Let’s start with the premise that the Vikings, Wild and Timberwolves all have at least a puncher’s chance of reaching the playoffs in their respective leagues in the upcoming season.
We’ll also throw in the notion that players plucked freshly from the amateur ranks are important in the NFL, NHL and NBA because they replenish the talent pool at a lower cost than established players.
(And we’ll leave the Twins out of it because they are not going to make the playoffs and even the best baseball draft picks take years to develop into big leaguers.)
The Vikings and Wild reached the playoffs last season with a mix of veterans and high-impact youngsters such as Matt Kalil, Harrison Smith, Blair Walsh … Jonas Brodin, Jason Zucker and Charlie Coyle. They are continuing on that path in the upcoming season.
The Wolves are trying to match that accomplishment with a starting five (or even primary rotation) that might not feature anyone drafted since 2009.
The Wolves announced a five-year, $60 million contract Wednesday for Nikola Pekovic that essentially finishes off their roster shopping for the season. There probably is one spot left, and it will go to an end-of-the-bench type.
The starting five figures to be something like this: C-Nikola Pekovic; PF-Kevin Love; SF-Corey Brewer; SG-Kevin Martin; PG-Ricky Rubio.
The first four players off the bench on many nights figure to be: Chase Budinger (unless he starts over Brewer), J.J. Barea, Dante Cunningham and possibly Ronny Turiaf, at least early in the season.
The four players whose playing time appears to be most nebulous are: Derrick Williams, Alexey Shved, Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng.
So a team that won 15 games in the 2009-10 season, had lottery picks in 2010, 2011 and 2013 … is now poised to challenge for the playoffs, perhaps without a major contribution from any of those picks.
Wes Johnson was the pick in 2010, and he’s gone. Williams was the pick in 2011, and he figures to have challenges finding playing time as long as Love, Brewer and Budinger stay healthy. Same goes for Muhammad, who even could wind up in the D-League. Dieng will need seasoning as a rookie shot-blocker.
Maybe Williams breaks through. Maybe Shved carves out a niche. Maybe Muhammad scores in bunches. Maybe Dieng is a force.
Or maybe the Wolves have a chance to triple their victories from four seasons ago without much help from any of the past four drafts.