Minnesota and the Crying Wolves: the Enigma at Eleven
Like the Hornets, the Timberwolves have a lot of dollar figures locked in for next season. Unlike Charlotte, the Timberwolves’ bad contracts are not expiring. Minnesota is locked into over $100 million next season just between Jeff Teague, Andrew Wiggins, Robert Covington, Gorgui Dieng, and Karl Anthony-Towns. Of those, only Teague’s $19 million deal is expiring. Consequently, the Timberwolves have only two strategies going into the draft.
First, trade the pick to get some financial relief. Sadly, at least for the lovely people of Minnesota, that’s easier said than done. This year, the chasm between the top two player, Zion Williamson and Ja Morant, and everyone else in the draft seems bigger than usual, arguably akin to the 2016 NBA Draft. So, at the 11 spot in this draft, teams should be looking for guys that can play in an 8-man rotation. Consequently, teams aren’t really going to be looking to trade up. However, teams might be willing to take on an expiring bad deal to swap picks. If Minnesota were to try and package Jeff Teague with the 11th pick, a team looking for a guard who can’t shoot might just swap picks and make the money work. San Antonio does love guards who can’t shoot and may need eight spots. Might be a team worth keeping an eye on.
If Minnesota does trade down, they may key in on Kentucky guard Tyler Herro. Herro has a quick release and is comfortable shooting in uncomfortable shooting positions. Herro works hard on defense, but lacks some lateral quickness to make him an immediate 3-and-D guy in his rookie season. Working with NBA trainers and watching film, Herro should be able to overcome his lateral issues and potentially be the better shooting 3-and-D wing than Covington.
The more likely outcome is the team looks for someone who can play now and compliments the team’s current assets. The Wolves ranked 26th in three-point attempts last year with almost 29 per game while ranking 19th in their three-point conversion rate at 35%. Defensively, Minnesota ranked 25th in effective field goal percentage at just under 54%. At the 11 spot in the draft, Minnesota will be looking for a clone of Robert Covington. Minnesota could use a 3-and-D wing to help both with the defense and make the team more viable from the perimeter. Unfortunately, the fits may be either of the Johnsons: Keldon or Cameron. Cameron is a senior out of North Carolina, so the upside may not be there, and Keldon, a freshman, may not be ready to compete in the west on day 1. Keldon will compete on the defensive end and his shot continued to improve throughout his season at Kentucky. However, he does not finish above the rim or handle contact well. Cameron already spots up at an NBA level offensively, but between his age and his recent arthroscopic procedure on his hip, Cameron’s upside might not be high enough to pick him up this early.
The age of Minnesota’s pick here may determine how competitive they intend to be in 2019-2020.