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Post-Lottery 3&D Prospects of the 2018 Draft

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There are a bounty of players with two-way upside who may be available when Thibs makes his pick.

NBA: Draft Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, it has been two decades since the Minnesota Timberwolves garnered a post-lottery NBA draft position. Yes, evaluating and projecting high-end prospects has long served as a post-season consolation for those who follow this franchise.

Wolves’ Draft History

Year First Round Pick
Year First Round Pick
2017 7
2016 5
2015 1
2014 13
2013 9
2012 Traded
2011 2
2010 4
2009 5&6
2008 3
2007 7
2006 6
2005 14
2000-2004 Joe Smith

Last season, though, we got to unabashedly root for wins instead of lottery seeding. Now, the playoff drought is behind us, and their reward for such improvements — plus a series of transactions with the Atlanta Hawks and Utah Jazz — is the 20th (and 48th) selection in Thursday’s draft.

With just days remaining for General Managers to finish their due-diligence, draft experts are making final predictions. Take a look at my collaboration of reputable mock drafts to see who the Wolves are expected to pick.

Deandre Ayton, a physically imposing center out of the University of Arizona, is the consensus number one option. Marvin Bagley actually has a lower average mock position than teenage Euroleague phenom Luka Dončić. And in defiance of the modern NBA, four big-men are forecast to be taken with the first five picks. But behind us are the days of splitting hairs between cream-of-the-crop amateur athletes; the Wolves won’t make their choice until several hours into the draft show, but they have numerous needs to address. Among them: depth on the wing, outside shooting and defensive versatility.

Head coach Tom Thibodeau relied on just three players to chew up minutes on the wing a majority of the time over the course of last season. Not surprisingly, they were plagued by a lack of versatility and bench production. Having such a shortage of capable perimeter players also proved detrimental to a defense that was anchored by an inexperienced rim-protector. When all was said and done, the Thibodeau-led Wolves finished 22nd by defensive rating.

What’s more, in a league that rewards efficiency above all else, this group ended the year ranked dead last of 30 teams in three-point shots attempted. The two players who averaged the most takes per game — Andrew Wiggins (33.1%) and Jamal Crawford (33.1%) — were among the roster’s most inefficient options. And the Wolves’ best long-range shooter, Karl-Anthony Towns, is also one of the league’s most dominant low-post threats. In order to maximize the elite one-on-one ability of individuals like Towns and Jimmy Butler, secondary outlets who can space the floor and demand a defender’s attention will be exceedingly valuable.

With all of that taken into account, the profile that fits the Wolves’ needs is a wing with the potential to defend and his threes. In accordance with what the experts are anticipating, there are a number of such prospects that could be available when the 20th pick rolls around. Here is the comparative data on a large group of them.

3&D Prospects — Athletic Profile

Prospect Position Year avg Mock Height w/o Shoes Wingspan Standing Reach Standing Vertical Leap Shuttle Run
Prospect Position Year avg Mock Height w/o Shoes Wingspan Standing Reach Standing Vertical Leap Shuttle Run
Troy Brown SF Fr 16.6 6'6.75" 6'10.25" 8'9" 26 3.29
Zhaire Smith SG-SF Fr 17 6'2.75" 6'9.75" 8'4" 33 3.15
Keita Bates Diop SG-SF Sr 20 6'7.25" 7'3.25" 8'10.5" 30.5 3.28
Kevin Huerter SG So 20 6'6.25" 6'7.5" 8'5.5" 31 2.97
Jerome Robinson G Jr 20.33 6'4" 6'7.25" 8'2" N/A N/A
Chandler Hutchinson SG Sr 21.8 6'7" 7'1" N/A N/A N/A
Melvin Frazier SG-SF Jr 23.5 6'4.5" 7'1.75" 8'9" 31 3.08
Donte DiVincenzo G So 23.8 6'3.5" 6'6" 8'1.5" 34.5 3.12
Dzanan Musa SF 19 yo 24.25 6'9" 6'8.75" N/A N/A N/A
Khyri Thomas SG Jr 24.5 6'2.5" 6'10.5" 8'5" 30 3.18
Jacob Evans SG-SF Jr 25.75 6'4.25" 6'9.25" 8'6.5" 28 3.14
De'Anthony Melton G So 26 6'2.25" 6'8.5" 8'3.5" 31 3.33
Josh Okogie SG So 27 6'3" 7'0" 8'6" 33 3.03
Grayson Allen SG Sr 27.5 6'3" 6'7.25" 8'1" 32.5 3.04
Bruce Brown SG So N/A 6'3.5" 6'9" 8'2.5" 32.5 3.44

Prior Season Statistics

Prospect MPG PTS REB AST EFG% 3PA 3P% FT% STL% BLK%
Prospect MPG PTS REB AST EFG% 3PA 3P% FT% STL% BLK%
Troy Brown 31.2 11.3 6.2 3.2 49.4% 3.1 29.1% 74.3% 2.9% 0.8%
Zhaire Smith 28.4 11.3 5 1.8 58.8% 1.1 45% 71.7% 2.3% 4.8%
Keita Bates Diop 33.1 19.8 8.7 1.6 54.4% 5.4 35.9% 79.4% 1.6% 5.9%
Kevin Huerter 34.4 14.8 5 3.4 61.6% 5.5 41.7% 75.8% 1.1% 2.1%
Jerome Robinson 36 20.7 3.6 3.3 56.4% 5.7 40.9% 83.0% 1.4% 0.4%
Chandler Hutchinson 31 20 7.7 3.5 52.8% 4.1 35.9% 72.8% 2.7% 0.9%
Melvin Frazier 34.4 15.9 5.6 2.9 61.0% 3 38.5% 71.2% 3.6% 2.2%
Donte DiVincenzo 29.3 13.4 4.8 3.5 59.0% 5.3 40.1% 71.0% 2.0% 0.7%
Dzanan Musa 20.2 10.5 3.2 0.9 55.8% 3.4 36.4% 75.6% 2.5% 1%
Khyri Thomas 31.7 15.1 4.4 2.8 62.9% 4.6 41.1% 78.8% 2.9% 0.8%
Jacob Evans 30.8 13 4.7 3.1 50.7% 4.5 37.0% 75.4% 2.6% 3.7%
De'Anthony Melton 27 8.3 4.7 3.5 48.3% 2.1 28.4% 70.6% 4.0% 3.9%
Josh Okogie 36.4 18.2 6.3 2.5 47.5% 4.2 38.0% 82.1% 2.9% 2.8%
Grayson Allen 35.6 15.5 3.3 4.6 53.6% 7.5 37.0% 85.0% 2.8% 0.2%
Bruce Brown 33.7 11.4 7.1 4 48.8% 3.2 26.7% 62.9% 2.3% 2.5%

Among the players detailed, Zhaire Smith and Troy Brown have the lowest likelihood of being obtainable with the Wolves on the clock. Smith is a freshman small forward out of Texas Tech. His explosive athleticism and defensive competence suggest a high upside, but he’ll need to improve his shooting mechanics to be effective from the NBA three-point line. Brown is a freshman wing from the University of Oregon. His size, versatility on defense and IQ as a playmaker make him similarly intriguing, but his age predicts that he’ll be gone before the 20th selection. And I didn’t even include Lonnie Walker, a freshman shooting guard out of Miami, because I’d be baffled if he isn’t already taken.

Still, what’s exciting about this draft as it relates to the Wolves is the depth of alluring prospects that can be envisioned in a role behind Wiggins or Butler. Let’s dig into a few that I’d love to see in a neon-green hat at the end of the night.

Khyri Thomas, Jacob Evans & Josh Okogie

Using his expansive and informative SMILODON 2.0 projections, mr. eggplant provided us with his player observations for these three wings. Each one of them has proven to be a productive defender in college, but something in their offensive repertoire leaves more to be desired.

SMILODON 2.0

Khyri Thomas

Shooting guard, 21.7 years old, 6’4” height & 6’10” wingspan
Highlights

Thomas is a defensive minded wing who played three seasons at Creighton University. He was honored as the Big East’s DPOY after both his Sophomore and Junior campaigns. His lateral quickness, off-ball intelligence and long, strong frame project him as a high-upside defender in the modern NBA.

NCAA Basketball: Big East Conference Tournament-Creighton vs Providence Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

On offense, Thomas shot 40.6% from deep on 3.1 attempts per game throughout his collegiate career, highlighted by a 41.1% clip on 4.6 attempts as a Junior. According to thestepien.com, he also shot 40.5% on three’s from NBA distance, slotting him in the 78th percentile among his NCAA peers. He was especially effective as a spot-up shooter, something the Wolves’ offense has consistently lacked. Thomas is strong off the ball, using his athletic ability to put himself in position at the rim, where he’s shown potential as a capable finisher. Continuing to refine what is at times a sloppy handle would allow him to take advantage of his quick first step.

But as it stands, Thomas is less than polished as a playmaker. A loose dribble and lacking vision indicate that he might struggle as a secondary ball-handler early in his career. And at 6’2.5” without shoes, there are questions about his potential to stand up to the bigger forwards that populate the league. Still, a combination of defensive prowess, spot-up shooting ability and age-withstanding upside make Thomas one of my favorite prospects for the Wolves to consider.

Jacob Evans

SG/SF, 20.6 years old, 6’6” height & 6’9.25” wingspan
Highlights

Evans is a junior from the University of Cincinnati. He profiles as a typical 3&D prospect with good size. I want to tell you all about him, because I would be excited to see the Wolves select him at 20, but you’d be better served to read the great piece that Joe Hulbert published last week.

Josh Okogie

Shooting guard, 19.4 years old, 6’4” height & 7’0” wingspan
Highlights

On offense, Okogie will fit in as an off-ball contributor with shooting potential. He connected on over 38% of his attempts from deep over two seasons at Georgia Tech. And while he’s struggled to finish at the rim, it hasn’t stopped him from experimenting on the drive and getting to the line at a very high rate; the 19 year old averaged 6.8 free throws attempted last season (he made 82% of them).

Okogie’s excellent measurements, nonstop-motor and ability as a help defender project him as a player who can match up against all three positions on the perimeter. That same energy has made him a productive rebounder for his position, pulling down more than six per game during his sophomore season.

In order to make his mark in the NBA, Okogie will need to improve his atypical jump shot. Part of the reason I like him for the Wolves is that he could be best in a non-featured role, an area of the game from which this team has been starved of production. But in order for Okogie to fill that void, he’ll need to show more consistency from beyond the arc.

Džanan Musa & Kevin Huerter

These two players are confident and elite three-point threats. But while there is upside to their two-way potential, the defensive end of the floor will come far less easy.

SMILODON 2.0

Džanan Musa

Forward, 18.7 years old, 6’9” height & 6’8.5” wingspan
Highlights

Musa is a Bosnian player who competed his last two seasons in the Croation League. He is a gifted offensive talent; capable and creative with the ball in his hand, shifty in maneuvering the paint and an effective shooter with a quick release. He’s fast off the dribble and shows flashes out of the pick-and-roll. If his jumper can provide him sufficient respect, there’s loads of upside to his offensive game.

In the NBA, Musa will need to focus on shot selection and improving as a finisher. On the other end of the floor, a lack of size and length has limited his production, and it’s difficult to imagine a high defensive ceiling if he doesn’t add considerable muscle. Still, the abilities he’s shown at such a young age make this European one of the most compelling options for Thibodeau and the Wolves.

SMILODON 2.0 - Player Comparisons

Kevin Huerter

Shooting guard, 19.4 years old, 6’7” height & 6’7.5” wingspan
Highlights

Did you watch those highlights? If you haven’t, you should. Huerter is a dead-eye shooter who played his college ball at the University of Maryland. He hits the kind of long-range and off-balance threes that you tend to see from the NBA’s most prolific marksmen. While his athleticism isn’t obvious, it’s easy to see his outside shot translating at the next level.

He’s comfortable hitting pull-up, step-back or catch-and-shoot threes. Huerter also shows poise making plays for his teammates in the flow of an offense. But while he stands at an exciting 6’7”, a similar lack of frame, short arms and sluggish lateral movement may limit his ceiling as an NBA defender.

Of concern: it was reported that Huerter had surgery to repair injured ligaments in his shooting (right) hand. He’ll only be sidelined for about two months, but we’ve seen pre-draft injuries plummet a players’ value innumerable times in the past.

NCAA Basketball: Maryland at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Beyond this crowd of players that I like as fits for what the Wolves need, there are even more exciting prospects with potential to be two-way contributors. De’Anthony Melton is perhaps the most intriguing of any wing predicted to be taken in this range of the draft; he was one of the most ferocious defenders around the country in 2016-17, but missed the entire next season amid the NCAA’s federal bribery probe. Keita Bates-Diop, last year’s Big 10 player of the year, combines tremendous size and shooting ability, while Melvin Frazier and Chandler Hutchison have three-point potential and defense to boot.

In two full season’s since Thibodeau was hired in Minnesota, there isn’t much to be shown for his draft-pick production. Kris Dunn, his principal selection as an NBA executive, was traded to the Chicago Bulls after a volatile rookie year. And Justin Patton, obtained in the same transaction, spent most of last season recovering from injury. With a talented roster lacking for cap-space, now is the time to unearth a gem. Whoever joins the Wolves this Thursday night will be in great position to add to the edges of a capable core.

Give me Khyri Thomas. If not him, Jacob Evans or Kevin Huerter. Who do you hope to see with the Wolves?