history, Coach Krzyzewski ("Coach K"). He is an unquestioned leader, a proven winner, and also an exceptional character guy.
NBA teams will love his intangibles, but they will also love his basketball talent. Smith knows how to run the offense, but isn't going to be a dominating offensive player in the NBA. He has a high basketball IQ so he knows when to take it to the rim, when to toss up a floater, or dish it out to a teammate. He's an average shooter and that will be an area to work on for him.
Having a guy like Nolan Smith on the Timberwolves would give them the leader and guard they need to continue to improve.