A Surprisingly Pivotal Point in the Season

The Wolves enter a game against the winless Philadelphia 76ers at 5-8 on the season, after a fast start. The Wolves find themselves in a position where a few games will likely define what their season will look like. They could dig a big enough hole in which it will be to difficult to climb out of later in the season or they can hang around .500 enough to make a push later in the season. The Wolves currently sit 22nd in offensive efficiency and 15th in defensive efficiency. It has been clear through the first 13 games the Wolves win games when the defense is stellar and struggle when they can’t hold their opponents to under 100 points. It has been also evident that the 2nd half is not where the Wolves prevail, giving up leads in games to the Hawks, Magic, and Pistons.

Entering the game tonight against the Sixers, something’s gotta give. Either the Sixers win their first game of the season or the Wolves win their first game at home. If you recall, the Sixers won their first game of the season last year against the Wolves after losing 19 straight, which was really the beginning of the end for the Wolves, who would essentially give up on the season and end with the worst record. The Wolves are 1-6 in the last 7 games and definitely need to turn things around if they intend on being competitive this season or it becomes another year of development.

For the Wolves, a game against the Sixers is exciting for the fact that Karl-Anthony Towns goes up against Jahlil Okafor, two Rookie of the Year candidates. Two franchises have taken different approaches to rebuilding as well, which will be interesting to see over the next few years how they pan out. The Sixers have taken the approach of just accumulating as many assests as possible, whether it is young players or draft picks, and hope they pan out, all while minimizing salary on the team. The Wolves have taken the mentorship approach of surrounding young guys with veterans in which they are also trying to compete with a developing roster.

Sam Mitchell continues to figure out how the team works and made an adjustment where Kevin Martin enters the starting lineup in replace of Tayshaun Prince. This moves Andrew Wiggins to the small forward position. This also sends the message that the Wolves are looking to improve their offense while taking a hit to their defense. I am a firm believer that Kevin Martin and Andrew Wiggins are a duo that does not bode well for Wiggins and his production as Martin takes a lot of his shots or for the team in general. Other than Gorgui Dieng, Wiggins’ net points per 100 possessions is worst when paired with Martin on the floor. It would make most sense to start LaVine at shooting guard or maybe even Shabazz Muhammad at small forward, but Sam Mitchell seems to not prefer those options still. Mitchell believes LaVine still needs to play point guard and talks of Shabazz as a starter haven’t really surfaced. Wiggins and Muhammad have only seen 53 minutes on the court together this season.

Regardless, the change indicates that change needed to happen. It will be interesting to see how many minutes Prince still gets, as he has shown that he isn’t as great of a defender as he was expected to be. The Wolves will face the Hawks, Kings, Clippers, Magic, and Blazers in the next 5 games which will be an opportunity to measure themselves against some more middle-of-the-pack teams, talent-wise. Rubio has mentioned that this is not how a winning team plays, so it will be interesting to see how the Wolves approach these next few games. The Wolves definitely need to experiment a little more with the rotations and sets on the court.

Let’s see tonight though. Our hopes are Towns gets more involved in the offense by getting more shots, there are crisp picks set, and passes aren’t happening cross court. Wolves are coming off of a practice, which Mitchell mentioned being an issue as not having enough. Hopefully the Wolves can come in and win a game they should win.

The Timber (re)Builder

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Wolves 2015-16 Season Preview, Keys to Success, and Bold Predictions

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Roster Review

Depth Chart

PG – Rubio/ Miller/ Jones

SG- Martin/ LaVine/ Wiggins

SF- Wiggins/ Muhammed/ Prince/ Rudez

PF- Garnett/ Bjelica/ Payne

C- Towns/ Dieng/ Pekovic

The offseason is finally over! Those of us with terrible fantasy football starts can re-shift our focuses back to basketball again. With training camp underway and the season starting in less than a month, its time to look at the roster and try to make some predictions. Wolves fans are well aware of the young assets this team has on it. The thing the Wolves as an organization have been renown of doing is bringing in young, valuable assets through the draft or other avenues and turning them into a little older-young, non-valuable roster-fillers. The Wolves have a long history of this and they added another to the wall of shame in Anthony Bennett. Bennett went back home to Toronto after the Wolves could not trade the bust of a number 1 pick. The Timberwolves need to move forward and change the culture immediately, since Anthony Bennett wasn’t entirely their fault.

The Wolves greatest responsibility is turning their young guys into guys who can contribute to a winning roster. Whether it be here or trading them for more assets, the Timberwolves can’t afford to let guys Zach LaVine and Shabazz Muhammad become NBA Journeymen like previous young pups (refer to all players on the Wolves roster between 2004-2013 below the age of 25 with the exception of Kevin Love and Al Jefferson).

To make this year competitive, things need to happen. Things need to change. It needs to be a year where a transition happens. To do that, the Wolves need to do multiple things in order to ensure they make the most of this season. Along with these things I believe the T-Wolves need to emphasize, I will provide some bold predictions.

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Get the Young Pups Minutes, together. (See Portland, San Antonio, Warriors)

Bad teams usually have a lack of chemistry and/ or don’t have a core group of players. Team chemistry may be one of the most overlooked aspects of a good team in modern day sports. Most teams look to build with the best players they can find and expect a quick plug-n-play to win them a championship. Rarely do teams win championships by simply bringing in the best players, their first year. Look at the many times LeBron has jumped around and not won a championship his first year with a new team. Look at the many Laker teams that were assembled by attracting the best players that don’t translate into a championship right away.

The best team the Wolves can model themselves around is the Golden State Warriors, being that they are young and won a championship around a core they drafted. Using Basketball-Reference’s Lineup Finder, the most commonly used 3-man or 4 man combos are all playoff teams within the top 20, lead by the Clippers, Hawks, Spurs, and of course Golden State. This model of playing guys with each other is an age-old model used by the Spurs, literally, that has kept them competitive for decades. Its helps teams like the Blazers and Wizards steadily become playoff contenders.

But if you track the Warriors from the 2012-2013 season with the combination of Curry/ Thompson/ Lee, they were the 51st best combination in terms of Net Points, at +203, winning 47 games. Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green were rookies. In 2013-2014, Igoudala with Curry and Thompson became their best trio netting +506, ranking 1st in the league. They actually held the top 4 spots mixing David Lee in there. They would win 51 games. The 2014-15 season, without any major roster changes, they would go on to win an amazing 67 games and the trio of Curry/ Thompson/ Green would lead the league again with a historical +729 Net Points. These three guys played a total of three seasons together, Green played every NBA game with those two (Curry and Thompson).

Moral of the story? If you want to be good, your best players need to have a chemistry and have to be on the floor together. And if you want to be really good, let them be young guys that can grow together. The Wolves have the young pieces. I believe the Wolves don’t need to make any major roster changes beyond this point. They just need Wiggins, Towns, and LaVine/ Rubio/ Shabazz to build a chemistry on the court by logging minutes together. They need to learn together, win together, and lose together. Seeing Duncan/ Parker/ Ginobili all these years together shows that chemistry usually trumps talent.

The key will be a couple things. Rubio will need to understand Wiggins, Towns, and LaVine very well. They all are effective in very different ways. It is the job of Rubio to tailor his leadership to each of them. Rubio will need to get Wiggins set up to score in the half court offense. He will need to master the pick and roll with KAT. And he will need to learn to ignite the fastbreak and toss alley-oops to get LaVine easy buckets. Also, developing a Wiggins/ LaVine and Towns pick and roll will be essential for the development of the needed chemistry. The other extremely important piece, is health. Rubio and the gang need to stay healthy. The addition of Kander is huge as the Wolves have struggled with injuries for the last several years. There is nothing that replaces minutes logged together in real NBA games. And as a wise man once said in regards to a lack of chemistry,”You wasn’t with me shooting in the gym!” (Joke).

You have Veterans, Use them. (Unofficial mentors, change Martin’s role, Pek rough up guys)

Kevin Garnett, Tayshaun Prince, and Andre Miller. This sounds like a championship team 10 years ago. But its not 10 years ago. The Wolves were very intentional about bringing in veterans with playoff and championship experience to mentor their young guys. KG makes sense. He is fully invested. Its hard to tell yet whether Prince and Miller will embrace their roles as mentors or just another check to round-out their careers. But the front office needs to take full advantage of these talented guys on the roster.

Assign these guys as official mentors to these guys. Garnett is a direct influence to the entire team and culture, but he needs to take Towns, Dieng, and Payne under his wing. Prince will work directly with Wiggins and Bazz. It is quite interesting to see that Prince shares a similar personality to Wiggins and Shabazz and quieter guys. Andre Miller will get to mentor LaVine, Rubio, and the young Tyus Jones. My hope is that the young guys are sponges to the experiences of the veterans.

But don’t forget there are other veterans on the team. Kevin Martin and Pekovic should not be forgotten. Martin can be an incredible resource to the young-scoring wings on the team. Martin has always found ways to score even though he doesn’t dominate athletically. Martin should share this knowledge as well as be a good test to the wings to try and defend him in practice. Pekovic will be useful (if healthy) to bang around the young guys in the post. There aren’t many scarier guys in the league outside of big Pek.

Maybe I am the only one, but I hope the coaches run a 5-on-5 scrimmage with Miller-Martin-Prince-KG-Pekovic vs LaVine-Shabazz-Wiggins-Dieng-Towns. That would be extremely entertaining.

Compete!

There is no replacement for winning games. A steady increase will give the Wolves something to build on. And while having the worst record in the league last year, there is no where to go but up. But a culture change needs to be established. The Timberwolves own the longest active streak of not making the playoffs. Everyone in the organization is used to coming out and not competing. The hope is, KG changes that.

Reasons I love Rubio and Towns is that they are fierce competitors. They love to win. I think both of these guys with KG healthy will be the ignition to changing that culture. The Wolves played significantly better with Rubio on the floor. Towns only lost one game last year. Wiggins, LaVine, and Shabazz need to buy into that mentality as well. Dieng is also a competitor, people forget he won a championship at Louisville.

The first step to competing is defense. And what we saw in the training camp was an emphasis on just that. The Wolves were easily the worst defensive team last season and that needs to change. Defensive not only wins championships but it does win games. The Wolves found themselves blown out early in games in which they had a solid offensive outing but defensively, did nothing. The Wolves have good pieces defensively in Rubio, Wiggins, Towns, Dieng, and of course the veterans KG and Prince. The key difference will be getting guys like LaVine and Shabazz to buy-in defensively.

Culture will play the next part in competing. The point of winning games isn’t necessarily to win a championship this year, because that is not happening. But to change the mentality that it is okay to lose in Minnesota. Minnesota will NEED to win 30 or more games this season. I am predicting the wolves go 39-43 this season, and I am being optimistic. That doesn’t get us a good draft pick or get us in the playoffs. But it does push for a more experienced team to sneak in by 2016-17. A team that doesn’t give up in the clutch or against teams with more talent.

Last, the Wolves have to do a few things better on the offensive end to compete. They HAVE to shoot the 3 better. And they have to improve their ball movement. Flip has gotten offended when people criticize his lack of use of the 3-pointer, but numbers and history don’t lie. His teams don’t shoot the three and shoot the mid-range shot, the worst shot in basketball, more than normal. The team didn’t bring in any 3-point specialists, and lost guys like Gary Neal, Robbie Hummel, and Chase Budinger, who were reliable 3-point threats. Word is Karl Towns has a nice stroke but chances are we won’t see that come into fruition for a few years. So the Wolves are left to depend on the development of Wiggins, Shabazz, and LaVine as well as Kevin Martin becoming healthy. Ricky Rubio will be heavily depended on for both portions. As he is healthy, he helps move the ball around. He, again, has worked on his three-point shot all summer. It is important that he can hit the occasional open tray. Towns will be an X-factor as well in that he can shoot and pass the ball.

Develop Roles Now

Clearly distinguishing roles will be crucial for the Wolves, especially for the Pups. Wiggins and Towns will need to be formed into the faces of the Franchise. Who is Batman and who is Robin? When Garnett and Marbury were in town, the problem with two Batmans was partially because roles were not defined. What my concern is with Wiggins and Towns is, they are two Robins. So what happens then? Garnett will need to help these two find their identities and then find comfort in those. There is nothing greater to this organization than developing the last two number 1 picks together. There aren’t enough words to say to emphasize that point.

The most interesting roles will be for Shabazz and LaVine. My bold prediction is that LaVine ends up as the starter and Martin moves to the bench. LaVine has to show that he will put up more effort than Martin on the defensive end, and it will be hard to deny him that spot. A consistent jumper would be great as well. Also, I believe it will be essential the Wolves develop Shabazz as a 6th man and knowing what that means. Muhammad showed a lot of promise last year before falling to injury. He ate up other teams backup small forwards. He lost a lot of weight again this season so it will be interesting to see if he can maintain that. Shabazz provides the energy and scoring to be an elite 6th man. These two will need to be built into their roles as they have the most trade value to lose or gain this season. Most other guys’ value will not change as much as these two. Either they develop into assets this season or just young guys who may be worth taking a chance on. The Wolves will need to have them play into their roles to increase or maintain their value around the league since one of them may be the odd man out in a few years.

Rubio has to become the captain of the ship. He has done a wonderful job embracing it thus far. He understands that he needs to lead by example and I have no question that Rubio will succeed here. The Wolves have put some pressure by adding Tyus Jones, but it will be a year for Rubio to prove he can stay healthy and can compete.

Find a Diamond in the Rough

The rest of the roster has some very interesting pieces that need to be discussed. To me, value is huge. And getting a return on your value is what makes a franchise successful. There are two guys on the roster the Wolves felt were worth a 1st-Round pick. Tyus Jones and Adreian Payne. The Wolves drafted Jones with a late first-rounder (via two early 2nd-rounders) this offseason and acquired Payne last season for a future 1st-Round pick. At this point, measuring their present value, they would be difficult to trade for a first round pick, meaning they aren’t really meeting their value. They both have a lot of players ahead in the depth chart and should see time in the D-League pending any injuries. I believe both were not great moves, but both being on the roster means they need to be taken care of. Finding ways to develop both will make a huge difference in the future as to whether they can be moved for more valuable pieces or will just become expiring contracts. The hope is both can become competent reserves, but they can’t be left on the back burner.

The Wolves also quietly added Euroleague MVP Nemanja Bjelica. Bjelica can score inside and outside. He is a former second round pick of the Wolves that finally came over. At 27, its hard to tell where he fits in to the Wolves long term plans. His present value is pretty unknown. He had a great summer playing for Serbia while leading them far and even hitting a buzzer beater over Germany. If he can find minutes and develop a role for himself, he has the potential to surprise a lot of people. My biggest concern is his defense and being a 3-point shooter in a bad season for shooters. We have seen a lot of 3-point shooters arrive in Minnesota and freeze. If he can prove to have some value and then develop into a decent role player, this signing could be a great win for the Wolves.

One of the more underrated players in the league is Gorgui Dieng. I am a huge fan. Gorgui quietly led the team in rebounds and blocks last season. He also led the team in offensive win shares, defensive win shares, win shares, defensive box plus/ minus, and box plus/ minus. He is essentially the most efficient and effective player to be playing on the team. He didn’t show great progression offensively last season but I believe will come back much better this season. Dieng is also only 25 and usually left out of the young nucleus conversations, guilty of that myself. Dieng is a proven winner and if he can find a bigger role, he seems to be the one Timberwolves with the least value to lose, and if he can prove to improve his offense this season, I believe a contender will be after him. Dieng is a piece every good team has and I would advise holding on to him for as long as possible.

Bold Predictions:

  • Wolves don’t make the playoffs. End season 39-43. Will probably laugh at this in April.
  • Zach LaVine becomes starting SG by the end of the year
  • Dieng becomes a starter by the end of the year
  • Muhammed get consideration for 6th Man of the Year
  • Wiggins is an All-Star (More so due to All-Star game being in Toronto)
  • Sam Mitchell will last this season
  • Karl Towns will be a top three consideration for ROY

Overall, it will be an exciting season for the Wolves. They still need 3 point shooting but have a good group of defenders. Team defense should improve and a lot of the young guys will assume bigger roles to help the Wolves improve and more than double their win total from last year.

Here is to season 12 to not making the playoffs!

The Wolves Summer Scrimmage 2015 Recap

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The Wolves just got done hosting another open scrimmage with their (star-studded) summer league roster. Wolves fans had the opportunity to see Karl-Anthony Towns and Tyus Jones for the first time play in a Timberwolves Uniform while also watching some of their favorite young pup veterans and guys they’ve never heard of. While my expectations were pretty low, it was a ton of fun. Not to mention it was free, the Target Center attracted a crowd of over 15,000 on a Wednesday night. It seemed louder than most games in there and it was interesting to see the upper levels get people sitting there. All in all, it is easily the most excitement around the Wolves that they have seen in a while.

Disclaimer: This was a scrimmage. If anything said here is exaggerated, please take with a grain of salt. Not much should be made of this game. Just some bold statements to stir some conversation until basketball season starts back up.

Wolves fans got to the team warm up while doing stretches and a poor attempt at the three-man weave which turned into a dunk contest. As expected we saw LaVine make dunks look effortless and Wiggins do his Rookie Game 360 dunk. What was surprising was seeing Towns do two different variations of the between-the-legs slam. The crowd was also pleased to see Brady Heslip slam.

Impressions from the actual scrimmage. I am a huge LaVine fan. My expectations for him are huge. He will either have to learn to play as a two-guard that doesn’t need the ball to be effective or being a 6th man for the rest of his life. His jump shot is fluid and smooth. His ability in transition is art in motion. And his ability to use his athleticism to score around the rim will get him minutes and touches eventually. A consistent three ball paired with his ability to get to the rim is a scary combination.

I have mentioned in previous posts that I don’t believe Tyus Jones will be great. Or even good. He did impress me today. He showed off his IQ on the floor. He was able to shoot but most importantly he looked like the only real point guard out there. He runs an offense pretty well for a 19 year old. He seemed to disrupt LaVine quite a bit when he was running point guard, which most people should be able to do. But there is promise in the hometown hero. If he never becomes great, I am sure the Wolves got a good amount of jersey sales out of him.

Towns was pretty impressive. He had dunks I didn’t expect he could make. He hesitated on a few threes but he was able to knock one down. He over powered Dieng in the post. He showed us the jump hook that brings you flashbacks of Hakeem the Dream. And he was very active on the glass. He made some really nice passes as well. He seems like a kid who will fill in the holes in his game fairly quickly. Most importantly, he didn’t seem to need the ball to have an impact on the game. It will be interesting to see who emerges as the leader of this team over the next few years, will it be Towns or Wiggins? I believe Towns has the intangibles to be that leader.

Speaking of Wiggins, he seemed to vanish in this one like he vanished early in his rookie year. His shot was off. He seemed like he wasn’t trying entirely. He won’t play for the Summer League team but he will practice with them. The Wolves are depending on his improvement this season and will need him to notice vanish like he did today.

Gorgei Dieng played average. Payne was his regular self. Lorenzo Brown was impressive knowing he is fighting for a roster spot and on the verge of being cut soon. That said, it would make sense if he remained on the team as a third string or even back up point guard. There was also a Pekovic and Shabazz siting. Wolves really hope both get healthy soon.

The Wolves will enter the Summer League with one of the most impressive rosters with tons of young talent. LaVine, Towns, Jones, and Payne will try to lead the Wolves to a Summer League championship. The title equates to nothing since the Kings won last summer.

Wolves Take Towns and Tyus. Draft Grade

Flip

Nights like last night is when people earn titles like ‘The Great’ after their name, and that man is Flip. Now known as Flip The Great. The Timberwolves officially welcomed Karl-Anthony Towns as the number 1 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, the first number 1 pick in franchise history. And while it was highly expected, the Wolves came out as winners by acquiring the 24th pick from the Cleveland Cavaliers in order to draft the hometown hero and reigning Final Four MVP Tyus Jones.

Towns landed in the lap of the Timberwolves on Thursday and avoided all the drama that occurred in the 2-4 range.  Towns fills many voids the Wolves currently have such as defensive rebounding, rim protection, pick & roll defense, shooting, and someone in the post that isn’t Pekovic. To add to that, Towns can pass the ball for a big man and will have a ton of targets on an athletic Wolves squad now. To add to that, Towns brings a much needed winning mentality that the Wolves culture desperately needs as they have the longest drought of any NBA team of not making the playoffs. It is crazy to think that KAT has only lost one game in the last year. The Timberwolves lost 65 more games than that.

And while most fans tuned out the rest of the first round, Flip Saunders moved the two second round picks to the Cleveland Cavaliers for the 24th pick to keep Tyus Jones home. Flip gets a pat on the back for this one. While I am not convinced Tyus will ever be a good NBA player, it is absolutely the best situation for him. The Wolves desperately need a consistent back up point guard that can step in immediately if Rubio gets hurt again. While I don’t think Jones fills that void completely, he will get his opportunity and think the LaVine experiment at point guard could couple into that. But Jones is a hero in Minnesota and it seems like Kevin Garnett loves the kid. He will be able to learn from one of the better true point guards in the league in Rubio. All this said, the situation is there for Tyus to grow. He has the ability to shoot and run an offense well. He is a very talented passer and takes care of the basketball. I don’t think he will ever be able to defend in the NBA, which will definitely be a problem. He is a solid addition to the Wolves, but I am not completely convinced he will make too much of an impact, at least not immediately.

Jones will have a chip on his shoulder to prove the other teams wrong that passed on him though. Jones was expected to go number 18 in the draft to the Rockets and play for Kevin McHale as they desperately need a point guard. Instead Jones fell to number 24 and watched guys like Terry Rozier (16), Jerian Grant (19), and Delon Wright (20) get picked before him, all point guards who were expected to go later in the first round/ early second round and after Jones would get picked. The Rockets passed on Jones much to the delight of Flip Saunders who was trying to trade up to the 18 spot to take Jones. Flip passed on the deal and the bluff that the Rockets wanted Tyus at 18 when the Rockets wanted Flip’s ‘first born’ in the trade. Many believe the Rockets were trying to trade for Ricky Rubio for the 18th pick, and thankfully that didn’t happen.

With many of the pieces set in place, you can feel the tables turning. You can feel the excitement again. You can watch the culture change in the organization from the laughing stock in the league to one of the brightest futures. The Wolves literally have the pieces in place to build a dynasty, and I am saying that with all my favoritism aside. Towns is going to be a very exciting player to watch and the hope is he can absorb everything he can from the likes of Kevin Garnett. The key will be his development now and logging minutes with Wiggins, LaVine, and Rubio. Having Towns alone gives the Wolves an A- grade at the minimum since almost any team that would’ve picked number one would’ve taken him. Adding Tyus Jones for the price that they got him at makes the grade an A. The Wolves did not have enough roster spots for the 31 and 36 picks and they didn’t just sell the picks off. They maximized the price of their picks and minimized the salary due to Tyus Jones. Here is to Flip the Great on what looks like his third straight good draft!

– the Timber (re)Builder

The Wolves Land the Top Pick!

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Well, the luck of the draw finally fell the Wolves’ way. The Wolves ended up with the Number 1 pick for the first time in franchise history after having the worst record and owning the best odds at winning the draft lottery for the third time. The times the Wolves have missed out on the top pick they missed out of Shaquille O’Neal (1994) and Kyrie Irving (2011). The hope is the pick ends up with the type of caliber of either of those guys. Some observations from the Draft Lottery.

The Wolves have the opportunity to add to an already great young core. With many questions in the front court with  the injury-prone Pekovic, the underdevelopment of Anthony Bennett, and aging Kevin Garnett, Okafor or Towns fill a huge need for the Timberwolves. There will be further analysis on the Wolves’ front court in a future post as there will likely be a lot of changes to come. Understanding how the number 1 pick fits along with the Wolves’ current roster and assets needs to happen for the Wolves.

The Wolves have the opportunity to be the first team ever to have three consecutive number 1 picks on the same roster. It is unfortunate Bennett was the number 1 pick in the 2013 draft to be honest, because the statistic makes it sound the Wolves should be absolutely dominant. I do think the Wolves should and will move Bennett before the beginning of the season as someone will still want to take a chance on him.

Funny things to point out during the Draft Lottery. First, there wasn’t any coverage of the Draft Lottery during the halftime show since it probably wasn’t exciting to the world that the Timberwolves won the draft lottery. In the coverage that there was about the Lottery, more of the focus was how the Knicks dropped to number 4 and the Lakers hopped up to number 2. Rightfully so but had the Lakers won the Lottery, I believe there would’ve been a lot more talk about it. Next, I was surprised to see Glen Taylor as the Wolves rep because it was initially reported his wife would represent the Wolves. I thought immediately ‘Oh they got in a fight!’. But later on there were reports family members could not represent teams anymore. It should’ve came sooner with the Cavs winning all those number 1 picks with that kid.

Wolves fans can enjoy this victory today and let the dust settle. This is wonderful for Minnesota and will absolutely drive up Season Ticket sales. It will bring a lot more excitement to the Target Center with Wiggins, LaVine, Rubio, and now the 2015 number 1 pick. There isn’t a doubt in my mind the top pick should be Karl-Anthony Towns. So we will soon visit what that means and how he fits in. There is still a great chance Okafor gets taken first but Towns seems to be a great player in the making.

-The Timber (re)Builder

With the 1st Pick in the 2015 NBA Draft (Post 4 of 4)…

The draft lottery is today and the Wolves will soon learn their fate. In the best scenario, the Wolves keep their spot and land the first pick. Since 1994, the top team has won the draft lottery just 3 of the 21 times. Nowhere near 25%.

What to do with this pick? The Wolves would be in full control of their destiny. Never have the Wolves picked number 1, although many number one picks have played for the Wolves (Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Michael Olowokandi, Joe Smith). This pick could solidify another cornerstone alongside the other young pieces the Wolves have. It sounds like the Timberwolves love Jahlil Okafor. The Wolves’ Flip Saunders has strong ties to Okafor’s agent Bill Duffy as former teammates. So if the Wolves get the number 1 pick, I would not be surprised if Okafor went number 1.

That said, to me before workouts and more interviews, Karl Towns is the obvious pick for the Timberwolves. Not only is he better overall, but he fits the Wolves Needs greatly. The Timberwolves need defense. They need rebounding. They need a big man to stretch the offense a little for Flip Saunders’ offense. While I am not a fan of Flip’s offense, using Towns in a Pick n’ Pop would work great with Rubio and Wiggins. All of these things are things that are not really Okafor’s strengths. Towns could be a star but doesn’t seem like he will ever be the best player on a team. Which doesn’t seem to be an issue with the Wolves. He doesn’t seem like there is much risk with him as he has a lot of strengths that translate to the NBA well (Block %, Rebound %, shooting, and athleticism).

To me it isn’t as much a debate so I will keep it short on this one. Towns. Get him paired up with Wiggins, Rubio, LaVine, and Shabazz and the Wolves could be exciting to watch for many years to come. Best of luck to the Timberwolves tonight. The Wolves have NEVER moved up in the Draft lottery before and that streak will continue tonight. But the best of luck would just be keeping the top pick. We will be watching.

towns

– The Timber (re)Builder

With the 2nd Pick in the 2015 NBA Draft (Post 3 of 4)…

We continue our series as we now are on the 2nd pick and while this seems like an obvious choice, I think readers will be presently surprised by who will be suggested as the 2nd pick.

There is a fair assumption around the league that one of the big men will be picked with the 1st pick the draft and common practice is to simply draft whoever is left. If Towns goes number one, draft Okafor. If Okafor goes number one, draft Towns. While this happens a lot if many drafts where there are clear cut 1st and 2nd picks, I would shy away from just falling into that trap. That trap usually sets the team in the 2nd pick slot up for failure. Thus, I believe the Wolves should really think outside the box if they end up with the 2nd pick.

For your reference, since Durant was taken 2nd in 2007, the 2nd pick from 2008-2014 drafts have been Michael Beasley, Hasheem Thabeet, Evan Turner, Derrick Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Victor Oladipo, and Jabari Parker, respectively. Outside of the last two which still are living off of their potential and rightfully so, the others are either fighting to be a starter or just to be in the NBA still. None of these guys have been All-Stars. Oladipo should have gone first in the draft by popular opinion. If that was true, Anthony Bennett would probably be in this group, where he belongs. Another popular number 2 pick is Darko Milicic who was taken before MANY Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh to name a few.

In the scenario Jahlil Okafor goes first, the second pick would be Karl Towns. At number two I believe Karl Towns is worth taking the risk on. He has the size and strength of DeMarcus Cousins. He has good touch for a big man. He also is incredible on the boards and on the defensive end. The scary thing about him is that he played on a stacked team and was a part of Coach Cal’s platoon system, that could have covered up his weaknesses due to his lack of playing time. I don’t think Karl Towns has Super Star potential, but can be an All-Star for a few years in the league if he continues to develop. Defense and Rebounding translate wonderfully to the NBA. While it may take time for Towns to be great on Defense, you can bet he will make a mark on the boards and blocks. The Wolves don’t need Towns to become a Superstar, just a defensive anchor.

In the scenario where Karl Towns goes number one, I would hesitate with Jahlil Okafor. There is a huge connection with Okafor as his agent is Bill Duffy, former Golden Gopher teammate of Flip Saunders. And we know quite well how Flip likes to keep things ‘in the family’ or a lot of his ‘Country Club’ moves. There is also a lot of talk that if the Wolves do get the number 1 pick, they would take Okafor. So they really like something about him. But my biggest concern is his inability to play defense. In the Western Conference, you play the likes of Anthony Davis, Dwight Howard, DeMarcus Cousins, LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, and Tim Duncan four times each. Not to mention all of the penetrating point guards. This means interior defense and rim protection are necessities, not luxuries, if you want to become anything in the Western Conference. The front court of any of the remaining playoff teams in the West are great, not just good, defensively. Draymond Green paired with Andrew Bogut, DeAndre Jordan, and Dwight Howard. Thus, at 1 or 2, I would want to stay away from Jahlil Okafor. If Karl Towns is not available, I look elsewhere.

To me, there is one player that has the tools to be great in the NBA and I believe that id D’Angelo Russell. I spoke about him a bit in the previous post but at Number 2, D’Angelo Russell would be my pick as well. Only in the scenario where Towns goes 1 and Russell goes 2 would I take Okafor at 3. I do believe though Russell’s playmaking ability and his ability to rebound as a guard will make him a mismatch in years to come. He is essentially Ricky Rubio with a jump shot, and the passes are less flashy. Russell paired with Wiggins could be scary for a very long time in the league. While I would really prefer to draft a big man, I think the best player available should be taken here and it is definitely, D’Angelo Russell.

To everyone who thought this would be easy and you just take Okafor. All I can say is GOT EEEMMM!

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