A new era in Timberwolves basketball began with the hiring of David Kahn last month. It continued with letting Kevin McHale go. And last night, the NBA draft provided an opportunity for the Wolves to shape a new roster. The Wolves had four first round picks and two second round picks. What would the team do?
There were rumors swirling about several potential big-time trades, but none of that happened. The Wolves would have picks five, six, eighteen and twenty-eight in the first round.
Sitting in a metro Buffalo Wild Wings, it was interesting to hear the reaction when Tyreke Evans was selected with the fourth pick. There was excitement knowing that Ricky Rubio would be available to the Wolves. When they took the 18 year old point guard from Spain with that fifth pick, applause erupted. There is an excitement about Rubio who is said to be a very exciting player. He made a strong impression during the 2008 Olympics. The ceiling is very high for him, but he likely has a lot to learn before getting to that level.
Things got interesting when the Wolves used the sixth pick on a second point guard, Jonny Flynn, a 20 year old from Syracuse. Then with the 18th pick, the Wolves drafted another point guard, Ty Lawson from North Carolina. Fans had to be scratching their heads with that selection. But soon after, we learned that Lawson had been traded to the Denver Nuggets for a future 1st round pick. Teams wouldn't want to pay four number one picks, so it makes sense to get another one in the future. With the 28th overall pick, the Wolves took another guard from North Carolina, Wayne Ellington. At least he is a shooting guard, although he is not big.
In the second round, the Wolves took Nick Calathes, another point guard, out of Florida. They traded him to the Dallas Mavericks for a future second round pick.With their second second round pick, they took Henk Norel. He's a 6-10 player who played in Spain with Rubio. This selection in particular really got me thinking.
The biggest question for the Wolves and their fans will be whether or not Rubio will be able to get out of his Spanish League contract (there is a $6.6 million buyout) and play this coming season. In my mind, the best thing that could happen would be for Rubio to stay in Spain for another year. I know that would probably not be good in the eyes of most Wolves fans, even the diehards. Drafting Rubio was exciting for fans, and they want to see him in uniform right away. But a couple of factors should tell us that the best thing for the team, long-term is for Rubio to stay in Spain.
First, Rubio is just 18 years old. There are guys like Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and Lebron James that came into the league at that age and performed well. Most 18 year olds that came to the NBA struggled for a couple of seasons while they developed. I see nothing wrong with letting Rubio develop for another year in Europe. Many may question using the #5 draft pick to select a player who may not be with the team for a year or two. But if his impact is truly what many seem to believe it could be, it is worth the wait, right? In a year or two, he could come in and be ready to play more and actually have more of an impact. Maybe the buyout situation is more clear and less overwhelming. Think about this... David Robinson played four years at the Naval Academy. The San Antonio Spurs took him with the #1 overall pick. Although he was plenty mature and physically developed, he had to wait two years to play in the NBA to fulfill his military obligations. How did that turn out for the Spurs? I don't think Ricky Rubio will have that kind of affect on the Wolves, but he was clearly the best available player, the player with the highest upside at that draft spot, so the Wolves would have been silly not to take him. Finally, he can continue to work in tandem with the 21 year old Norel for another year and both can come to the US and to the Wolves together.
Wolves fans need to be honest. The 2009-10 Wolves season will be another rough one potentially. The McHale Era may be over, but the affects of that era could linger for a couple of years. The Wolves have a couple more first round picks next year and they would take a few more high-impact players. Frustrating as it may be, Wolves fans need to have patience and realize that for the betterment of the organization, we have to look to the 2010-11 season, or maybe even the 2011-12 season before we even start thinking playoffs.
The Wolves have Jonny Flynn and Wayne Ellington coming in for next season. They likely will both start alongside Al Jefferson and Kevin Love, and maybe Ryan Gomes. In another year, Rubio, Norel and two more first round picks can come in and continue the development. Of course, we also have to remember that there are likely going to be trades in the near future that will continue to push the Wolves in the forward direction.
I guess I am excited about this draft and that the Wolves are moving in the right direction whether Rubio comes to the team this year, or next.