My gosh, another NBA season is nearly in the books. The Minnesota Timberwolves took some big steps forward this season, but it didn’t translate into too many more victories. Still, improvement is something that fans expected to see this season, and they surely got their wish, at least I hope.
Over the course of the season, Minnesota was able to find the right five-player combination and it looks like those five players have solidified their starting roles on the team. What the team has desperately lacked is depth. The T’wolves have no depth, and a strong bench is needed if this team expects to make the playoffs.
With that in mind, Minnesota is staring at another top five pick. However, I think they need to go a different route this summer.If I’m in Minnesota’s front office, this draft needs to be about adding experienced college players who have upside.
The Boston Celtics have three first round picks (one of their own and two from Brooklyn), so immediately I’m looking to Danny Ainge to help me out. If I’m Minnesota GM Milt Newton, I trade my pick and Nikola Pekovic to Boston for two of their picks. According to NBADraft.net, the picks would be No. 16 and 22.
I’m totally O.K. with that, and I might even ask for a player in return because there is a high probability the Celtics owning two top five picks is very likely. From their current roster, I would take Evan Turner or Tyler Zeller. Turner be another ball-handler and Zeller is a serviceable big man.
If Ainge feels like he can get a swingman that he believes is better than Jae Crowder, I would ask for Crowder and the two picks. While I believe Crowder is a solid starter, he would be a terrific sixth-man for a team that needs production from its bench.
With the two picks, I’m looking at a number of players.
A.J. Hammons — A team can never have too many talented big men, so I’m looking at Purdue’s big man. He has greatly improved over his four years in college and would be very good when paired with either Karl-Anthony Towns or Gorgui Dieng. He averaged 15 points and 8.2 rebounds this past season while he played 24.6 minutes per game. I like his shot-blocking ability and he can even shoot the ball. He is a big, strong kid and I see a lot of potential in him. It would be a smart move for Minnesota, especially if Dieng ends up wanting more money than the T’wolves are willing to pay.
Brice Johnson — The do-it-all forward from North Carolina might end up being a top 10 pick. However, if he slips, Minnesota should be ready to pounce. Johnson is a tenacious rebounder and averaged a double-double (17.1 and 10.5) in his senior season. He shot 61.6 percent from the field and averaged more than a block and steal per game for the Tar Heels. He reminds me a lot of John Henson, except he is much more skilled and athletic than Henson, not as long and lanky. He hasn’t filled out his body yet, but it looks like there is plenty of room for him to put on muscle. Also, I would like to see him consistently make more jumpers. He won’t be a very good floor-spacer in his first couple of years, but if he works a lot on his jumpshot, Johnson could become something very special.
Wayne Selden Jr. — Selden Jr. was a very good player on a very good Kansas team this past season. He shot 39.2 percent from three and has an NBA-ready body at 6’5, 230 pounds. A lot of things trouble me about him, but I think he could develop into a good two-way player. He shot just 61.2 percent from the free-throw line and never shot above 66 percent in his career at the stripe. For a guy who shot well from three, that’s very troubling. He did shot 47 percent overall from the field, and that could translate at the next level. I see him becoming more of a defensive player while he finds his offense in his first few seasons. He could be a good backup to Zach LaVine or Andrew Wiggins, and his 6’10 wingspan is impressive. He would be more of a project for Minnesota, much more so than either Hammons or Johnson.
Other players to consider:
Ron Baker — A very good shooter and basketball player. Baker doesn’t have the height (6’4), but he is scrappy, tough, and wins games. He could easily be a high second round pick, but might jump into the late first round.
Nigel Hayes — He knows how to play basketball and Minnesota could use him. He is a smart player and has developed his game. He could become a very good pick-and-pop player. His biggest downfall is that he stands 6’8.
Malcolm Brogdon — I think he sneaks into the first round. Minnesota could use a strong defender like him. His offensive game isn’t bad, but it’s far from polished. He is another senior that Minnesota should strongly consider.