Who Should the Timberwolves Take in the NBA Draft?
The NBA Draft Lottery was held Tuesday night with the Philadelphia 76ers finally winning the lottery after several years at the bottom of the NBA barrel. The Wolves had the fifth best draft odds and fifth is exactly where they stand going into this June’s draft.
The Wolves have had big successes the past few years in the draft and, with the help of the Kevin Love trade, ended up with the past two Rookie of the Year winners in Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, as well as 2014 draft pick Zach LaVine.
New Wolves head coach and team president Tom Thibodeau is presented with a golden opportunity. Picking the right player to fill the hole at shooting guard or power forward could put the Wolves over the edge, allowing them to give Minnesota fans their best chance at a playoff run since Kevin Garnett was in his prime.
The big question is, who is going to be there at number 5? According to different big boards and mock drafts, the guys who could be there for the Wolves are Dragan Bender, Jamal Murray, Buddy Hield, Kris Dunn, and Henry Ellenson. So, who are these players and who represents the best fit for this young team?
Dragan Bender – Maccabi Tel Aviv, PF/C
Bender, who played for Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Euroleague, represents the least likely player to be available at five. Bender is only 18 and at 7’1" is being compared to Kristaps Porzingis. If that is the case, and he somehow drops to five, the front office would be faced with a high-risk, high-reward scenario. They could be getting a player with offensive versatility that ranges all the way out to the three point line, above-average passing ability, a physical profile that allows him to gain size and fill out as he ages and experience playing professionally. The downside would be that he will need time to develop and that international players are always a gamble. However, with the success found in Ricky Rubio and Nikola Petrovic, it would be a gamble to hard to pass up as he would give the Wolves a versatile big man to play next to Towns for years to come.
Jamal Murray – Kentucky, SG
Murray may be the best fit for this team. Coming out of a high-profile college program at Kentucky, Murray represents a versatile offensive player perfect for this Wolves team that lacks shooting. Murray averaged 20 points per game in his one season at Kentucky and, as a 19-year old, possesses a magnificent ability to score off the ball as he shot a dazzling 56% coming off of screens. Murray is an average athlete but at 6’5" represents a perfect compliment to the big lineup that includes LaVine and Wiggins as he has the passing and play-making ability to play the point. He is the most likely candidate to be there for the Wolves at five and he would be the perfect fit as his 40% shooting mark from beyond the arc should translate quickly to the NBA.
Buddy Hield – Oklahoma, SG
Hield would be another great pick for this team, but due to his age, 22, I would put him below Murray on the Wolves big board. The Naismith player of the year was one of the best stories in college basketball this season as the Oklahoma senior set the game on fire with his great scoring ability, especially from beyond the arc, where he shot 45.7% on 8.7 attempts per game. Hield demonstrated his huge competitive spirit and high work ethic by turning himself into more than a spot-up shooter. He also proved that he comes up big when it matters by averaging 29 points per game in the tournament and leading his Oklahoma team to the Final Four. What hurts Hield is his defensive ability. If Hield were coming off this season two years younger, he would be in the running for the number one pick, but the age, along with his limitations defensively, cause him to be just below Murray on this Wolves big board.
Kris Dunn – Providence, PG
Kris Dunn serves an interesting potential option for the Wolves. Dunn has great size for a point guard at 6’ 4" with a 6’ 9" wingspan. Dunn has elite quickness that allows him to excel in transition and force a high number of turnovers, averaging 2.5 steals per game his final season at Providence. Dunn has improved every year offensively, culminating in averaging 16.4 points, 6.2 assists, and shooting 37.2% from three. For a point guard-driven league this could give the Wolves a young point guard to replace Rubio, and one who has room to grow as a shooter and may be better than Rubio from beyond the arc already. He would be a great fit next to Towns and Wiggins, but this will all come down to what the Wolves brass believe they can get in return for Rubio, as a trade would likely come before or follow picking Dunn.
Henry Ellenson – Marquette, PF
Final top option for the Wolves at five would be power forward Henry Ellenson of Marquette. Ellenson has good size for a four at 6’ 11" and 242 pounds and has the NBA body to bang down low from day one. One of the top freshman in the nation, Ellenson presents a well-rounded offensive game that has the potential to extend past the three point line. Ellenson averaged well above a double-double per 40 minutes at 20.3 and 11.8, and although he only shot 29% from three his age and current shooting ability gives him room to improve that. If the Wolves decide to go big, and Bender is off the board, Ellenson would fit well next to Towns and would give the Wolves a young, athletic, and versatile backcourt for the Wolves for years to come.
So, what do you think? Who should the Wolves take with the fifth pick in the draft?
All stats and measurements courtesy of draftexpress.com