As everybody knows, tonight is the draft lottery (7:30 pm, ESPN), where the Wolves (and everybody else) will find out where they pick. So we thought it was time for a lottery/draft round table with your trusty Canis Hoopus staff. We'll be back later with more on the lottery, and, oh yeah, there is basketball tonight. The Western Conference Finals gets underway in Oakland, with the Rockets at the Warriors. We'll get to that too.
EiM: OK all, here it goes, first question of this round table:
The Wolves can wind up with no worse than the 4th pick in Tuesday's draft lottery, so who are the four draftable players, in order, that you would like to see in a Wolves uniform come next season?
John: My top four has been set for a while now: Karl-Anthony Towns, D'Angelo Russell, Jahlil Okafor, and Emmanuel Mudiay. Justise Winslow rounds out my top five. Towns is the Golden Ticket, the ultimate dream selection, without a doubt. He can help fix many of the Wolves' largest issues immediately. Perhaps this will be more valuable to the conversation: PLEASE, WHATEVER HAPPENS, DO NOT DRAFT KRISTAPS PORZINGIS.
EiM: Is everyone here as uniformly down on Porzingis as John is? He isn't in my top four either, certainly, which is exactly the same: Towns, Russell, Okafor, Mudiay, though I suppose I could be swayed into Justise Winslow or Willie Cauley-Stein at three or four.
Key Dae: I'm not as down on Porzingis as John, but I certainly wouldn't take him in the top 4. He's the kind of guy you take when the pretty sure things are all off the board already. In this draft, that means more around 8-12. I think he'll have a decent career, but the risk factor is so much higher with him than the other top picks. The Wolves have been burned enough by that type of thing. I put this out in my last piece, but my board is:
1. Karl Towns
2. D'Angelo Russell
3. Willie Cauley-Stein
4. Jahlil Okafor
Towns is the clear cut top player, and I honestly don't see an argument otherwise. He's the best statistically, the best by fit and need, and the second best defensively only to his own teammate. His ability to hedge the pick and roll and protect the rim means he trumps Okafor by a wide margin, in my mind.
This is also why I favor Cauley-Stein over Okafor. I'm sold on Trill being a younger-than-30 Tyson Chandler/Kenyon Martin type on defense, and I think he'll get there in short order, which is a level of defense so high that it offsets his offense and age. In his case, it might actually work in his favor, since his value is going to be an instant-impact player on defense.
I'm very concerned about Okafor's defense, and also with his fit with this team. We've done the "Ricky stands in a corner while a post-up player holds the ball" thing before. It hasn't ever worked, and it's a waste of Ricky's strengths. And let's not forget that our two best wings rely heavily on post-ups to score as well. What happens when Bazz is on the left block? Jahlil has no shooting range. I'm not sure I'd be willing to make all the adjustments it'll take to accommodate Okafor's game. His utility outside of halfcourt, low-block scoring seems really limited.
And Russell, man. I honestly favor Towns over him only because of the dire need for an interior defender. Russell has, by far, the most utility of this group. He should function as a set initiator for Wiggins/Bazz/LaVine/whoever equally as well as being a kickout catch-and-shoot option for Rubio. That's money. It's like what the Thunder had when they could stick James Harden in between Westbrook and Durant. D'Angelo deserves more love.
David: My top four:
1. Karl-Anthony Towns
2. D'Angelo Russell
3. Jahlil Okafor
4. Kristaps Porzingis
The thing about Porzi is that he may actually be a very good player. He's played great ball in Europe all year and his stock has done nothing but rise. I feel like part of the reason we as Timberwolves people are worried about him is because we've been bitten so many times by Euro bigs in the past. This one might be different. However, part of this is also looking at redundancies: I don't like the vibe of Winslow and Wiggins on the same team, same for Rubio and Mudiay. The fits just don't feel right, and I don't feel like either one is so strongly "best player available" at 4 that it demands them being taken. So I'll take the hit and be the person who takes Porzi at 4. Kind of the glass-half-full side of Bryan's take. The top three, I'm identically in line with Eric and John. KAT is the right player at the right time for this team, in addition to being the best player available.
Lindsey: My top four are as follows:
1. Karl-Anthony Towns
2. Jahlil Okafor
3. D'Angelo Russell
4. Willie Cauley-Stein
As others have said, Towns is the clear-cut top candidate in this year's Draft. Despite [Duke-biased] Grant Hill saying Okafor is the better option at No. 1, Towns makes a better all-around pick. His stats speak for themselves across the board, and he will immediately upgrade any team he joins. For Minnesota specifically, Towns offers a crucial improvement on defense. The Wolves have struggled for awhile to effectively defend the ball, and specifically on the interior, Towns is a no-brainer if Minnesota gets the chance to snag him.
Okafor is obviously not a candidate to scoff at, so I'd be happy seeing him come to Minnesota if that's how it ends up. I honestly think either Towns or Okafor would be an instant upgrade over Nikola Pekovic. Pek has the size, but his athleticism (or lack thereof) is a huge issue on top of the ever-present injury concern. Towns would be a better fit for the Wolves than Okafor based primarily on the rim protection factor.
Russell is a versatile guard that can dribble like the point but shoot like the No. 2; he would be a great replacement for Kevin Martin if/when he leaves Minnesota. I'm a big Martin fan, so I can't say I'd be happy to see him move on, but it's no secret the Wolves have used him for trade bait before, and his $7 million salary is a lot to shoulder, as well. Russell seems to have a good head on his shoulders, demonstrating a high level of maturity, and he could be a long-term installment for Minnesota. He naturally sees and anticipates plays before they happen, and he's praised for his decision making. His ability to move the ball like a point guard makes him a major threat especially at mid-range, which is something the Wolves need.
I'll take Cauley-Stein as last on my list. Three of my four picks are centers, and I absolutely see it as the biggest need right now. The Wolves have some mediocre, off-the-bench post players, but it's been a long time since Minnesota has boasted a dominant big. Cauley-Stein would make a huge (literally!) impact on the Wolves' roster; he is almost comparable in size to Pekovic, but he proves much more athletic. His presence in the paint would be significant, and--again--the defense is a must-have for Minnesota. My only reservation about Cauley-Stein is I would like to see a bigger scorer come in at center.
John: When I say "Porzingis will be a bust" or "If the Wolves draft Porzi I'll quit blogging forever" I'm speaking purely from a Wolves perspective. We cannot do worse than the fourth overall pick. Porzingis isn't even in my top ten. Anything afterwards seems like a reasonably smart gamble on him given his 7'1" frame, his ability to score (22.2 points per 40 minutes in 16 Eurocup games for Sevilla this season) and absolutely rip it from deep, along with his upside defensively. I should rephrase the way I feel about him because it's probably not especially clear: I hate Porzingis for the Wolves. We didn't lose 66 games to roll the dice on this soft, but certainly smooth-shooting, mysterious power forward in the top four. I mean, that would be insane, right? I believe he will be a bust likely due to his draft position and highly doubt he can meet the expectations of a top selection. I don't like bigs who can't rebound. Sure, a 7-footer who plays like a wing is intriguing, no doubt, but I'm not seeing it with him. He's also a black hole (.8 assists per 40 in the ACB this year).
Cauley-Stein over Okafor would be a mistake in my opinion. I understand the argument, but I'm not buying this whatsoever. Okafor is the superior prospect. Defensively, WCS is unreal. Nobody can argue he isn't, and nobody can argue the Wolves don't need a big man to set the tone defensively like he could, as KG did in his few games back with the team. It's funny how everybody wants to talk about Okafor's weaknesses, but when it comes to WCS, the focus is almost always on his fascinating defensive potential. At times over the past college season, when watching Kentucky, I chuckled at how disinterested "Trill" was in touching the ball. He would literally look to get it out of his hands as soon as he touched the rock. He looked scared to have the ball. WCS will need to catch 3-5 alley oops per game and rim run in transition like a mad man to be decent offensively. His defense will truly have to be out of this world to merit a top five selection, in my opinion.
Okafor doesn't have the block rate or rebound the ball like you want out of your center, but how many guys have come through college over the last decade that possess his low post game? I think it's bizarre how some fans are talking about Okafor like they would actually, legitimately be disappointed if the Wolves ended up with him. Jahlil is a stud prospect, even with his weaknesses. He will be a star in the NBA. I have concerns about his defense and overall fit in Minnesota too, but not enough to pass on him. No way! I understand this is a classic offense vs. defense debate. I'm just really concerned with how much WCS can improve (22 years old in his rookie season) in the NBA, whereas Okafor has a huge ceiling for growth in my estimation.
EiM: I'm beginning to enter my annual "Everything Will Go Wrong" period when it comes to the draft. Towns would be great, but I'm not sure the Wolves have him #1. I actually would be reasonably happy with Okafor, though a guy with one outlier talent is a little worrying. I LOVE Russell, but fear the Wolves see him as more of a Rubio replacement than compliment. Moving on.
At the Combine, the Wolves interviewed a bunch of players projected in the mid first round--Sam Dekker, Tyus Jones, a few others. Chad Ford wrote today that they Wolves are going to try to package their 2nd rounders (the coveted 31st pick and 36) to move up. I have my doubts, since that would mean 2 guaranteed rookie contracts on top of all the other young guys they already have, but what do you guys think? A good idea? Who would you target?
Tyus Jones, who I think is the next Jameer Nelson, seems popular, and obviously has the local angle. I'm not sure he's the best point guard available around that area (Cameron Payne and Delon Wright have their appeal as well), but I would be OK with it. Drafting a point guard in the first round probably means the LaVine at point experiment is over, which would be a relief. That or it means Rubio is on his way out the door...
Key Dae: I have a hard time thinking Rubio is on the outs, if only because it doesn't make sense to sell low on him. I don't think anyone will take him at his new contract figure when he's only played a full season once in four years.
Well...maybe the Knicks....
As for a second first rounder, the Wolves have to get rid of one of the power forwards and at least one more player for it to make sense. Then again, they should be doing that anyway. Would they take on a guaranteed contract while still buried under everyone else's? I don't know. They did guarantee Glen Robinson's deal and then took on Adreian Payne on top of that.
If they are going to, I'd be fine with Tyus Jones. He did two really good things at Duke: kept the ball moving, and got to the free throw line. I'm not sure I have a strong argument for him versus Cameron Payne, other than to wholeheartedly echo the sentiment that we need a true backup point guard in the worst way.
But I'm also not sure I'd take a point guard with this theoretical pick either. Trey Lyels is a potential steal late in the first round. He's a power forward who spent a lot of time out of position at small forward because of Towns and Trill, so I'm thinking he's better than his numbers show. Justin Anderson shot the lights out at Virginia this year, and I still like the idea of Montrezl Harrell, especially paired with Towns or Okafor.
David: If the Wolves are going to trade back up into the first round, there almost has to be a player attached to 31 and 36 to make a significant move up from 31 (and the rumor mill says that's what it will take to get Tyus, if that's the dream), which opens up a slot for a second guaranteed contract. If they can find someone willing to take on Bennett or Payne, I'd accept that almost without looking at the return. Teams in the lower playoff seeds, likely who they'd be looking to deal with to jump into the low 20s or high teens, are looking for pieces to jump them from being just "good" to competing for a top-four seed and a division title. It's why I keep wondering if Kevin Martin, now into the last year of his deal, might draw even more attention than last year from those teams looking for shooting.
Scenarios, in order of preference:
1. Towns with the early pick, then a backup PG/SG with a second pick later in the first round, traded up from 31 and 36.
2. Russell with the early pick, then a big man with a second pick later in the first round, traded up from 31 and 36.
I'm not really sure how we'd get him, but Doogie seems to think the Wolves have eyes on Kevon Looney as a later option. How would he fit?
John: The Wolves should definitely package 31 and 36 to move up somewhere in the 20's. Tyus Jones or Delon Wright would both be good picks and real backup point guards, which the team absolutely needs. I'm a fan, and a believer, in Lorenzo Brown, but I'd feel better if he were the third string PG entering next season. I love the Tyus/Jameer comparison. That makes sense in my head. Bringing Tyus and Jahlil to Minnesota would be a cool story if that's the way it ultimately goes down. Still, THE BIG KAT is the ideal pick.
Personally, I would use the two picks to move up to grab Kevon Looney if he slides on draft day and falls past 20. Yes, some folks might be pissed the Wolves go back to the UCLA fountain of prospects, but I watched him play a handful of times last season -- including his 27 point, 19 rebound game (a win in double OT) against Stanford -- and always came away impressed. He makes the game look incredible easy at times. If Flip and Milt want to trade up to take another "home run swing" like they did with Zach LaVine, Looney is the guy in my opinion.
Rubio is going nowhere. Okay? Let's move on from that... (Prediction: Rubio will win the Most Improved Player Award next season, largely because his scoring takes a significant jump, which will cause more people to pay attention to how good he already is!)
EiM: We'll have a better idea tonight what the possibilities are for the Wolves, and we'll follow all the rumors and coverage leading up to the draft next month.