All week at Amico Hoops we will look at different draft scenarios for the Minnesota Timberwolves, based on realistic places the Timberwolves can find themselves in. We begin with the most likely: The #5 overall pick.
The Minnesota Timberwolves were a much better team down the stretch of the season, fighting teams until the end of games and even pulling a few upsets in Oklahoma City, Golden State, and Portland. This pushed them a few games up in the standings from Brooklyn and Phoenix, giving Minnesota the fifth most odds of winning the lottery.
Without any funny business, the Timberwolves will therefore pick fifth in the NBA Draft this June. The presence and upside of Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and Zach LaVine mean that Minnesota doesn’t need a superstar from this draft for it to be a success; they just need a talented player who can play minutes and grow with this team.
Draft Pick: #5 overall
Off the Board: Ben Simmons (LSU; F); Brandon Ingram (Duke; G/F); Dragan Bender (Croatia; F/C); Jamaal Murray (Kentucky; G)
What’s the Pick: Henry Ellenson, Marquette, PF – There are three players available here that Minnesota should take a long look at. Kris Dunn is an athletic point guard with elite pedigree, and could immediately step in and direct bench units with the long-term plan to replace Rubio, if Tom Thibodeau and Scott Layden desire to. But I think Rubio is a great long-term fit at the point, and Tyus Jones was drafted last year and came on towards the end of the year.
The second option is Buddy Hield. In today’s NBA a team can never have enough shooters, and with Rubio and Wiggins both below average shooters (although Wiggins has plenty of time to develop his shot) having a gunner like Hield coming in off the bench could be valuable. But Hield is already 22, older than Minnesota’s core, and his upside is capped because of it.
So the pick goes to Ellenson. A tall, physical rebounder at the power forward position who can score inside and out, Ellenson deserves the Kevin Love comparisons. Those become even more apt if he heads to the Timberwolves. If Ellenson hits his upside he becomes a perfect fit in the starting lineup alongside Towns.
Having a big who can provide space on offense while not giving up ground on defense is the key to the modern NBA, from Draymond Green to Anthony Davis to Towns. If Minnesota can develop Ellenson into his potential, the combination of Towns and Ellenson in the frontcourt would scare other teams witless. Either could space out near the arc, either could score in the post, either could get the offensive rebound and score.
On defense, Ellenson has some work to do, but so do all young players not named Justice Winslow. With Kevin Garnett in the locker room and Tom Thibodeau coaching, Ellenson – and any draft pick – will be performing well and trying harder on defense.
What Else Could Happen: Kris Dunn and Buddy Hield are options, as mentioned above. If Bender falls to fifth, the Timberwolves could also consider him as another big for their rotation with elite upside.