Wolves get a quick peek at past top picks

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 13, 2013 - 6:37 AM
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Cleveland's Kyrie Irving.

Photo: Amy Sancetta, Associated Press

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They say it takes years to fairly evaluate an NBA draft. Timberwolves fans get their chance to do their own snapshot analysis in a two-game stretch that started Monday in Cleveland and ends Wednesday at Target Center against Utah. Those two games feature the top four picks in a draft that also included Denver's Kenneth Faried, Charlotte's Kemba Walker, Golden State's Klay Thompson and San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard.

1. KYRIE IRVING, CLEVELAND

Ht.: 6-3 • Pos.: PG • College: Duke • Age: 20

THIS SEASON'S KEY STATS

GP GS MPG APG PPG

41 41 35.4 5.5 23.9

He's already the best young point guard out there -- at least until Derrick Rose comes back healthy from knee surgery -- and might just be the busiest guy at this weekend's All Star Game festivities in Houston. He's playing in Friday's Rising Stars Challenge, participating in Saturday night's three-point shooting contest, and he's the sixth-youngest player ever chosen for the big game itself. The Cavs now obviously made the right choice in picking him over Derrick Williams and everybody else in that draft. A dynamic scoring point guard, he is what Wolves coach Rick Adelman calls a "difference maker." Chicago veteran forward Luol Deng calls Irving's ball-handling ability "sick" and says "the basketball is like a yo-yo in his hands." Here's a question that never will be answered: What if the Wolves had won the No. 1 overall pick that year with Ricky Rubio already headed their way after their two-year pursuit of him?

2. DERRICK WILLIAMS, WOLVES

Ht.: 6-8 • Pos.: PF-SF • College: Arizona • Age: 21

THIS SEASON'S KEY STATS

GP GS MPG RPG PPG

45 23 20.6 4.7 9.6

Cleveland chose Irving No. 1 overall over Williams in good part because Cavs management knew for certain Irving's true position but wasn't quite sure whether Williams was a "stretch" power forward or an oversized small forward. Two years in, Williams isn't considered a "tweener" as much anymore as he is something of a duplicate to Kevin Love, an undersized power forward who has more athleticism but still hasn't demonstrated he possesses the work ethic needed to thrive in the NBA and justify that No. 2 overall pick. Many Wolves fans wonder what Williams has done to justify a place so deep inside coach Rick Adelman's doghouse at times. It's clear the veteran coach trusts Dante Cunningham's experience and defense.

3. ENES KANTER, UTAH

Ht.: 6-10 • Pos.: C • College: Kentucky • Age: 20

THIS SEASON'S KEY STATS

GP GS MPG RPG PPG

50 1 14.3 4.1 6.4

It's not immediately demonstrated in this season's stats, but Kanter is considered noticeably improved after an uneven rookie season because of a work ethic that has him in better shape than a year ago. He sat out the 2010-11 season when he was ruled ineligible at Kentucky for benefits received while playing back home in Turkey. Not the biggest or most athletic center, but he's strong and his mid-range shooting game is getting better. He's at his best when he uses his muscle down around the basket. He and Derrick Favors are considered the Jazz's future up front, enough so that Utah very well might trade upcoming free agent Al Jefferson by the Feb. 21 deadline to clear playing time. Still very young; won't turn 21 until May.

4. TRISTAN THOMPSON, CLEVELAND

Ht.: 6-9 • Pos.: PF • College: Texas • Age: 21

THIS SEASON'S KEY STATS

GP GS MPG RPG PPG

52 52 31.6 9.1 11.4

A changed man -- or at least a different player -- since veteran Anderson Varejao was lost for the season just before Christmas. Until then, Cavaliers fans already were worried that Thompson might be headed toward Bustville. Since then, he has delivered double-doubles in 13 of 26 games and is showing that all the summertime work he exerted to develop a mid-range game just might be paying off. The Cavs chose him fourth overall over European prospect Jonas Valanciunas partly because there were questions about Valanciunas' contract buyout and NBA availability. Now, it's looking like the Canadian-born Thompson could be the justified No. 2 pick overall if the draft was held all over again today.

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