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NBA mock draft: Wolves take Kentucky guard; Oturu and Tre Jones go when?

Plenty of curiosity is left in this local basketball season, with the Timberwolves regrouping post-trade deadline and post-All Star break to see what their reconfigured lineup can accomplish in the final 29 games and the Gophers men’s basketball team trying to shake off Sunday’s damaging loss to Iowa and still sneak into the NCAA tournament.

But if you’ve already focused at least one eye on the future with both of those teams, the 2020 NBA Draft is a big deal in each case. That point was underscored with ESPN.com’s latest mock draft (Insider required) from Jonathan Givony that has plenty of local interest. Let’s take a look at the highlights:

*Timberwolves: ESPN’s mock has the Wolves picking sixth even though they currently sit in the No. 4 spot in the pecking order. I’m not sure if it’s because their model suggests the Wolves (16-37) will move past a couple of the bottom-feeders they’re clustered with by the end of the year or if it’s reflective of more of the franchise-cursing lottery luck, but it does emphasize two points:

With eight teams currently sitting between 14 and 20 wins (seven in the East plus Minnesota in the West), there is a ton to sort out still in terms of draft position; and where the Wolves ultimately land will be pretty important in what is not considered a very strong draft.

ESPN’s mock has the Wolves taking Kentucky freshman combo guard Tyrese Maxey at No. 6, which is plausible — though Maxey might be more of a high-floor, low-ceiling type of player (and one who is shooting less than 30% from the shorter college three-point distance so far this season). Maybe someone like 6-8 overseas forward Deni Avdija — more of a swing for the fences move for a franchise that covets high-end talent — would be the play? ESPN has Avdija going one spot earlier at No. 5.

After all, combo guards are more common than playmaking fours. And the Wolves could scoop up the former in the mid-to-high teens with the Brooklyn pick (currently projected at No. 17 by ESPN) they acquired as part of the Robert Covington deal. ESPN’s mock has the Wolves getting Arizona wing Josh Green with that pick.

It’s also notable that the Wolves have a high pick (mid-30s, likely) in the top of the second round. In fact, they’re the only team in the projected first 10 picks of the second round that hasn’t traded that pick. The second round is far from the throwaway round it used to be as NBA teams look to find stars to develop or find low-cost rotation players.

*Speaking of which, two players with local ties could be on the Wolves’ radar with that second-round pick.

ESPN’s mock has Tre Jones — Tyus’ brother, formerly of Apple Valley and now of Duke — going No. 30 overall with the last pick in the first round. And it has Gophers’ big man Daniel Oturu going No. 37 overall early in the second round to Sacramento.

Oturu is of particular interest because what the sophomore does will have a major impact on the Gophers’ in 2020-21. Givony writes of Oturu:

Players at age 20 who produce at Oturu’s level are clear NBA prospects, but the value of players in his mold has dipped, which might relegate him to the second round. With Minnesota appearing likely to miss the NCAA tournament, Oturu might consider returning to college, fine-tuning his skills and trying to enter the NBA on a higher note next year.”

If he does enter the draft, though, he could be an intriguing prospect for the Wolves (and others) to consider.

Boudreau and the Wild: A perfect pairing except for one fatal flaw

When the Wild hired Bruce Boudreau as head coach in 2016, it seemed like the absolute perfect marriage of coach and team – except for in the single most critical way, where it seemed like a disappointment waiting to happen.

To understand that strange dichotomy is probably the easiest path to understanding how we got from the point Boudreau was hired nearly four years ago to Friday, when he was fired by the Wild in the midst of his fourth season.

The perception of perfection came from handing the keys of a veteran team – one with mainstays at the time like Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and Mikko Koivu already on the wrong side of 30 but still reasonably close to their peak years plus younger established players like Mikael Granlund – to a veteran coach who could maximize talent with a strong system.

The Wild had already been in the playoffs four consecutive seasons at that point, reaching the second round twice under Mike Yeo, and it was reasonable to think that a coaching upgrade might catapult the franchise on a deeper playoff run in a quest for its first Stanley Cup title.

The possible flaw – fatal or ironic, depending on how you want to look at it – was the strong veteran coach the Wild chose arrived with a reputation for wilting in the postseason as well. The only reason Boudreau was even available for hire was that he was coming off another crushing playoff loss with Anaheim, moving his all-time playoff record in Game 7s to a ghastly 1-7.

So the team trying to get over the hump hired the coach who couldn’t get over the hump. They were either going to do it together, or continue to write a frustrating history in tandem.

And we know what happened.

Boudreau guided the Wild to its highest point total (106) in franchise history and home ice in the opening playoff series against St. Louis in his first season … only to watch Minnesota fall flat in a 4-1 series loss. The Wild missed chance after chance, the Blues buried enough of theirs, and all of it was made doubly frustrating by the fact that St. Louis was coached by Yeo.

Next year? Nearly identical result. Another 100+ point season, another quick five-game exit – this time to the favored Jets.

Then the GM who hired him (Chuck Fletcher) was fired, the Wild slumped in 2018-19 to last place in its division, and the news that arrived Friday started to feel like an inevitability whose only question was timing.

Boudreau survived two front office shakeups and probably squeezed about as much as could have been hoped out of this year’s Wild just to get Minnesota on the fringe of the playoff race at the time of his dismissal. The Wild is 7-3-1 in its last 11 games, but this is about as good as it’s going to get and a more thorough rebuild seems to be in the offing.

I’ll always wonder what might have been if the Wild had a Boudreau-esque coach at the start of its run of playoff contention instead of near the end. Maybe it would have just meant more heartbreak. Maybe not.

In the end, Boudreau leaves about like he arrived: As a really good coach in the regular season who contributed to his own demise with poor playoff showings, even if it wasn’t all his fault.

And since you can’t fire all the players (unless you’re the Timberwolves), this is what happens.

TV Listings

Local Schedule

  • Indiana at Gophers men's basketball

    8 pm on BTN, 103.5-FM/1130-AM

  • Wild at Vancouver

    9:30 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Loons at Portland (preseason)

    9:30 pm

  • Boston at Timberwolves

    7 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • MSU Mankato at Gophers women's hockey

    7:07 pm

  • Gophers men's hockey at Penn State

    7:30 pm on BTN, 103.5-FM/1130-AM

  • Wild at Edmonton

    8 pm on FSN PLUS, 100.3-FM

  • MSU Mankato at Gophers women's hockey

    4:07 pm

  • Loons at Vancouver (preseason)

    4:30 pm

  • Gophers men's hockey at Penn State

    5:30 pm on BTN, 103.5-FM/1130-AM

  • Gophers men's basketball at Northwestern

    2 pm on BTN, 100.3-FM

Today's Scoreboard

No MLB games today

No NFL games today

No NBA games today

  • Columbus

    Philadelphia

     

    - 3rd, 8:27

    1

    5

  • Toronto

    Pittsburgh

     

    - 3rd, 11:10

    2

    5

  • Montreal

    Detroit

     

    - End 2nd

    3

    1

  • Buffalo

    Ottawa

     

    - 2nd, 11:28

    3

    4

  • Carolina

    Nashville

     

    - 2nd, 9:30

    3

    1

  • New Jersey

    St. Louis

     

    - 2nd, 9:35

    0

    1

  • Los Angeles

    Winnipeg

     

    - 2nd, 4:09

    1

    1

No MLS games today