By: Dan Slaubaugh
Hello everyone. It's been a while. Too long, actually. In fact, my computer logged me out of Weebly, which is sad in itself. Anyways, I'm back now, and ready to see what the final 17 games has in store.
During my absence there were a lot of thoughts, Timberwolves related, that built up in my mind and it's time to share them with you. Some might be complex. Some might not be.
Let's cut right to it.
The life of a Timberwolves fan
As the NBA season comes to its homestretch, most NBA fans have their attention geared toward their favorite team trying to sneak into the playoffs or for a playoff/finals run. Unfortunately, Wolves fans haven't had the privilege of gearing up for a playoff run this time of year for the past 12 years. Our thoughts are ultimately focused on the draft and if the Wolves should tank to have better odds at moving up. It's sad, really. Hopefully next year at this time we can focus our thoughts on a playoff berth and finish watching a full NBA season. However, this does lead me to my next topic. The draft.
Here's the deal. If nothing changes in the standings till the end of the year, the Wolves will probably have the 5th best shot at landing the #1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. However, their schedule from here on is brutal. Take a look.
Personally, I see 3-5 wins in there, so they could perhaps move up in the lottery and have a better chance at a higher pick. I'd rather win to build the players confidence, but logistics say it probably isn't going to happen much as we end the season.
If they decide to use their pick, I'd guess they go big. They are just so high on LaVine and because of that, there's no room left on the wings and they aren't going to draft someone to come off the bench for the next 5 years.
Here are some of the options the Wolves have if they decide to go big. I chose to use NBADraft.net's scouting report, because there's no need to waste my time researching when other outlets (such as this one) have it masterfully covered.
PF: Dragan Bender - Croatia
Versatile player, who can play both forward positions and occasionally at Center, although for now is considered a power forward … Has all the necessary elements to become a prototypical stretch 4, if he continues to improve … Impressive size for a power forward. Solid wingspan (measured at 7-2 feet) and great standing reach (measured at 9-3 feet) … Runs the floor extremely well for a big guy … Very good coordination for a player his size … Good ball handing … Possesses high basketball I.Q. … Very good court vision, either while dribbling or playing in the post … Already an excellent passer … He can do just about everything at a good rate on the offensive end.
Not a great athlete … Limited leaping ability … Not explosive enough to play as a wing at the next level … At times he looks like a perimeter player trapped in a big man’s body … Stronger players can bully him on the post on both ends of the floor … Has to bulk up to play at the next level, and appears to have a naturally skinny bodytype … He can do just about everything on the offensive end, but he can’t do anything at an elite level ...Post defense is a question mark … Not as good shot blocker as he should be for a player his size … At times he loses his concentration on defense … Mediocre rebounder, who sometimes forgets to box out.
PF: Ivan Rabb - Freshman, California
With a slight frame, for now, Rabb is very good at gaining position against defenders in the low post ... At 6'10 once Rabb got near the hoop he was virtually automatic against high school competition at the rim ... He has developed a consistent baby left hook shot that is his go-to move ... Rabb is also very explosive laterally ... Even when caught in tight spaces or too deep in the paint he possesses the athleticism to still get a good shot attempt or dunk attempt off ...... Very effective rim protector ... Quick to help, but doesn't leave his feet early ... Let's the offensive player come to him before trying for a block ... Uses his feet well to reposition himself for blocks ... His large wingspan (7'1") is also a big help on defense.
Besides his baby hook, doesn't have an array of post moves in his repertoire ... Has mostly relied on being taller and more athletic than most of his competition ... Must get stronger and fill out his frame as much as possible ... Can easily be knocked off his spot in the paint ... Besides rim protection he's not really a great overall defender ... Strictly a post player at this point, Rabb hasn't adapted to the new "position less basketball" movement ... If he's not able to score in the post he will drift out to the perimeter, which isn't the strongest part of his game at the moment.
If the Wolves decide Ricky's not the long term answer at point guard, which is a possibility, they could turn their heads to Providence's junior point guard Kris Dunn, who was just selected the Big East Player of the Year for the 2nd straight season.
Dunn possesses a very quick first step to blow by opponents, utilizing it well to attack the basket ... Led the NCAA in assists throughout most of his junior year, displaying great ability to pass and create shots for teammates .... Excellent defender with great anticipation on steals (2.8 per game, good for 4th in the nation) ... Above average rebounding numbers from the point guard position 5.6 rpg ... Excellent ball handler, very comfortable with the ball in his hands, setting up the offense. Took a medical hardship in his freshman season ... That concern for future injuries makes him a bit of a wild card ... Turnover prone at 4.1 per game. Must cut down on mental errors and show more value for the ball.
Besides his baby hook, doesn't have an array of post moves in his repertoire ... Has mostly relied on being taller and more athletic than most of his competition ... Must get stronger and fill out his frame as much as possible ... Can easily be knocked off his spot in the paint ... Besides rim protection he's not really a great overall defender ... Not quick laterally and often doesn't seem to be moving fluidly when defending on the ball ... Strictly a post player at this point, Rabb hasn't adapted to the new "position less basketball" movement ... If he's not able to score in the post he will drift out to the perimeter, which isn't the strongest part of his game at the moment ... Really left-hand dominant, needs to put more work in on his off hand ... Needs to continue to improve at the free throw line as well.
It looks like we may have seen the last of Garnett, having missed the past 19 games due to sore knees and there being no signs of evidence that he will return anytime soon. If he does return, it'd probably be a 1 game stint to make his farewell to Minnesota and the rest of the NBA.
The lack of rebounds and assists is discouraging. But overall, he's having himself a fine year. He's been consistent, which is something you can't say about many past and former Timberwolves. Andy G from Punch-Drunk Wolves had an interesting tidbit in the usual excellent read from yesterday.
One interesting detail about Wiggins’ third quarter was that he took over Ricky Rubio’s spot as the team’s on/off differential king. Wiggins had the best “on” rating of (+0.8), and the worst “off” rating of (-10.8). That the Wolves played 11.6 points per 100 possessions better with Wiggins than they did without him is a new trend for him, as he’s been kind of middle-of-the-pack in that statistical category.
He is improving. Slowly, but surely. Next year will be the year we find out if he is going to ascend into the ranks of NBA stardom. For now, he's 21, and would be a junior at Kansas leading his team into the NCAA Tournament if he hadn't opted for the NBA.
I've been high on Bazz for awhile now. I still am. But I am starting to believe Minnesota isn't where he belongs. He brings a high motor, nice touch around the basket, and can hit the corner 3, but the Wolves have turned their focus and attention to the core group that is LaVine, Wiggins, and Towns. It would be different if Bazz toned up his weaknesses (defense, tunnel-visioned), but that doesn't seem to be happening. Therefore, look for Bazz to be somewhere else when the 2016/2017 season tips off, and perhaps be used correctly to fully utilize the skills he brings to the table. He does have a place in this league. The question is where.
Thanks for reading. Have a wonderful weekend. Oh, and by the way, we are so lucky to have Karl-Anthony Towns. In the words of John Meyer (CH): "He's a pleasant distraction from the sobering reality that postseason basketball will not take place in downtown Minneapolis in mid-April for the twelfth straight year."