If your favorite NBA team wasn’t a title contender, it was likely leaving tributes at the base of Mt. Zion (Williamson). Thirteen franchises all sit under the stoplight that is the 2019 NBA Draft. TSFJ gives each team a reason to speed through, take caution and even hit the brakes hard before making a wrong turn. We continue this series with a look at the 11th overall pick and the Minnesota Timberwolves.
How Did We Get Here?
Via a back-stepping season that was truly lost before it started. The year was bookended by the Jimmy Butler escape drama and a final month of going 5-11, something that gambling sites like Mybetting.in tried to predict last season. They were atrocious away from the Target Center, sporting the third-worst road record in the Western Conference. Karl-Anthony Towns soared as usual, posting is now-standard 20+ points and 12 rebounds per night, but otherwise there nothing enduring of note. Head coach Tom Thibodeau was fired in January and replaced at the helm by 33-year-old Ryan Saunders, who subsequently had the interim HC tag removed earlier this month.
The residual damage saw the Wolves digress by 11 games to 36-46, their 13th losing campaign in the past 14 years. They return to the Draft lottery a year after breaking their long playoff drought, albeit a return that was not as fruitful as it could have been. The Wolves were slotted with the 10th best odds, but ultimately slid back to 11, as the Lakers leapfrogged all the way to 4th. Thus are the breaks for one of the NBA’s most beleaguered franchises.
Green Light: Brandon Clarke, Gonzaga
Clarke’s name has been a popular one as the pre-draft circuit has begun to solidify the stock of a number of lottery options outside of the top five. So much so that he could realistically be gone by this time, after all, we are talking about a guy that had the second-best PER in the nation--and in the last decade--last year (37.2), surpassed only by Zion Williamson. Now, this isn't to say that Clarke is Zion-light or anything close to that, however he is a versatile frontcourt option that can fit in next to just about any type of center. Clarke is the type of rookie who can play difference making minutes early on in his career.
That’s a very good thing for a Timberwolves team that needs to desperately fill some consistent blanks, one of which being adding frontcourt talent that works with Karl-Anthony Towns. Clarke is great in transition both off the ball and with it in his hands. This means that he won’t get in the way of Towns, who’s primary objective is to overwhelm opponents away from the rim. But his main add would a lengthy defensive presence who can block shots, something the Wolves need desperately. Minnesota allowed the eighth highest field goal percentage against last year at .467%, with only Towns averaging better than a block per game (of players who played 50 or more games).
Clarke and the Wolves are potentially the best pairing of prospect and team in the lottery, and they should do everything in their power to make sure he the available option for when their turn comes around. Which brings me to….
Yellow Light: Trade Up
The #11 pick is crap shoot territory, where you can certainly find some talent, but its also an area where you can find yourself on the outside looking in. As opposed to crossing their fingers and hoping that a Klay Thompson, JJ Redick, Allan Houston or –ahem— Brandon Clarke, lands in their lap, perhaps the Wolves should get active and try to move up to ensure they can secure the bag.
Calling back to Clarke, there are a number of teams hovering in their similar area of the Draft that could use him as well. The Wizards are unpredictable at #9, while the even teams as high as the Cavaliers or Suns could have interest as well. Also, don’t discount the Celtics either, who currently sit at #13, but have the total pick ammo to package and rise up the Draft if they see something they like. And as we previously chronicled in this series, Clarke fits a need in Beantown as well.
The trade up option could also open up the chance to potentially make a play for North Carolina guard Cody White, who would certainly provide a projectable long-term upgrade at point guard.
So really, this option is just about the urgency of making the most of the potentially sketchy range they currently live in. They could pick the equivalent of Reggie Miller in 1987 with their selection, and if they do, you should go online right now and get this mobile betting app so you can bet the over on Minnesota wins for next season.
Red Light: Sekou Doumbouya
This is the worst possible direction that the Wolves could look to go in, yet another athletic but raw wing. Now I freely admit, I have not seen Doumbouya play aside from the pre-draft clip packages, but I do know from the current state of the Wolves, it is a direction they should avoid. They are already paying Andrew Wiggins a king’s ransom to do these things already and there’s the Jimmy Butler return (Robert Covington, Dario Saric) to double down on depth there.
The Wolves don’t need upside, they need to get better now. Use this pick to do that, not focus down the road while adding an, at best, 7th man off the bench for 2019.
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