Well folks, it's that time of year again.
The NBA Playoffs are winding down. Soon we will know who the conference finalists are, then the finalists, and finally the champions. This year it seems as if the Cavs have it locked up, sweeping two series on their way to the Eastern Conference Finals.
However, just because the regular season has ended for most teams, that doesn't mean business ceases. Tuesday, May 19, the NBA will hold its annual draft lottery. The fate and futures of NBA franchises are made on this day, as well as the eventual draft.
For Timberwolves fans, this has become a hum-drum experience, as our favorite team has a history of draft day blunders such as the infamous Roy/Foye debacle, the Joe Smith fiasco, Alphabet Ebi, and the pick of Shaddy McCants when Danny Granger was still on the board.
With all that being said, let's take a look at who the Wolves should be targeting with their first pick in next month's draft, and how each player might affect their future. For argument's sake, I have omitted OU star Blake Griffin, because I believe even if the Wolves luck out and land the No. 1 overall, they still won't take him. Without further ado....
Ricky Rubio, PG. Spain. There is no question in this writer's mind that the Wolves should sell the farm for this young man. Looking at their current roster, Rubio would be the ideal pick. Assuming the new GM believes Al Jefferson can be a center, building around a nucleus of Jefferson, Kevin Love, and Rubio makes perfect sense.
Rubio is a distributor and floor general who won't require many scoring touches to make his impact felt on the court. He's young, 19, and a star in the making; the kind of player who turns around a franchise a la Chris Paul.
If I was pulling the strings and assuming the picks fall as they look right now, I'd trade the fifth, Miami's first rounder, and Mike Miller to Washington for the second pick and Etan Thomas. No doubt. This makes too much sense to me. My head hurts.
Hasheem Thabeet, C. UConn. Another guy the Wolves would likely have to move up to acquire, he could be a possibility if the new GM isn't convinced Jefferson is a center and Love is a starting PF.
While Thabeet is raw offensively, he's a shot-blocking machine and, as the old mantra goes, you can't teach height. Considering he only began playing basketball a few years ago, his upside is huge and obvious. He needs to work on his footwork as well as rebounding, and despite the four-something BPG he held through college, he's more of a reach defender than a stand-alone guy.
He'd need a lot of work, but if McHale stays on as head coach, there would be few better to teach him.
Brandon Jennings, PG. Italy. Admittedly, I don't know a whole lot about Jennings. I know he chose to forgo his freshman year of college, opting instead to play in Italy. I know his stats there haven't been great. I know I've seen countless YouTube videos of him annihilating high school competition (which, in truth, doesn't mean much. See: Telfair, Sebastian).
What I have taken away from my research is that he is a point guard in the Gil Arenas mold: a drive-and-score guy with an ok jumper. He's a scorer, and not much else. At 6'2" respectfully, he's on the small side and would have difficulty guarding a big guard like Derrick Rose. I'm not real high on the kid, personally. But like I said, I haven't got much to work with either.
Stephen Curry, G. Davidson. Curry is a possibility, but I'm not sure what to make of him. He's paper thin, only played one year at the point in college and is really a two-guard stuck in a point's body.
There is no denying his ability to shoot the trey, and he's actually quite adept at getting to the rim. But I wonder about his upside. Are the JJ Redick comparisons accurate, or does he have another gear? Can he guard elite NBA point guards? Can he even handle the point on a full-time basis in the NBA?
I've heard some glowing reports on him from Stop-and-pop on canishoopus.com, but I'm not sold. To me, he's officially earned that dreaded "tweener" label, and would likely have to work the point by committee. How many championship ballclubs have done that successfully?
Tyreke Evans, PG. Memphis. The biggest question about Evans is if he's a point or a shooting guard. I think he's the former.
Evans would be huge as a point guard in the NBA, measuring in at a towering 6'6", and would be able to back down and defend almost anybody the opposition threw at him. I think he's like the last two guys, wherein he's more of a scorer, but his move to the point in college proved to be beneficial and I honestly believe he has the wherewithal to handle the position full time in the NBA.
His body of work isn't what Curry's is and he played on an infinitely better team, but he has all the makings of being a special player in the league. Think Chauncey Billups.
Now, you may have noticed some names left out who are expected to be drafted in the vicinity of the Timberwolves' pick. Not an accident.
Guys like James Harden and Demar DeRozan appear to be very redundant on this particular squad. Aside from the fact that I'm not completely sold on either one of them, this team just seems to have a lot of mediocre wing players, and PG and C are quite obviously much more important positions to address for the immediate and long-term future. This is a rebuilding squad (if you consider them having been built in the first place), and the new GM should address the most pressing needs first. Average players will not do the job here; this team need a few stars to help shoulder the load outside of Al Jefferson. Which is why I harped on Rubio. The kid is incredible, and I would absolutely devote my entire draft day process to figuring out how to trade up to get him. Of course, that becomes a moot point if they land the second overall. But do any Wolves fans actually expect their luck to change anytime soon? Me neither.