NBA Draft 2011: 7 Players the Minnesota Timberwolves Should Target
The Minnesota Timberwolves have done an atrocious job of drafting over the past couple of years. Recently, I wrote an article on why their 2010 drafting job was the worst ever which you can find here. I received a suggestion to write about who the T'wolves should take to improve upon their performance from last year.
It's important to note that it is my belief that teams should draft based on their needs. This means that they should probably avoid drafting power forwards, as Kevin Love is an All-Star, and Anthony Randolph has great potential. Small forward is also pretty much set with Beasley although I don't think he is necessarily a long-term solution.
If Perry Jones were to slip into the teens, of course I think you should take him, but if you think Jones is a little better than Kyrie Irving for example, you take Irving because he is a better fit.
Last season, the Wolves selected Wes Johnson, and although they may think he is the future at shooting guard, drafting a shooting guard would be acceptable given the right circumstances. Point guard and center are the positions the Wolves should key on. Ridnour has played well, but he's not the future of the team nor is underachiever Jonny Flynn who is worse than you think, trust me.
While it's possible Anthony Randolph and Kevin Love play together in the frontcourt someday, the Timberwolves should try to pick up a true center because in reality, that probably won't happen. Darko is a serviceable big man but is better utilized off the bench.
With that said, let's examine seven prospects that would be good players for the Wolves to target in no particular order.
I will write under the assumption that the Timberwolves have a top-four pick of their own and also the pick of the Memphis Grizzlies (lottery protected) somewhere in the middle of the first round. The Wolves could also easily trade into the second round and pick up players there.
7. Kyrie Irving
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Irving is probably the most talented guard in college basketball today. The Timberwolves have a terrible track record with the lottery. Last year, they had the second most tickets and ended up with the fourth pick. Under the assumption Kyrie Irving is the likely first overall pick, it would seem as if the Wolves will not be able to pick him up on draft day.
Regardless, a little dreaming never hurt anyone. It's possible the T'Wolves could obtain Irving, and if they could, it would be absolutely groundbreaking. Irving is a dual-threat point guard who can take over the game with his scoring as well as his excellent distributing abilities.
Although it isn't great, opposing defenses have to respect his jumper which makes it easier for him to get into the lane and make plays. He is an underrated defender, and while he didn't play much this season due to injury, he will shine in individual workouts.
If the Timberwolves get lucky in the lottery, adding potential centerpiece Kyrie Irving would be a dream for GM David Kahn. Not even he would screw up this pick. After messing up both of the teams top-six picks in 2009 on point guards that will never start for the Timberwolves, drafting Irving could be his redemption.
6. Enes Kanter
Enes Kanter is someone that the Timberwolves could realistically draft with their own pick. If they land from three to five, they should keep Kanter in mind. Kanter will have to be carefully examined during the pre-draft process.
My guess is that ultimately, the Wolves would be able to move down and still grab Kanter. He has impressed scouts in the past, but he didn't play in college this year and missed out on a big year of development. Other players are improving their draft stock with big tourney performances, but Kanter is sitting and waiting. He is a skilled player with plenty of potential and could be a steal if he falls.
Kanter is one of the only true centers in the draft, and like I said before, Darko is fine, but he isn't a long-term solution at center. Kanter certainly could be. He played well against top college bigs in workouts last year. He is tough and physical inside, but he also has good range for a big man.
Kanter is a little bit similar to Al Jefferson in a sense that he is much better when operating in the half court. This is a problem because current coach Kurt Rambis plays an up-tempo style which was the reasoning for trading Jefferson. At this point, it's more fairly likely that Rambis won't be around past this season to make room for Kanter. He would make a great frontcourt partner for Kevin Love.
5. Perry Jones
Perry Jones is a guy whose stock was really hurt by his team throughout the year. Baylor didn't have a reliable point guard this season, which would lead to their demise. Once conference play started, they couldn't get anything going. The consistency just wasn't there as there was no one to create shots and get the ball to Baylor's best scorers.
Through all this, Jones still played pretty well. He averaged 14 points and seven boards a game. He is more suited to play in Kurt Rambis' system than Enes Kanter, but he is not a true center. If he could put on some muscle he could feasibly play alongside Kevin Love in the future.
The reason I think the Wolves should be reluctant to take Jones is that Anthony Randolph and Jones are pretty similar in their style of play. They are both long athletic forwards who can run the floor, block shots and rebound. In the end, having Love, Randolph and Jones wouldn't be a bad thing. They could form a dominant frontcourt trio as Randolph could be great to bring in off the bench.
Jones should be a good pro, he played well on a below average Baylor team, and he should get more help in the NBA. There is no question Jones has the talent to succeed, and I believe he will. The Wolves should think about drafting Jones with their pick this summer.
4. Jimmer Fredette
BYU's Jimmer Fredette is one of the best scorers in the country, if not the best. By the time the Timberwolves make their second first-round selection, both Brandon Knight and Kemba Walker will probably be off the board. This leaves Jimmer.
Everyone knows that Jimmer has deep, deep range on his jumper. Not everyone knows that his offensive game is more than just shooting. He is an above-average ball handler and passer. Both of which will likely translate to the NBA. I'm not really that nervous about Fredette's offensive production in the NBA. He is a great leader who can be a point guard in the NBA.
He will obviously have to adjust his playing style in the NBA. He will need to pass more and be more of a distributor. This will probably be easier than most people think, as in the NBA he will have a much better supporting cast.
Jimmer can run the Wolves up-tempo pace, and while he may not be a future superstar, he is a competitor who will likely have a long career in the league. Jimmer may not be the best fit for the Wolves, but he certainly can play, and he could be a valuable piece of the puzzle.
3. Jordan Hamilton
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Now, I said earlier that it's important to draft based on need, but if you can't fill a need with a pick, you might as well take a player of value. If the Timberwolves end up with Memphis' selection, (probable) there might not be any point guards or centers available. They have two options. First, they could trade down, or second, they could draft a player who they don't necessarily need to fill a hole.
If they decide to take the pick anyways, I believe the right pick would be Texas' Jordan Hamilton if he declares, assuming he's still there. Hamilton said he would stay at Texas, but if he's a lock for the top 20 he might change his mind.
Hamilton showed significant improvement this year at Texas, improving in pretty much every important statistical category. The biggest question that remains about Hamilton is his shot selection. He often takes shots he can't make and forces things too much. This could be fixed over time. He is a little bit of a project, but he will be worth it.
Hamilton can run the floor well which is important, and he can play to positions, also important. He can help out at either small forward or shooting guard. Possibly, even a little power forward if they are going with a small lineup as he is a very good rebounder.
Eventually he will be a starter in the NBA, and I would love to see him in a Timberwolves uniform.
2. Reggie Jackson
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Boston College's Reggie Jackson has quietly been very good this season. No one really knows much about Jackson, but he is currently ranked 24th on Chad Ford's Big Board. He averaged 18 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists a game this season.
Jackson is extremely quick and is faster than most players at his position. He will be capable of playing the point in the NBA which makes him big for his position at 6'3". He can create off the dribble and also shoot from the outside, a recent development to his game. He is very athletic and can lead the break well, making him a good fit for the Wolves.
In a draft with so few point guards, Reggie Jackson makes sense for the Timberwolves. He may not be NBA ready immediately, but we have Ridnour for a few more years. He made huge improvements each year at BC and will continue to improve with the right players around him. He is kind of a sleeper pick at this point, but by the time draft day comes, he will be on everyone's radar.
1. Nolan Smith
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When Kyrie Irving went down, I thought it would be tough for Duke to maintain their status as one of college basketball's best teams. However, Nolan Smith stepped up big time and proved to be a player I never would have imagined he could be.
Nolan Smith is a true leader. He makes everyone around him better and plays with intensity. He essentially averaged 20-5-5 this season which is extremely impressive. He is a threat to drive as well as shoot an outside jumper. He has improved his consistency from outside, but it does need work.
Smith is another player who made dramatic improvement to his game every year on campus. His senior year, he improved his scoring averages marginally, but he showed he really is an all-around player. Before, he was seen as undersized, but now, many people feel he could play point guard in the NBA. He is very quick and is a great fit for the Wolves.
While Nolan Smith is very valuable offensively both as a scorer and a passer, that isn't necessarily even the most attractive thing about him. Even if he doesn't pan out, he will always have a place in the league as a perimeter defender. He plays stingy defense and is very valuable on both sides of the ball. Smith has an amazing work ethic and should have a long NBA career.
The Wolves would be smart to potentially make a move on draft day to grab Smith. He could be a solid point guard with time and could be brought along slowly as he continues to develop. He is passionate about the game of basketball, and although I am not a Duke fan, I respect Nolan Smith and would love to see him play in a Timberwolves jersey.