The NBA Draft is one week from tonight. While it doesn’t quite figure to have the national spotlight feel for the Timberwolves as last year’s draft, when they held the No. 1 pick (choosing Karl-Anthony Towns) and also ended up trading for Tyus Jones, holding the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft holds plenty of intrigue.
Here, then, is a roundup of some of the pre-draft nuggets, chatter and rumors floating around as they pertain to the Wolves:
*The big one is the question of whether the Wolves will trade the pick. They have a ton of young players on the roster, which is great when you are building a core. But at a certain point, adding more established players to the mix can accelerate both the short-term and long-term growth of the franchise — provided they are the right players.
The name that emerged recently as a potential Wolves trade target is Bulls shooting guard/small forward Jimmy Butler. I like the idea of Butler, but if Chicago really wants the No. 5 pick and Andrew Wiggins as part of the deal, new coach/POBO Tom Thibodeau should shut off his phone and throw it in the river.
*Providence point guard Kris Dunn is an intriguing prospect, and there are plenty of tentacles to his story as it pertains to the Wolves. There were early reports that he wants to play for Minnesota and is therefore holding back information from other teams. Without reading too much into things, Dunn confirmed at the NBA Combine that he had spoken to the Wolves and had nice things to say about Thibodeau: “The thing I liked about him is he’s a defensive coach,” Dunn said of Thibodeau. Dunn is a two-time Big East Conference player of the year and defensive player of the year. “And my greatest strength is defense.”
But in an interview Thursday morning, Dunn tried to pour cold water on the idea that there are teams picking ahead of the Wolves that he doesn’t want to play for — specifically that he is fine going to the Celtics at No. 3 despite their backcourt talent. That runs counter to the original report from Yahoo’s The Vertical saying Dunn doesn’t want to go to Boston (No. 3 pick) or Phoenix (No. 4) because those teams have established guards.
The subtext of that is the question: does he not consider the Wolves to have established guards? And if Minnesota is in a position to draft Dunn at No. 5 and does indeed go that route, what would it mean for Ricky Rubio? Rubio, by the way, gave an interview in Spain earlier this month in which he hinted at wanting to leave the Wolves if they don’t make the playoffs. Not sure if anything was lost in translation there, but one has to wonder where he fits overall into Thibodeau’s plans.
*The consensus among mock drafts is that if the Wolves keep the pick they will take Kentucky combo guard Jamal Murray, which again would lead to questions about where other players on the roster fit in. Other possibilities outside of Murray or Dunn include Oklahoma shooting guard Buddy Hield and Croatian 7-footer Dragan Bender.
Bender is an intriguing prospect, but one also has to wonder if the Wolves’ reported interest in free agent Joakim Noah (a feeling that sounds like it’s mutual) would impact their draft approach as it pertains to big men. I have to think they could still use depth even if Noah does sign, but it’s something to consider.