We spend a lot of time arguing over drafting for fit versus drafting the best player available, with the consensus seeming that BPA is usually the way to go. I have been thinking a lot about this as we head into draft season, and have concluded, as others have here and elsewhere, that it isn’t so simple. Certainly, there are clear-cut cases—you don’t want to miss out on drafting Michael Jordan because you already have Clyde Drexler on the roster, for example.
But cases like this are rare, and especially anywhere but the very top of the draft, team needs must come into play, if only because players lose value if they don’t get opportunities.
I’ve been thinking about this because I’m struggling to come to a conclusion about who my favorites are for the Wolves at pick 11, so I thought I would sort through their needs and see what matches we can find.
From a skills standpoint, the Wolves needs are not limited. They need players who can defend at all positions and execute a well-developed defensive scheme, they need three-point shooting, and they need shot-creating from the perimeter. And of course we don’t know what roster changes they might make beyond the draft (or even if they will keep their draft picks.)
From there, let’s go by position and see what’s out there:
Point guard is certainly a need for the Wolves, with Jeff Teague entering the last year of his deal, and Tyus Jones a restricted free agent whose future is up in the air. Jones, in my view, deserves more consideration for a starting role than he’s really gotten so far in his career, though there are flaws in his game. His shooting has not been consistent, and he’s not a guy who creates out of isolation. On the other hand, he’s historically great at not turning the ball over, plays smart defense, and the team generally has responded well with him in the game.
The draft doesn’t offer much at this position. The two top point guards, Darius Garland and Coby White, will certainly be gone before the Wolves pick, and there is nobody else really worth considering at that spot. (We’ll address Nickeil Alexander-Walker in the wings section.)
The second round might be a spot they take a flyer on a point guard, if certain players fall that far. Shamorie Ponds from St. Johns is a guy I think would be a steal with the 43rd pick, though I don’t really think he’ll last that long. He’s a guy who is skilled at getting in the paint and making things happen, and has some defensive chops as well.
Still, anyone they get in the second round is likely to top out as a back up.
For once, the Wolves actually have a good number of wings under contract for next season. Whether they are good enough to win is another question. Robert Covington, when healthy, is their best wing and second best player. He’s also the only wing on the roster who finished above the 50th percentile among NBA players in points per possession in spot-up situations. The Wolves definitely need better shooting out of their wing players, with hopes that Josh Okogie can improve his three point accuracy.
Beyond those two and Andrew Wiggins, Keita Bates-Diop showed some poise and talent as a rookie, and Cam Reynolds was a useful pick-up from the G-League, but neither of those guys really demands a bigger role.
In addition to a lack of shooting, none of the current wings really functions well as a secondary ball-handler/shot-creator.
Once again, there is a dearth of available guys who fit here. Alexander-Walker, mentioned above, might work as a secondary ball-handler who can do a bit of everything, but his limited athleticism and lack of an elite skill might hold him back. Nobody is mocking him as high as the 11th pick.
There have been murmurs that DeAndre Hunter of Virginia might fall into the Wolves range; that would be interesting. He’s viewed as a prototypical three-and-D small forward prospect, and he measured well, but he is not a great shooter. It would be tough to ignore him if he drops to 11, at that point the value proposition is probably too good. In the end, he probably goes earlier.
The Wolves have been connected to Rui Hachimura, another big wing/small four. Hachimura has scoring chops in and around the paint, but doesn’t stretch the floor, is not creator for others, and lacks feel on defense. For me, the negatives outweigh, and no matter how the draft plays out there will be players I prefer available.
A dark horse possibility for the Wolves is Tyler Herro. He fits Meyer’s PKP (Pick Kentucky Players) model. Herro emerged as one of Kentucky’s best players this season, and looks like he will develop into a good shooter in both spot-up and off-screen situations. He can make a pass as well. His short arms and lack of driving ability hinders him, but he’s young.
Other names to keep an eye on are Sekou Doumbouya, a French development project, and Nassir Little from North Carolina.
Here is where the draft perhaps best coincides with some of the Wolves needs. With Taj Gibson a free agent, the Wolves are down to Dario Saric and a couple of big small forwards as guys under contract who can play the power forward. The league is looking for fours who can do a lot of things: Stretch the floor from three, rim protect, guard quicker players on the perimeter, and switch over several positions.
None of the available guys do all of that, but there are several players who can do at some of them.
Brandon Clarke from Gonzaga has been a bit of a polarizing player. He’s old for a prospect, did not measure well at the combine, and doesn’t shoot from range. On the other hand, his athletic testing was fantastic, and his production on both sides of the ball cannot be ignored. He was arguably the second best player in college basketball this season. He defends well across several positions, and scores efficiently in and around the paint.
P.J. Washington (PKP!) showed some shooting ability and versatility on defense, along with a bit of shot blocking, but doesn’t appear likely to be great at anything in particular.
Grant Williams, a central cog on a surprisingly successful Tennessee squad this season is another player who does just about everything reasonably well, but nothing outstanding. These sorts of players make me a little nervous.
Jaxson Hayes, a center from Texas, is also expected to go somewhere from mid-to-late lottery, and I suppose here I would worry about fit. It’s hard to see him getting on the floor much with both Karl-Anthony Towns and Gorgui DIeng on the roster. They could perhaps experiment with Hayes playing next to Towns and protecting the rim, but it’s not a combination that is going to work long term with the way the NBA is trending.
My best guess if they use the 11th pick is that it will be for either a power-forward, a wing who drops like Hunter or possibly Cam Reddish or a shooter like Herro.
Needs and availability dictate that a point guard, center, or non-shooting wing is far less likely a selection.
What do you see as the Wolves big needs?