The Timberwolves accumulated the worst record in the NBA this past season. Know what that means?
It means the Timberwolves flat out stunk in 2010-11. They were the worst team in the NBA. No one has to read this bit to know that. But it’s true.
And when you’re the worst team in the NBA, little, if anything, went right the previous year. Minnesota needs to draft according to best player available, not by need.
Most of what’s been said about why Minnesota should draft the center, who never played a game at Kentucky, revolves around his ability to fill the Timberwolves’ need for a center.
There’s no debate that the Timberwolves could use a center. They lack toughness inside. But the cupboard isn’t empty.
Darko Milicic, who started all 69 games he played in the 2010-11 season for Minnesota, finished fifth in the NBA with 2.05 blocks per game last season. But he does lack a physical toughness on the interior.
In his rookie season, center Nikola Pekovic battled through injuries, adjustments to American basketball and the cultural barrier. However, he only posted 5.5 points and 3 rebounds in 13.6 minutes per game in 65 games played and 11 starts. Don’t write him off yet.
Pekovic was one of the most heralded Euroleague players when Minnesota drafted him with the No. 1 pick in the second round of the 2008 draft.
Many draft experts had him pegged as a would-be first-round pick if not for his contract situation with his Euroleague team.
Pekovic was the leading scorer on a per-minute basis for the entire Euroleague in the 2009-10 season. And the statistics he posted in his best Euroleague season, 16.4 points and 6.87 rebounds per game, mirror those of Houston Rockets post Luis Scola’s best Euroleague-numbers (15.5 points and 5.87 rebounds per game, in the 2006-07 season).
In the 2010-11 season, Scola averaged 18.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.
Scola entered the NBA in the 2007-08 season and posted better rookie numbers (10.3 PPG, 6.4 RPG) than Pekovic in his rookie season (5.5 PPG, 3 RPG).
But Scola’s numbers came from 24.7 minutes per game and 39 starts in 82 games.
No one will say, nor am I, that Pekovic is the next Scola, but the two posted similar Euroleague numbers in their best years and both are nominated for the Euroleague All-Decade team.
But back to Kanter.
He could provide the toughness Minnesota needs inside.
Kanter could fill a void for Minnesota. But Pekovic is just getting his NBA feet wet, while Milicic provides some semblance of defense in the back.
Based upon the talent pool of the 2011 NBA Draft, the Wolves must select one of the consensus top two players: Arizona forward Derrick Williams or Duke guard Kyrie Irving (whichever player the Cleveland Cavaliers do not select).
With the Cavs likely to take Irving at No. 1, the Wolves are poised to nab Williams.
Williams, stands at 6'9", has a wingspan of 7'1" and a standing reach of 9', can play power forward or small forward with those features. Detroit Pistons power forward Greg Monroe and Toronto Raptors power forward Ed Davis have the exact same measurements.
He’s taller and longer than NBA All-Star power forwards Blake Griffin and Kevin Love.
He can stretch the floor, as he showed in college by shooting 56.8 percent (42-of-74) from beyond the arc, and can run the floor well—which the Timberwolves are expected to view as important with their fast-break oriented point guard, Ricky Rubio, finally coming to the NBA.
If the Wolves do take Kanter, then they take a greater risk.
Kanter is more of an unknown and, having never played in college, is practically a Euroleague player throwing his name into the draft.
We know he’s a strong offensive player who likes contact and likes to play with his back to the basket, but many say he needs work on his defense, which is where the Wolves really need a center. They need more of a defensive presence to go along with Love’s scoring ability, and Kanter does not fill that.
The Miami Heat proved that a team doesn’t necessarily need a true center to be a championship caliber team (its fourth-quarter frontcourt featured two forwards and no center).
The Timberwolves are far from having the talent of the Heat, but the point should be clear.
Williams is the more proven commodity and the more talented player, and when a team is as bad as the Timberwolves, the emphasis should be on talent and not need.