As you enjoy your Thursday morning cup of coffee we are going to start a new series here in Canis Land. There are five Thursday’s leading up to draft night, which is Thursday, June 20. Each Thursday morning, we’re going to analyze a different position group based upon who does and does not make sense for the Timberwolves to target with their first pick.
Of course, this is a complicated task, so here are a few of the ground rules that we’re going to be abiding by:
- Fit matters. I get the Best Player Available approach. Sometimes, the best thing to do is just to throw a bunch of talent together and hope it works out. In the Timberwolves case, they have a few very specific needs. Additionally, this draft has very little separation from the mid-lottery through pretty much the end of the first round. Among players with similar talent levels, it makes no sense to not take fit into account.
- We’re going to try to be as realistic as possible. Darius Garland is almost certainly not going to slide to 11, and the Wolves don’t really have the assets to move up in the lottery. The most likely scenario is going to be picking at 11, but the idea of trading back is legitimate. Therefore, we’ll consider players who should be available at pick 11 as well as who they might target if they did trade back to the latter half of the first round.
- For the Point Guard group, offense was weighted much more heavily than defense. If the Wolves take a PG, whoever they take is going to spend a lot of time on the floor with Robert Covington and Josh Okogie. That luxury will allow whoever they take to hide on the worst guard/wing the opposition has on the floor.
- We want your input, too. I’m not going to pretend to be as adept as covering the draft as the old DraftExpress was. The draft is largely a crapshoot. Let’s hear your ideas/thoughts in the comments. If you think my ideas are dumb, feel free to go right ahead and roast me.
Alright, let’s dig in.
On the current roster, Tyus Jones is the only player that figures to be in the long-term plans. He’s a great backup point guard, and could be a serviceable table setter alongside the starters. He is also relatively small, and is limited in terms of what he is capable of on both ends of the floor. He has an obvious positive impact, but there is a ceiling for this team if he is the starter. It would be foolish to bring in a player who has those same characteristics. They don’t need to duplicate Tyus. He’s great at what he does, but an infusion of creativity, scoring, and/or shooting at the position would be ideal.
Out of Range
Ja Morant, Darius Garland, Coby White
So, yeah, the Wolves almost certainly aren’t getting one of these guys. Morant is going number two to Memphis. It would be surprising, if not entirely shocking, if Garland wasn’t gone after Phoenix picks at 6, and the same goes for White with Chicago at 7. That Bulls pick feels like the floor for this group. Honestly, if one of these three is available at 11, it’s probably because a medical issue came up for one of them. In that scenario, the Wolves may have to take that risk on, but it would still be a big risk.
First Round Prospect — Stay Away
Look, almost all of the point guards or lead guards in this draft fit the bill of what the Wolves could use from the position in some way, shape, or form. The one draft eligible player who would probably have been on this list had they declared would’ve been Tre Jones, just because of how poor of a shooter he is. As we’ll get to next, most of the other ball handlers in this class have the potential to bring some shooting and pop to the Wolves. There are definitely guys that would be a reach at 11, but there’s a few interesting options should the Wolves trade down.
Pick 11 Target
You can argue about whether or not he should truly be classified as a “Point Guard,” but a lot of what is intriguing about NAW is predicated around his potential as a ball handler. He wasn’t asked to play the position at Virginia Tech, but he averaged 4 assists per game anyways.
What an absolute dime from Nickeil Alexander-Walker pic.twitter.com/A5ailUmGBo— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) March 26, 2019
He’d bring size to the position that Tyus does not, standing 6’5.5” with a 6’9.5” wingspan, which helped him accrue nearly two steals per game in his Sophomore season.
Aside from the size he would bring, he’d also bring shooting. He has very sound shooting form which led to a 38.3% mark from beyond the arc over his two collegiate seasons. He also made 76% of his free throws, so it would appear the shooting is legitimate.
To be clear, NAW wouldn’t solve all of the Wolves issues at the point guard position. He probably won’t ever be a bonafide star. You’re rarely able to find those guys after the first few picks. He’d likely be a steady offensive player if he can cut down on his turnovers, and would provide some much needed shooting from the perimeter.
If Alexander-Walker is the pick, it would be interesting to see whether he or Tyus would be the starter long-term. They’d bring different things to the table, but their impact on the overall success would project to be relatively similar.
Trade Back Targets
If the Timberwolves do trade back, it would likely be into the early-to-mid 20s. I may be higher on Edwards than most, but I’d be fine with taking him in that scenario. He wouldn’t be my first choice, necessarily, but it would be fine. The Wolves, at this spot, would be picking Tyus’ backup if they take a point guard. Having Tyus as a table setter to run the offense with Edwards as a little ball of shooting and scoring off the bench isn’t the worst possible outcome.
He’s small (6’1”), so there’s little chance that he could ever share the floor with Tyus, but he could probably be a fun jitterbug off the bench. He only made 44% of his two-pointers in the 2018-19 season, which probably had more to do with his shot selection than his size since he does sport a 6’6” wingspan. If the Wolves go with Edwards in a trade back scenario, they’re counting on his shooting and scoring making up for his questionable decision making skills.
In Jerome, the Wolves would be getting a tall lead guard (6’5.5”) who can shoot the heck out of the ball. Jerome made 39% of his three-point attempts over his 105 games at Virginia. It won’t be shocking to anyone that a Virginia point guard also takes great care of the ball, only averaging 1.6 turnovers per game. Again, as a potential backup, you could do worse than a guy with size and the ability to shoot. He’ll be nearly 22 on draft night, so he is what he is at this point. That might just be enough to improve the Timberwolves point guard situation, though.
This is the most intriguing option, in my opinion. Ponds was tasked with handling a huge load at Saint John’s, and he mostly lived up to the task. His career three-point percentage at Saint John’s is only 32.8%, but his junior year percentage of 35.3 and freshmen year percentage of 37.5% figure to be better indicators of his shooting ability given his career 84% conversion rate from the free-throw line. So far, it seems that he’s impressed in the pre-draft process as well.
Shamorie Ponds had a nice game in his first combine scrimmage this year. Showed his capability of shooting off the dribble & his passing. His handles looked really good. It allowed him to get himself & teammates open. His passing is very underrated & deserves more recognition pic.twitter.com/DitDbQPJGs— Zach Milner (@ZachMilner13) May 18, 2019
He’s creative as hell, and that’s something that the Timberwolves are sorely missing on this roster. If I had to bet on one of these three late-first options to eventually challenge Tyus for the starting job, I’d be putting my money on Ponds. Sign me up for some of this.
This pass ahead by Shamorie Ponds is pretty insane. To be able to throw this kind of pass with your off-hand is very impressive pic.twitter.com/mzJT23K5Hl— Zach Milner (@ZachMilner13) May 14, 2019
And that’s that! Comment below to tell me where I went right/wrong.