Building a Winner Update, pt. ii: the Draft

You can read the first part of our updated Building a Winner post here.

In this post we will begin to deal with the three main areas of personnel: the draft, free agency, and trades.  Let's take a moment to briefly look at what the Wolves have going for them. 

Currently, the Wolves have just over $50 million in 11 2009/10 contracts if you include the player option controlled by Bobby Brown.  They have two potential cap holds in Sheldon Williams and Jason Collins.  I would suspect that both of these players could earn end of the bench spots elsewhere in the league but you never really know in this economy. 

The team also owns approximately $21.6 million in expiring 2009/10 contracts spread across four players: Mike Miller, Brian Cardinal, Mark Madsen, and Craig Smith.  This number could be bumped up to $25.3 million should the team not pick up Corey Brewer's option.  Keep in mind that in any simultaneous trade, the Wolves can bring back 125% + $100,000 of the salary going out the door.  In other words, were they able to throw all of these players into a single deal, they could bring back an extra $6.3 million, or $31.6 million total, which would still (likely) place them under the cap and well below the luxury threshold.  In other words, they are in a nice position to use this year's draft + existing players to bring back some high level players.  They just need to find a willing trade partner(s) and, if successful, convince these players to stay aboard.

Draft-wise, the team owns three first round (#6, #18, #28) and two second round (#45, #47) draft picks in this season's draft  and two potential first rounders (Utah top 17 protected, top 10 protected pick owed to the Clippers) and two second rounders (their own, Houston's) in 2010. 

Putting some of this together, the big elephant in the room is the economy and looming CBA changes.  Do the Wolves want to make a splashy trade and lock themselves into inflexible deals shortly before changes everybody suspects are coming?  Rule changes can throw quite a monkey wrench into a team's plans.  Remember Trenton Hassell and the league's new hand checking rules? It's a lot easier to defend sans arm bar, right Trenton? Anywho, this is a risky environment, especially when the team is considering bringing back large chunks of salary in return for existing (and cheaper) assets. 

Let's set free agency and trades aside for a moment and take a quick look at the Hoopus Draft Board

 

This year we've made a few changes to our method.  We have divided the Hoopus Score into two parts: quantity and quality.  To give you a basic idea of how this formula works, the first number is a per-100 possession average of Four Factor related efficiency stats.  It deals with how efficiently a player scores, how well he gets to the line, how little (or much) he turns it over, and how well he cleans the glass.  The second number is a per-game tally of the number of net positive events a player accumulates.  We add up things like points, rebounds, assists, and blocks; we weight them and then subtract things like turnovers, fouls, and missed free throws, which are also weighted. 

We have also split our results into three player categories (guards, wings, and bigs) and three tiers (top, middle, and late).  Here are this year's top three tiers minus Blake Griffin, Ricky Rubio, and any additional international players (whom we have zero clue how to properly evaulate...we are learning, however, and hope to have a system in place by next year):

Tier One:

  1. Stephen Curry: 42.6/13.203 (55.803-guard) (10.4/8-17)
  2. Demar Derozan: 31.3/13.879 (45.179-wing) (7.8/6-12)
  3. James Harden: 38.4/10.393 (48.793-guard) (5.6/5-6)
  4. Hasheem Thabeet: 42.7/14.703 (57.4-big)  (3/2-4)
  5. DeJuan Blair: 37.825/15.578 (53.403-big) (14/11-20)

Tier Two:

  1. Ty Lawson: 35.275/10.616 (45.668-guard) (15.6/11-22)
  2. Nick Calathes: 33.3/10.575 (43.875-guard) (23.75/21-2nd)
  3. Eric Maynor: 32.875/9.558 (42.433-guard) (17.2/13-22)
  4. Terrence Williams: 26.775/11.06 (37.835-wing) (18.8/9-28)
  5. Jeff Teague: 35.525/7.813 (43.358-guard) (15.2/8-22)
  6. Marcus Thornton: 31.875/9.685 (41.156-guard) (26.3/23-2nd)

Tier Three:

  1. Jordan Hill: 33.999/12.451 (46.45-big) (4.6/4-5)
  2. Chase Budinger: 29.575/10.953 (40.528-wing) (21/11-27)
  3. Damion James: 31.05/9.3 (40.35-wing) (2nd/UFA)
  4. Tyreke Evans: 31.4/8.414 (39.814-guard) (9.4/7-15)
  5. Gerald Henderson: 30.5/7.808 (38.308-guard) (13.2/10-20)
  6. Sam Young: 29.8/8.196 (37.996-wing) (26.5/22-2nd)
  7. Lee Cummard: 30.6/11.359 (41.959-guard) (2nd/UFA)
  8. Tyler Hansbrough: 39.375/13.766 (53.141-big) (23/20-2nd)
  9. James Johnson: 29.375/10.77 (40.145-big) (15/11-16)
  10. Toney Douglas: 31.25/8.842 (40.092-guard) (2nd)
  11. Wayne Ellington: 27.3/8.828 (36.128-guard) (20-2nd)

We have made a few changes on this version from the college year-end board.  We have continued to downgrade Tyreke Evans.  His shooting is simply too big of a red flag to outweigh his intriguing positives.  Not only is he not that efficient, but his net per-game positives aren't anything to write home about.  In his place we have bumped up Jeff Teague and Marcus Thornton. 

You will also notice a second parentheses with two additional numbers.  The first number represents the average mock draft spot taken from 4 outside mock drafts plus our very own.  The second number is the range on those mock drafts.  This isn't meant as any sort of definitive metric; rather, it was suggested to us by someone familiar with the NFL draft process as a way of best figuring out what other teams will do as a way of setting value.  It is merely meant as a slight guide post.  In the version that was suggested to us, the draft group has someone research each and every single team and not only attempt to make their draft board, but recreate how they think other teams will realistically draft.  They then put together an average and a range and use this is as a general guidepost for expected (not necessarily acceptable) player draft ranges.  Since we have neither the time or access to do this on our own (we will add it to our Wolves PersonnelWiki), I'm just going to average out some mock drafts as an example/modest guidepost.  Along with our own, I'm using DX, Chad Ford, Real GM, and NBADraft.net.  I'm throwing out any outliers that exist beyond a pre-set range. 

Putting this little tool to use, we see that the top draft board ranked players are as follows, with their average draft position:

  1. Thabeet- 3
  2. Hill- 4.6
  3. Harden- 5.6
  4. Derozan- 7.8
  5. Evans- 9.4
  6. Curry- 10.4
  7. Henderson- 13.2
  8. Blair- 14

Value-wise, the Wolves, picking 6th, are in a weird spot.  Luckily for them, 5 of these top 8 players are tier one players.  If Thabeet or Harden are available at 6, they would both be a tremendous value.  Curry would be a nice pick, but they could likely find him later on in the lotto were they able to move down.  Ultimately, this tool is useful for judging value, not BPA, which is what the Wolves should take no matter what with their top pick should they choose to stick with the status quo.

With the 18th pick, it is quite likely that the Wolves will be able to make a value pick, ideally with someone from tier two. 

The 28th pick should not be overlooked.  This is not a pick that should be traded away for cash.  It should be used on either the BPA or a EuroLeague player that can come over in 1-3 years.  Here are a few international players that would be of great value to the Wolves:

  1. Victor Claver
  2. Omri Casspi
  3. Rodrigue Beaubois
  4. Nando De Colo 
  5. Antoine Diot

Unless the 28th pick is packaged in a larger deal, it should not be moved on its own.  There are simply too many options for it to sell it for cash.  As of now, and keeping with the status quo, here are the top 5 picks for each of the Wolves' three picks:

#6:

  1. Stephen Curry
  2. Demar DeRozan
  3. James Harden
  4. Hasheem Thabeet
  5. DeJuan Blair

#18 (if any of the first group are still available, they go to #1 in this tier):

  1. Ty Lawson
  2. Nick Calathes
  3. Eric Maynor
  4. Terrence Williams
  5. Jeff Teague

#28 (same rule as above applies here):

  1. Euro player (see above list)
  2. Marcus Thornton
  3. Chase Budinger
  4. Damion James
  5. Sam Young

Adding in the value concept, here is how the top five look when taking into consideration estimated draft position:

  1. Hasheem Thabeet
  2. James Harden
  3. Demar DeRozan
  4. Tyreke Evans
  5. Stephen Curry

(Ed Note/UPDATE: With the news that Calathes has signed with a Greek team, it probably makes little sense for the Wolves to draft him at 18, and such an adjustment would be made with the value concept.  Talent-wise, we have him listed near the top of tier two and that is the main point here.)

In a perfect world, and regardless of other personnel moves, we hope that the Wolves would walk away from this draft with James Harden or Stephen Curry with the top pick and Ty Lawson or Nick Calathes with the second pick.  The wild cards here are two players that could perform well in workouts and finally start living up to their potential: BJ Mullens and Austin Daye.  Both of these players represent physical models of everything the Wolves need at the backup 4/5 or 5 and the starting 3.  While they both underperformed at the college level, the Wolves could do a lot worse than select one of these players in a weak draft.  Potential matters in a draft like this and both of these players could have put up much better numbers had they stayed in college a year longer.  Short of the (Harden/Curry)/(Lawson/Calathes) draft, the Wolves certainly could do worse than to take Mullens or Daye at 18 if they keep the pick. 

The big wild card in this draft is Tyreke Evans.  There is no other player in the draft that can change the Wolves as much as Mr. Evans.  6'6" guards with a nearly 7 foot wingspan who can play on the ball don't exactly grow on trees.  By drafting Evans, the Wolves could continue to start Randy Foye and he could even play off the ball.  Of course, the same could probably be said about James Harden, but Evans represents a much more intriguing NBA skill set: a dribble drive game that can get into the lane and to the rim.  Unfortunately, he has a jump shot from hell and this will likely hurt him beyond belief at the next level. 

I have seen it written over and over that the Memphis offense serves to inflate Evans' numbers and that this should also be taken into consideration.  Folks, John Calipari runs a system that not only teaches players how to play (rather than what to play), but it is probably the single-best transitional system between high school and the pros that exists in the US.  DDM is not a fluky system and it encourages traits that work well in the NBA: being strong with the ball in one-on-one situations, getting to the rim, learning how to kick out and rotate the ball against the defense, etc. This is why Calipari was able to jump to Kentucky and immediately bring in an amazing recruiting class.  One-and-doners want to be with the guy.  

Moving on, should Harden and Thabeet be off the board at 6, the Wolves will have a tough decision to make between Curry and DeRozan.  In all likelihood, they can find a decent point guard with the 18th pick but they also could settle for the Mullens/Daye option or someone like Chase Budinger which would allow them to go with Curry, who is one of the most intriguing pick-and-roll prospects to hit the league in the last 10 years.  While my impartial mind tells me that Thabeet and Harden are at the top of the Wolves' board, my heart is really pulling for Curry--a player who I really think could turn in to a special, special player if paired with Kevin Love. Curry is bigger than Sebastian Telfair, can shoot the ball like no one else that has come out of college in a long time, and has shown that he can be on the ball a great deal.  The big downside with drafting a guy like Curry is that he is likely incompatible with Randy Foye in the starting backcourt.  With Evans and Harden, the Wolves probably could get away with the Foye-at-2 experiment because both of these players have legit size to guard the off-guard.  Curry does not.  Foye does not.  We'll revisit the Foye issue in the summary post.

OK, we've mentioned that this is the list in terms of the status quo.  We full expect (and recommend) that the status quo will be thrown out the window and that 1, 2, or all 3 of the first round picks will be traded for additional assets.  Due to the length of this post, we are going to extend this series.  In the next post we will talk about trades and free agency. 

Until later.

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