Jonathan Isaac. That is the goal.
Making Sense of the Timberwolves Draft: Kris Dunn
What a dramatic night. I spent the draft taking in it all in with Wolves faithful at the Target Center for the Draft Party. While I was pretty excited about the Kris Dunn pick, most of the Timberwolves fans in attendance were shocked and wanted Buddy Hield. I, again, have indicated multiple times that I am not fond of Hield and would’ve preferred Murray if Dunn wasn’t the pick. So what happened last night? I would love to tell the story through tweets:
The Wolves draft Dunn
KAT is happy with his new toy
Trade rumors and #WojBombs start flying around
The Wolves get super close apparently to trading for Butler
Thibs and KAT talk about a trade. Maybe this was the breaking point?
From a high-level, the Wolves left the draft with one of the top prospects and one that can help immediately. Kris Dunn may be the best two-way player in the draft. His defensive prowess fits well with Thibodeau’s coaching style.
Rightfully so, there were a couple teams that had serious interest in acquiring Kris Dunn. This was never a secret. The Sixers were drooling over Dunn for weeks and then the Bulls emerged as a trade candidate. It sounds like the Sixers and Wolves had talks that included Ricky Rubio. The Bulls and Wolves had even more serious talks that included Zach LaVine. The Wolves were in a position to acquire either Nerlens Noel or Jimmy Butler. The actual details will never be known. The rumors were that LaVine was breaking point for Thibs in which he would not include him in the deal. I don’t think this is entirely true because not only is Butler far better than LaVine, but it would’ve conveniently opened up a starting position next to Wiggins for Butler.
The fact is, we cannot confirm the trade rumors of last night and we don’t know if someone will be traded. Many Timberwolves fans are upset for one reason or another but I invite you to keep the following in mind. The Wolves got better. They added depth and another asset. That is better than where the Wolves were on June 22nd. Something I pointed out that is interesting is that the value of Kris Dunn seems to be more valuable than the value of the 5th pick. This is influence and psychology working its wonders on the world. These are all good things.
Keep in mind, the state the Wolves are now in is fluid. There is more clarity, but trades can still happen. What is keeping many Timberwolves fans upset is that Tom Thibodeau is threatening to move the last remaining remnants of David Kahn’s era from the roster. Many Wolves fans and fans of the NBA have grown to love Ricky Rubio, for good reason. Rubio is one of the better perimeter defenders in the league and among the best playmakers. Unfortunately, everyone in the world knows he can’t shoot or score even. This makes him seem a little worse than he might be. Rubio influenced more wins maybe than anyone on the Timberwolves roster last year because he absolutely makes the players around him better.
Now the Wolves have Kris Dunn who has many of the same strengths and weaknesses as Rubio, who is already established. What do we make of the situation now? It requires a deeper look at the situation. A few points to make.
- Drafting Kris Dunn was a Win-Win for the Timberwolves. Why? The Wolves added the best ‘two-way’ player in the draft. This means, he either stays on the team and we benefit, or we trade him and we benefit. Many are crazy about Dunn around the league. Including Tom Thibodeau. As mentioned in the Press Conference, the marriage of a good two-way player like Dunn with Thibs could be amazing. It will be exciting to see what happens between the two.
- Can Rubio and Dunn co-exist? Not in the long term probably. But in the short-term? Sure. What’s better than having Ricky Rubio on your team? Having Ricky Rubio’s skill set on the floor for 48 minutes. I don’t think Thibs is comfortable handing the keys over to a rookie at point guard, which is why it makes sense that Rubio isn’t traded immediately. Dunn is also not a sure thing, like any draft pick. He will need to adjust to the NBA’s speed and toughness. That will take time.
- Rubio will have to improve to keep his job. Ricky has secured his spot as the starting point guard since he was a rookie. Since then, he has struggled to improve drastically.
- Rubio and Dunn are both trade assets. One will eventually move. And when they do, they will likely net the Timberwolves another solid asset. Who knows when either is traded but Rubio for Noel and maybe Luwawu (someone I have a man-crush on) could make sense. The Wolves still desperately need a starting power forward.
- While many believe Rubio and Dunn have redundant skills, they do have some pretty significant differences. Rubio is the ultimate team player and has one of the best assist-to-turnover ratios in the league. Although Ricky has his faults, Rubio is a proven and consistent commodity. Dunn on the other hand has the potential to be a far better scorer and better shooter than Ricky. Dunn also can finish around the rim much better than Ricky. Rubio has relied on his scream while he attempts a layup to go to the line for most of his career. Dunn has the ability to play above the rim and get to the free throw line, something Rubio will not be able to do.
- The Wolves didn’t address one of their biggest needs: shooting. While many are panicking, that shouldn’t be the case. Taking the best player available is a strategy that works most of the time. Expecting a rookie to immediately satisfy a need is a recipe for disaster. The Wolves did add something else they needed though, bench scoring.
- Staying on the topic of shooting. The Wolves will need to address this still through free agency/ trade and the development of their players. The Wolves will need LaVine, Wiggins and Towns to improve their shot to at least remove the team from the bottom of the rankings. Philosophy is also an important factor. Sam Mitchell was not someone who set players up for threes, which could be a factor in why the Wolves struggled so much. Thibs is clear on needing shooting and should address when training camp starts.
- From Thibodeau and Layden’s perspective, a trade last night may have been difficult. Especially moving Zach LaVine or Ricky Rubio. I am sure Thibodeau wants the opportunity to at least coach these guys. LaVine has the potential to really become a special player, which trading away so early may be a poor choice. Sometimes, not making the trade is the smarter move as well because typically the deals that weren’t done are mostly forgotten. How many remember the rumors of potentially moving Derrick Williams in a package for James Harden?
There is still an entire offseason that needs to play itself out. We forget we are only five days removed from the 2015-16 season. Dunn has said in his interview that he can learn from Rubio and looks forward to playing behind him. While many joke about the David Kahn days when Thibodeau said Dunn and Rubio can play together, it does seem possible. While shooting may be an issue, Rubio and Dunn could be effective in short stints. Defensively, they should shut down backcourts and offensively Dunn would benefit from Rubio’s playmaking ability.
Certainly, there will be more to come. Please let us know your thoughts and share!
The Timber Rebuilder
2016 NBA Draft: Timberwolves Final Thoughts
It is finally here. Four days after the NBA Finals. It is like the season never ended. It has been stressful to say the least. Not too many moving parts so far and yet we have debated for months.
One thing is for sure, whoever is picked by the Timberwolves tonight will forever be remembered as the 5th pick of the 2016 NBA Draft. Most fans remember their feelings towards a player from when the Wolves drafted Ndudi Ebi 26th overall in the 2003 draft to when the Wolves took Karl-Anthony Towns as the 1st Number 1 pick in franchise history.
One thing that I am reminded of at this time in the year is Flip Saunders. I came across this tweet of just Flip enjoying life right before the 2013 draft.
As the Wolves approach the draft, which is hours away, the rumors are swirling. The Wolves have just added Andy Greer to their coaching staff per Woj. There were rumors of the Wolves being interested in Kenneth Faried, which reminds me of how Thad Young fit in with the Wolves last year. I do think Faried would be an ideal energy guy for Thibs, but if the trade includes moving the 5th pick, I don’t think it is worth it.
Thibs has enlightened us by letting us know that the Wolves value shooting in this draft. To many, this eliminated the idea that Kris Dunn could be the pick, while I believe that isn’t the case. The entire league values shooting right now. It is absolutely a valid concern and the Wolves do need shooting, but I don’t think it eliminates Kris Dunn from being the Wolves pick.
There is a decent chance the Wolves trade the pick today. I don’t feel prepared for that scenario since #WolvesNation has been debating between four guys for the last month. Who is better? Why? Just hours before the draft, I feel like the top four is fairly clear, in the form of personal preference. Here it is:
- Dragan Bender
If Bender is available, you have to take him. There are rumors he could fall to 7, which is mind blowing. Bender is certainly a project. But he is a project worth taking on. The Wolves are in a position where they can swing for the fences. If Bender doesn’t work out, the Wolves future is not dependent on his development. They don’t lose much. They also have a significant need for someone to play along Towns long-term. The reason Bender is the most intriguing is because of the skill set he holds. Bender has a solid stroke from outside already. Pairing that alongside Towns and Wiggins will spread the floor and allow the Wolves to penetrate & dish. He can defend and protect the rim as well. How terrorizing would it be to have two big men who can defend and shoot? Bender has also shown that he can pass and handle the ball decently for his size.
Bender happens to also be the youngest player in the draft. If Bender is groomed under Thibs and can be given time to grow with the young Wolves, he can be in the perfect setting to develop. It helps that the Wolves have a decent amount of international players who can help mentor Bender. I don’t believe Bender is that far away from being able to contribute. He needs some experience, weight and confidence. But if he can build those three things up until the Wolves make the playoffs, I think they add a prospect who, I believe, becomes more valuable that Zach LaVine for this team.
Often times the youngest player in the draft usually has success in the league. It is something to keep in mind. The last few off the top of my mind are Devin Booker, Aaron Gordon, Giannis, and Andre Drummond.
2. Kris Dunn
After Bender, I don’t think any of the remaining players are absolute future starters for the Wolves. More than likely, they all end up being solid players off the bench and can step in as starters in the future. The reason I prefer Kris Dunn is because I believe he can come in and compliment Rubio from the beginning. Dunn can play behind or next to Rubio for short stints. Dunn also has a skill set in which he could eventually challenge Rubio for his spot a year or two down the road. It is still an unknown as to how Rubio fits in the grand scheme of things. In the event that Rubio gets hurt or wants out of Minnesota, I would feel comfortable with Dunn as the starting point guard of this team after this season.
The reason I also like Dunn is that I believe he is simply better than Murray and Hield. Dunn possesses an all-around skill set that inevitably translates great to the NBA. His ability to score, play-make and defend makes him a net positive player to have on the floor. If he develops a 3-point shot, he could end up being one of the best players in this draft. If you want to read our thoughts more on Dunn, we had an article here about him last month that was well received.
3. Jamal Murray
The Murray and Hield debate is something I run every day in my head and finally feel comfortable sharing it. I take Murray over Hield as someone who, I believe can become a solid scorer in the league. I think the McCollum comparisons are disrespectful to CJ, but if Murray becomes a poor man’s version of him, I will be happy. I worry about his ability to ever defend in the NBA, which is why I like Dunn more. We also talked about why we like him here. I won’t be upset if the Wolves take Jamal Murray.
4. Buddy Hield
#WolvesNation is crazy about Buddy Hield. I am not as convinced still. Buddy also can’t defend and don’t think he can thrive as a bench player, which is inevitably what is role would be with the Wolves. He requires a high usage and I don’t see him getting it with guys like Towns, Wiggins, LaVine and Shabazz who require the ball to be effective. The only positive of taking Hield for me is that my expectations would be much lower than anyone else we could take.
If the Wolves keep their pick, it will be one of those four. Otherwise I will be shocked. I think there is a 40% chance that the Wolves trade the pick on draft night. The Wolves clearly have goals of making the playoffs this coming season. We mentioned earlier in the offseason that the Wolves should just trade the pick and think that it still makes sense. The Wolves could acquire a veteran who could speed up the process as well as maybe a mid-1st round pick. The Jimmy Butler rumors were just a smokescreen that was probably done to raise the value of the pick in a draft where everyone is trying to trade out.
There are four teams to watch on draft night that have three 1st round picks: the Sixers, Suns, Celtics, and Nuggets. The Wolves may be able to work out a deal that allows the Wolves to acquire a veteran and a later pick. If somehow the Wolves end up moving down, I still love Timothe Luwawu and Wade Baldwin. I don’t know if either worked out for the Wolves, but I will dream. The Wolves do happen to love Ben Bentil, which will be something to watch for in the late 1st round and 2nd round.
For the next few hours, I will be watching for #WojBombs and hoping something crazy happens. As a life-long Wolves fan, especially during the rebuilding phase, the draft is our playoffs. Let’s add another brick to the Rebuild!
The Timber Rebuilder.
PS – I will be at the Wolves draft party. Tweet us if you are going! @timberrebuilder
Timberwolves Community Big Board – Controversial 4th Spot
Well this is how we are rounded out for the top 3 in the Wolves draft big board
- Ben Simmons
- Brandon Ingram
- Dragan Bender
You voted for the third spot and named Dragan Bender the 3rd best player available. Twitter did believe Kris Dunn was the best so I am beginning to believe the Twitter followers are obsessed with him. So it is your duty, if you are opposed to Kris Dunn being the 4th best player available in this draft, then you need to get out and vote! Share it with others who hate Kris Dunn!
Someone that could be receiving love at the 5th pick is Jaylen Brown who seems to be moving back up draft boards. He presents himself as a solid small ball-4 who can defend and is athletic. Don’t sleep on him!
You can access the previous votes here:
This is the moment of truth. The top 3 was predictable. Now is the chance! Vote!
If you don’t already, please follow us on twitter @timberrebuilder and on facebook at fb.me/timberrebuilder
Behind The Smokescreen
Game 5 of the NBA Finals was sprinkled with Timberwolves rumors. Every however many minutes we would see ‘the Timberwolves were actively shopping the 5th pick for Jimmy Butler’ scroll across the bottom line. There would be a ton of fun tidbits that Tom Thibodeau used to coach Jimmy Butler, things that were obvious. The rumors started swirling nationally once everyone got a notification from ESPN on their phones about the rumor and this tweet:
We’ve heard the rumors before. We have seen the photoshopped pictures of Jimmy Butler in a Wolves uniform. This was nothing new. Some may say that ESPN is struggling and they finally got the rumors weeks later. But in the age of the internet, I find that hard to believe. The internet has been the most reliable source of speedy information ever. Just ask Steph Curry’s new ‘Emergency Room’ 2s. The way this story came out, it felt planted.
Over the last couple weekends, I have been absent due to being in class. I was taking a condensed-MBA course that met three times from 8am-5pm called ‘Persuasion & Influence.’ Of course, after taking a class for that long consecutively you not only see everything through the lenses of the class, but you believe everything has do to with the material you just learned. While in the class, I was eager to apply it to everything I could, especially basketball. Well this is one of them. One of the principles of influence, a pretty basic one, is contrast. What the principle says is a way to influence people is through the contrast of one thing to another. There are experiments that prove this to work. One example is having three buckets, one hot, one room temp, and one cold. If you dip your hands in the hot and the cold buckets and then bring both hands into the room temp bucket, your senses will be confused. While both hands are in the same bucket, the hand that was in the hot bucket will feel cold and the hand that was in the cold bucket will feel warm. The contrast principle is used a lot in sales. When selling something expensive, a lot of times a sales person will say in comparison to what.
After that quick lesson in influence, I feel like that is exactly what is happening here for the Wolves. The league knows that the 5th pick will not net Jimmy Butler. Something needs to be added. But what is happening is that the Wolves are essentially raising the stock price on that 5th pick. The 5th pick inherently seems more valuable than it did before the rumors started swirling. Who would ever think that Buddy Hield or Jamal Murray plus another prospect would be worth one of the best two-way players in the league?
This is how the Celtics have gotten into the mix. The Celtics have more assets and a better pick than the Wolves. And a team that just made it to the playoffs, it seems that naturally they would be more inclined to make a deal with the Bulls. If the Bulls were to make Butler available, the first team that would get a call is the Celtics. The only reason they wouldn’t be because they wouldn’t want to send Butler to another team in the East, but when you’re rebuilding that doesn’t really matter. At the same time, chances of the Bulls dealing with Thibodeau are slim to none. The only way the Bulls do a deal with Thibs is if they can ruin his life. The rumors around the deal have mentioned Wiggins plus the 5th pick, which is just about what could ruin Thibs’ life. So unless something crazy happens between now and next Thursday, Jimmy Butler will not be a Timberwolf.
So why? Why did the rumors get thrown out there when it did? Now it’s time to do a lot of speculation. What we do know is the following in terms of draft workouts:
Three tidbits on guys the Wolves will look at in the 5th slot. Jamal Murray was working out in MN the day the rumors came out. Kris Dunn expressed that he will only workout against Ben Simmons, Ingram, or Jamal Murray. Also Buddy Hield hit 85 of 100 threes at a Celtics workout. These are the facts/ credible rumors. Dragan Bender is also coming to work out in MN on Thursday.
Now it is time to take a trip behind the smokescreen. It is time to speculate. There is certainly going to be a lot more that will happen in the next week and a half but for now, we will try to make sense of all this.
First, is there a link between the timing of the rumors and Jamal Murray’s workout? What does this say about Murray’s workout? Was it bad it enough that the Wolves want to move the pick? Is he not worth it there? Could it be an act?
Then there is the Buddy Hield workout with the Celtics. Did Buddy Hield just raise his stock with hitting 85 of 100 threes? Is he a serious candidate for the 3rd pick in this draft? Were the Wolves secretly trying to get him?
I don’t think there is enough there on the Murray or Hield front to speculate that the rumors had to do with them. I do however believe it had to do with Kris Dunn though. Why? Well first, the Wolves were using the contrast influence principle to raise the value of the 5th pick by attaching an All-Star to it like Jimmy Butler. Why you may ask? Because the Celtics or the Suns will want to get equal or greater value now for the 3rd or 4th pick. Now a deal around the troubled Jahlil Okafor doesn’t seem as appealing for the 3rd or 4th pick. The reason that is important is because the Sixers reportedly like Kris Dunn and desperately need a point guard.
Kris Dunn is doing his part as well. After refusing to work out for the Suns and Celtics, he came out and put up conditions that are near impossible to meet, especially a week before the draft. Teams are absolutely going to be concerned about his injuries and how he matches up against other picks in the 3-8 range. The reason Dunn can do this is because he has less to lose. He doesn’t want to go 3rd or 4th. He would be happy to go 5th where he has an opportunity to grow with one of the most exciting franchises and eventually compete for a starting spot if Rubio is to get hurt or demand a trade. The Wolves do have serious interest in Dunn. If he is on the board at 5, I have to believe he is the best player available from the Wolves perspective. The only person I think the Wolves truly consider over Dunn will be Dragan Bender.
If Dunn is the Wolves’ guy behind closed doors, they are putting themselves in a win-win situation. The Wolves are truly interested in Jimmy Butler. If the Bulls bite on a deal, the Wolves are automatically playoff contenders. If not, the value of the pick went up without doing anything. And as the pick’s value is going up, the stock of Kris Dunn is going down as he is an unknown. It will be interesting if this ends up being the scenario that works out because all season long there were jokes about why the Wolves never took Steph Curry in the 2009 NBA Draft. The reason was because Curry refused to workout for the Wolves. It is risky business to draft someone who never worked out for you. The Wolves have already seen Dunn in LA and probably have more information on him in the background.
I am aware there are a lot of Buddy Hield and Jamal Murray fans in Wolves Nation, but the forecast is showing Kris Dunn more and more…
The Timber Rebuilder.
The 3rd Spot – Timberwolves Community Big Board
The community has spoken! In our previous poll, we were able to get the top two, which was no surprise. Ben Simmons won both our page and Twitter polls. He won the page poll with 39% and Twitter with 45%. Brandon Ingram gets the second spot by getting 31% of the page polls for the top spot. In the Twitter poll, Kris Dunn got 23% of votes and Ingram got 19%. The page poll received way more votes, where Dunn came away with 7.9%. So the Community Big Board looks like this so far:
- Ben Simmons – F – LSU
- Brandon Ingram – F – Duke
Now it gets interesting. Who is the 3rd best player in the draft from the Wolves perspective? Who do Wolves fans believe is the best after Simmons and Ingram? I really believe this will get mixed reviews. So please share your thoughts.
To start the conversation, Upside & Motor talks about who would be the best fits for teams. Check it out here:
They point out how Dragan Bender would be scary for the Wolves to land, which I agree with. Bender’s potential alongside Towns and Wiggins could provide something very scary for the rest of the league. A 3-and-D big man who has guard skills could make the Wolves starting lineup a matchup nightmare. The Wolves also have the appetite for the risk with Bender. The Wolves don’t need a rookie to step in immediately and help. Bender can learn to defend from Thibs and be the future starting power forward, something the Wolves desperately need.
Then there is the daily debate within the Wolves community. Who do you take if Kris Dunn, Buddy Hield, or Jamal Murray are available? From what I can gauge, there is a three-way split between the Wolves fandom. Do Wolves fans feel strongly enough to place one of them as the 3rd best player available? This is the channel to express that!
Also including here is Jaylen Brown. Throughout the season, Brown has been in the top 4 category. He is an athletic freak who screams project. The Wolves could take that on and develop nicely as another weapon for Ricky Rubio.
Please vote and share! I will close this one after two days so we can keep it moving!
Jamal Murray – How he Fits with the Timberwolves
A couple weeks ago we entertained the idea of adding Kris Dunn to the Timberwolves roster through the NBA draft on June 23. This post will explore Jamal Murray, freshmen guard out of Kentucky. Nothing clever I can think of for the title on this one, so just going to jump into it.
The thing that makes Jamal Murray considered a lottery pick in the draft is his scoring and shooting ability. He had the highest scoring average of all freshmen with 20 points per game. He is also a tremendous three-point shot. He shot nearly 41% from three this last season. His shot is fluid and can release in a multitude of ways. The fact that he is a Freshmen and contributed this much to a team like Kentucky goes a long way. Kentucky has a reputation for producing great NBA players.
If you didn’t know, floor spacing and the catch & shoot are things the Wolves truly struggle with. Matter of fact, they are among the worst in the league. See this post by Nylon Calculus. While the Wolves can choose between Buddy Hield and Jamal Murray to space the floor, Murray is the catch and shoot talent. Murray has the potential to come off of screens and spot up for a 3-point shot like a J.J. Redick. Murray shot 56% when coming off of screens. He will also have the chance to hang in the corner and spot up threes when Wiggins or Towns are double-teamed and when Rubio is looking to penetrate & dish. Thibodeau loves the corner three and it will likely be Murray’s first task to master that shot, if drafted.
For anyone being drafted in the 5th spot, the hope is that they can come in immediately and contribute. That doesn’t necessarily mean they need to be a starter. The only starting spot without much competition would be the power forward position, but there aren’t talented enough power forwards in this draft to take that spot. A guard like Jamal Murray though would need to come off the bench and score. They would need to add to the depth of the team and have someone other than Shabazz Muhammad as the only scoring threat. Murray can absolutely be that. Murray has a high BBIQ and is very aggressive. He is mature beyond his years on the court. It will be interesting to see how that translates in the NBA.
There are some significant issues that Murray has though. The first is his ability on defense. There is a good chance that Murray will never be an adequate defender in the league. He lacks the athleticism to stay with guards in the NBA. This can be an issue if Tyus Jones is on the team. Having scrappy guards who can defend seems to be important to Thibs.
While Murray has the size to play either guard position, he does struggle playing the point guard position with efficiency. He averaged more turnovers than assists and seems to play naturally off the ball. He also has some problems with finishing around the rim, something that doesn’t get easier at the next level. He could get time to develop behind LaVine in his first few seasons in this aspect.
It seems that typically many people will mention Jamal Murray and Buddy Hield in the same sentence. It is important to note that Murray is three years younger than Hield. That is the span of a rookie contract. By the time Murray is the age of Hield, his rookie option will be decided on and he will be a fairly known commodity. The three-year gap could amount for something. Hield did should 5% better in FG% and 3P% on one more three-point attempt per game. Buddy Hield is a better fit for a team looking to win now. It almost seems like the Boston Celtics would be a great fit if they decide to keep their pick.
While the Wolves will be shooting for the playoffs this season, they did earn the 5th-worst record in the NBA with a fairly healthy roster. So the Wolves are hoping to make a significant jump that will be reliant on the improvement & development of their current personnel and on Coach Thibs implementing his schemes flawlessly in his first season. Realistically, the Wolves are somewhere between the 7th-worst in the league and the 7th-seed in the West. The long-term goal for the young core is to win a championship. If that is the case, it may make the most sense to draft a guy that can be molded into that group when making a decision between two guys (Murray and Hield) who have a similar skill set. By taking Jamal Murray, the Wolves get a three-year grace period for a guy who can carve out a role on the team in that time.
In the short term, Murray isn’t doing much. He will need to learn to defend, how to play the point guard, and finish around the rim. He may see time when the Wolves desperately need to spread the floor or need someone to come off of screens to catch-and-shoot. Thibs is not crazy about the ‘baptism by fire’ rule of getting rookies a ton of minutes to develop. He will get them developed in the ways he can. Murray will probably find himself in the corners on the offensive end and move his way up. It may be a couple of years before Murray actually sees significant minutes. It could be a good thing nonetheless. The Wolves may look to bring in a couple free agents who can help boost the Wolves into a winning franchise in the time Jamal Murray develops.
With Thibodeau around, it is clear that Murray will not see a lot of minutes until he can at least hold his own on defense. That may not come until year two or three. But when he does learn to defend, he will serve as a great change-of-pace scorer off the bench or alongside LaVine or Wiggins. It could also could at a time where Andrew Wiggins is seeing some stretch-four in a couple of years. Murray will be able to run his defender off the court like a young Reggie Miller or Ray Allen. He may never be great in that sense but he could definitely bring attention away from Wiggins and Towns.
All in all, if the draft goes Simmons, Ingram, Dunn, Bender, I would first look to trade the pick. My ideal would be to move down to get Wade Baldwin or Timothe Luwawu. If there are no takers for the 5th pick, which seems more and more likely by the day, the decision to pick between Jamal Murray or Buddy Hield will be a reality. I am siding with Jamal Murray because he is better in the catch-and-shoot, is more versatile in what positions he will be able to play, and is three years younger.
A Dunn Deal?
The title is cliché, but wanted to take the opportunity to use it before it was over-Dunn. Get it? Yes I did it again. A quick shout out to @kadung1 for his tremendous Wolves photoshop work as well. He put together the image. Go give him a follow on Twitter.
The Wolves have the 5th pick, officially. So the smoke is finally beginning to clear. The Wolves will likely shop the pick but it should be of no surprise to any executives in the league that this is a two-man draft. In comparison to other years, the value of a lottery pick may be low due to natural supply and demand. Many teams in the lottery, especially the Boston Celtics, will look to trade their picks. There is also a group of prospects between 3 and probably 15 where they are merely the same level of talent.
One prospect that is becoming more and more intriguing by the day is Kris Dunn. I will be the first to admit, I wasn’t a fan midway through the season. I still think there are some major holes in his game. He can’t shoot and I believe he made a living of taking advantage of his size to get to the basket. What is also concerning is that he has had a series of shoulder injuries in his career. His camp has already declined to provide information on his physical to Boston and Phoenix, the two teams picking before the Wolves. It could be strategic since both the Celtics and Suns have point guards that are foundational to their franchises.
Before diving into this discussion, Britt Robson wrote something similar, but I still had a good amount I wanted to get off of my chest. Please check out his piece.
Why is Dunn growing on me? For a few reasons. First off, I love defense. More important than that is Thibs loves defense. If the Wolves keep their pick, I have to imagine that the player that is drafted is a player that can play defense. Dunn is a two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year where he averaged 2.6 steals this last season. Dunn’s 6-4 athletic frame paired with a 6-10 wingspan is something that could disrupt opposing ball handlers.
Dunn also can rebound, pass and score. Not only was he the Defensive Player of the Year, but he was also the back-to-back Big East Player of the Year. This season he averaged 16.4ppg, 6.4apg and 5.2rpg. His advanced stats are also nice. He has an offensive rating of 106 and defensive rating of 95 while having a 28% usage over the last two seasons. What really makes him stand out though is that his offensive and defensive Win Share and Box-Plus-Minus are basically equal. That means he is a damn good two-way player. To be honest, he may be the best two-way player in the draft.
Dunn is also growing on me because I really dislike risk, especially in the draft. Dunn is an experienced player who has played two seasons at a high-level. He is one of the most NBA-ready players entering the draft. At 22, he can still grow with the other Wolves young players. He could be a starter in the league but could also have a Marcus Smart-type of role for the Wolves.
Speaking of his role, there is a reason why Dunn is eyeing the Wolves roster. He isn’t only interested in the plethora of talent that is on the roster. He believes he can break into the rotation and earn a significant role with the team. Before withdrawing his name from the draft last season, DraftExpress.com projected Dunn to be the 13th pick in the draft. You know whom that is ahead of? The 24th pick, Tyus Jones. You have to imagine that Kris Dunn’s camp is eying Tyus Jones current role as the backup point guard. Dunn can score and defend better than Jones and both are probably at the same level in terms of being a ‘floor general.’
The other thing that isn’t mentioned enough is Ricky Rubio’s future. A disclaimer is that I love Ricky. I am a part of the problem though. I can’t imagine this team as performing better without Ricky Rubio. Dunn could be the future starting point guard of the Wolves. And if he is capable of being that, as Robson mentioned, it’s a good problem to have. There is the possibility that Rubio and Dunn can coincide in smaller lineups or in a ‘death’ defensive lineup with Rubio/Dunn/Wiggins/ Dieng/ KAT.
The reality of the situation is that, the Wolves don’t really need another wing or another sub-par power forward. The Wolves could use some consistency and security at point guard. Picking Dunn could mean that Shabazz has a future for at least another season with the Wolves. Dunn’s scoring could also be extremely helpful off of the bench alongside Shabazz. Adding Dunn is making more sense by the day.
Just How Lucky are the Wolves?
By the end of this, there will be a numerical probability of just how lucky the Wolves were to have this roster.
As we approach the NBA Draft Lottery, Wolves fans are enjoying the recent news of Karl-Anthony Towns winning the Rookie of the Year award Unanimously. There has been a lot of chatter about how lucky the Wolves have been over the last couple years to acquire two great young talents in Andrew Wiggins and Karl Towns. This chatter is warranted. The Wolves have had some historic things happen over the last two seasons, things that would attract a top-tier head coach like Tom Thibodeau to want to work in Minnesota. But just how lucky have the Wolves been?
The young core of the Wolves has accomplished some incredible things in the last two years. The Wolves flirted with being the first team in history to have three consecutive Number 1 picks on the same roster, until the Wolves released Anthony Bennett. Andrew Wiggins and Karl Towns are the first duo to win back-to-back Rookie of the Year awards on the same team since the Buffalo Braves in 1974. LaVine, Wiggins and Towns also set a record against the Cavs being the first trio of scorers under 21-years old to all score 20 points or more in a single game. The things the Wolves are accomplishing over time make you believe that it’s either fate or some serious luck.
The Wolves haven’t always been lucky. And when you’re constantly unlucky, the luck has to eventually turn into your favor. The Wolves have the longest active streak of not making the playoffs, which is up to 12 seasons. That is a lot of opportunities to get lucky and a lot of times ending up not lucky. The Wolves had never won the lottery in its 26-year history prior to last summer, which having the best odds twice. In those years the Wolves ended up with Christian Laettner and Derrick Williams instead of Shaquille O’Neal or Kyrie Irving. There is also the time in the 2009 draft where the Wolves drafted back-to-back point guards at the 5 and 6 spots just to have Stephen Curry be drafted 7th.
All that rebuilding talk aside, the 2016 Minnesota Timberwolves are in a lucky position. But just how lucky? Lets see…
Probabilities to factor in:
– First, it all begins with Lebron James. Lebron going to the Cavaliers in the summer of 2014 is what caused a domino effect of moves for the Wolves. If Lebron stayed in Miami, the Kevin Love trade may have never happened. If Love was not traded to the Cavs, chances are he would’ve been traded to the Warriors for a horrible deal around David Lee or left for nothing in free agency. According to fivethirtyeight.com the probability Lebron James kept his talents in Miami were 49.7%. After that, the Cavs had the best chances of bringing back the hometown hero with 15.8% chances. So the entire Wolves core doesn’t happen theoretically unless that 15.8% chance happens.
– The next thing that has to occur is that the Cavaliers have to win the draft lottery in order to have something to offer the Wolves for Kevin Love. The element of conspiracy theory occurs with the NBA draft here because the Cavs had a 1.7% chance to win the number 1 pick in the 2014 draft. Those chances are tiny! But it happened. And they took Andrew Wiggins with that trade.
– Next thing to factor in is Wiggins winning the Rookie of the Year award. The Wolves were lucky to get a talent like Andrew Wiggins to rebuild around. The truth is, he could’ve been a bust like Anthony Bennett the year before, so measuring just how significant of a talent Wiggins could be, the odds of him winning Rookie of the Year should be factored into the Wolves luck. Wiggins had odds of +600 to win the 2015 Rookie of the Year in July behind Jabari Parker, which converts to a probability of about 14.29% according to Sportsinsights.com
– The Wolves need their own luck with the Wolves winning the lottery. The Wolves were coming off of a serious rebuild in 2014-15 and came away with the worst record in the NBA. This gave the Wolves the best odds of winning the draft lottery in 2015 with a 25% chance. Compared to all of the other things that were factored into this probability, this was the most likely thing to happen. Like I stated earlier, the Wolves had never won the lottery up until this point. So to finally win it was huge.
– Towns winning the Rookie of the Year award. Unanimously too. Towns had a monumental season posting 18ppg, 10rpg and 54.2FG%. He was a joy to watch on both ends of the court. The Wolves got a franchise changing talent, which is highly unlikely. But in order to measure the Wolves luck, we simply looked at his odds of winning it in the preseason. He was not the favorite out of the gate. Towns ROY odds in August were +650, which is about 12.82% also according to sportsinsights.com. KAT was behind Jahlil Okafor at the beginning of the season as the favorite to win it.
Probabilities that were not factored in:
– The trade for Andrew Wiggins. While it would be nice to calculate what the probability was that the Love-Wiggins trade happened, its hard to put a numerical value on that. The Wolves swapping for talent isn’t really luck either. The Cavs just had to have the necessary talent to get Kevin Love.
– Getting Zach LaVine. Zach has been an integral part of the Wolves young core and getting him at the 13th pick over Adreian Payne was absolutely lucky. Unfortunately, the luck evened out by trading a future first-round pick for Payne.
– Picking other guys. There are the other draft picks the Wolves made like picking Towns over Okafor. Also there is the trading of Trey Burke for Shabazz and Gorgui, which was very lucky. These things were not factored in. The Wolves dodged bullets by making those selections, at this point in time at least. Things also evened out by not taking Giannis or Rudy Gobert with those picks in 2013. Thus, we just called it a draw.
– Landing Tom Thibodeau. The Wolves fortunes took a great turn for the better after the hiring of Thibs, at least on paper. Chances are, getting Thibodeau to coach here a year ago seemed like a long shot. But things fell into place and timing was everything. The Wolves were first-movers in the coaching carousel and landed the big fish. Money also talks in this game, so excluding those odds.
We now apply probability rules. Being that these happened in sequence, conditional probabilities can be applied. Since these are independent events, the conditional probability, the probability of event A occurring given event B occurs, is equal to the probability of event A. Thus, using the Multiplication rule for N independent events, we can simply multiply all of the probabilities together. This answers the question of ‘What were the chances of all of these events happening together?’ Statisticians might take a different approach to the calculation. So here it is:
P(Lebron to Cleveland) x P(Cavs win Lottery 2014) x P(Wiggins wins ROY) x P(Wolves win Lottery 2015) x P(Towns wins ROY) = Wolves chances of being in current state
Wolves Luck = 0.00123017% Chance of being in its current state
That means, there was a 0.00123017% chance that the Lebron would sign with Cleveland AND they would win the draft lottery in order to draft Wiggins AND that Wiggins would win the Rookie of the Year AND the Wolves would win the draft lottery the following year to draft Karl-Anthony Towns AND that Towns would win the Rookie of the Year the very next season. So basically, what has happened thus far is highly unlikely.
Compare these chances with one person being struck by lightning once in their lifetime. The chance of that happening is a 0.033333%. That means, it is over 27 times more likely that any one person is struck by lightning in their lifetime than how this Wolves team has been composed over the last two seasons.
Boom. Call it luck. Call it fate. Call it the alignment of the stars. Whatever you call it, it is absolutely exciting.
Side Note: if the Wolves win the draft lottery tonight, the odds of 0.00123017% will be multiplied by 8.8%, which is a really small number. Just something to think about.
The Timber Rebuilder
Timber Rebuilder 2016 Draft Big Board v1.0 (Pre-Draft Lottery)
With the draft lottery around the corner, it seems necessary to simply rank the prospects as the Wolves could land anywhere between pick 1 and 6. I have mentioned that I believe the Wolves should trade the pick, but in the event that they do keep it or even trade down, I will rank the prospects from the Wolves perspective.
For the Wolves, young talent is not an issue. If the Wolves do keep the pick, it will be important that whoever that is drafted fit into the long-term plan. The Wolves have some serious deficiencies currently that prevent them from being competitive. There is no one player that can fix them for the Wolves, but it is important to at least understand what the deficiencies are.
First, the Wolves need three point shooting. It’s been an issue for a while now. There isn’t going to be a rookie that solves this issue by himself but they could at least help. There needs to be guys who can help stretch the floor for KAT and Wiggins through the game. There are a few guys in this draft that can help in this category.
Next, the Wolves are very weak at power forward. Conveniently, this draft is as well. It seems like Payne may be a better option than many of the power forwards immediately next season. But it doesn’t mean that we can search. A long-term starter at power forward could mean a small forward who plays stretch four or someone who can move Towns to the 4. The Wolves will need to get creative.
Lastly, the Wolves need scoring and defense off of the bench. The Wolves bench was great early on in the season when Zach LaVine and Kevin Martin were coming off of it, but fell off tremendously when Shabazz Muhammad was the only real threat that started the game wearing warm-ups.
The criterion used was through four areas. Star potential. Can they develop into a starter or more? Are they a high reward? Bust potential. Are they a high-risk prospect? Then I looked at the trends of the game and what the team needs. Shooting. Can they shoot the three and/ or how is their field goal percentage? I ran a regression model at one point to see which college statistics have the most statistical significance on a player’s NBA-career and field goal % was the most important. Next, I will also focus on defense. Not only is defense important to coach Thibodeau but its a growing trend in the league that for a player to be a net-positive player, they have to be able to defend.
Without further ado, here is the Timber Rebuilder pre-lottery/ mid-combine Draft Big Board. I will adjust the rankings as we get closer to the draft. For now, will set at a top 15.
Star Potential: Very High
Bust Potential: Low
With ESPN Insider declaring that if the Wolves get the top pick Ingram should be the choice, it should make one more comfortable with taking Ben Simmons first. Ben Simmons’ skill set is very unique and hard to pass up. Simmons is a match up nightmare. He is physically and athletically already at an NBA-level. He can absolutely get to the rim at will and finish around the basket. What makes him unique is that he can get others involved. Before criticizing his shot, its important to note that you don’t have to be able to shoot in order to be good in the NBA. There is a mantra that the only way to beat the Warriors is to play like them and it is not true. I am sure Simmons’ shot and defense will be worked on greatly over his career. If he can become average at either, he will be a scary talent. I love Ingram, but Simmons is just too good of a talent to pass up. As a freshmen Simmons averaged 19 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals a game. That is just absurd. Of all the players in this draft, Simmons absolutely has the highest ceiling.
Star Potential: High
Bust Potential: Low
Ingram is going to be great. The kid is a 6-10 small forward that can shoot, dribble, and play some decent defense. He also has a 7-3 wing span. I do believe he isn’t going to be able to see his potential immediately due to his weight and finding a position in the NBA. That discovery will be the make or break of Ingram reaching his potential. You have to be able to stay on the court defensively enough. He is not, and may never be, strong enough to guard a power forward. So as great of a shooter and ball handler as he is, this was the differentiating factor for me with Simmons and Ingram. I have no doubt in my mind that Ingram will be great offensively and be a mismatch for teams. He can shoot amazingly and could be the next Durant. But having height isn’t enough. It will be interesting to see how he develops.
Star Potential: High
Bust Potential: High
The problem with Dragan Bender is he is still relatively unknown. There is video footage of him but he plays against weak competition and didn’t get a ton of playing time. I would find him more attractive if he was willing to spend another year overseas but what it seems like is that he is ready to come over the NBA immediately. That said, I believe he and Jaylen Brown are the biggest risks in this draft. Bender has the highest ceiling of all the players outside of the top two. If he can continue to develop his outside shot, inside game, and defense, he will be something special. He is already a great passer and can handle the ball a little bit. He fits the trend of where the game is headed. He would be a tremendous compliment to Towns at the 4 or 5.
Star Potential: Medium
Bust Potential: Low
Defense: Very High
What is attractive to me about Luwawu is he seems polished and athletic for a rookie. For anyone outside of the top three picks, he feels like the least likely to not be out of the NBA in five years. The reason being is that there is always a job for a 3-and-D guy, especially at the molding of Coach Thibodeau. His shot has improved to where there is hope he can be an above average shooter in the league, making him probably one of the better shooters on the team. Defensively, he is long, athletic and can guard anywhere from a point guard to small forward. Luwawu seems like the perfect combination of being able to contribute right away and still having a good amount of potential. If the Wolves get the 5th pick and the top three guys are off the board, Luwawu is whom I go with. There is still a month from the draft and I am sure this is the highest Luwawu will be until then.
Star Potential: Very Medium
Bust Potential: Medium
Jamal Murray can shoot and can score. He is also pretty versatile in that he can play the point guard and shooting guard. Adding to that, he is young and could potentially be one of the better shooters in the league with time. That is why I am such a fan. He isn’t the most gifted athletic and struggles defensively for sure. But he has enough size in which he can disrupt an offense or stay with two-guards, even if they are a second point guard. That said, I also don’t believe grabbing him at 5 would be what would happen in a normal draft. Also, scoring in college doesn’t always translate to scoring in the NBA. That said, he seems like the type of prospect who would potentially be considered one of the better players in this draft five years from now. His offensive game already looks like a seasoned veteran’s.
Star Potential: High
Bust Potential: Medium
I am not crazy about Kris Dunn. I do believe he has the same ceiling as Bender nonetheless with less risk. My problem with Dunn is that I feel he used his size to his advantage in college to get to where he is. There is nothing wrong with that but it is not something that translates well at the NBA level.
Star Potential: Medium
Bust Potential: High
I am a fan of Poeltl, as of late at least. He is growing on me. He is a solid scoring with his back to the basket and within 15-feet. He can be a terror on the offensive boards and a sound defender. He is a prototypical center and reminds me of Vucevic without a jump shot. I think he could be a solid starting center in the NBA. I don’t believe he fits in with the Wolves entirely well nonetheless. The Wolves have Dieng already.
Star Potential: Medium
Bust Potential: Medium
Shooting: Very High
Buddy is Buddy. I would not be upset if the Wolves grabbed Buddy at 5. He can shoot the lights out. He can provide an immediate impact on the offensive side of the floor. My concern is everywhere else. How will he react when he isn’t the focal point of an offense? Can he improve his shot selection? Will he be able to defend so he can stay on the court? While I love Buddy, I am more in the camp of ‘Meh’ when it comes to the idea of him playing for the Wolves. I would rather grab Jamal Murray.
Star Potential: Very medium
Bust Potential: High
I’ll be honest Jaylen Brown scares me. He is a prototypical small forward who is gifted physically. He is quick and athletic. He is also a solid slasher. But he has been so inconsistent in his one year that its hard to justify taking him in the top 5. I am certain as the draft approaches, he will not be someone that moves up. I have him rated fairly low but it is where I think it is worth taking the risk at. I was a much bigger fan of Ivan Rabb but he went back for another year, which will likely benefit him. Brown has some star potential, but his risk is scary to me. Nothing stands out about him. It will be interesting what happens with him the next few weeks.
10 – Wade Baldwin
Star Potential: Slightly Medium
Bust Potential: Low
If the Wolves trade down, Wade Baldwin is a player I believe needs to be taken into serious consideration. The 6-3 point guard has a 6-11 wingspan and can do a lot on the court. That is the biggest differential in this year’s draft. He is another 3-and-D guy and reminds me of Avery Bradley, another player I love. Baldwin is capable of guarding both guard positions and has a good shooting stroke. What makes me really excited about Baldwin is that these skills are there. I don’t believe he will be a star in the league, but I do believe he has the least amount of bust potential if looking for a role player. He is slated to go mid-first round, but to me is worth looking at if the Wolves drop to 6. It sounds crazy but I value his skill set. He is going to have to learn to create offense for himself but depending on how he is used, that may not be necessary. Dunn is above him for the fact that Dunn can create for him and others and is more of a true point guard. Baldwin has a lower ceiling but I think his value as a glue-guy on the Wolves would be more valuable than another star. Again, if I am drafting 6th or find a way to trade down, this is who I hope the Wolves are targeting.
Star Potential: Medium
Bust Potential: High
I instinctively am intrigued by Skal and what he could be. I personally will be very interested to see how he ends up in whatever situation it is he ends up in. He has ‘project’ and probably ‘D-league’ written all over him. But as a team that can take risks at this point, I don’t mind seeing if he can be turned into something that meets the potential many believed he had prior to this one season at Kentucky. A lot will come out about Skal over the next few weeks.
12- Henry Ellenson
Star Potential: Medium
Bust Potential: High
Offensively, Ellenson can stretch the floor and score in a multitude of ways. He is also a very good rebounder. The reason I have him so low is because he can’t defend the 4 or 5 and definitely won’t be able to be on the floor if teams go small, as trends are moving towards in the league. I also am not convinced he is more than a role player in the league. I can’t justify taking a player with that ceiling on the top 10. I don’t think he will be a starter on a winning team in the NBA and so currently, I am fairly low on him. Sorry Minnesota faithful, I hope the hometown kid doesn’t play for the Wolves. Plus, can you seriously trust a Minnesotan who played in Wisconsin? That was a joke…
13- Devonta Davis
Star Potential: Medium
Bust Potential: High
Davis is the prototypical project big that comes out of the draft. He has Myles Turner/ Bobby Portis type of potential. He could very well surprise people when he gets to the league. Could be a serviceable big man.
14 – Furkan Korkmaz
Star Potential: Medium
Bust Potential: Medium
18 years old and from Turkey. Has a solid offensive game and could be a draft and stash option. I like the very limited amount I have seen from him. He is a late lottery candidate.
15 – Demetrius Jackson
Star Potential: Medium
Bust Potential: High
He is a typical point guard and actually pretty good. The reason I have him so low is because he isn’t a combo guard and right now for the Wolves, that puts him behind Rubio and Jones. He is an athletic freak, which is exciting. I would love to see him as a Spur.
16 – Marquese Chriss
Bonus here. He is moving up draft boards mainly because there aren’t many power forward prospects.
Thank is all for now. Again, this will be adjusted after the lottery and through workouts. These boards change so quickly up through the draft and will look even crazier a few years from now. So sometimes it’s not about how right these rankings are, it is about how wrong they will look years from now.
Who the Wolves take will be an entirely different question. A lot depends on where the Wolves end up. The Wolves could trade down and they could somehow win the draft lottery again. Tell me, how crazy would that be??
Until next time.
The Timber Rebuilder.