Timberwolves management traveled to Chicago for the NBA’s annual draft combine and around the country for prospects’ pro days. They’ve also worked out and interviewed a parade of visiting players here at home, looking for shooters and versatile defenders who can play multiple positions and switch on every pick-and-roll play. There’s no telling how Thursday’s draft will unfold, but here are some of the many possibilities the Wolves will consider if they keep their 20th overall pick:
The Wolves have fallen behind in the NBA’s three-point-shooting arms race, but there will be deadeye shooters still on the board with the 20th pick.
Grayson Allen, Duke, 6-5 G, senior: Love him or hate him, this draft’s most polarizing player has seen collegiate teammates Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor, Brandon Ingram and Jayson Tatum, among others, come and go after only one season.
Now after his four seasons at Duke, it is Allen’s time to prove he’s NBA-ready because of his athleticism, competitiveness and sure shooting stroke.
It’s also his time to show NBA teams the same player who has played both hero and villain is all grown up.
The same player who, as his team’s least-famous freshman, starred in Duke’s 2015 championship-game victory over Wisconsin and also demonstrated a proclivity to trip or kick opponents. He memorably melted down with a temperamental outburst one night in December 2016.
During workouts, he impressed NBA scouts with a 40-inch vertical jump and shooting range.
He also often had to explain himself.
“You have to address it,” Allen said. “It’s something that comes from competitiveness I’ve had as a player, competitiveness that was pointed in the right direction and went over the line. It’s obviously something I needed to work on and address, something I’ve gotten a lot better at. ...
“I play with competitiveness and emotion and teams love that. The negative thing is, I took it too far. I’m not getting rid of it. It’s not going anywhere. I just learned to play with it, channel it. The NBA, they like competitive guys.”
Don’t forget Wolves coach/president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau loves competitors and knows well Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, who has coached countless players with the Blue Devils but formed a special bond with Allen.
“Grayson Allen is special,” Krzyzewski told reporters late last season.
Donte DiVincenzo, Villanova, 6-5 G, sophomore: The redshirt sophomore and his Villanova team won big in the 2018 NCAA championship game with his performance off the bench that included 31 points, five made three-point shots, two mighty blocks and one knowing wink.
Now he appears to be winning again in the NBA’s pre-draft process by impressing not only with his Final Four Most Outstanding Player performance, but by his play and shooting range at May’s Chicago draft combine and in individual workouts/interviews with teams.
Athletic, tough and nicknamed the “Big Ragu” because of his red hair and Italian heritage, DiVincenzo said NBA teams just want to “know more about me because I wasn’t very well-known before all that attention.”
• Kevin Huerter, Maryland, 6-7 G/F, sophomore: Accomplished shooter helped himself in workouts by displaying other skills, but underwent hand surgery last week.
• Dzanan Musa, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 6-9 F: A gifted scorer and shooter in some of Europe’s better leagues.
• Gary Trent Jr., Duke, 6-5 G: Apple Valley’s own promises he can do more than he showed at Duke, but did there what the Wolves need: shoot.
Prospects who not only play in 3-D, but just might be the kind of “3-and-D” player — a defender who can also shoot threes — the Wolves desperately need.
Khyri Thomas, Creighton, 6-3 G, junior: One year after the Wolves drafted big man Justin Patton, Thomas could be the second consecutive Creighton player they obtain.
They chose Patton in 2017 because of his size, mobility and upside.
If they go for a Bluejay again, it will be because of Thomas’ defense, three-point shooting stroke and those long arms. He stands 6-3, but his wingspan is nearly 6-11, freakish for a player his size.
“Eat your vegetables, man,” he said.
A two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year sometimes compared to Denver’s Gary Harris or the L.A. Clippers’ Avery Bradley, Thomas’ wingspan makes him unique for his position.
“Anyone can make a shot,” he said. “Defending, you get the ball most of the time. If I steal the ball, I’ve got the ball.”
He’ll be the third Creighton player drafted by an NBA team in the past five years: Patton went 16th overall last year. Forward Doug McDermott — son of Creighton coach Greg — went 11th in 2014.
“We’re just a family,” said Thomas, 22. “Coach McDermott treats all of us like we’re his own son. I think he loves me more than Doug. He wants the best for you and he’s going to get the best out of you.”
Jacob Evans, Cincinnati, 6-6 F/G, junior: He’s the kind of versatile defender and three-point threat the Wolves need — and he admires Wolves All-Star Jimmy Butler, too.
Butler is the former 30th overall pick who made himself a four-time All-Star, and Evans is projected as a late first-round pick who envisions himself capable of the same.
“[Butler is] really an underdog,” Evans told reporters after a workout in Portland. “Not a lot of hype behind his name, but he’s got something you can’t take away from him: That’s his hard work and dedication to the game … I see myself as one of those underrated guys who has a lot of potential and [will] have a big impact on the team when I get to the NBA.”
• Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State, 6-8 SF/PF, junior: Big Ten Player of the Year is a versatile forward maybe best suited as a small-ball power forward.
• Aaron Holiday, UCLA, 6-1 PG, junior: Younger brother of NBA players Jrue and Justin is strong and an improved shooter.
• Troy Brown Jr., Oregon, 6-7 SG, freshman: Not yet the shooter the Wolves need, but can defend multiple positions and won’t turn 18 until late July.
• Chandler Hutchison, Boise State, 6-7 SF/SG, senior: Four-year collegian has an NBA body and has improved his shooting and ballhandling.
Mostly unseen and unknown last season, these are the draft’s mystery men who someday might look like a steal if chosen 20th overall.
De'Anthony Melton, USC, 6-4 G, sophomore: Ineligible his sophomore season at USC, Melton hopes he delivered a message at the combine and all of his pre-draft workouts. He’s back.
“I’m the same player everyone fell in love with my freshman year,” he said. “Yeah, the situation happened, but I’m here.”
That situation was an FBI investigation into bribery and corruption that rocked college basketball and impacted Melton and USC. Federal prosecutors alleged a Melton family friend received $5,000 to direct Melton to an agent and financial adviser when he turned pro.
Melton left to prepare for the NBA draft. He says he never received any money nor did anything wrong in many interviews with NBA teams and reporters.
“I’ve told my story a million times at this point,” Melton said. “I don’t mind telling the story. I have nothing to hide. Teams, they want to know who I am, how I’ve been. They want to see how I explain my story and how I respond.”
An attacking combo guard and disruptive defender with great reach, Melton impressed his freshman season and now wants all who ask — a long list that includes hometown Lakers boss Magic Johnson and Clippers owner Steve Ballmer — to know he’s the same intelligent and instinctive player he was a year ago, only better.
“I haven’t changed my game,” said Melton, who models his game after Dwyane Wade, Avery Bradley and John Wall. “I can better my game. I can fit into a lot of systems. I make winning plays. I think I’m still the same player.”
Anfernee Simons, IMG Academy, 6-4 G: He’s a long-range project who doesn’t fit the Wolves’ win-now mandate. But Thibodeau and his staff interviewed the gifted guard who is headed directly to the NBA after he played a fifth high-school season at Florida’s IMG Academy.
A national top-10 prep recruit who committed to and then de-committed from Louisville, Simons had some questions of his own, too. He’s draft-eligible because he graduated high school a year ago and turned 19 this month.
“Tom Thibodeau’s just a good dude,” Simons said. “I wanted to ask him about all the great players he has coached, like Derrick Rose and Jamal Crawford. Derrick Rose is kind of a quiet person and I just wanted to know what he’s like off the court and how hard he works. Jamal is one of my favorite players. I just wanted to know how he’s doing all that stuff now at . I feel like he hasn’t changed a bit.”
• Elie Okobo, France, 6-3 PG: Strong and long, he’s moving up draft boards after he played well for his French team in the playoffs.
• Jerome Robinson, Boston College, 6-5 SG/PG, junior: Combo guard has quickly ascended draft boards, so he might not be there at No. 20.