I've never done a mailbag before, but it is something I have always wanted to try and figured now was as good a time as any to try it out. Below are a few questions brought forth by Wolves' fans on Twitter and in the comments.
Let me admit right away that I haven't watched very much college basketball this year. I do know that LSU freshman Ben Simmons and Duke freshman Brandon Ingram are widely considered to be the top two prospects and that this draft isn't considered to be as strong or deep as last year's. So, I don't feel super qualified to talk about many of the players who are projected to be selected in the top 10 (where the Wolves will most likely be selecting) coming up in June.
That being said, I did catch the LSU-Oklahoma match up last weekend and came away very impressed with both Simmons and Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield. Hield was absolutely insane from beyond the arc as he converted on eight of his 15 shots on his way to scoring 32 points. Hield isn't necessarily considered a top 10 pick (though that depends on where you look), but his insane outside shooting could provide a major boost to the Wolves offense by providing spacing and a legitimate threat from deep (he's shooting 57.1% from 3 this year on 8.3 attempts per game). At 6'4", he is kind of short for an NBA shooting guard which may hinder his defensive and rebounding, but his shooting should offset those concerns to an extent.
Another player that I have always like is Michigan State wing Denzel Valentine. He is not considered a top prospect and doesn't do anything great, but does nearly everything pretty well. He's averaging 18.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 6.6 assists per game and shoots 43.2% from 3 on 7.7 attempts per game. He would be a nice "glue" guy for the Wolves and would provide great depth at the wing, as I imagine he would be able to play at either the two or three.
All this being said, I firmly believe in not drafting for fit but instead selecting the best player available and worrying about fit later. Between Simmons and Ingram, I think Ingram is the better fit long term, but if the Wolves miraculously end up with the first pick I'd be shocked if they didn't select Simmons. Sure, he may not be perfect fit alongside the rest of the young Wolves (i.e. he's not a great shooter), but he possesses that "once in a generation" type talent that a team simply can't pass up. Imagine 6'10" Simmons playing the point forward along side Andrew Wiggins, stretch-five Karl-Anthony Towns, and a coach that wants the team to use that height to be more aggressive on the offensive glass. That may be the perfect antidote for defeating teams like the Golden State Warriors.
What do you need to see from Zach / Tyus over the rest of the season to not feel like back up PG is a priority this summer? #canismailbag— SlowBreak (@AverageJer) February 4, 2016
This is an interesting question because I'm not sure there is anything either can do at this point that would make me think backup point guard isn't a need. But at the same time, I don't think that the Wolves necessarily need to make a move to pick up a point guard this summer either. I think a consensus has been reached that Zach LaVine is not a point guard and that his future is at the shooting guard position. However, until he bulks up some or until Jones steps up, I don't see him getting fewer minutes at the point. I think Wolves fans shouldn't see LaVine's time playing point guard as the team trying to develop him into strictly a point guard, but rather as a way to develop his skills so that he can be more effective as a shooting guard. It seems kind of counterintuitive, but by getting minutes at the point, LaVine is learning skills (decision making, court vision, ball handling, etc.) that will give him an advantage over opposing guards. If LaVine can develop into a competent combo guard, that will only make the Wolves more dangerous in the future and I think that is the team's goal. Unfortunately, LaVine is going to have to experience a lot of growing pains and frustration before that dream becomes a reality.
As for Jones, the biggest thing he needs is time and game repetitions. I would like to see him get more burn down in the D-league so he can get more experience playing against professional basketball players. I think we've seen signs that he can be a competent backup guard in the league, at least offensively, but he just needs to mature physically and see more action. Ultimately, I think Jones will be a fine backup, so that's my main reason why I'm not too concerned with acquiring a backup point guard this summer, but if they do, I'd expect it to be a short-term deal.
Alright, with this I'm going to say the Wolves end up with the 5th pick and am going to try to make it at least somewhat realistic. The depth chart would look something like:
PG: Rubio, Jones, (filler)
SG: Wiggins, LaVine, Buddy Hield (5th pick),
SF: Harrison Barnes, Muhammad, (filler)
PF: Bjelica, Garnett, Payne
C: Towns, Dieng, Pekovic(?)
And my favorite/dream rotation would be:
Rubio, Hield, Wiggins, Barnes, Towns
I think this lineup would only see 10 or so minutes per game, but space the floor with Hield, Barnes, and KAT, let Wiggins attack the rim, let Rubio work his magic, and imagine that buckets that would be gotten. But, my goodness, would this team lack defense. Oh well.
I am a huge fan of Rubio; in fact, he's the main reason I became such a huge fan of the Wolves. I think, league wide, he's pretty underrated and think he deserves to be in the top 10 point guard discussion.
As for what is a bigger need, right now I'd lean towards a wing, specifically a 3-and-D wing, because I still have hope that Nemanja Bjelica can become a good NBA stretch four. I think bringing in a new coach that embraces a more modern approach to the game would do wonders for Bjelica, especially for his confidence. It seems like right now he is overthinking things when he is on the court and seems to be afraid of making a mistake rather than playing within the flow of the game. A more modern offense would best highlight Bjelica's skill set and would allow him to play his style of game, which, in theory, would prevent him from thinking too much.
Brining in a 3-and-D wing (like Barnes or Nicolas Batum) would provide a perfect complement to Andrew Wiggins and would allow him to log most, if not all, of his minutes at the two, where he can provide match up nightmares for opponents. I think it is critical to get a guy who can also function as a small ball four, which would give the Wolves' offense an element that it currently doesn't possess. That's part of the reason why I think Barnes would be a perfect fit for the Wolves.
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Thanks to everyone who submitted question. Maybe I'll have to do another mailbag again at some point in the future.