It's hard to believe that its almost been a whole year since Tom Thibodeau pulled the trade trigger and sent Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and what became Lauri Markkanen to Chicago for Jimmy Butler and Justin Patton's draft rights, yet here we are, closing in on another exciting NBA Draft.
Not having a lottery pick has been a strange feeling for Minnesota faithful, but with the 20th pick in hand, there is still plenty of prospects that can make an instant impact. While the enticing freshman names will be the first off the list come draft night, the older gems are the ones that could fall to the Timberwolves.
Let's project and profile the five names that will be at the top of the Minnesota Brass' Big Board when June 21 rolls around.
5. Keita Bates-Diop
Starting off the Wolves Big Board is Ohio State standout Keita Bates-Diop. The 22-year-old doesn't have the same kind of upside as some of the freshman and sophomore products that have declared for the draft, but that extra experience and maturity is exactly what the win-now Timberwolves need.
The versatile 6-foot-8 forward fractured his leg just nine games into his junior season, forcing into a medical redshirt season, but he came back last season with a bang. Bates-Diop averaged 19.8 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per night on route to the Big 10 Player of the Year honors, an explosive season which should see him firmly cement himself in Minnesota's draft discussions.
Forwards who can guard multiple positions effectively are a valuable commodity in today's NBA, and KBD fits that mold perfectly. He has above average athleticism for his size and his gangly 7-foot-3 wingspan creates nightmares for both perimeter and post players. The Wolves' bench was by far the worst defensive second unit in the league this past season, so adding a dynamic defender like Bates-Diop would be a pleasing pickup, especially for defense-mad Thibodeau.
The added bonus with taking the 22-year-old with the first round selection is his ability to contribute on the offensive end, too. Bates-Diop has a nice handle, a fast and aggressive first step to go along with a silky smooth mid-range jumper that yielded a 46 percent success rate in his final OSU season, per Synergy Sports.
If KBD shot the long ball at a better rate (36 percent in 17-18) he would shoot up the Big Board rankings. Nonetheless, fans should be very happy if he does land in the Twin Cities.
4. Jacob Evans
the Minnesota struggled mightily with effective wing depth this season, and with Jamal Crawford reportedly opting out of his player option, perimeter help is a striking need for the front office come draft night.
Enter Cincinnati junior Jacob Evans. At 6-foot-5 and 200lbs he isn't going to overwhelm opposition with his size and length (6-foot-9 wingspan), but he would be a snug fit in the J-Crossover role as a dynamic scorer off the often terrible Timberwolves bench. Unlike Crawford however, Evans can hold his own on the defensive end of the court.
Offensively, the 21-year-old has shown exactly what he can bring to the table over his last two seasons with the Bearcats putting up 13.5 and 13.0 points per game respectively, nailing 39.4 percent of his triples over the two campaigns.
The Timberwolves uncorked a winning recipe this season that fans have been craving for well over a decade, but the lack of 3-point takes and makes clearly left something to be desired in this pace and space NBA landscape. Plugging Evans into a 3-point stroking role is a small but important step toward Thibs and the Wolves finally joining the deep ball revolution.
Along with passing ability and athleticism that will translate to the big leagues, Evans has defensive potential oozing from his pores. The combo wing finished the NCAA year with a stellar 3.1 Defensive Win Shares, ranking him third in the nation. He may not have the elite tools that other prospects have, but the Bearcat has some pitbull-like intensity when hounding his matchup, the perfect trait for Tom Thibodeau.
Jacob Evans should be around at pick 20, if he is the Timberwolves should be taking a long, hard look at him.
3. Donte DiVincenzo
If you know anything about NCAA basketball or the upcoming NBA Draft, you will have heard of Donte DiVincenzo, the red-headed firecracker out of Villanova. The 6-foot-4 shooting guard made his name in the championship game by dropping 31 points and claiming the coveted Final Four Most Outstanding Player award and has been rising up draft boards ever since.
Dubbed the 'Big Ragu', the sharpshooting scorer will fit into Minnesota's wing rotation swimmingly.
According to Yahoo Insider Mike Schultz, an unnamed NBA Coach was blown away by the Wildcat's game at the recent Draft Combine in Chicago.
"I love him. He's going to shock the league and he's got the cajunas to do it. He's got NBA balls. He was the best player in Chicago and it wasn't even close." he said.
Big praise, but the 21-year-old has backed it up. He averaged 13.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists in just under 30 minutes per game in his third season at Villanova, draining a tasty 40.1 percent of his 5.3 3-point attempts a night, per Sports Reference. The Big Ragu is one of the most effective shot hunting prospects in the entire nation, with a solid handle and passing game to boot, a perfect option to deploy off the needy Timberwolves bench.
If it wasn't for his defense, or lack thereof, DiVincenzo would be a surefire lottery pick. Alas, defense is 50 percent of the game, and the Nova guard is not ideal on that end. He ranks as the worst prospect on our Big Board in both Defensive Rating and Defensive Box Plus/Minus, which dramatically decreases his value, especially under Thibs.
Defensive savvy or not, the elite shot creating ability and range that Donte DiVincenzo possesses will definitely fill a critical need for Minnesota.
2. Chandler Hutchison
Sticking with the perimeter player theme, our next prospect is Boise State University senior Chandler Hutchison.
The 22-year-old opted to return to BSU for his final season after a breakout campaign in 2016-17, it turned out to be a good move as Hutchison took another massive leap in 17-18' and firmly cemented himself as a first-round prospect. He also happens to be a seamless fit into Minnesota's scheme.
Hutchison was the heart and soul of his Boise State unit, and it showed when you scour his statistics. The combo wing averaged 20 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists per outing, hitting 47.5 percent of his shots and 35.9 percent of his triples to cap off a fantastic senior year. When you combine his 6-foot-7 frame and 7-foot-1 wingspan with the borderline Andrew Wiggins level athleticism, Hutchison's raw physical tools jump off the screen.
The Boise State Bronco has above average ball handling which helps him slither into the paint and finish well with either hand, he is also quietly adept at making pinpoint passes when he does get into the paint. He launches himself into perimeter mismatches when he is isolated on a big and gets to the free throw line at will (7.2 attempts per game), all of which suits Tom Thibodeau's potentially prehistoric offensive scheme.
Hutchison brings high energy on the boards and provides solid length as a defender, improving every year at BSU, he likely projects to be a solid-but-not-special defender at the next level. The 35.9 percent 3-point percentage isn't ideal for a Wolves squad that is crying out for snipers, but he seems to be a better outside shooter when he is catching and firing right away and his 37.7 percent in 2016-17 is a sign that he can improve.
If our upcoming first option is off the board at 20, Hutchison will be a fine addition to this Timberwolves squad.
1. Khyri Thomas
Our first four options have been both exciting and plugged a hole in the Timberwolves roster, but none of them bring the best mix of the two like Creighton junior Khyri Thomas can.
Thomas measured in at a tick under 6-foot-4 at the Draft Combine, but with his 6-foot-10 wingspan and a Jimmy Butler style intensity, he managed average 15.1 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists per night and capture his second straight Big East Defensive Player of the Year award. Despite being undersized he projects to slot comfortably into either guard position when he makes the jump to the NBA.
We know how badly the Timberwolves need defensive help in any way, shape or form, and Thomas brings that in spades. That's not all he has in his toolbox though, The 22-year-old is one of the most deadly 3-point bombers in the draft, he nailed 41.1 percent of his triples in 2017-18 and 40.6 percent overall in his 102 Creighton appearances.
Whether it's off screens, pulling up or on spot up opportunities, Thomas has it on lock. This kind of marksmanship will cover up another gaping black hole in Minnesota's ugly-at-times offense. You're starting to salivate at the thought of this kid in the Aurora Green Uniforms, aren't you? Me too.
Due to the freshman and sophomore being taken early based on long-term potential, Thomas projects in the mid to late 20's in every mock draft with any sort of credibility. This means there is a high chance he will available when the Timberwolves are on the clock. Minnesota won't worry about long-term potential as much as win-now capabilities, and with Andrew Wiggins and Jimmy Butler well ahead of him in the pecking order, Thomas could smoothly slide into a sixth man role and help improve on the 47 wins the Wolves garnered in 17-18'.
To add the cherry on top of the delicious looking Khyri Thomas cake, he is a former Creighton teammate and friend of 2017 first round pick Justin Patton.
There you have it. Five options that should thrill Wolves fans no matter what. Let me know what you think!