Tuesday, June 23, 2009

6-18-28-45-47


If you are familiar with the television show Lost, you know that there is a series of numbers (4-8-15-16-23-42) that continually show up in various situations that seem to hold the key to all of the craziness that happens on and around that island. Similarly, there are a series of numbers that hold the key to the future of the Minnesota Timberwolves: 6-18-28-45-47. These are the five draft picks that the Wolves currently hold for Thursday’s NBA Draft.


5 picks in this year's draft could be the beginning of a new regime

As a team that has missed the playoffs for four consecutive years (a streak likely to continue for at least one more season), has only 2 consistent assets (Love and Jefferson), and has been quickly losing its fan base, the 2009 draft is easily the most important draft in the history of the franchise thus far. Five picks in one draft can bring in a wealth of talent to a ballclub, especially when three of those are first rounders. What follows is a breakdown of potential picks at each of the five positions we currently hold. Obviously this is extremely subject to change, as it seems incredibly unlikely that the Wolves will hold on to all five.

The Wolves first selection is the 6th overall pick in the draft. Obviously this is the most important one, as it is likely to involve the most talented, NBA-ready player of the five picks. There has been much discussion lately about whether the team will try to move up in the draft, or sit tight at 6. Rumors surrounding this pick have been rampant: Al Jeff and the 6 for Amare Stoudemire (terrible idea), Kevin Love and the 6 for the 2 pick (awful), and so on. Rather than try to guess what kind of wheeling and dealing new VP David Kahn will do, let’s break down some of the players who might be available.


Not only the Best Available, but possibly just The Best

In a perfect world, UCONN’s Hasheem Thabeet would fall into the Wolves’ lap at 6. He is the perfect shot-blocking, defensive-minded compliment to Jefferson. Plus, there is a wealth of guards available in this draft, and the Wolves could theoretically use their next two picks on guards to compliment Corey Brewer, Randy Foye, and company. Of course, we don’t live in a perfect world, so barring a trade, this will never happen. If I had my choice of guys who are likely to be available at 6, I’d take Tyreke Evans out of Memphis. A 6-5 shooting guard who can absolutely fill it up is exactly the kind of player the Wolves need (and have never had). Unfortunately, his stock seems to be rising quickly, and it is likely that he’ll be gone by the time we pick (or worse, we’ll pass over him for someone else).


The 6th pick in the draft, or will he be gone?

There are three players who have been slotted to the Wolves in various mock drafts more than any others leading up to Thursday night: James Harden (Arizona State), Demar DeRozen (USC), and Stephen Curry (Davidson). Personally, I want nothing to do with any of them. Harden was a streaky player (at best) at ASU and a lack of work ethic is something that follows you to any level you play at, and won’t cut it in the League. DeRozen is a poor man’s OJ Mayo who, after being the consensus #1 high school player in the country, showed very little of that brilliance as a freshman for the Trojans. USC is notorious for developing shoot-first, stat-driven guards (Mayo, Harold Miner, etc.) who do very little to improve NBA teams. Everyone sucks Curry’s Popsicle because of all the hype he and ESPN created. Yes, he had a great tournament two years ago. Yes, he’s a fantastic college shooter. However, can he handle the rock in the League? Can he create his own shot? Can he play a lick of defense? I don’t have an answer for those very important questions, which is why I’m very wary of him and would not be ecstatic if the Wolves took him at 6. Two other names to look for in this spot: Ty Lawson (UNC)—a poor man’s Ray Felton, who would be a ridiculous reach here, and Jonny Flynn (Syracuse)—in my opinion, a tough PG with a lot of potential; risk-reward type pick.

The 18 pick is far more subjective and far less easy to project. Whereas with the 6 pick, you know that you’ll be getting one of the top ten prospects, 18 is much more difficult to predict. As you start to move through the middle of the draft, there are many surprises that shake everything up. A team might really covet a player and draft him 5 or 6 spots earlier than he was projected, thus changing the way the following teams will pick. There are many more trades in this area of the draft as well. All of this leads to quite a bit of uncertainty about the Wolves second first-round pick.


A sight hopefully coming to Target Center soon

The other contributing factor is the 6 pick. The guy drafted there will greatly affect who gets taken at 18 (and for the rest of the picks as well). For instance, if the Wolves move up and grab a guy like Thabeet, then 18 HAS to be a guard, preferably of the point variety. If they take Evans at 6, then 18 is a bit of a crap shoot. You could still go after a talented point guard if one that you like falls to you. You could also go after a hybrid 3 guard such as Austin Daye (Gonzaga), Earl Clark (Louisville), or Sam Young (Pittsburgh). It would also make sense to look at any potential centers in this situation as well. Of course if we take BJ Mullens (Ohio St.) here, a McHale-like move, I will set my hair on fire. Then again, if you take a point with the 6, then 18 should be a big man, unless you like one of the aforementioned swing guards.

Personally, I’d like to see us take Evans at 6, and then go after a guy like Young at 18. I feel like there will be some quality point guards available at the end of the first round (more on that in a second), and you have your scorer, plus a project, risk-reward type talent at the 3, just in case Brewer turns out to be a bust (likely). Sure, that means that you don’t get the big man that you covet/need, but you can always look at free agency or a trade (such at the rumored Mike Miller for Chris Kaman or Marcus Camby deal).

Much like the 18 pick, 28 also depends a lot on what moves other teams make, who falls to you, and what positions/players you have already drafted. There can be gems found in the latter part of the first round if you scout well enough, especially overseas. Though it’s highly unlikely that the Wolves hold on to both 18 and 28, we’ll look at some possibilities with this pick, just for argument’s sake.


NBL--Natural Born Leader

It is my belief that the Timberwolves should wait until the end of the first round (this pick) to go after a point guard. I know that guys like Lawson and Flynn are projected to go much higher, but I think there is talent available in this position, and there isn’t that much of a drop off in talent from those higher picks. The two guys I especially like that are projected to be available at 28 are Darren Collison (UCLA) and Patty Mills (St. Mary’s). Collison has been a leader and distributor on the last few UCLA teams, which have had a great deal of success. He has always seemed to understand exactly what the role of a point guard is—distribute the ball to your teammates in spaces where they can create/score, and occasionally keep the defense honest by taking it to the tin or hitting an open jump shot. He just strikes me as a natural leader who would fit perfectly with the other pieces of the puzzle we are trying to put together.

Mills, on the other hand, is a bit of an unknown commodity. First of all, he played at a school that does not get a lot of national media hype. Second, he injured his wrist and missed a large portion of the season last year. Nevertheless, from the times I have seen him, he looks like a natural scorer with an incredible touch from the outside. To me, he is a better, less heralded version of Steph Curry (who got more love than he deserved based on his dad and one tournament run). I’m not completely sold on his ability to run a team (which is why I like Collison better), but he’d be a great value pick at 28.

There is one other scenario for many teams picking at the end of the first round/beginning of the second: drafting a player from overseas and “stashing” him away for a couple years. There are some incredibly talented players over in Europe that could come in and contribute on an NBA team right away. Unfortunately, many of them are locked into unbreakable contracts for the next few years. They can, however, be drafted and have a team own their rights once they are able to sign. Many teams, especially those with cap problems, love this idea. They get a prospect that probably is just as likely to pan out as any college kid they could take, but they don’t have to pay any money until a couple years later. Under the McHale regime, this would be an absolute certainty to happen with the 28th pick this year. Now that most of the Country Club is gone, though, no one can be sure what will happen.

The second round of the NBA draft is a complete crapshoot. Not only to players taken in the second round rarely make a significant impact on teams, most of them won’t even make it out of training camp. The more intelligent and successful franchises use these picks to take a chance on an established college player who has already proven himself at that level. Teams like the Wolves usually use these picks to continue to take chances on “project” guys that have a very low probability of working out.


A guy that does this to Duke can play for the Wolves any day

If we still have picks 45 and 47 late Thursday night, I’d like to see us go after a couple of guys with established college careers. Preferably, it would be one post and one guard. Here are some guys that I like that are projected to be available at this point in the draft:
Danny Green—6’6” SF (North Carolina)
Dante Cunningham—6’8” SF (Villanova)
Jeff Adrien—6’7” PF (UCONN)
Curtis Jerrells—6’1” PG (Baylor)
Nick Calethes—6’5” G (Florida)

As I patiently wait for Thursday night (even I, a hardcore baseball fan, crave some variety in my sports watching during this time of year), I will constantly be listening to KFAN and reading all of the various sports, and especially basketball-heavy, websites to see if the Wolves have brokered some kind of deal to move up early in the draft, package pick together to move up in the middle of the draft, or made some other sort of deal with members of the current team: there’s nothing sports fans like more than speculation and rumors.

I’ll leave you with my Best Case draft list and my Worst Case draft list (assuming we keep and use all five picks):

Best Case Scenario: 6—Tyreke Evans, 18—Sam Young, 28—Darren Collison, 45—Curtis Jerrells, 47—Danny Green

Worst Case Scenario: 6—James Harden, 18—BJ Mullens, 28—European, 45—Jerel McNeal, 47—Wesley Matthews

***UPDATE: The Wolves have reportedly traded Randy Foye and Mike Miller to Washington for the 5th pick, Etan Thomas, Darius Songaila, and Oleksiy Pecherov (who?). My guess? We'll trade either the 5 or 6 pick, packaged with the 18 pick, to move up to #2 and grab Thabeet. Oh, and at least two, if not all three, of the throw in players will be cut. Regardless, this definitely solidifies my belief that this draft will make or break our franchise for the next 10 years.

5 comments:

Shawn Bradley Guy said...

I'm excited...but, don't we get excited every year regardless. Two years ago you did a running diary on the NBA draft and claimed that as a make or break year. They have all been "break" years for this franchise, except the Garnett draft...why are we so optimistic?

Anonymous said...

But you don't have any hair, Mr. Cue.

Mr. Cue said...

The difference is that I felt like that draft could put us over the hump and back into the playoffs. This year, we are basically building our franchise for the foreseeable future.

Oh and Anonymous, that's the joke. Learn about it.

Lindsey said...

I'll just leave my predictions... We package the 5 and 18 for the #2 spot. The new GM (some day I'll learn his name) will want to put 'fans in stands' so we pick Rubio (Thabeet is the logical pick as 7'3" guys with skill don't come around all that often), and then at 6 we take Evans or DeRozen. Our backcourt will be set, and we wait for next years draft for our big guy.

Late first...how about...Mullins, Budinger, or Ellington (why not try another Tar Heel)

Out, Moe

Shawn Bradley Guy said...

I still get goosebumps when I hear...the Minnesota Timberwolves select Ndudi Ebi...