• Dalton Pence

NBA Draft Outlook: Minnesota Timberwolves

Courtesy of FanSided (Dunking With the Wolves)

After losing in the first round of the 2017-18 Western Conference playoffs to the top-seeded Houston Rockets, the Minnesota Timberwolves were quickly forced to deal with another blow to the franchise’s championship hopes: The Jimmy Butler saga. The trade-demand ordeal was a huge distraction that ultimately resulted in a sour-faced trade to Philadelphia that brought back Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless, and a 2022 second-round pick.

On January 7th, 2019, the organization (rather unceremoniously) decided to part ways with head coach and then-president of basketball operations, Tom Thibodeau. Minnesota eventually finished the regular season with a 36-46 record. Needless to say, the focus is on now on the future for the Timberwolves, and what better way to transition than by selecting a player in the 2019 NBA Draft lottery? For the purposes of this article, it is assumed that the Timberwolves will be locked in to the 10-spot in both the pre- and post-lottery orders.

Key Returners: Andrew Wiggins, Jeff Teague, Karl-Anthony Towns, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Josh Okogie, Keita Bates-Diop, Gorgui Dieng

Notable Free Agents: Taj Gibson, Tyus Jones, Derrick Rose

Notable Draft Selections: 10th overall (pre-lottery)

Team Needs: perimeter shooting, guard depth, athleticism

Possible Fits

G Coby White - North Carolina

Freshman stats: 16.1 PPG, 4.1 APG

White’s craftiness and ability to score at all three levels make him a prime candidate to be selected in the lottery of the 2019 draft. He will need to improve his decision-making and overall patience, but starting point guard potential is there, shown by his ability to find the open man and generate offense off of pick-and-rolls. At 6-foot-5, White possesses a versatility that would allow him to play both as an on-ball initiator and as a cutter or shooter away from the ball. Shooting 35.2% from deep on 6.7 attempts in his lone season at North Carolina, he has demonstrated a well-developed shooting stroke; White has the potential to be one of the best shooters in this class.

The only point guard under contract for next season is Jeff Teague, and he becomes a free agent in July of 2020. Minnesota does not have a clear successor at the point guard position going forward. Tyus Jones is primed for a backup role if he returns, and neither Teague nor Derrick Rose are viable long-term options; White gives the Timberwolves much-needed perimeter shooting and guard depth. His positional versatility in the backcourt would be viewed as a tantalizing luxury for the organization, and his All-Star ceiling should only serve to make Minny’s mouth water even more.

PG Darius Garland - Vanderbilt

Freshman stats: 16.2 PPG (53.7 FG%), 3.8 RPG

Unfortunately, there isn’t enough of a sample size to analyze Garland’s freshman season; a knee injury ended his lone collegiate campaign after just five appearances. However, during that time he did demonstrate the ability to really knock down the deep ball (47.8% on 4.6 attempts). Garland’s handles and obvious knack for distributing the basketball make him one of the best point guard prospects in this draft; his quickness and high basketball IQ have him consistently landing in the lottery of most mock drafts. Despite the effort he gives on defense, his ceiling is limited as a switch defender (important in today’s switch-heavy NBA), due to his underwhelming size and weight; Garland will have to out on serious muscle in order to successfully translate his game to the next level.

Garland may be the best overall fit for the Wolves; his distributing and playmaking would directly benefit both KAT and Wiggins. He could also immediately contribute as a spot-up shooter, providing spacing and light perimeter playmaking with the potential to eventually develop into an All-Star caliber lead guard.

F/C Brandon Clarke - Gonzaga

Junior stats: 16.9 PPG (68.7 FG%), 8.6 RPG, 3.2 BPG

While his 6-foot-8 frame may seem unimpressive at first, Brandon Clarke’s 7-foot-2 wingspan (when combined with his lateral quickness) makes him one of the best defensive players in this draft. On the offensive side of things, his ability to play above the rim and score efficiently around the basket stand out amongst the other big-men in the 2019 draft class. Although the sample size is small, Clarke has at least shown flashes of potentially developing an accurate mid-range or even three-point shooting stroke.

The decision to go with Clarke here may serve as a head-scratcher when one factors in the needs of the franchise, as they already have a star big-man in Karl-Anthony Towns; but Taj Gibson is an aging free agent, and Minnesota would be able to replace him with a young, talented two-way big with a relentlessly high-motor. Clarke’s athleticism and rebounding would nicely complement Towns’ more offensively-oriented skillset, and while he would be somewhat of a project (with a ceiling perhaps limited by his offensive game), he is nonetheless one of my top five best prospects in the 2019 NBA Draft lottery. If he’s around when Minnesota is making their selection, don’t be surprised if the Timberwolves leap at the chance to pair the defensively dynamic Clarke with their incumbent frontcourt superstar.

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