Analyzing Minnesota Timberwolves Draft Picks Lazar Hayward and Nemanja Bjelica

Timber WolfAnalyst IIJuly 4, 2010

NEW YORK - MARCH 12:  Lazar Hayward #32 of the Marquette Golden Eagles reacts after a play against the Georgetown Hoyas during the semifinal of the 2010 Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 12, 2010 in New York City.  (Photo by Michael Heiman/Getty Images)
Michael Heiman/Getty Images

If you go to Google, and type in the Minnesota Timberwolves, you will find a lot of topics on Wesley Johnson, Darko Milicic, Al Jefferson, Martell Webster, and Nikola Pekovic.

But the Minnesota Timberwolves are also adding Lazar Hayward out of Marquette, and Nemanja Bjelica. Lazar Hayward was taken with the 30th overall pick, and Nemanja Bjelica was taken 35th overall.

When players go in the late first round and second round, they rarely ever pan out in the NBA. However, I'd like to add that the Minnesota Timberwolves might have gotten two solid rotation players at the worst, possibly even better.

Lazar Hayward

6'6'', 225 lbs, 7'0'' wingspan, 36 inch vertical, 10.87 lane agility (second to John Wall).

18 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.5 APG, 2 SPG in 32 MPG.

A lot of experts saw this pick as utterly stupid, and made no sense because Lazar was projected to go undrafted. I, however, think it made more basketball sense than anything. Lazar comes out of Marquette. One player in particular came out of Marquette, and had a huge impact in the starting lineup with the Utah Jazz, and that's Wesley Matthews.

Let's compare their stats:

Lazar Hayward: 18 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.5 APG, 2 SPG in 32 MPG. Shot 43 pecent from the field, 36 percent from the three-point line (65-186), and 84 percent from the free throw line.

Wesley Matthews: 18 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1 SPG in 34 MPG. Shot 47 percent from the field, 37 percent from the three-point line (42-114), and 83 percent from the free throw line.

As you can see, there are some daunting similarities between Lazar and Matthews. While Matthews was more efficient across the board, the word about Lazar was that he played two-guard, small forward, power forward, and center at Marquette.

This ultimately means that Lazar, at times, was taken out of his true skill set, but he embraced every minute on the court and regardless of what he was doing, he was absolutely relentless. Because of this, he's a very versatile player. Here are some of his positives.

- Tough minded, and tough demeanor on the court.
- High basketball I.Q.
- Very long and underrated athletically.
- Multidimensional on offense (three-point shooter, mid-range shooter, post up moves, plays with or without the ball, plays in transition).
- Can be a relentless defender, built like an ox.
- Good rebounder .
- Court leadership.
- NBA ready

NBA comparison: Shane Battier.

NBA comparison at full potential: Shane Battier fused with Ryan Gomes with more athleticism.

As far as his demeanor on the court, it would almost make you think that he's a bad guy off the court. The way he intimidates and looks fearless, completely strikes you as a young player without the correct mindset. This is furthest from the truth about Lazar Hayward. He's actually an outstanding model citizen, and just looks to handle business on the court.

While the Timberwolves could have had Lazar later in the draft, you can't be mad at Lazar, period.

Nemanja Bjelica

6'10'', 210 lbs.

10 PPG, 6 RPG, 2 APG, 1 SPG in 25 MPG.

You have to give some kudos for the Timberwolves for this one. In the Euro leagues, this kid plays point guard through power forward. Being 6'10'' and being able to handle the ball like a point guard has its perks, and you have to feel perky about Nemanja (Nah-Mahn-Ya).

Nemanja possesses an average frame, with a long wingspan, good speed for his size, and is basically a point guard in a power forward's body. Don't be fooled, while he's no Rajon Rondo on the fast break, he's definitely very crafty with the ball in his hands, whether it's crossing up someone too slow, or backing down a defender who's too small.

Not to mention it's always nice to have a player that gets drafted actually come over that same year. He's rumored to want to come to the NBA, and that's a huge plus. If he can adjust quickly enough, he's going to be a very fine player in the NBA.

Let's look at some of his positives:

- 6'10'' point forward, can play 1-4.
- Can create his own shot, and create shots for others.
- Tools for rebounding and defense.
- High basketball I.Q.
- Clutch competitor.
- Very fluid and coordinated.
- Post up moves and mid-range game.
- Leadership qualities

While he does have plenty of positive qualities, he does have some negatives:

- Translation to the NBA and the United States culture, not to mention Minnesota's winters.
- Sometimes overly flashy, doesn't know limitations.
- Defensive awareness needs work.
- Three-point shooting needs work.
- Needs to add weight, and get stronger.

NBA comparison: Hedo Turkoglu.

NBA comparison at full potential: Tony Kukoc.

Both Nemanja and Hayward have opportunities to be good players in the NBA. With the way the Wolves are rebuilding, they will have their equal opportunity, which could bode well for Minnesota.


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