And just like that, the NBA offseason is officially underway.
After defeating the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, the Toronto Raptors had approximately 36 hours to celebrate winning some really big rings, before being upstaged by the true champion of The Association: Adrian Wojnarowski.
The Pelicans have agreed to a deal to trade Anthony Davis to the Lakers for Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and three first-round picks – including the No. 4 overall in 2019 Draft, league sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 15, 2019
With the first (and largest) domino to finally fall, the NBA now quickly pivots from focusing on championships and #ringz to ceilings and wingspans (drink!). As you know by now, after winning the Zion sweepstakes back in May, the New Orleans Pelicans are officially on the clock. With the AD trade now behind them, the Pelicans are loaded with enough assets to make even Danny Ainge jealous, and their extensive war chest should make for an extremely active Thursday night.
As you read this, franchises around the league are frantically meeting with players for last minute workouts, interviews, etc. as they continue to finalize their draft boards leading up to tomorrow night’s big event. Simultaneously, those of us who cover the league are also frantically updating our big boards and mock drafts to avoid pulling a Chad Ford later on down the road.
So where does that leave us? Well, because it is draft season, I thought I’d quickly put together my own NBA Mock Draft (lottery protected), and see how I stack up against the big boys. Now, before you scream “aNoThEr MoCk?” and zoom to the comments, here’s the catch — as you know, the Minnesota Timberwolves have been terrible for as long as we all can remember, which means they have spent an inordinate amount of time on draft night picking players at (or near) the top. So for this mock, I’m adding a Timberwolves Twist — a quick look at the best player selected by Minnesota at each lottery spot and how that player’s career turned out for the Wolves.
Without further ado...
1. New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson
Best Timberwolves Pick: Karl-Anthony Towns
While the Wolves have never moved up in the lottery in the history of the franchise, they did hold on for dear life back in 2015 to win the Karl-Anthony Towns sweepstakes, altering the franchise for years to come (and if you don’t believe me, just imagine what this team would look like if they had fallen to #2 or #3... they would probably be known as the Seattle Amazon Dogs by now).
At just 23 years old, Towns has already secured two All-Star bids and just missed making an All-NBA team last season. With his new five-year max extension inked last fall, KAT looks to be the star foundation piece going forward for the New Wolves Order to (attempt to) properly build around.
2. Memphis Grizzlies - Ja Morant
Best Timberwolves Pick: Derrick Williams
Full transparency - I turned 30 in October and one of my goals for this year was to be more honest, humble, and overall adult-like. With that in mind, let me just put this out there for the whole Internet to see — I was uber confident that Derrick Williams was going to be LeBron James Lite.
Coming out of Arizona, I thought Williams had the perfect combination of physical tools and offensive skill to be a dominant wing player for the next decade. I even remember celebrating when the Wolves didn’t win the lottery that year because I was so sure that Derrick would be a much better prospect than that random Duke kid who played like 8 games (spoiler alert: that random Duke kid turned out to be an All-NBA Point Guard who hit one of the five biggest shots in NBA history. Whoops!)
After just two full seasons, Williams was traded to the Sacramento Kings in a straight swap for Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Williams has gone on to play for six NBA teams (Knicks, Cavaliers, Heat, and Lakers), and I have gone on to constantly think “what if” after the Wolves selected Williams over players like Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, and the Board Man himself Kawhi Leonard.
3. New York Knicks - R.J. Barrett
Best Timberwolves Pick: Christian Laettner
The honorable mention here for pick #3 is OJ Mayo, who was traded on draft night to the Memphis Grizzlies for Kevin Love. As for Laettner, he spent three full seasons in Minnesota before being shipped out in a deal for Spud Webb.
I’m dating myself a little here, but as an 8-year old, I don’t really remember much from the Wolves back then, but a quick glance of Basketball Reference will tell you that Laettner’s best professional years came while wearing a Wolves uniform, where he averaged 18 points and 8 rebounds. As mentioned above, the big man from Duke was traded in 1995 for a multitude of reasons, including his perceived negative attitude and inability to coexist with teammates, including the team’s first round pick from that season — one Mr. Kevin Garnett.
4. New Orleans Pelicans - Darius Garland
Best Timberwolves Pick: Donyell Marshall
The Wolves have selected fourth overall just twice in their franchise’s history — the first time they used the pick to draft Donyell Marshall back in 1994, and the second time to draft Wesley Johnson in 2010. Deciding which of these players was the “best” pick was like deciding between a root canal and a colonoscopy, but I’ll give the nod to Marshall who (despite being traded during his rookie season for Tom Gugliotta) actually went on to have a long, fruitful NBA career, including in 1999-2000 when he averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Golden State Warriors.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers - Jarrett Culver
Best Timberwolves Pick: Kevin Garnett
The best to ever do it in Minnesota, The Big Ticket was selected fifth in the 1995 draft behind Joe Smith, Antonio MyDyess, Jerry Stackhouse, and Rasheed Wallace. Entering the draft directly from high school, Garnett paved the way for future prep stars like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Amare Stoudamire, and Tracy McGrady to do the same, and his first 12 seasons in Minnesota (prior to being traded to Boston) are without a doubt the high point for a franchise that has seen little to no success without him on the roster.
As it currently stands today, KG owns basically every single basketball record in franchise history (points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, minutes played, etc.). Seems like the type of accomplishment that would deserve getting your jersey retired, no?
6. Phoenix Suns - De’Andre Hunter
Best Timberwolves Pick: Brandon Roy
When it comes to trading players on draft night, sometimes you win (OJ Mayo for Kevin Love) and sometimes you lose (Brandon Roy for Randy Foye). During his first four years in Portland, Roy’s offensive skill set positioned him as a future hall of famer, before unfortunately succumbing to knee injuries which ended his career at just 26 years old. Roy actually did attempt to make a comeback (with the Timberwolves no less!), but managed to play in only five games before officially hanging them up once and for all. What could have been...
7. Chicago Bulls - Coby White
Best Timberwolves Pick: Corey Brewer
NCAA champion. NBA champion. Scoring champion (well sort of):
8. Atlanta Hawks - Cam Reddish
Best Timberwolves Pick: N/A
The Wolves have selected a whole bunch of times in the Lottery, but ironically have never been slotted in the eighth spot.
9. Washington Wizards - Jaxson Hayes
Best Timberwolves Pick: Trey Burke
This was one of the (rare) draft wins of my career. Despite leading his team to the 2013 NCAA Finals, I just never bought into the hype for a streaky shooter who was an inch shorter than I was. Burke was traded on draft night to the Utah Jazz for two later first round draft picks (#14 and #21), a strategy I fully endorse any time a draft is perceived to be flat and have similar value in the middle as it does towards the bottom (cc: Gersson Rosas).
Unfortunately for Minnesota, those two later first round picks were used on Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng instead of CJ McCollum and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Whoops again!
10. Atlanta Hawks - Sekou Doumbouya
Best Timberwolves Pick: Pooh Richardson
Pooh was drafted less than a year after I was born, so apologies for not having a plethora of Pooh takes, but from what I can tell from sleuthing around the Internet he was a pretty slick guard out of UCLA (although he was drafted ahead of guys like Tim Hardaway and Shawn Kemp). Like many other Wolves lottery picks, Pooh was eventually traded (along with Sam Mitchell) to the Indiana Pacers for Chuck Person.
11. Minnesota Timberwolves - Brandon Clarke
Best Timberwolves Pick: Sekou Doumbouya*
Confusing, right? Up until this year, the Wolves have never drafted eleventh overall, so whoever they end up taking tomorrow night will etch their name into Wolves lottery folklore. With that said, it seems more and more unlikely that Doumbouya will last to pick #11, which makes me (and many of the Canis alums) very, very distraught.
I’m still buzzing from the Rosas Kool-Aid, so the Wolves could basically draft anyone and I’d be like “Yeah! This will work!” but honestly, anyone other than Sekou seems like a single or double, rather than a swing for the fences.
12. Charlotte Hornets - Nickeil Alexander-Walker
Best Timberwolves Pick: N/A
In addition to #8, this is the only other spot in the entire lottery that the Wolves have never drafted.
13. Miami Heat - Nassir Little
Best Timberwolves Pick: Zach LaVine
Speaking of swinging for the fences, LaVine represents the exact type of home run pick that franchises like Minnesota have to take in today’s NBA climate. While I’m not sure LaVine will ever provide enough on defense to contribute to winning basketball, it’s hard to argue he wasn’t a fantastic selection at #13, behind guys like Dante Exum, Nik Stauskas, Noah Vonleh, Elfrid Payton, and Doug McDermott.
Before being traded to the Chicago Bulls as part of the Jimmy Butler trade, LaVine was a fan favorite in Minnesota due to his exceptional work ethic and dedication to the community. While his game still holds a lot to be desired, the Wolves would be wise to take another swing tomorrow night on a player like LaVine as they continue to align their actions with their words.
14. Boston Celtics - Bol Bol
Best Timberwolves Pick: Rashad McCants
One last dose of truth serum — before I thought that Derrick Williams was LeBron James Lite, I was 95% positive that Rashad McCants was the next Kobe Bryant (I’m starting to see why Eric doesn’t ask me to write about prospects leading up to the NBA Draft).
As a lifelong Tarheels fan, I watched McCants play every game in college, and he seemed like the quintessential SG for the NBA (narrator voice: “he was not”). McCants played three full seasons in Minnesota before being traded to the Kings for a package of players that included Almost-POBO Calvin Booth, and then signed a training camp deal with the Rockets (ironically during Rosas’s time in Houston) before having it voided due to injury. He went on to play in China and The Big 3 before recently announcing his official retirement from basketball.
And that’s it! We’ll have plenty of coverage of tomorrow’s draft, including reports on possible rumors, trades, etc. While Minnesota enter tomorrow’s festivities with less ammunition than most of their counterparts, I am expecting the New Wolves Order to be aggressive as they attempt to give this roster a much-needed makeover.