The Situation at pick Seven

Jonathan Isaac. That is the goal.

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

Experts not crazy about the Dieng deal, we disagree

Coming into work today I listened to a podcast like I usually do. I typically will listen to someone like Zach Lowe or Wolves’ fans favorite Dougie Wolfson. I have a personal NBA favorite in Nate Duncan, who hosts the Dunc’d on podcast with Danny Leroux. They are ‘Cap Space’ experts but also do a wonderful job breaking down games. They go super in-depth and are super nerdy. I can relate.

They analyzed the Gorgui Dieng extension, which he signed with the Wolves for 4-years and $64M. Many Wolves fans rejoiced, as it was a steal compared to what we expected for him to be able to sign this summer. One thing that Wolves fans have noted, rightfully so, is that big men are still getting paid big bucks. We saw the deals that Timofey Mozgov, Ian Mahinmi and Bismack Biyombo signed this summer. With the cap increase playing a factor as well, Wolves fans valued Gorgui Dieng right around, if not higher, than those bigs that got paid.

I typically always respect and agree with Nate Duncan and Danny. I couldn’t agree on this one. I call them experts here even though they may not be the names you hear everyday if you’re an average basketball fan. But they definitely know their stuff. They felt that Dieng could’ve potentially got this deal in the summer when he hit restricted free agency. The reasons they call that out is because Dieng would have a cap hold of around 250%-300% his current salary, which is not too high. We could’ve also used it to sign two other starters or one starter and a bench guy with our $40M in cap space this summer.

They also didn’t like it due to Dieng’s age, who will be 27 by next season. The contracts that were given out to those on rookie-scale contracts were mainly to 23-year-old players who will play most of their extension into and in their primes. A lot of the money given to guys like Adams and Oladipo was based on potential. Dennis Schroeder got an extension for $70M and they felt if he developed into an average point guard, he was worth the money.

One of my concerns for extending Dieng was absolutely his age. I made it clear on Twitter. He isn’t worth going $90M if a guy like Adams is getting $100M because of age. But for $64M, you can lock up a fringe-starting center in the new NBA. Dieng has proven himself as someone who can start at Center but also be effective off the bench. Because the Wolves do not have a power forward, Dieng is the starter at Center for the foreseeable future, with Towns at the 4.

Although the Wolves did sign Dieng to a contract into his 30s, they have essentially locked him up through his prime. They will likely get his best production over the next three seasons. They are paying for what he is now and not what he can be in three years, this is a less-risky route. Gorgui has proven he can fit into many roles and still be effective. He is usually a net-positive player on the floor, so having him do this for another 3 years at least is worth the contract he signed.

The criticism around Dieng’s position, alongside Towns, was another criticism. Signing a player to a long-term contract that plays the same position essentially as your best player isn’t smart for how you use your cap space. This is absolutely true. Dieng was criticized that he can’t shoot by Duncan, which I don’t believe is true. Dieng has had a very solid midrange shot (shot 46% from 10-15ft last season). He isn’t a stretch-player necessarily, but he does spread the floor well, above average for a center. Dieng, is also a very good free throw shooter, which is very rare for a big man.

In the next four years, the Wolves will need to find a starting power forward who can stretch the floor and defend. In the meantime though, the Wolves have a solid security blanket in the frontcourt if they don’t find that player right away or if Towns ever gets hurt.

Dieng has also produced more on the court, in a lesser role, than Steven Adams thus far. Yes, Adams is younger and a better defender. But Dieng did just sign for nearly $40M less. Looking at their numbers, you can see that Dieng has averaged more points, rebounds, and blocks per game through his career.

Rk,Player,From,To,G,GS,MP,FG,FGA,FG%,3P,3PA,3P%,2P,2PA,2P%,eFG%,FT,FTA,FT%,ORB,DRB,TRB,AST,STL,BLK,TOV,PF,PTS
1,Steven Adams\adamsst01,2014,2017,234,170,21.7,2.5,4.5,.561,0.0,0.0,.000,2.5,4.5,.562,.561,1.3,2.3,.557,2.4,3.6,6.0,0.7,0.5,1.0,1.1,2.8,6.3
2,Gorgui Dieng\dienggo01,2014,2017,217,105,24.4,3.2,6.2,.516,0.0,0.1,.276,3.1,6.0,.521,.519,2.1,2.7,.780,2.3,4.7,7.0,1.5,0.9,1.3,1.5,2.4,8.5

There is some concern about cap flexibility in the future. That is fair. But at some point, the Wolves need solid role players surrounding Towns and Wiggins. This was the first step in that direction. I am certain that Dieng would’ve received a larger paycheck had he waited for the summer. Thibodeau has also loved Dieng since his days in Chicago. It is hard to come by a big man that has Dieng’s skill set and also his character. Dieng is a hard worker, willing to take any role the team gives him, and wants to win.

Dieng’s character is a big factor in why keeping Dieng around instead of looking to free agency made more sense. Dieng won a championship while at Louisville. Dieng has led the Senegal National Team each summer, in which he usually dominates in International competition. Dieng is also a guy who invests a ton in his home country of Senegal, which this contract will absolutely help those efforts. Dieng is the type of ‘character-guy’ you want on your team and you want your young players to be surrounded by. A lot of time those things are overlooked in analyzing these extensions. Dieng reminds me of Nick Collision with the Thunder. It would be great if Dieng spent the rest of his career here in Minnesota.

 

Addressing Towns’ in-game inconsistency problems

Karl-Anthony Towns is the boy that can do no wrong. He is atop General Managers’ list of players to start a franchise around and has absorbed the attention by taking snapchat selfies of him as a ‘GOAT’. Like Kevin Garnett, Towns is fueled by confidence. And at a young age, it could fluctuate a bit.

Towns has a ton of potential and should be great. But there is still a lot of room for improvement. The biggest point of criticism that has carried over from last season to the first game of this season is Towns’ inability to spread his production throughout the game. Towns plays in spurts. But because he plays in spurts, it leaves the Timberwolves vulnerable to blowing big leads or playing behind huge deficits.

In the first game of the season, KAT ended the game with a plus/minus of -14, the worst of any player on the court for the Wolves. He started the game +17. So there was a 31-point swing while KAT was on the floor from the 20-3 early lead to the end of the game. Bold this, highlight this, whatever. But your best player can’t afford to have a 31-point swing while they are on the floor.

Thank you @CTTimberwolves for this link as well. This is a closer look at Towns’ game flow against the Grizzlies. 

Towns particularly plays well to start games. He gets a lot of his play early and then finds a way to hibernate for the middle of the game and come back alive in the 4th usually. In the first quarter last season with more than 6 minutes left in the quarter, Towns attempted 25 threes and 243 field goal attempts. In the other quarters with 6 or more minutes left he attempted a total of 20 threes on 365 field goal attempts. Most of those field goal attempts in the first 6 minutes of a quarter is in the third quarter. In the 2nd and 4th quarter, he attempted 68 and 78 field goals, respectively.

Even if you slice the number by the entire quarter, the differences are pretty staggering. Towns shot 22% from three in the fourth quarter of games last year vs 39% in all other quarters, on more attempts. Towns attempted 700 field goals last season in the first and third quarter vs 434 in the second and fourth.

Part of this is Towns takes a majority of his rest in the second and fourth quarters, but usually not to the nearly 2:1 ratio of attempts he is taking. The hump Towns will need to get over is being more consistent throughout the entire game.

The reason this is so important is because a consistent Karl-Anthony Towns insulates the young Wolves from their inexperience. The baby pups are not prepared to rally from behind on a nightly basis or defend early leads where they can’t mentally collapse for the rest of the game. A consistent dose of Karl-Anthony Towns means a consistent lead builder. It means opponents consistently need to worry about him. Instead, the Wolves become dependent upon other young players needing to contribute when Towns isn’t on. Currently

While watching the game last night, it was clear the Wolves were not prepared to hold a 17 point lead. The Grizzlies were too savvy of a team and had too many veterans that don’t lose hope. As Towns vanished in the game, the lead vanished. The Wolves could’ve also used Towns in the fourth, outside of the three he hit that he celebrated.

So how do we get Towns consistent? The early explosions of Towns are absolutely welcomed. That is not the problem. It is what proceeds. Towns seems to have a mentality that he is hot, not that he got on to a good start. So once he misses a couple, he reverts back to his teammates, especially in the 2nd and 4th quarters. This can’t happen. Towns needs to start getting ‘high percentage’ shots once he feels his hotness has faded. Get to the line. He doesn’t need to continue dominating, but he needs to prepare to slap his opponent in the face if the team’s lead is threatened.

Defense also seems to be a place where Towns can get discouraged. After Gasol hit a couple shots over him after Towns was helping on penetration, you could see Towns become deflated. Towns will learn in time, but sometimes you have to take the KG approach to a solution and go right back at your opponent on the other end. Towns will need to improve a bit guarding talented bigs like Gasol. But again, it will come in time.

This is not merely an overreaction to a loss. Its an observation from his rookie year that has carried over thus far. We all want to see Towns succeed. We all love him. I do however, thing his hype is becoming too much on a national level. Got to keep Towns hungry and improving.

The Timber Rebuilder

 

We want RJ Hunter or Archie Goodwin

Consider this an open letter to Tom Thibodeau. Or consider this a post that may mean nothing in a day. Regardless how you take it, two quality, young guards are available for the league to grab and I believe Tom Thibodeau needs to sign one of them.

If you follow this blog on twitter (@timberrebuilder), you know that I am crazy about RJ Hunter. I wanted Flip Saunders (RIP) to draft Hunter over Tyus Jones in the draft. RJ Hunter has a great combination of playmaking, size, and shooting coming into the league. He carried a Georgia State team to the NCAA Tournament single-handedly. He has a body that almost looks like a light-skinned Corey brewer is running around, but he makes up for it with his length. He hasn’t been able to translate much to the NBA yet, but the tools are there.

Hunter was released by the Celtics because they had too many guaranteed contracts and had to cut ties with either Hunter or James Young. He wasn’t necessarily cut because he didn’t have the ability to make the team. He didn’t really get the opportunity to prove himself, but he was able to hit 36% of corner 3s, something he could immediately step in and do.

Archie Goodwin was also released by the Suns. Goodwin, a Kentucky kid, has been a guy who has been in the league based on his potential. He is an athletic freak and can score at will. He is a combo guard that is extremely athletic. He was behind a lot of guards in Pheonix, especially after Devin Booker developed himself into a starter on the team. He did have this amazing game winner this preseason, which is worth a watch.

 

Why go after one of these guys?

If either player is picked up, they will likely be the 14th or 15th man. They typically wouldn’t dress for games. While it may be best for this season to hold on to a veteran like John Lucas III, a flyer on a guy with as much potential as Hunter or Goodwin could pay off long-term. Both players could develop into solid rotation players and could even contribute this year.

The Timberwolves are also looking to deal Tyus Jones for a shooter. RJ Hunter could be that shooter! Goodwin isn’t really a shooter but could be a solid scorer off the bench.

The Wolves bench lacks depth at the shooting guard position. If you’ve read our season preview you know that there isn’t anyone really backing up LaVine on a consistent basis. Having a true shooting guard in Hunter or Goodwin could help in the event that LaVine gets hurt.

Short and timely post. We want Hunter or Goodwin. And we want to tell the world.

The Timber Rebuilder

Timberwolves ‘Measuring Stick’ Teams

The 2016-17 Season is right around the corner!! As the season progresses, it will be important for the Wolves to get an idea of how good they really are. One way to see how you are doing through the season outside of stats and standings is seeing how you perform against another team, typically around the same caliber as you. In the West, there are a handful of teams that are locks for the playoffs and there are about 8 teams competing for 3 spots in the West. There will be broken hearts. If the Wolves do make the playoffs, they have to serve the role of heart breaker.

But what teams can the Wolves use as measuring sticks this season? How can they tell if they are going to break hearts by the end of the year? First, lets define what a ‘measuring stick’ team is. A measuring stick team can come in many forms. First, they are likely a team that is on the bubble of the playoffs. They are a team that you probably performed poorly against the previous season. They are a team that you could potentially jump ahead of in the standings this season. They match up well against you and can be a test at things you think you improved on over the off-season.

New Orleans Pelicans

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While the Pelicans won 30 games last season, they made the playoffs the season before with 45 wins. The ‘Brow hype has died down due to injuries, but I still believe Anthony Davis is one of the most talented players in the league. I also believe they added some solid pieces this offseason. I don’t know if the Pels make the playoffs, but they could serve as the ‘floor’ measuring stick this season. A team the Timberwolves have to outplay will be the Pelicans, and it may be harder than it sounds. Buddy Hield is probably one of the more NBA-ready rookies who can shoot the lights out. Solomon Hill signed with New Orleans this summer and I believe he could be a real difference maker. They also managed to steal away Langston Galloway and Terrance Jones. If health is on the Pelicans’ side, it may be hard for the Wolves to win 3 out of 4 meetings. They split the season series last year.

Regardless of team outcomes, this will also be a measuring stick for Karl-Anthony Towns. There is much debate around who is the best big man in the league. Davis and Towns are the future of that discussion. There is also the Kentucky rivalry to throw in there. It could turn into a Garnett/ Duncan-like rivalry in the future.

Dallas Mavericks

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The Dallas Mavericks are looking to hold on to their playoff position with the acquisition of Harrison Barnes this offseason. The Mavericks finished 6th in the West with a 42-40 record. As Dirk is nearing the end of his career, it will be interesting to see how they hold on to playoff hopes. The reason they are a good measuring stick is because this is a team with experience and high-expectations. This is also a team that would likely need to fall out of the playoffs in order for the Wolves to make it in. The Wolves also lost all four matchups with the Mavs last season. In all the games, the Mavs wings found ways to torch the Wolves. Although Chandler Parsons is no longer with the Mavericks, it will be a good test to see if the Wolves perimeter defense improved against a team that has no shortage of scorers and shooters.

Denver Nuggets

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Denver Nuggets

The Denver Nuggets are a team still looking for an identity. They relied on the incredibly inefficient rookie Emmanual Mudiay at point guard last season. After winning 33 games, the Nuggets will try to improve through the development of their international big men. Jusuf Nurkic made a late push for Rookie of the Year, so it will be interesting to see how he responds in year two. Some how though, the Nuggets managed to win 3 of 4 meetings with the Timberwolves last season. Not underestimating the Nuggets, but if the Wolves are planning on having a successful season, they will need to out-win the Nuggets. The Wolves should be aiming to win 2-3 meetings this year.

To do that, the Wolves will need to figure out how to guard Danilo Gallinari. The Wolves haven’t been successful guarding stretch-4s who can shoot and operate out of the triple-threat. While coaching should help this, Gallinari was guarded by someone who had no business guarding him in OT last year, which really pointed out the Wolves gaps on the perimeter defensively. Can Wiggins guard him this season? We shall see.

 

Utah Jazz

Zach LaVine, Rodney Hood

The Utah Jazz are the ultimate measuring stick team for the Timberwolves. Not only are they divisional rivals, but they have a good amount of hype and barely didn’t make the playoffs last season. The Jazz are about as hungry, if not hungrier, for a playoff spot this season. According to @PaulDeVos7, the Wolves were only 5 wins behind the Jazz in the final 40 games last year. The Jazz did take the season series 3-1 with all of the games happening after December 30th. But what makes the Jazz incredibly intriguing is that they have players at each position that will not only challenge the Wolves, but are almost a toss up when discussing who is better.

Ricky Rubio is better than George Hill and that might be the biggest advantage the Wolves have. Derrick Favors is not better than Towns, but I do think Favors is fairly underrated. On the perimeter, Hayward is better than Wiggins and Hood edges out LaVine simply because he is a great two-way player. If the Wolves want to outplay the Jazz this season, Wiggins will have to outperform Gordon Hayward. The Jazz also have added a significant amount of depth by signing Boris Diaw, Joe Johnson, and Daunte Exum returning from injury.

The Wolves will have an advantage early in the season against the Jazz with Hayward injured. The Jazz won 40 games last year and could get closer to 50 this year. If the Wolves jump into the 40-win range, it will be important to win two games against the Jazz. Regardless, this could be a good rivalry this season. Especially if we see Andrew Wiggins continue his efforts in posterizing Rudy Gobert.


While an argument could be made for all the ‘bubble’ teams, we felt like this was a diverse group and could test out different things against the Wolves. Agree? Disagree? Have other ‘measuring stick’ teams? Let us know!

The Timber Rebuilder.

Timberwolves Free Agent Targets

July 1st marks the first day of free agency. Tom Thibodeau will continue to make his mark on the franchise by filling in needs that the current roster has. The Timberwolves have high hopes of making the playoffs next season and in order to do that, they need to add a couple pieces to the young roster.

The Wolves have to figure out a lot with their current roster still. The Ricky Rubio trade rumors are stronger than ever and there is still uncertainty with what is going to happen with Kevin Garnett. The Wolves also have Payne and Pekovic who are taking up two front court roster spots that could be used for players who may be more serviceable. The Timberwolves are also unlikely to resign Tayshaun Prince and Greg Smith. The Timbewolves also won’t bring back Damjan Rudez, who had a team option. Barring any significant trades though, free agency will look to address a couple of needs, in which we feel have importance in this order:

  1. A stretch power forward
  2. Three-point shooting
  3. Bench Scoring
  4. Front Court Depth
  5. Perimeter defense

The Timberwolves have $25M-$29M in cap space with the growing cap, which gives the Wolves a good amount of space to work with. Most of the league will have a similar amount of space since the Cap increased, but it puts the Wolves in a position to attract a couple decent free agents. The ideal free agents will be guys who can fill multiple of the five needs above. It also makes sense that the Wolves target guys who fit into the career trajectory of the current roster. Players should either be younger if they are signing a long term deal or on the wrong side of 30 who can give the Wolves an immediate, short-term, veteran boost. Using that framework to determine who the Wolves may be interested in, we will list the players in which we feel the Wolves would gain the most benefit of signing. Starting from the bottom…

James Ennis

ennis.jpg

This is a personal preference guy for me. Ennis has found his way around the league early in his career from the Heat to the Grizzlies and finally with the Pelicans where he got a lot of minutes. If there is a guy to fill out the roster, taking a chance on Ennis would be interesting. He has a decent 3-point shot and incredibly athletic. If put in the right position at 25 years old, he may be able to flourish.

Jamal Crawford

crawford

An unpopular pick by most, but I think Jamal Crawford could add something the Wolves desperately need, bench scoring. Crawford is a three-time 6th man of the year so he has mastered the craft of coming off the bench and making an impact. He isn’t the most efficient of scorers but in games where other guys are not able to put points on the board, Crawford will not be shy to put shots up. What Crawford also does is provide the veteran leadership that could help the Wolves if they make a playoff push. It also is helpful that he is one of Zach LaVine’s biggest mentors and a guy Thibs has had on his radar for a long time.

Marreese Speights

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Another fence swing before we get into more viable options. Speights is going to be 30 by the time he enters next season and might not make sense for him to leave a dynasty like the Warriors for the team that hasn’t made the playoffs in the longest time. But Speights could provide veteran leadership, scoring off the bench, and could be a stretch four in some situations. Speights has a three-point shot that he is likely trying to showcase somewhere since he wasn’t getting much playing time in Golden State. Not sure if both parties are on each others’ radars, but could be a decent fit.

Courtney Lee

lee

Courtney Lee has be a solid performer anywhere he has played. While the Wolves might not have an ideal role carved out for him, he could secure a deal long-term at what is an inconvenient age of 30. What he could do is embrace a role similar to Andre Igoudala when he went to the Warriors in which he becomes the veteran leadership off the bench. His three-point shot is good and can absolutely score. Also, he has been a good defender and could compliment Zach LaVine when the Wolves play stronger two-guards.

Solomon Hill

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The ideal 3-and-D guy who just needs to improve his shot a little. Hill played big when Paul George was injured and could be a spot starter in various situations, especially when injuries happen. He is still young (25) and can grow as a role player with the Wolves. He has the ability to stretch and play the four position mainly because of his toughness and rebounding ability at his size. He is due for a decent contract outside of Indiana since his skill set is valued around the league. A fun fact about him, he was Derrick Williams’ teammate in college.

Moe Harkless

harkless

Harkless may be my favorite free agent this summer. Harkless is 23 years old only and hasn’t really been given the opportunity to showcase his talent yet. Although he is a restricted free agent, it may be difficult for Portland to match an offer if they plan to retain Allen Crabbe and sign another free agent this summer. Harkless is the prototype stretch-4 who can guard both small and power forwards. Harkless also has the ability to hit the three (shot 38% in his second season). Moe seems like the definition of a late bloomer and could fit well as the starting power forward in a year or two. If the Wolves can find a way to sign him to a reasonable long-term contract, they may have found a steal in free agency here.

Mirza Teletovic

teletovic

Teletovic can come and join the Wolves being someone who made him impact on Karl-Anthony Towns by draining a game-winner in his face. Teletovic is older and doesn’t have a ton of experience in the league but is one of the best shooters around. He is an absolute competitor and could solve the Wolves issues with spacing and three-point shooting for fairly cheap. He could be a short-term fix at power forward and just enough to help the Wolves make a playoff push.

Marvin Williams

marvin-williams-goggles.jpeg

Williams has been around and had a breakout season conveniently as his contract was expiring. Another stretch-4 who can shoot and guard both forward positions. He is a bit older than what the Wolves would want so it would be ideal to give him a two-year deal. The Wolves may lose him to competition nonetheless if they don’t want to give him a three or four year deal.

Luol Deng

deng

The most ideal free agent available. Luol Deng played his best basketball under Tom Thibodeau and now is a small-ball 4 that is versatile enough to come off the bench or start for the Wolves. If there is any free agent the Wolves have a realistic shot at landing that can truly turn the Wolves into a playoff team, it is Deng. He is still good defensively and can shoot. He wouldn’t have a problem being the 4th of 5th option on the floor either. Seems like he makes the most sense.


There are many other options that the Wolves could pursue but these guys make the most sense. Best case scenario is that the Wolves are able to land two of these guys. My preference of signings would be Moe Harkless and Solomon Hill to reasonable deals.

There are chances the Wolves talk to Joakim Noah and Al Horford but there is little sense in them coming here unless they don’t want the best contract that could be offered to them. Both players can make more for longer elsewhere and play in roles that probably fit their careers better.

I also hope the Wolves stay far away from Kent Bazemore. He is 27 and underwhelming in terms of what he can do, in my opinion. There are younger, cheaper options the Wolves could pursue that minimize the risk associated with using cap space on these guys. Bazemore will likely get a hefty deal somewhere, my hope is that it is not here.

If the Timberwolves are looking to make a reunion happen, the members of the All-Minnesota NBA team happen to all be free agents this summer. If you are not familiar with this team, it is essentially players who are in the NBA that are from Minnesota. Players included on this team are Kris Humphries, Jon Leuer, Alan Anderson, and Cole Aldrich. Although he has been out of the NBA for a year or so, Nate Wolters runs the point guard of that team, who also could sign with a team. All of the guys could potentially fit with the Wolves, although I don’t see Thibodeau being inclined to sign any of them.

The madness starts on Friday. Do you agree with this list? Anyone that we missed? Let us know!

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

Draft day!

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:

  1. 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

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?

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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.