Making sense of the Wolves’ new direction

The Wolves have repositioned themselves from a team on the rise to a team that has risen. The dramatic draft night trade for Jimmy Butler to moving Ricky Rubio and adding Teague and Taj Gibson are all indications that the Wolves are making a serious run for the playoffs. Tom Thibodeau has made it clear that in order for the Wolves to win, they need tough-minded, defensive veterans around the young nucleus of Towns and Wiggins.

For many, the replacement of Ricky Rubio with Jeff Teague has been hard to swallow. Rubio was the longest tenured player on the roster and had shown significant improvements in the second half of the season. It was clear though, both sides of the relationship were not thrilled to be together. Rubio wanted to be more involved in the organization and wanted to be appreciated while the organization clearly had issues with Rubio’s inability to shoot or finish at the rim. The move will likely be best for both sides.
The Wolves got what might be the best return for Rubio that they might have been able to get in the last two years, a first-round pick and cap space. As an opportunist, you have to know when to sell high. The only way that Rubio could be more coveted is if he developed a jump shot, which will likely not happen. He has removed his ‘injury’ tag and showed signs of being able to score and create last year. Since Rubio is not a player that relies on his speed or athleticism, he could stretch out his career if healthy. The only issue is the Wolves needed shooting. And badly.
While Teague isn’t known as a lights out shooter, he is certainly not the liability that Rubio was. Teague has been able to shoot over 35% over the last two years and is just a couple years removed from being an All-Star. He has a good amount of playoff experience and most importantly, can finish around the rim. This combination of shooting and driving ability is going to make the biggest difference for the Wolves. First, teams will have a nightmare defending the pick-and-roll with Teague and (Insert Butler, Wiggins, or Towns here). Second, Teague will be able to help the Wolves when they need scoring outside of their big 3, something the Wolves could not rely on with Rubio. Outside of LaVine, Wiggins, and Towns last year, the Wolves struggled to find a fourth scorer.
The secondary benefits of adding Teague is that he will not need the ball to be effective, another flaw of having Rubio on the current roster. Teague can spot up for 3 if needed and demand some respect from opposing defenses. Also, Teague has played with other dominate point guards in the past which lets him play off the ball in situations, which will be helpful if Thibs is looking to let Butler or Wiggins handle the ball more often.
On the defensive end, Teague is still pesky. He had a better defensive win share than Rubio last season. While he doesn’t have the length of Rubio, he will still be able to guard other teams’ best guard if needed. Luckily for the Wolves, they will be able to throw Teague, Butler, or Wiggins at a team’s best perimeter player on a nightly basis. I will say, this is where the Wolves will miss Kris Dunn. Dunn would have been a great compliment to Teague. Yes, I still am a Dunn-believer.
We can now look at what adding Taj Gibson means. He could mean a lot of things really. He could mean a move of Towns to the center position and Dieng being the 6th man with Bjelica coming in for support. He could also come off of the bench if Dieng remains in the starting lineup. Regardless the role he plays in the lineup, he brings much needed toughness and defense. The Wolves should finally have someone to set the tone in terms of physicality. We watched way too many Wolves get beat around the paint for rebounds and uncontested shots.
The Wolves also have allowed Shabazz Muhammad to become an unrestricted free agent at this point. This doesn’t mean he is gone, but it basically does mean he is gone with the Wolves lack of cap space and shooting still. Shabazz is also one of my favorite Wolves but I also don’t think it will be as sad to see him leave for the average Wolves fan as it was to see LaVine and Rubio go.
The Wolves are currently looking to create cap space to sign more players for some bench depth. They are looking to move Cole Aldrich and the pick they received in the Rubio trade. This would indicate they are still trying to solve their shooting problem. I hope. I also can’t imagine they are ready to let Tyus Jones be the full-time backup point guard. But a good amount of the options that the Wolves had are now off the board. So it will be interesting to see what direction they go. My hope is signing CJ Miles or Patrick Patterson to fill out the bench and then signing a backup point guard like Ty Lawson.
It will be important to pay attention to the Wolves Summer League team. Deandre Burton and VJ Beachum could have legitimate chances of making the Wolves roster if they are in need of bodies. The Wolves are also light on the wings outside of Butler and Wiggins. Fully expecting Thibodeau to give them a majority of the minutes in the game, in case of garbage time or an emergency, a summer league player could help out. The Wolves have a ton of roster spots available and not a ton of cap room, so it would make sense at least two guys get two-way contracts for the Wolves.
Expecting more moves certainly, it is clear the identity Thibodeau is developing here in Minnesota. He wants a defensive-minded team that has a veteran toughness. Not much different than the Bulls teams he has coached in the past. Thibodeau does not seem to value shooting as much as the rest of the league, which is concerning.
The team seems to be filled out in two-phases. The first phase is the immediate phase, which is the next two years. It is likely aimed at keeping the core of the team intact as Wiggins, Butler, and Towns will all be able to sign extensions in the next two years. This immediate phase is also designed to win now, not necessarily a championship, but to get to the playoffs. This playoff experience is crucial for Towns and Wiggins mainly. With the help of the veterans, Thibs is hoping to redefine the playoff-less culture in Minnesota and get the monkey off their backs.
The second phase will be around truly competing and it is all dependent on the development of Wiggins and Towns, most importantly on the defensive end of the floor. The next two years will be about getting them experience, chemistry, and understanding so that when the majority of the Wolves’ contracts expire over the course of the next three years, they can rebuild around Wiggins and Towns, who could be in the prime of their careers and better all-around players.
It remains to be seen what role Jimmy Butler plays in all of this. Its just too early. His contract expires in two years and a lot can change from now until then. The rest of the players on the Wolves roster, which maybe the exception of Justin Patton, should change three years from now. Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson should not be relevant once their contracts expire. But the goal should be to instill the basketball values that all three of the new veterans have in Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.
So while most fans will be excited to see the new additions in Wolves uniforms, I will be watching the development of Towns and Wiggins very closely. The success of this team truly rides on their shoulders.
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Jimmy Butler: Second Impressions

I didn’t want to write anything out of emotion. Draft night was crazy. It was surreal. I couldn’t believe it happened. I joked that I wouldn’t believe anyone said about Jimmy Butler trades unless it came from Doogie Wolfson on twitter. But it happened. The Wolves landed Jimmy Butler and the draft rights to Justin Patton for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and the rights to Lauri Markkanen.

The Wolves essentially created a future super team by adding a top-15 NBA player and one of the best two-way players in the league in Jimmy Butler. Getting the 16th pick in the deal was laughable as well. The Wolves moved back 9 spots in the draft with Jimmy Butler for Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine. It is mind blowing.

All of that said, it still hurts 24 hours later to see Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn leave. LaVine was a class act and was nothing but a hard worker while here. Dunn had a series of tweets on how he was begin to love Minnesota. It is a reminder that, as romantic of a game that basketball is, it is a business. Just start watching the jersey sponsorships over the next few years roll in. We will be constantly reminded that basketball is a business.

This trade happened for a few reasons. The Wolves need to win now and it makes complete sense that they have wanted Butler for a while. But I think deep down, the Wolves wanted Jonathon Isaac. Once it was certain that Isaac was going to be taken 6th, I think the Wolves felt more comfortable making the trade and there was a huge drop off from pick 6 to pick 7. There is also some concern about LaVine coming off an ACL tear. A red flag should go up when a player that relies on their athleticism tears an ACL. It’s not that it’s over, LaVine is still young. But it is certainly risky. Lastly, Kris Dunn still has the word ‘potential’ attached to him. Being that he was drafted as a senior and was advertised as ‘ready to play’, this second season means so much more for him and if he still does have potential. I’m still very high on LaVine and Dunn because both have floor skill sets that will be valuable no matter what happens. LaVine can shoot and Dunn can defend. But both were high-risk assets coming into this next year that the Wolves may have sold at the right time. 

What has been overlooked is the cap situation the Wolves pulled themselves out of. The new CBA rule allows for teams to offer max contracts to two players on their rookie scale contract. Both Wiggins and LaVine were up for these extensions and both deserve the max. The Wolves obviously need to save one of these max extensions for KAT. On paper, it would be easy to tell LaVine that he isn’t getting the max because of his injury and he isn’t even Robin in the trio of Wiggins, KAT and himself. LaVine could have potentially declined whatever extension offer the Wolves had for him and opted for free agency this summer. That means, there was the possibility that the Wolves could’ve lost LaVine for nothing. 

Now bring in Jimmy Butler’s contract. He is under contract for another two seasons with a player option for a 3rd, which he will likely opt out of for a contract he deserves. He will be 30 years old at that time, which means he is under contract for less than $20M a year during his best playing years. To put this into further perspective, Allen Crabbe is making $1M more a year than Butler over the next two seasons. So salary cap wise, this deal was absolutely genius.  

Overall, I commend Tom Thibodeau. He spent the last year assessing his roster and didn’t make any crazy moves so that the Wolves could have the flexibility to make a trade like last night’s. It is clear he understands the value of the players on his roster and ultimately, adding an All-NBA player alongside Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins is a risk that needed to be taken. The real issue was the culture here in Minnesota. The culture needs to change. Butler is going to help build a winning culture around the young players and help them truly understand how to play team defense. If there is one area that the Wolves are going to be happy Jimmy Butler is here for on the court, it is on the defensive end.

What can’t be overlooked though is team chemistry. How is Jimmy Butler going to rally the troops? Wiggins and Towns have looked like numbers chasers on the court this season, which has ultimately made winning not look like a priority. There have been times where Thibs has tried to play Wiggins in the point-forward position but it never seemed natural for him to make good playmaking decisions. Butler will be able to help out in that sense but then you have to wonder, what will Wiggins’ role be in the offense now? Will Butler be more of a facilitator on the floor?

The Wolves now have three legitimate 20 point per game scorers on their roster. While I used to be of the philosophy that there is only one ball on the court at the time, the only way the Wolves flourish is tbrough truly unselfish basketball. The Wolves played a lot of ISO-ball last season and that will need to stop. Outside of the Warriors having four All-Stars, the reason they dominated the league is that they let opponents pick their poison and just moved the ball. I’m not sold Thibodeau has the offensive-genius the Warriors have, but they certainly can start watching a ton of tape. 

The thing I am most looking forward to in the court is a Jimmy Butler and KAT pick and roll/ pop game. One thing Wiggins and LaVine were unable to do last year is involve KAT in pick situations. Butler has the shot and playmaking ability to involve KAT heavily in the pick & roll.


It will be interesting to see what position Wiggins plays. He seems more comfortable playing shooting guard through his career. Jimmy Butler can guard anything from the 2-4. If Wiggins can guard the weaker offensive threat between the 2 and 3, he will be able to take full advantage of smaller shooting guards on the offensive end. While small ball has become the new trend in the NBA, the Wolves could take advantage with their length and potential ability to defend the perimeter. 

The next question I have is, what happens to Ricky Rubio? He has all the offensive weapons in the world now at his finger tips. He turned the corner at the end of last year. Does Thibs have Rubio in his future plans? Rubio might play great with the new big 3, but would make most sense is adding a 3 and D point guard. I imagine Patty Mills or Patrick Beverly being potential fits. I also think George Hill could be a potential target. This would mean Rubio’s value would lower as teams know we are backed up at point guard.

The final question is, what position will Towns play? Do the Wolves continue to play Dieng and Towns together? I do think Towns is better playing the 5 with the Wolves bringing in a stretch-4 to help offset the lack of shooting. Heck, I wonder if Bjelica might be better off starting. I think the Wolves could have a good hard look at CJ Miles and Patrick Patterson this summer. Neither are starting caliber forwards, but could offer some lineup flexibility throughout the game in stretches where the Wolves need shooting. 

This move will certainly have a domino effect though. The Wolves will likely need to add another piece if they are now serious about competing. Where they end up in the West is still yet to be determined. The Clippers, Jazz and Rockets could look very different next season. I will enjoy this trade for now though, regardless where the Wolves end up next season. It is the first time in a while we were on the winning end of a trade. It is probably the biggest move since the Wolves acquired Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell.

It is certainly a new era of Wolves basketball.

P.S. I am holding off on Justin Patton talks. I was praying for OG Anunoby. Patton will certainly be a project and my expectations are low this season. He is an energetic player which should be helpful off the bench. I thought a fence-swing was more appropriate at 16 with Anunoby, but you can’t win them all.

P.S.S. I updated some more thoughts and wanted to add this comic because it’s hilarious 

2017 Draft Day Thoughts

For those following this blog, you know the draft is my favorite day of the season. Not always by choice, but it is the only thing for the last 12 seasons the Wolves have been at the top of.

The Wolves find themselves in the middle of the draft lottery at pick 7. This is typically an indication of an inflection point in the Wolves rebuild. They usually only go up or down from here. The last inflection point was 2013 when the Wolves pick 9th. They were seemingly on their way on the upwards swing after landing the 13th pick in the 2014 draft. Of course, the Kevin Love drama led to a reset.

So the Wolves are in a position to truly improve their team. The 7th pick is really, really valuable in this draft. The caveat though is, the pick will likely require patience. Every player that is projected in the top 10 is a Freshmen. Every single one. Some of them can have an impact immediately, but none are going to completely change the fortunes of the team that drafts them as of this upcoming season.

With these expectations set, you also have to take into account the goals for the Wolves in the 17-18 season. The Wolves are absolutely looking to make the playoffs. Whoever the Wolves draft tonight might not push the Wolves over the hump this season, but equips them for the years afterwards, which are equally important. The Wolves also have the option to move the 7th pick to really bulk up their lineup with a veteran. Because the Wolves have so many assets and the 7th pick, they could be positioned to be involved in a Blockbuster deal tonight.

So diving into what is available today. There are two players that have been floating that the Wolves should absolutely pursue. Kristaps Porzingis and Jimmy Butler. The only thing that is untouchable would be Towns in both deals. But I have to believe the Wolves will be trying to construct something around the 7th pick, Zach LaVine, Ricky Rubio, and/ or Gorgui Dieng. Many might disagree here, but this has to be the top option for the Wolves. The draft this year is set up in that the picks are extremely valuable.

Now, without the pipe dream, the most likely scenario is the Wolves will take the pick at 7 and add them to the roster. From the sounds before the draft, the top 5 picks seem pretty solid. Fultz, Ball, Taytum, Jackson, and Fox should be gone. The Orlando Magic will ultimately decide the Wolves’ fate tonight. Had they not just got a new GM, I would feel more comfortable with them making the wrong decision. My biggest fear going into tonight is that the Magic take Jonathan Isaac at 6. It doesn’t make a ton of sense for them, being that Aaron Gordon is their franchise cornerstone, but he certainly will be the best player available.

Jonathan Isaac is easily my favorite player in this draft and for the Wolves. If the Wolves leave this draft with Isaac, I will be the happiest person on the planet. Unfortunately, he didn’t work out for the Wolves. Being that the most realistic scenario tonight is that the Wolves take a pick and keep it, the best case scenario tonight is drafting Jonathan Isaac at 7.  There has been concerns about his response to a question around if he does drugs when asked by the Celtics. Celtics and Thibs should have a decent relationship, so the Wolves should know what they need if they take him. With the Magic potentially taking Isaac and the fact that he didn’t work out for the Wolves, my hopes are low and I am trying to think of a consolation.

My consolation on the day of the draft is Malik Monk. A smaller version of Zach LaVine. I typically don’t like taking scorers in the draft. Scoring is not a great skill that translates well in the NBA. Monk, however, can shoot the lights out too. Monk probably has the biggest range of floor and ceiling going into the draft. If Monk could defend, he would easily be a top 3 pick in this draft. He could be the next Rashad McCants or the next Jamal Crawford. There have been some stretch, great shooter comparisons done to Malik Monk. Like Steph Curry and Ray Allen. I think that is wrong. But I see Monk as the 1b pick for the Wolves. Luckily, Isaac and/ or Monk will be available at pick 7.

Dennis Smith Jr is also an intriguing prospect and has the most potential as ‘the guy I can’t believe everyone passed on’. He is extremely athletic and did everything on the court. He seemingly can be compared to Westbrook with his style of play. My issue though is not with Smith, it is more so that I like Dunn and Rubio too much. I still think Dunn is going to be a good starter in the league and also believe Rubio is the point guard this team needs right now to make the playoffs.

Then there was Lauri Markkanen. The best shooter in the draft apparently. Listen, I am sure he can shoot. I just don’t think he will be able to do anything else. Also, a red flag always goes up when a player gets compared to Dirk. A rule of thumb for me is avoid those guys. They never come close. If the Wolves take Lauri at 7, that would be the worst case scenario for the Wolves. If the Wolves trade down and get Lauri, I might be able to sleep at night. Unfortunately, Markkanen is getting attached to the Wolves a ton. There are also rumblings that the Mavs absolutely love him too.

I also like a couple of guys in the later lottery in Zach Collins and OG Anunoby. It could be interesting if the Wolves could potentially move down to grab one of these two. I would not be opposed to having one of these guys if the Wolves don’t get Isaac. I personally like Collins and Anunoby over Markkanen.

The underrated part of the draft is that trades are being made, and not only for picks. There are a few players that could be available for trade that the Wolves could really use. The two players I hope get linked to the Wolves would be Danny Green and Ryan Anderson. Danny Green is a great 3 and D guy the Wolves could desperately use, along with his veteran presence. Ryan Anderson is a crazy shooter who could really spread the floor for the Wolves and could play the Mirotic role for Thibs’ offense.

The Wolves don’t have a 2nd rounder but there has been rumors that they are interested in purchasing one. There are a ton of solid players that could drop into the 2nd round of this draft. I like sleepers like Sterling Brown and George de Paula. Brown is a great 3 and D prospect that could develop into a good role player. I also have been following de Paula since the 2015 draft, mainly because of his physical tools. He has bigger hands than Kawhi Leonard and has incredible length for a point guard. He would be one of the biggest point guards in recent history. He reminds me of Giannis at point guard. Being that it is a 2nd rounder, I have no problems taking a project. I pray Thibs is reading this and takes George de Paula.

Caleb Swanigan, Ivan Rabb, Josh Hart, and DJ Wilson are guys I like if they drop into the 2nd round. Would keep an eye on them.

Thats all for now. Can’t wait for tonight!

The Situation at pick Seven

Jonathan Isaac. That is the goal.

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The draft is all about choosing between team need and talent. Can the player fit the system and fill a team need? But then, it is the draft, right? We should just draft the best player available since these guys are so young and you never know what you’ll get. You can always address needs in free agency. Right? That is typically how the argument around draft philosophies go. But what if I told you, you could draft a player who fit your team at a position you need, all while them being the best at their position AND not have to take him 1st overall?
That is exactly what Jonathan Isaac is for the Timberwolves. The Wolves have been drafting players left and right, holding onto talented lottery picks waiting to bare the fruits of their labor. In fact, the Wolves had three consecutive number one picks on their roster at one point.
The Wolves have three high usage players in Towns, Wiggins and LaVine. That is one of the biggest hurdles around the Wolves picking in the lottery again. There aren’t a lot of clear cut players that have the potential at 7 that those three have offensively. That said, the Wolves need players that don’t require the ball to score and who are ‘plus’ players on the defensive end. The Wolves essentially need a 3 and D guy, preferably not at the same positions as the big three or at point guard since the Wolves just drafted Kris Dunn.
Jonathan Isaac is all that and a bag of Sun Chips. Isaac is not going to blow anyone away with his offense but has shown the ability to hit the three and play incredible defense. The 6-11 forward is still skinny in which he may not be able to guard stronger power forwards in the league quite yet, but adding some weight to his frame overtime will certainly help him there. He already rebounds and block shots like a starting power forward in the league. He is great in defending the pick-n-roll, which can only get better working under Thibs. He still isn’t great at defending the perimeter, but he certainly is an improvement over Wiggins right now.
The reason I love Isaac is because he has the potential to be the best role player in the NBA. He was not a high usage player at Florida State and was still extremely effective. His unique combination of length and ability to be a 3-and-D player makes people compare him to the likes of Draymond Green. As he fills out his frame, he has the potential to help defend another team’s best wing player but also serve as a help-side rim protector. Because he has a lot of the defensive skills already, his floor isn’t too bad either. Worst case, he is a serviceable role player that is solid defensively and non-existent on offense. Think, Wes Johnson with the Clippers.
Being that the Wolves drafted Wes Johnson number 4 overall over many other future All-Stars, that was probably not the best comparison. But we are talking about floors here. Wes Johnson is a spot-starter on a playoff team that needs a wing 3-and-D guy. The Wolves drafted him as a player that would’ve been great offensively. I digress though.
The issue currently for the Wolves is that Jonathan Isaac’s stock is rising. Not because he has done anything to deserve it since he didn’t go to the draft combine, but because the stock of the other forwards are falling. Namely, Josh Jackson and Jayson Tatum. Both have serious potential. But if I had to pick another former Wolves draft pick, their floors look like Derrick Williams. Not for their style of play but because of their need for the ball without being good shooters. Tatum is Carmelo Anthony on offense in terms of ISO ball. Not only is that a bad fit for the Wolves, many teams are moving away from that style of basketball. Jackson is better offensively and has a unique passing ability for a forward. Both have light years of potential and could very well be All-Stars, but their styles of play are concerning.
If any of the three fall on draft night, it will likely be Tatum. I can’t imagine Jackson falling passed the Wolves at 7. He has shooting concerns that would probably make him a poor fit in Minnesota, but he could also push out one of Wiggins or LaVine. As of today, Jackson should probably go to the Sixers, but things can change in the next month.
Now, let’s play the scenario in which Jonathan Isaac goes before number 7. The Sixers could potentially take Isaac at 3. The Suns could have interest at 4. The Kings will almost certainly take a point guard at 5. The Magic may have more interest in one of the higher usage players at 6, but after bringing on Hammond from Milwaukee, they could be looking for a Giannis archetype, which Isaac fits. There is also the possibility a team trades up to take Isaac. The Nuggets have the assets to do just that and he fits the Nuggets very well. So what do the Wolves do?
The Wolves have two options. One includes taking the best player available. That will likely be taking Tatum or Jackson if they fall. There is also the intriguing prospect of Malik Monk. We will visit that option. The second option would be to trade down. We will visit that as well.
First, best player available. Chances are, the best player available will be Malik Monk if Isaac is taken. Monk is probably one of the better scorers and shooters in this draft. The Wolves missed out on Jamal Murray last year, this would be their opportunity to make up for it this year. Monk would be the security blanket around LaVine’s knee as he rehabs from the ACL tear. Monk could also replace the scoring that the Wolves will lose off the bench if Shabazz Muhammad demands too much money. The issue with drafting Monk would be his size at the off guard position and his ability to defend in the NBA. He is almost another Jamal Crawford, which is good, but not great for the Wolves. Scoring also doesn’t always translate great to the NBA. If I had to relate Monk’s floor to a Wolves draft pick, it would be Rashad McCants.
Trading down opens up a slew of options for the Wolves. They could add a veteran player and a late round draft pick. They could package the pick with Rubio and others to potentially bring in a better player. There are teams that will need point guards and there are a lot of point guards available in the top 10 of this draft. My hope is the Wolves listen to offers, especially if Isaac is off the board.
While I can’t go into every scenario if the Wolves trade the pick, I would love the Wolves to target a poor man’s version of Jonathan Isaac, OG Anunoby. Physically, Anunoby is an upgrade over Isaac. He is 6-8 with a 7-5 wingspan. He is also a mystery. He didn’t play too much his Freshmen year at Indiana and tore an ACL during his Sophomore year. He is a monster defensively. His shot is more of a question mark than Isaac’s, as well as his health.
That is where things stand as of right now, a month ahead of the draft. A good amount can change from now until then. Jonathan Isaac has the potential to be the perfect power forward of the future, sandwiched between Wiggins and Towns. If Isaac and Dunn develop consistent three point shots, they seem like the perfect role players around the Wolves big three. Both would be amazing defensively which would be a nightmare for opponents. A lot depends on the shooting abilities of the role players Dunn and potentially Isaac, which is definitely a huge question regardless.

The unofficial new Wolves Logo leaked

The Wolves will reveal their new logo in tonight’s game against the OKC Thunder. There have been some remakes of the logo through hearsay but this one appeared through advertisements on the Star Tribune Website.

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Your thoughts?

It pays tribute to all of the previous Wolves logos. This new logo includes lime green, which will add a new twist to the jerseys.

#PowerOfThePack

March Madness Prospects to watch as a Wolves fan

The draft is always my favorite time of the year. With the Wolves making a push towards the playoffs, it does mean they risk not having a great pick in this draft. A later lottery pick though could be just what the Wolves need going into next season.

The 2017 draft is stacked at point guard. There will be a ton of guard prospects to choose from which will not be great for the Wolves. The Wolves certainly could use a backup/ spot-starter at the two-guard next season but that can be addressed in free agency. I don’t think Brandon Rush is necessarily the answer there.

This draft will have some stretch forwards that could be the long-term partner up front with Karl-Anthony Towns, or just another player to fill out the bench. As the tournament gets started, here are the players I love for the Timberwolves.

Miles Bridges (Michigan State)

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Michigan State

The Freshmen reminds me of a Detroit Piston from the 90s. He is incredibly athletic, physical and smart. He has a sweet 3-point stroke and is solid defensively in the pick-n-roll. I don’t know if there is a player I like better than Bridges right now for the Wolves. He is slotted as a late-lottery pick but I can see his stock going up after the NCAA Tournament and through workouts. He has some questionable decision making but I think it is a result of inexperience. He is always a factor when he is on the floor which you don’t always see from freshmen in college basketball. His physical abilities (strength and just athleticism) coupled with his 3-and-D potential makes me feel like he has the ability to be the perfect complement to KAT in the long run. I can’t imagine what he will be like when he becomes 24.

Jayson Tatum (Duke)

tatum

It is hard to get a feel for where Tatum ends up but he is worth keeping an eye on. He is also a combo forward but I don’t think he would match up well against bigger power forwards in the NBA quite yet, defensively at least. He started the season off slow but has picked it up quite nice. He has a ton of ‘potential’ as a franchise cornerstone, so there is a good chance he gets taken far before the Wolves pick. It will be good to keep an eye on him though as he is essentially the best forward prospect in the draft.

Jonathan Isaac (Florida St.)

NCAA BASKETBALL: NOV 24 NIT Season Tip-Off - Temple v Florida State

Isaac has probably the best defensive potential in the draft. He is super long and when his body fills out, he will be able to guard both of the forward positions in the NBA. He is a good rebounder, a pretty good perimeter defender and can block shots. He is still working on his 3-pointer, which is a point of concern for me. He also plays a much lesser of a role on his team now than the previous two prospects mentioned. Not a huge concern because Zach LaVine came in with many of the same issues. Isaac will be more of a project though.

Don’t like, but worth watching

  • Lauri Markkanen: Lauri is a 7-footer who can shoot and defend. I am not quite sold on him quite yet mainly because I don’t see him fitting well next to KAT, not that he isn’t a good prospect. He also feels like a project like Dragan Bender. With the Wolves committed to Gorgui Dieng now in the long-term, Markkanen feels like he would be more of a redundant asset where the three guys above offer a different flavor in their game than Dieng. Lauri is still worth watching with Arizona because he will be in picking range for the Wolves and his stock could rise in the tournament.

Long Shots (Not in the tournament/ not playing)

  • OG Anunoby: OG suffered a season ending injury but screams potential. If the Wolves end up with a much later pick through a trade in the late 1st or early 2nd round, OG might be a guy that can fit well with what Thibs likes. He is a great defender. I would be scared to think what Dunn and OG could be together in the future potentially.
  • Ivan Rabb: Rabb is a Sophomore who’s Cal team didn’t make the tournament. He would’ve been a lottery pick last season but was committed to helping Cal win this season. He is going to now looking like a late-1st rounder because he seems like a traditional 4. He is a solid post defender and a good rebounder. His offense is limited but looks like a solid role player.

 

Why the Lance Stephenson signing is great

The Timberwolves just signed Lance Stephenson to a 10-day contract. We probably shouldn’t read into it too much. Much is contingent upon his performance in these next 10 days. Yogi Ferrell just earned a two-year contract in his first 10 days with the Mavericks. Lance has bounced around the league a bit and is looking for a home. With the Zach LaVine injury happening, Lance might have a role carved out for him here for the rest of the season.

I love the signing though. For many reasons. Here is why.

Lance Stephenson can replace the shots Zach LaVine had.

Zach LaVine going down for the season is a big blow for the Timberwolves. Lance Stephenson is the closest thing to replacing the number of shot attempts LaVine had in the offense. The Wolves are very limited in their offense outside of their big 3. Lance at one point was averaging over 11 shots a game. It is difficult to find a player that can feel comfortable to replace LaVine’s over 15 shots a game this season. Shabazz and Bjelica are expected to have greater roles as the season progresses, but they need someone who isn’t shy to take some shots.

Lance plays defense.

Lance’s claim to fame was his ability to get into the head and play defense against LeBron James in the playoffs. Lance has a lot of talent, especially defensively. He never backs down from his competition, something the Wolves struggle with. Tom Thibodeau will certainly not be caught yelling at Lance ‘Stop being soft!’. So him coming in for a short tour or for the remainder of the season could be just for his toughness and defensive ability.

Lance is going to come in and play for something. 

If there is one thing that the Wolves have struggled with this season is that they often look comfortable. They seem content with the way things have played out. They have patience. Lance Stephenson will not have that mentality. Lance is coming in for a roster spot. He will look to steal minutes and shots from other players. Sometimes this competition is necessary. With the amount of young players the Wolves have, many haven’t had to fight for shots or minutes. Lance will help change that attitude, even if just a little bit. In his previous non-guaranteed contracts, he has always taken an active role. He played great for Memphis late last season. I think he could play a similar role with the Wolves.

Lance is a veteran.

Lance has amazing experience in his career. Lance has played meaningful minutes in meaningful games. He has spent time now with a few teams around the league in different roles. He will serve as a reality check to the young players who have been given a lot on a silver platter this season. The Wolves faithful has been yearning for a veteran presence in the locker room. We finally got it.

Lance has the perfect personality to shake things up.

Lance is a dog. If he is here only 10 days, he will be the most annoying player in practice. The Wolves need a shake up if the playoffs are truly still a possibility. Why not take a chance on Lance? Many were interested in him last summer.

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The Timber Rebuilder.