The NBA Draft is under a month away, which means NBA Draftmas is back. Each day, The Game Haus will review a team’s past season, their team needs and targets. Draftmas continues today with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Minnesota Timberwolves finally ended the longest playoff drought in the NBA after 14 seasons of misery.
They made the postseason by the skin of their teeth, however, as they needed overtime in the 82nd game of the season to secure their spot. Even though it resulted in a first-round exit at the hands of the Houston Rockets, simply making the playoffs in the brutal Western Conference should be enough for Wolves fans for now.
The Timberwolves finished the season at 47-35, and with the West’s eighth seed. After a promising start, Minnesota lost Jimmy Butler to a meniscus injury after the All-Star break that had them fighting for their playoff lives.
This was a massive loss, as Butler had the highest minutes per game average in the entire NBA at 36.7. He also led the team in points per game (22.2), steals per game (2.0) and was second on the team in assists per game (4.9).
Karl-Anthony Towns also had to shoulder a heavy load, due to Thibodeau’s coaching style. Luckily, he was up to the task offensively. Towns averaged 21.3 points, 12.3 rebounds, and shot a respectable 54.5 percent from the floor.
Speaking of Tom Thibodeau’s methods, he has always been known for riding star players hard and driving up their minutes. This year, however, he did not have much of a choice. Minnesota’s bench finished 29th in points, 30th in rebounds, 23rd in steals and 25th in steals. This, plus Thibodeau, led to this bench getting fewer minutes than any other in the league.
The T-Wolves also shot fewer 3-pointers than any other team in the league, despite having capable shooters. Butler has been known for his ability to knock down the long-range shot, Towns can stretch the defense and Jamaal Crawford is an all-time great from distance. With the way the NBA has gone, though, teams need to be a threat from deep at all times. Shooting is definitely on the shopping list.
Simply put, this team needs depth and sharpshooters if they want to get back to the playoffs, let alone advance further. But that is what the draft is for.
Picks and Needs
First Round: No. 20
Second Round: No. 48
There are rumors afloat that Karl Anthony-Towns is not happy with the Timberwolves organization, and may even want out. These draft profiles do not deal in rumors but rest assured, if KAT is dealt, then the Wolves will have a much higher pick in this draft.
As is, however, Minnesota should focus on a three-and-D wing first. It seems Wiggins will not reach as high of a ceiling as was originally projected, and the Wolves have waited long enough. A talented wing can either light a fire under him or potentially replace him.
In the second round, the Timberwolves should probably just take the best available shooting guard. They are fortified enough in the post, and another offensively-minded guard can take the pressure off Butler.
Targets and Predictions
Pick No. 20: Keita Bates-Diop, SF, Ohio State
Depending on which mock draft you are reading, picking Bates-Diop at 20 could either be seen as wishful thinking or a total reach. He should be available here, though, and the Wolves should take advantage if he is.
Keita Bates-Diop averaged 19.8 points last season and added 8.7 rebounds. He can also stretch the floor, as he shot just shy of 36 percent from three-point range. With more polish, that percentage can stand put at the NBA level.
Defensively, he is an irritant that Minnesota could badly use. The Big Ten player of the year averaged 1.6 blocks per game and just under one steal per game last year. Most of his defensive impressiveness will not show up on the stat sheet, however. His length and ability to guard the three or four position is a huge draw.
The main worries here lie in just how much of his game can translate to the NBA. He is athletic and has good size at 6-foot-7, but the ability to slash to the basket is lacking. This is due to his inability to take defenders off the dribble, which is a must-have for NBA small forwards
If he is off the board, or deemed unworthy of a first round pick, the Timberwolves could go with a more polished pure shooter in Villanova’s Donte DiVincenzo or Maryland’s Kevin Huerter.
Pick No. 48: Bruce Brown, Jr., PG/SG, Miami
What Minnesota does with this pick is entirely dependent on what they do with their first-round pick. If they end up taking a guard at 20, then this pick will almost certainly be a forward. Assuming they address defense first, though, the Wolves will go with a guard in round two.
Mostly playing at the point at Miami, Brown will have to transition to a combo guard in the NBA to maximize his talent. He averaged 11.4 points, 4.0 assists and an impressive 7.1 rebounds per game in his last season in college. His quick hands garnered 1.5 and 1.3 steals, respectively, in his two years in the NCAA.
Brown also has the perfect size for an NBA combo guard at 6-foot-5. That kind of length and quickness will translate to both ends of the floor in the NBA, which could earn him playing time over players like Tyus Jones.
His three-point shot leaves a lot to be desired, though. Last season he shot only 26.7 percent from behind the arc. Being that three-point shooting is a huge need for the Timberwolves, this should be a red flag.
Assuming he can work on his shot, the ability to play both guard positions is a big enough upside to take a chance on him in the second round.
Now that Minnesota Timberwolves fans have had a taste of the playoffs for the first time in over a decade, a first-round appearance may not be enough for them.
Depth is the name of the game in this offseason for the T-Wolves. If they can use this draft to lighten the star players’ loads, then it will have been successful. Getting the bench out of the NBA’s basement should translate to more wins and an improved seed.
Featured image by NBA.com
Check out Eli and Ben’s Podcast “Courtside Ramblings” on SoundCloud or iTunes — TGH Podcast Feed
“From Our Haus to Yours“