By: Alex Berg
Since I’ve basically been appointed the unofficial president of the “Kris Dunn is the devil” fan club, I should get this out of the way: I do not hate Kris Dunn. In fact, I think he could be a very good player in the NBA. I actually love him as a backup to Ricky Rubio.
The key word there is backup. If what was said by both Dunn and the Timberwolves front office last night is genuine and Dunn was brought in to be Rubio’s backup, I’m all-in. His skillset is so similar to Rubio’s, they could be a great combination and the days of the Wolves being a mess on both ends of the floor with Rubio off the floor should be over now. Like Rubio, Dunn has great length that makes him a good defender. Also like Rubio, he doesn’t shoot incredibly well. 37 percent in college isn’t outstanding, and his 65 percent clip at the free-throw line leaves a lot to be desired. The one offensive skill he has over Rubio is he is much better finisher, however his layups in the Big East could easily translate to misses or empty trips at the free-throw line in the NBA. With all of that being said, I still like the idea of keeping both Rubio and Dunn -- at least for a couple years. I see the point guard position like the quarterback in the NFL and I think the most successful teams find a backup quarterback that mirrors its starting quarterback, that’s what Dunn could be to Rubio.
Not only does Dunn fit well with Rubio because of his skillset, but the two also fit very well financially. Rubio has three years left on his 4-year, $55 million dollar contract, which means the Wolves will be paying its three point guards -- including Dunn and Tyus Jones -- about $20 million combined per year for the next three seasons. Considering the lucrative contracts that will be coming this summer and next, that price for the three will look like an absolute bargain.
Assuming the Wolves can play Dunn and Rubio together in small stints -- only 3-4 minutes per half -- I’m not worried about finding enough minutes for everybody either. Between the one and two guard spots right now, I think you can pencil in Rubio, Dunn and LaVine to play about 90 minutes per game. The remaining six minutes could either go to Jones or Andrew Wiggins, if the team wants to play a little bigger in certain matchups.
So, all in all, if the team truly plans on keeping Dunn and Rubio, I’m fine with the selection. I think I would have preferred to trade the pick to Philadelphia. I also would have preferred picking Buddy Hield or Jamal Murray, but I’ve been way off about drafts before, so I’m willing to give this time.
Here’s to holding hope that the Wolves enter next season with Rubio in the starting lineup and a bench anchored by Dunn and at least a veteran free agents.
The city of Cleveland won an NBA championship. Miracles do happen.
And if Cleveland can win one, Minnesota absolutely can.
But for the Wolves to become a championship-contending team in the future, they must continue their recent success in finding talent during the NBA Draft. Over the last three years, Flip Saunders was exceptional in this aspect, finding great values in Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammd (via trade for Trey Burke), Andrew Wiggins (via trade with, well, you know), Zach LaVine and Karl-Anthony Towns.
As the tandem of Tom Thibodeau and Scott Layden take over, that draft success is vital to continue building a championship team.
The members of the On The Prowl staff got together to discuss what Thibs' strategy should be and also predicted the outcome of the draft's lottery selections.
Where will you be watching tomorrow night?
Dan Slaubaugh: At my home in Bismarck, ND with some of my high school friends, probably eating some combination of donuts and flamin' hot cheetos. Weird combination I know. But I'm a weird guy.
Zach More: In a hotel room in Minneapolis.
Drew Mahowald: Last year I got to attend the Wolves Draft Party at Target Center and it was freakin' lit, especially when Flip traded back up for Tyus Jones. Tomorrow, I'll be stuck in Watertown, SD. If I had to guess, this year won't be as fun as last year.
Alex Berg: Undecided. Either Target Center or Canterbury Park.
As of right now, what do you want the Wolves to do with the 5th pick?
DS: Trade it. Of course, it has to be the right deal. But if Thibodeau can land a veteran who he thinks would fit well in his system, it would greatly help the Wolves in their quest to end the NBA's longest playoff drought.
ZM: Trade the pick for a proven starter/top caliber bench player - This would show they are willing to win now, and as a fan base we need that. It is also the smartest. A rookie isn't ready to contribute right away and even if you can there is no consistency usually. A trade for a starter or a scorer off the bench that you know what you will get in night in and night out.
DM: Dragan Bender has to be the pick if he's there. This guy has everything it takes to be a compatible four-man next to Karl-Anthony Towns. However, since he'll be a bit of a developmental project, the chances Thibodeau goes for him are slim. But hey, let me dream about having a guy named Dragan Bender on my favorite team while I can.
AB: Trade the pick (if the right offer is there). I think this is the best way to fast forward into the "win now" mode Taylor, Thibs and others want; while maintaining the core already in place. If possible, I would think long and hard about moving the pick for guys like Derrick Favors, Eric Bledsoe, Jahlil Okafor or D'Angelo Russell.
DS: Buddy Hield. He's just the shooter the Wolves need. Jamal Murray would be fine, but he's still 19 years old and I'm not the fondest of adding a teenager to the already youthful squad. Hield, however, is already 22 and has played four seasons of big-time, competitive college ball. Glen Taylor hired Thibodeau to win now and for the foreseeable future. If the Wolves select Hield at No. 5, they will be getting the closest thing to a finished product and NBA-ready contributor that college basketball offers these days.
ZM: Dragan Bender. Wolves will need frontcourt depth after KAT and Dieng and it's tough to find a big guy with the skillset Bender has. He would fit well with what Minnesota has and would be a scary frontline for years to come.
DM: Trade the pick. After Simmons, Ingram, and Bender, none of the prospects wow me that much to warrant a fifth overall selection. Given the remarks made by Scott Layden during Tuesday's media session, it appears that many teams covet the No. 5 pick (of course, he could be just saying that). If I'm Minnesota, I try to grab a reliable veteran role player that can fill in as a stretch four or as a backup point guard.
AB: Buddy Hield. He would instantly give the Wolves an outside scoring threat that the bench desperately needs. Unlike many others, I see his age as a plus, rather than a negative.
DS: Dragan Bender. Even though I just said Thibodeau was hired to win now, Bender is a player that's worth the wait. At 7 feet tall, he'll be able to guard perimeter guys and will eventually be able to bang with the bigs inside. His skillset makes for a great fit for what the Wolves already have and pairing him with Towns could make for an exceptional frontcourt in a few years.
ZM: Jamal Murray. It's a guard-driven league and if Thibs feels he wants another one, Murray offers the most flexibility among guard in the class. He'll be able to play both guard spots and can be a good scorer from both. If Thibs can get his defensive level up he could be a terrific all-around player in Minnesota.
DM: Buddy Hield. The Wolves need perimeter shooting, and they need it badly. HIeld clearly has that trait in his game and for that reason alone he can be a big help to Minnesota sooner rather than later. Worst-case scenario, if the other parts of his game don't pan out, there's always a spot on every team for a shooter of his caliber.
AB: Jamal Murray. He might have the highest ceiling in the draft. He's an exceptional shooter and a natural point guard, offering insurance in the event that Tyus doesn't take a step forward. Additionally, I'm giving anyone from Kentucky a slight advantage given the success of Kentucky products in the NBA.
Prediction of the Wolves pick
DS: Jamal Murray
ZM: Jamal Murray
DM: Buddy Hield
AB: Jamal Murray
DS: Lakers trade D'Angelo Russell to Phoenix for the 4th overall pick.
ZM: Sixers trade with Boston to acquire the 3rd overall pick.
DM: Lakers get rid of D'Angelo Russell and his iPhone while trading up to acquire Kris Dunn.
AB: There will be two trades involving top-5 picks.
(from left: Dan Slaubaugh, Zach More, Drew Mahowald, Alex Berg)
**Notes regarding draft table**
DS: Lakers select Kris Dunn at #4 after trading D'Angelo Russell to Phoenix.
DM: Lakers select Kris Dunn at #6 after trading D'Angelo Russell to New Orleans
AB: 76ers select Kris Dunn at #3 after trading Nerlens Noel to Boston.
Lakers select Buddy Hield at #5 after trading D'Angelo Russell to Minnesota.
Pelicans select Marquesse Chriss at #8 after trading the 6th, 39th, and 40th overall picks to Sacramento for #8
and Darren Collison.
Thanks for reading, basketball fans. Enjoy the draft and be sure to follow On The Prowl on Twitter (@OnTheProwl_MN) for extensive coverage on all news and analysis surrounding Thursday night's NBA Draft.
6/12/2016 0 Comments
By: Dan Slaubaugh
Awhile back, Fear the Sword and A Wolf Among Wolves writer William Bohl wrote a piece that compared cast members of the NBC sitcom "The Office" to members of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Here's a link -- you'll enjoy it.
I personally have been entertained by the latest hit NBC sitcom "Parks and Recreation", which ended in 2015. So I thought to myself, "Hmmmm. Why not do something similar with the Wolves and Parks and Rec?" With some help from my good friend and OTP writer Drew Mahowald, this is what we came up with.
Karl-Anthony Towns as Leslie Knope
As we all know, Karl-Anthony Towns is a future perennial all-star in the NBA. He seems to excel at everything he does. Sound familiar?
Karl-Anthony Towns IS Leslie Knope.
They are both overachievers and excellent at what they do. They love people, are very talkative, and shine in the spotlight. Most importantly, they put people first. Towns puts his teammates first and assuredly would rather see his teammates shine than anything if it meant success for his team. As for Leslie, she's always going out of the way to better the lives of her close friends and employees at Parks and Rec.
Andrew Wiggins as Ron Swanson
Wiggins and Swanson are men of few words -- that does not mean they are uninteresting people though. Wiggins wows people with his inspiring play of the basketball, especially when he displays sensational spin moves and throwdowns like this.
As for Ron Swanson, he loves to woodwork and he's very talented at it too. Which is further displayed by making and crafting the finest canoes in Pawnee.
Finally, they both have had their own share of experience with cornrows. In my estimation, the hairdo is more suited for Wiggins.
Zach LaVine as Tom Haverford
In a lot of ways, Zach LaVine and Tom Haverford are a perfect match here. They are both uber confident people and are constantly exhibiting a style of swag that is essential to their personality.
Additionally, both are very fashionable dressers. Tom opened his own clothing rental store called Rent-A-Swag, which thrived until his friend's dad opened his own store across the street with much lower prices, putting Tom out of business.
(That picture tho)
LaVine, meanwhile, flashed his swag in the 2015 NBA All-Star Weekend fashion show. He was looking flyyy.
Ricky Rubio as Chris Traeger
Ricky and Chris are extraordinarily happy, positive people. They are always optimistic, no matter the situation. Rubio's been on a losing team for the entirety of his 5 year career, but you can find him continually providing inspirational/optimistic quotes on his social media pages. As for Chris, he might be the happiest person in the world.
And we all know and love Ricky Rubio's adorable personality.
Lastly, Ricky and Chris live with high expectations -- both for their respective teams and for themselves personally. Recent reports have stated that Rubio might want out of Minnesota if the Wolves don't make the playoffs next year. The report has been blown out of proportion, but the main premise of it is clear. Ricky wants to make the playoffs and expects the most from his team, just as Chris does.
Nikola Pekovic as Andy Dwyer
Andy and Nikola are always dinged up -- poor guys. Pekovic has had a difficult time staying on the floor because of his ailing ankles while Andy is simply a child so he's constantly injuring himself in funky ways.
Things never seem to go their way. In season 5, Andy had aspirations of being a policeman. During his police exam, Andy ends up passing his written test by getting perfect scores but, of course, fails the personality test because of answers like the ones below.
**From the exam**
Cop: This test will determine whether you have the right personality to become a police officer. Just to make sure the machine is working, is your name Andy?
Andy: I don't know how to answer that.
Cop: Simple yes or no.
Andy: Well everyone calls me Andy but my full name is Andrew I think, so no? ... Wait, yes.
Andy and Pek both mean well, but they each have a tough time getting things to work out for them. Sigh.
Kevin Garnett as Craig Middlebrooks
Hang with me on this one.
Craig and Kevin are both pretty crazy -- but crazy in a good way. They are extremely passionate and take their jobs very seriously, and because of that can seem a little nutso.
They are generally very loud, expressive people who want the best for their colleagues/teammates. They have good intentions, but can sometimes come off harsh and intimidating.
NOTE: It was tempting to match Tom and KG together because of the scene below, but that was essentially the only thing they had in common.
Shabazz Muhammad as April Ludgate
Shabazz and April were somewhat lazy and ignorant when we first met both of them. Shabazz was the #1 rated high school player in America, and throughout his time at UCLA and his rookie season in Minnesota he appeared to lack the work ethic needed. At the beginning of Parks and Rec, April was an apathetic college student who had no interest in her job.
Over time, Shabazz and April matured into quality members and contributors of their respective teams. Both consistently show great effort, evidenced by Bazz's relentless rebounding and spark-plug mindset off the bench and April taking over a large portion of Leslie's duties in the Parks and Rec department towards the end of season 4 to allow Leslie to concentrate on her upcoming election.
Adreian Payne as Jerry Gary Larry Terry Gergich
I kinda feel bad about this one. But it was just too perfect.
Adreian and Gary are always falling -- by themselves or on other people. They're clumsy, awkward, have big hearts, and at best are adequate at their jobs.
I think I've seen Adreian do that with a basketball before.
Tom Thibodeau as Dave Sanderson
Tom and Dave are both defensive minded people. Tom is known for implementing a defensive system that smothers opposing offenses. Dave works in law enforcement, so his defense is a little different -- but it's still defense, right?.
They both are smart, intelligent people who speak with more rational sense than many people I know. They can, however, be very serious and awkward, which makes them seem like intimidating people. (Remember Thibs' appearances on ESPN as an analyst? He looked, uh, uncomfortable, to put it nicely.)
In some ways, the Timberwolves organization should look to replicate the success of the show "Parks and Recreation". For seven years, the show was a hit and gained steam as more and more fans tuned in to see how the lives of each character developed. As the Wolves develop into an elite team, they'll start to gain a bigger national audience and, hopefully, more wins. All the Wolves have to do is follow the blueprint laid by Parks and Rec, and we could be dropping a championship banner in Target Center soon.
By: Drew Mahowald
At this point, there doesn’t seem to be a need to rave about how freaking bright the future of the Minnesota Timberwolves is. Those reading this are well aware that Minnesota is capable of Warriors-like dominance in the NBA within a few seasons.
But there is the need to rave about the greatness that is Andrew Wiggins. His first two seasons have been marked by eye-popping posterization slam dunks, lethal performances against the Cleveland Cavaliers and a magnificent spin move.
The steady improvement Wiggins displayed in his sophomore season was overshadowed by jaw-dropping, illustrious rookie season put together by 2015 No. 1 overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns, and it deserves more recognition. The athletic freak from Kansas set expectations high after a brilliant rookie season in 2014-15 that ended with a Rookie of the Year award to go with 17 points per game on over 43 percent shooting.
In 2015-16, Wiggins took major strides in rounding out his entire offensive and defensive arsenal. After a shaky start to the season that initially raised concerns about his offseason program and commitment to the game, the 2014 No. 1 overall pick started to display better passing, improved rebounding and increased scoring efficiency. Overall, Wiggins averaged 20.7 points per game -- tops on the Timberwolves -- on just under 46 percent shooting as a sophomore.
While the Internet repeatedly shoved its attention toward Karl-Anthony Towns -- rightfully so, much of the time -- Wiggins quietly made solid improvements in assist rate (9.8 to 10.1 percent), free throw rate (.410 to .437 percent), effective field goal percentage (.454 to .481), true shooting percentage (.517 to .543), turnover rate (11.7 to 10.6 percent) and PER (13.9 to 16.5).
The most notable positive development Wiggins experienced on the offensive side of the ball came as a passer and as a three-point shooter. On the surface, Wiggins’ passing doesn’t appear to improve at all -- he actually averaged less assists per game in his second season. But his uptick in assist rate suggests he became more efficient as a passer in 2015-16.
Even without looking at the analytics, Wiggins’ passing improvements are evident. All fans have to do is rewatch the video of Ricky Rubio’s buzzer-beating three to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder to see the improvements.
If this play happened in his rookie season, there is absolutely no way Wiggins gives up that ball. He’d go up strong and attempt to win that game for his team among the trees. Would he be successful? It’s possible. Is a wide open look from Rubio at the three-point line a better bet? Probably, especially given where Wiggins was relative to the hoop.
That was certainly far from the only instance Wiggins made a kick-out pass after penetrating the lane. As the season wore on, ‘Air Canada’ grew more and more adept at attacking the paint, recognizing the help defense and kicking the ball out to a teammate on the perimeter.
Speaking of the perimeter, Wiggins’ three-point shooting was also a hot topic of debate throughout his second season. After shooting barely over 30 percent as a rookie, naysayers looked for a much higher number in the young phenom’s sophomore campaign.
Well, those naysayers didn’t receive a higher three-point percentage for the season. In fact, they received a lower number -- 30 percent even.
However, it’s really not as bad as it sounds. The bright side to that 30 percent is that as the season wore on, Wiggins became much more efficient from beyond the arc. In the months of November, December and January, Wiggins shot just 32.5 percent, 17.1 percent and 21.6 percent, respectively, from deep. He followed those first three months of mediocre shooting by knocking down 38.1 percent of treys in February, 42.9 percent in March and 36.8 percent in April.
If Wiggins is able to carry his three-point efficiency from the final three months of 2015-16 into 2016-17, there will be no further doubts regarding his perimeter shooting ability.
On the defensive end, Wiggins also took small steps in the right direction. This is evidenced by the difference in defended field goal percentages -- the field goal percentage of an opponent when Wiggins is defending the shot. During his rookie campaign, Wiggins surrendered an overall defended field goal percentage of 47.2 percent. He improved on this mark in 2015-16, allowing a 45 percent defended field goal percentage. In every shot category measured by NBA.com -- two-pointers, three-pointers, less than six feet, less than ten feet and greater than 15 feet -- Wiggins put up a better defended field goal percentage in his second season.
All in all, Wiggins was a solid defender in 2015-16, but he was nothing spectacular. The shooting percentages he surrendered weren’t anything special. Having said that, the physical tools Wiggins possesses give him all the potential in the world to become an elite perimeter defender.
In fact, on both sides of the ball, Wiggins is physically capable of becoming an elite player. He made significant improvements to his offensive repertoire while, at the bare minimum, improving from his rookie season on the defensive end.
New head coach Tom Thibodeau brings a hard-nosed defensive mentality to a Timberwolves team that has struggled mightily on that end of the floor for years now. Given Wiggins’ tendencies to become a lazy defender at times, Thibodeau seems like the perfect coach to mold Wiggins into the elite defender he has the potential to be.
As the Timberwolves begin a new era under Thibodeau, fans have quite a bit to be excited about. Obviously, Towns’ sensational rookie campaign will deservedly garner much of the attention in that aspect. However, Wiggins has put together two darn good seasons that are on par with other players that have grown into superstars.
Make no mistake about it -- Andrew Wiggins is a budding superstar.
All stats used are from nba.com/stats or basketball-reference.com
By: Drew Mahowald
Dear Mr. Durant,
First of all, I want to congratulate you on what you have accomplished so far in your nine-year career. You have already cemented yourself as one of the greatest scorers in the history of the NBA, and I have no doubt that you will win a championship someday.
With that said, I believe the easiest way for you to win a championship is by joining the Minnesota Timberwolves this offseason.
As much as I dislike Skip Bayless and his generally ludicrous opinions, I think he's right when he says you aren't reaching your full potential with a guy like Russell Westbrook at point guard. You and Russell are buddies. I get it. You stick up for each other. You win together and you lose together. I know the feeling -- albeit on a drastically smaller scale -- but I know the feeling.
But there comes a point in every man's career when he needs to sacrifice a friendship for what is best for himself – and that's where you are right now. Your career would benefit largely from playing with a pass-first point guard, and I think I have someone in mind.
You remember Ricky Rubio, right? Pssh, of course you do. But just in case you need your memory refreshed...
Knocking down clutch threes is far from the only thing Rubio does for the Wolves. Defensively, he shuts down opposing point guards with consistency. For example, that back-to-back MVP Stephen Curry guy that dropped 36 points on you in Game 7? Rubio and Co. held him to 13/42 shooting and 6/23 from three-point range in the two games they went head-to-head.
The benefits you receive from playing with Rubio will be better felt on the offensive end, though. As an excellent catch-and-shoot three-point sniper, you fit in perfectly with Rubio's style of play. His pass-first mentality would be an excellent change from Westbrook's I-need-to-have-the-ball-in-my-hands style of play. Rubio plays to get his teammates open looks. His court vision is better than any other player’s in the league. Just think about it -- Rubio and yourself running a pick-and-pop with guys like Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine acting as legitimate weapons to draw defenders. How would that be stopped?
Oh, but you say this franchise has missed the playoffs for 12 straight seasons? I mean, you're right about that. But even without you, this team has an extremely bright future. Towns is a sure-fire perennial All-Star and will probably be considered a Top 5 player within a couple of seasons. LaVine has become an absolute flamethrower from beyond the arc and can do some crazy things as a complementary scorer once he gets going.
And I think you know a little bit about this Wiggins dude.
Aside from boasting one of the best young rosters, if not the best young roster, in the NBA, the Wolves also hired the best available head coach this offseason in Tom Thibodeau. Owner Glen Taylor finally has a roster with legitimate talent, and he is not taking any chances. He wants this to work, and I see no reason why it couldn't, especially if a player of your caliber joined in on the operation.
Mr. Durant, I urge you to consider this opportunity. While I almost 100% expect you to sign a one plus one deal with Oklahoma City, I just want you to be aware of this opportunity and the perks it has. You will have the chance to take a bunch of talented, young stars under your enormous wingspan and lead them to basketball immortality, something the city of Minneapolis desperately needs.
If you choose to join Thibodeau, Rubio, Towns, Wiggins, LaVine and the rest of Minnesota's primed young roster, I promise you won't regret it.