The back-court is the Minnesota Timberwolves’ biggest long-term question mark right now. Mike Conley was solid after coming over from the Utah Jazz, but he turns 36 in October and has just one season left on his contract. All three of Nickeil Alexander-Walker (RFA), Jaylen Nowell (UFA) and Austin Rivers (UFA) are set to enter some form of free agency, and Jordan McLaughlin struggled to get back into the rotation late in the season after dealing with a significant calf strain that sidelined him for months.
Anthony Edwards may be capable of being a high-usage offensive hub, but he’s still going to need capable guard creators alongside him. In any case, the more playmaking talent the Wolves put around Edwards, the easier it will be for him to consistently impact the game.
It’s always going to be hard to find reliable guards in the second round of the NBA Draft. It’s hard enough for the elite talents to acclimate to the speed and difficulty of the NBA game; expecting prospects with even more questions to be successful early is not a high-percentage bet.
That being said, here are a few prospects who could be on the board when the Wolves are on the clock in the second round at No. 53 overall and have a chance to become the proverbial needle in a haystack.
(Listed in alphabetical order by last name so no, these aren’t rankings. All stats from Sports-Reference unless otherwise stated.)
Amari Bailey | UCLA | 6-foot-4 | 191 pounds
Bailey was a five-star, top-five recruit in the 2022 class. It was intriguing for a famous high school player at Sierra Canyon to go play for a known defensive stickler in Mick Cronin and split ball handling duties with long-time starting point guard Tyger Campbell on a veteran-laden team.
Bailey displays real intensity and ability as a one-on-one defender, can make some plays in the pick-and-roll and pull up for midrange jumpers. He had a negative assist-to-turnover ratio — tightening his handle and decision-making will help with that — and needs to make his long-range shooting mechanics more consistent, especially on pull-ups. These skills, in combination with the fact that he started 28 of his 30 games for one of the best teams in the country, indicate that he can fit alongside a star such as Edwards.
Bailey had some questionable performances but really stepped up for the Bruins at the end of the season when Jaylen Clark went down. He averaged 17.3 points on 56/47/82 splits, 4.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and only 2.5 turnovers in six games between the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments.
The Chicago native also put on a good showing back home at the NBA Combine. He played well as a primary ball-handler and measured an 8-foot-7.5-inch standing reach, equaling bigger wings such as Cam Whitmore and Arthur Kaluma.
Mike Miles Jr. | TCU | 6-foot-1 | 205 pounds
Miles has been TCU’s primary offensive engine for a few seasons now. He returned to school last year to improve his scoring efficiency. In some ways he answered that question and in others there remain doubts.
The Horned Frogs’ star did a lot to address his biggest area of concern by improving massively as a catch-and-shoot player from 3 (25.6% as a sophomore to 41.7% as a junior). However, he also dropped from 32.4% to 22.2% on pull-up triples. Miles is obviously a talented playmaker, but he also took a slight step backward from averaging 3.8 assists to 2.7.
Miles’ measurements at the combine outline his biggest problem: He’s 6-foot-1 with a 6-foot-0.5-inch wingspan. He’s got a strong build at 205 pounds and defends his butt off, but there’s only going to be so much he can do at the next level.
Guards as small as Miles have to have virtually no skill weaknesses to survive. If he irons out some of his he can become a great backup guard option because of his real talent. But there are still a few obstacles to that simplified outcome.
Omari Moore | San Jose State | 6-foot-6 | 189 pounds
A bet on Moore is a bet on production and physical tools. Moore won the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year Award for 2023 and, at 6-foot-6 with long arms and some real explosion, should have some real advantages over NBA guards.
Moore averaged 17.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.8 assists as San Jose State’s offensive fulcrum, leading the team in scoring and assists. He’s comfortable getting to his jump shot, although his shooting percentages are all over the place in his four-year career.
The big concern with Moore is that his game fell off in other areas as his role increased. His 2-point field goal percentage fell each season, and his steal and block numbers both finished below one per game for the first time in his career.
Still, finding players who can break down the defense and pressure the rim is a huge priority for winning basketball. Moore combines the potential to do that with the size to hold his own in other areas of the game.
Terquavion Smith | NC State | 6-foot-3 | 163 pounds
Smith tested the waters in the 2022 NBA Draft but decided to return to school for his sophomore season. There he continued to be a spark-plug bucket-getter while making improvements to his playmaking (his assist-to-turnover ratio went from 1.24 to 1.84) and defense.
The issue is that those steps forward were not enough to alleviate the concerns about his viability at the next level, all of which stem from his size. Smith measured at 6-foot-2.5-inches without shoes and a sparse 163 pounds at the combine. He will always get bullied on defense with that frame.
That concern also comes into play with Smith’s finishing, although he did improve his field goal percentage at the rim from 46.3% as a freshman to 54.6% as a sophomore, per Synergy Sports.
Smith remains a microwave scorer with his ability to pull up from anywhere. His 3-point shooting took a slight dip in his second season with the Wolfpack, but he was good enough as a freshman (41.5% on catch-and-shoot jumpers per Synergy) that there shouldn’t be major concern. The real question remains if his scoring potential is worth the deficiencies that will likely always exist.
Isaiah Wong | Miami (Fla.) | 6-foot-3 | 178 pounds
It’s hard to have a better college resume than Wong, who helped lead Miami to its first-ever Elite Eight and then Final Four the last two seasons and capped off his 2022-23 campaign as the ACC Player of the Year. Wong hangs his hat on his scoring ability (averaging 16.1 points per game over the last three seasons) and has shown he contributes to winning basketball.
His speed with the ball helps him get to the rim seemingly at will, especially in transition where he was one of the most effective players in the country. His 3-point and free-throw percentages took significant jumps up to 38.4% and 84.5%, respectively, although the hitch in his form puts that translation under some doubt. He took some steps forward as a distributor, but he’ll still be better served as a scoring guard than a floor general.
Wong has focus issues as an off-ball defender and, like other players in this article, will always be a target on that end because of his size. Still, his quickness and relative length (6-foot-7 wingspan) helped him generate 1.4 steals per game as a fourth-year junior, so there’s hope on that end.