As you are well aware by now, the Minnesota Timberwolves have been extremely busy over the last few weeks, interviewing a handful of candidates for both the president of basketball operations job as well as the head coaching position. We’ve covered these moves from all angles and all opinions, including here, here, here, here, and here.
While the debate on whether or not both Gersson Rosas and Ryan Saunders are up to the seemingly insurmountable task of rebuilding the Wolves will rage on well into the future, it’s officially time to start focusing on tangible events that will shape this franchise for years to come. Enough kumbaya, enough tee-ball press conference questions from Sid Hartman, and enough emphasis on 2019 corporate buzzwords like “alignment” and “transparency.” It’s time to (actually) get to work.
With that in mind, the next major event on the NBA calendar (for franchises not located in Oakland, Milwaukee, and Toronto) is the NBA Draft, which will take place on Thursday, June 20th in Brooklyn, NY. After another very Wolvesy NBA Draft Lottery, Minnesota is slated to pick eleventh, nine spots ahead of where they drafted last summer (progress!)
So who exactly is in the mix for the #11 pick? After reviewing mocks for roughly 14 minutes last night, I feel relatively comfortable anointing myself as a 2019 Draft Expert, so let’s tackle some of the major mocks on the Internet and discuss how each projected player could fit on this Wolves roster.
The Ringer: Brandon Clarke
The product of Gonzaga, Brandon Clarke was a trendy name entering the NBA Combine, due to his versatility on defense and his ever-improving offense prowess. Unfortunately for the young power forward, Clarke was a major disappointment when the tape measurers came out, displaying a wingspan that was only three inches longer than North Carolina’s Coby White (who, if you’ll remember, is a point guard). A 6’8” forward with short arms rarely translates well to the NBA, but Clarke did make up for his T-Rex frame with some impressive athletic measurements, including a 41-inch vertical and 4.9% body fat.
The Ringer’s player comparisons (which I am an absolute sucker for by the way) list Clarke’s major comps as Paul Millsap, Pascal Siakam, and Kris Humphries. Two of those names clearly jump off the page, but it should be noted that both Millsap and Siakim sport a 7’3” wingspan, meaning the comparison to these two highly productive stars falls short (literally).
Two quick notes — one, it should also be noted that Clarke will turn 23 years old before he ever steps on a real NBA floor, which is a sneaky disaster in terms of player development. Some may argue that age isn’t a big deal, but Clarke is essentially 14 months younger than Karl-Anthony Towns, and has played zero minutes of professional basketball.
Secondly, this would probably be the appropriate time to mention that Clarke was college teammates last season with another first-round draft prospect. Which leads me into...
Sports Illustrated: Rui Hachimura
As Eric wrote about last week, there were rumors circling around the Combine that the Wolves had made the infamous “draft promise” to Rui, which would support why he withdrew from of the Combine altogether.
Now, before you panic, let’s break this down quickly. Gersson Rosas was named president of basketball operation on May 3rd, and had his official introductory press conference on May 6th. Meanwhile, Hachimura officially opted out of the NBA Combine on May 8th, less than 48 hours from when Rosas aligned the organization with his strategy. Are you seriously telling me that before ever receiving his first physical paycheck, the man who preaches process and due diligence really took a quick text break to make a draft promise before completing his HR modules? I’m not necessarily calling bullshit on this rumor of a draft promise, but I’m also not not doing that.
Anyway, back to Rui. SI discussed how NBA teams love his “alpha-dog mentality, physical tools and defensive switchability” while also suggesting that his offensive skills, while raw, have the potential to round out nicely as a second scorer and versatile playmaker. Hachimura is the same height as Clarke, but does possess a longer wingspan (drink!) and a little more meat on his bones. Going back to The Ringer player comps, Rui is paired mostly with the Morris Twins, Jabari Parker, and “a washed Carmelo Anthony.” Well when you put it that way!
NBA.com: Bol Bol
Living out in Oregon, I actually had the opportunity to watch Bol Bol play once in person, and the kid did not disappoint, pouring in 32 points (including four three-pointers!) and 11 rebounds. However, that was against national powerhouse Texas Southern, and not against the Denver Nuggets or Golden State Warriors.
Standing 7’2” and possessing a 7’7” wingspan, Bol does possess the physical traits (along with sneaky agility) to be a defensive force in the NBA. When you pair that with his ability to consistently stretch the floor (Bol connected on 13-of-25 threes during his time as a Duck) and his desire to protect the rim, you can see how lottery teams would be salivating at the idea of drafting a, as The Ringer describes it, “present-day Brook Lopez.”
However, as the popular saying goes “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.” I’ve seen a lot of Bol Bol’s come into the league, and even a greater amount of Bol Bol’s quickly exit the league. The league is becoming even more guard-centric, and players like Bol are finding less and less opportunities on NBA rosters. Can Bol’s ability to score from the outside make him more Kristaps Porzingis and less Hasheem Thabeet? The team that ultimately drafts him will definitely hope so, but the risk here just seems far more dangerous than the reward (and that’s before taking into account Bol’s nagging foot injury that ended his Oregon career after just 9 games. To put it frankly, I’d rather smoke a bowl than draft a Bol.
As the Draft rapidly approaches, we’ll continue to monitor various mocks and discuss all the rumors here at Canis Hoopus. I know the community is far more advanced when it comes to college scouting than I am, so please continue to fill up the comment sections with your analysis on this class and who you think could be a steal at #11. With the Wolves limited on resources and cap space, Rosas is going to have to swing for the fences if he wants to kick off his tenure with a bang.
As the dust continues to settle on Ryan Saunders introductory press conference announcing him as the next head coach of the Wolves, the attention now turns specifically to the elephant in the room: who exactly is Ryan going to bring in to round out his coaching staff? Well, I hope you're sitting down for this one, because...
Sam Mitchell leaves #Memphis coach Penny Hardaway's staff (from @AP) #GTG https://t.co/cghilh7NRy— Teresa Walker (@TeresaMWalker) May 21, 2019
Now, at the time of this posting, there has been no official statement as to why Sam Mitchell decided to step away from his gig as one of Penny Hardaway’s top assistants, but let’s be honest here - this isn’t yours or mine’s first rodeo.
Could there be a simple explanation for why Mitchell left Memphis? Maybe. Could the grind of college recruiting be too much for the 55-year old? Possibly. But for this news to break just hours after Ryan’s press conference seems a little too coincidental to this aspiring journalist.