If the Wolves end up with a top 3 pick, we will be in good shape. The Wolves have a 64.9% chance of landing one of the top 3 picks. There is a good chance the Karl Towns goes number 1 in the draft no matter what. But the common strategy for the top 3 pick will be as Milt Newton has stated almost redundantly, take the best player available.
The draft is still over a month away but the top 3 looks extremely interesting right now. Karl Towns, Jahlil Okafor, and D’Angelo Russell seem to have it locked down. As big guys are usually a hot commodity (also high bust risk). D’Angelo Russell seems to be overlooked. Much of the conversation remains around Karl Towns and his potential on both ends of the court and Okafor’s incredible offensive ability. So I will make the assumption that Karl Towns and Okafor are taken in the top 2 picks, but if the Sixers and/ or Knicks end up in the top 2, Russell could be taken.
Okafor’s stock is dropping and will really need to impress folks in the coming weeks in order to solidify his spot as a top 2 pick. Winning a championship helps him quite a bit. His post game is that of a veteran in their prime. He has incredible strength in the post. And his passing ability is really overlooked. As a kid who has been getting double teamed since the age of 12, he would be a wonderful compliment to an Andrew Wiggins. Okafor does has some significant red flags. He is doesn’t have wonderful rebounding mechanics. In the NBA, you need your anchor to rebound. He also is terrible on the defensive end and had a lot of it covered up by Coach K running a zone defense. A rule of thumb for scouts is usually the stat that doesn’t translate well into the NBA is scoring and that is really the only thing Okafor is great at.
That all being said and sticking to the best player available strategy, the argument could be made that D’Angelo Russell may be exactly that. Russell is a 6-5 combo guard with a 6-10 wingspan, which is wonderful size. And while a second ago I mentioned that scoring wasn’t important, Russell led all Freshmen in scoring with 19.3 PPG and did it very efficiently on a 58% True Shooting Percentage. To me Russell has the lowest risk of any of the top 10 players because of his amazing passing ability and court vision. He may be the best passer in the draft since, probably Ricky Rubio. Russell can also shoot off the dribble or catch and shoot or come off screens. This ability combined with his amazing shooting makes me feel like he can be a Bradley Beal type player at the Point Guard position. His advance statistics (Win Shares, Assist%, Steal%, Rebound%) compare most with Kyrie Irving. His only issue is that he isn’t quite explosive enough for a point guard so could be contained.
Going best player available, Wolves have no choice but to take… D’Angelo Russell.
From the Timberwolves perspective, taking Russell presents a few obvious issues. Russell’s primary position is Point Guard. Don’t we have Ricky Rubio? Why yes! Don’t we have Zach LaVine? Yes! So what happens with Russell and where does he fit? Great question.
First things first, LaVine playing at Point Guard ends here. If there weren’t so many injuries, I am assuming that experiment would’ve ended in November. In hindsight though, it provided Zach with some great experience and I still believe he is going to be a great player in this league. Now for Ricky. I love Ricky. But one thing you learn to do in Business School is Hedge your investments. Ricky might officially be tagged as ‘injury prone’ now. Russell would be the Hedge. If Ricky gets hurt, Russell would fill in. Also, Russell would have the ability to play the 2 as well. Ricky and Russell in the backcourt would be probably the best playmaking backcourt ever.
At some point, someone would have to go or assume a lesser role. Unfortunately that person would likely be Zach LaVine and/ or Shabazz Muhammed. Unless Ricky proves he can’t stay healthy. Someone would need to be moved in a year to bring in another asset. Or maybe someone doesn’t pan out. The important point is, there is no such thing as a log jam unless you have sure things on your roster and at 16 wins, nothing is a sure thing.
There was a lot of concern when the Wolves drafted Derrick Williams when your best player played the same position, at power forward. When Derrick was brought it there was hopes he could play the 3. Unfortunately the biggest issue with Derrick is he could not guard any position on the court which made him a liability. Russell at 6-5 is oversized for a PG and about the right size for a SG. Williams was the right size for a SF and undersized as a PF. So there is no need to worry here about Russell and playing the same position as Rubio.
Pick number 2 coming up in the coming days. The draft lottery is 5 days away!
– The Timber (re)Builder