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. What happens if they decide to trade down?
Minnesota has a core – and it’s one of the best in the league. Andrew Wiggins draws comparisons to Kobe Bryant, Paul George, and Kawhi Leonard – he has the upside to mimic any or all of them, and perhaps to surpass them as well. Zach LaVine burst onto the scene with his otherworldly dunks, then made his impact in the game with much improved spacing, defense, and effort. Karl-Anthony Towns is the most dominant big man to enter the league since Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, or perhaps even Kevin Garnett.
There is only one ball to go around, and if you include Ricky Rubio in that core – and you should, because he is a really good point guard – four players who should have the ball in their hands a fair amount of the time. What they might need, rather than another star, are talented young role players to fill out the team. How fearsome would a ten-deep collection of young talent locked up for the next decade be?
The Trade: Boston trades the #16, 23, 31, 35 picks to Minnesota for #5 pick. Boston selects Dragan Bender and Jamaal Murray
Minnesota Picks: #16 – Marquese Chriss, PF, Washington – If the Timberwolves’ top need in the draft is a stretch-four (and to be clear, they should certainly be drafting best-player-available) then this draft slot serves them well. Options should abound such as Skal Labissiere, Deyonte Davis, and Thon Maker. Chriss is an athletic marvel who blocks shots and rebounds on defense as well as anyone in the nation, and on offense can stretch the floor all the way out to the three-point line. Thibodeau will love him, and he could grow into the future starter at the 4.
#23 – Dejounte Murray, G, Washington – Another Husky! The Timberwolves should be swinging for upside with every pick with their extended timetable, and Murray fits that bill well. Another superb athlete, Murray can slice to the basket and his innate passing ability makes him an apt pupil for Rubio. Other options available in this range include Timothe Luwawu, Brice Johnson, and Diamond Stone.
#31 – DeAndre Bembry, F, St. Joseph’s – Thibodeau values versatile wing defenders who can take on any assignment and play with a high basketball I.Q. That describes Andrew Wiggins well, and it also describes DeAndre Bembry well. He needs to work on his shooting, but he will compete on defense from the beginning, and be a willing passer on offense. Check Diallo and Stephen Zimmerman provide high-upside prospects in this range as well.
#35 – Isaiah Whitehead, G, Seton Hall – Whitehead lit up the Big East this season, scoring at will and leading his team to a surprising title run in the Big East tournament over eventual champion Villanova. Minnesota could use a popcorn scorer off the bench, and Whitehead has the athleticism and the skill to fill that role. The questions about his work ethic will be erased by Thibodeau, no question. Other prospects in this range that could fill that role include Caris LeVert, Josh Hart, and Cat Barber.
Finished Product: By the end of the 2016 draft, Minnesota will have put together a roster top-to-bottom of young, high-upside athletes, many with elite skill already. Ricky Rubio will be backed up by Tyus Jones and Dejounte Murray, with starter Zach LaVine and Isaiah Whitehead filling out the backcourt. Andrew Wiggins would start on the wing with DeAndre Bembry backing him up. If Thibodeau wants to start both Karl-Anthony Towns and Gorgui Dieng, Shabazz Muhammad can be the sixth man at power forward as he was this year, with Marquese Chriss and the veteran Kevin Garnett filling out the rotation.