2011 NBA Draft: Underrated Keith Benson to Minnesota Timberwolves Makes Sense

Camden PaschAnalyst IIApril 16, 2011

MILWAUKEE - MARCH 19:  Keith Benson #34 of the Oakland Golden Grizzlies drives on Gary McGhee #52 of the of the Pittsburgh Panthers in the first half during the first round of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Bradley Center on March 19, 2010 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Timberwolves may look to draft a young, promising center that could produce immediately. Former Oakland Golden Grizzlies center Keith Benson fits that bill.

Benson, 22, thrived in his junior and senior seasons. In his junior season, he posted 17.3 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game. After a season of domination like that, most college players would have entered the NBA draft. 

Benson, on the other hand, declined that opportunity to return for his senior season. All he did was top his previous season's numbers with a stat line of 17.9 points, 10.1 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game.

Arguments against Benson have been that he doesn't have the strength to be a quality NBA center and that he hasn't played against elite opponents in his college career, which in turn inflates his stats. 

If he can gain 15 pounds of muscle, which is very doable, he will rid the criticism about his strength and weight. Also, the teams in Oakland's conference weren't all that good, but there were teams he played against in non-conference games that were elite and he had some very impressive performances throughout his career.

  • 2009-10 vs. No. 1 Kansas: 20 points, six rebounds and four blocks.
  • KU's Cole Aldrich: 4 points, 9 rebounds, 2-10 FGM-A
  • 2009-10 vs. No. 11 Michigan State: 21 points and 11 rebounds.
  • Mich. St.'s Raymar Morgan vs. Keith Benson: 4 points, 5 rebounds, 1-5 FGM-A
  • 2009-10 vs. No. 18 Pittsburgh: 28 points and nine rebounds.
  • Pitt's Gary McGhee vs. Keith Benson: 12 points, 6 rebounds, 5-6 FGM-A
  • 2010-11 vs. West Virginia: 22 points, 15 rebounds, two blocks, two steals and one assist.
  • WVU's Deniz Kilicli vs. Keith Benson: 12 points, 10 rebounds, 4-10 FGM-A
  • 2010-11 vs. No. 9 Purdue: 16 points, 14 rebounds, two blocks and one steal.
  • Purdue's JaJuan Johnson vs. Keith Benson: 25 points, 11 rebounds, 11-22 FGM-A
  • 2010-11 vs. No. 7 Tennessee: 26 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks.
  • Tenn's Brian Williams vs. Keith Benson: 18 points, 13 rebounds, 7-12 FGM-A

Benson has all the qualities an NBA team could want from a center. He has great height and length as he is 6'11" with a 7'2" wingspan. He is a very good rebounder and not only relies on his length for a rebound, but his leaping ability, as well.

He has fantastic footwork in the post and above-average body control. Benson can finish around the basket with his left or his right hand. He can use the glass for his shots or he can dunk the ball with authority; he does both well and in the right situations.

His hook shot has increasingly gotten better throughout his college career and is now a nice weapon for him to have in his offensive arsenal. Benson also has a solid jump shot from mid-range out to three-point range.

From a defensive standpoint, Benson locks down the paint. He is a phenomenal shot-blocker and plays smart defense, which allows him to stay out of foul trouble.

Minnesota should not look to Darko Milicic as the long-term answer at center. With that in mind, drafting Benson in this year's draft and working him into the NBA next year would be the smart thing to do for the Minnesota Timberwolves and their future.

His stock is likely to jump from the top of the second round to the middle of the first round, right where the Timberwolves hold their second pick of the draft.