While *most* eyes are fixed on Game 2 of the Timberwolves’ series against the Rockets (8:30 tonight, FSN and TNT), it is inevitable that some Wolves fans also are casting a sideways glance at the NBA Draft in June and wondering how Minnesota might improve on its 47-win roster.
To that end, there was a little bit of news a few days ago when the NBA conducted tiebreakers to determine draft positioning at the conclusion of the regular season. We obviously don’t know the order of the 14 non-playoff teams since the draft lottery isn’t until May 15, but we do know how picks 15-30 shook out.
In that sense, the Wolves *won* a couple times. First, the pick they owe Atlanta from the long-ago (and not so successful) Adreian Payne trade) is No. 19 overall. It could have been No. 18, but San Antonio won that tiebreaker. So the pick Minnesota is missing out on isn’t as good as it could be. (Hawks sites and even the official team Twitter account had some fun with that pick, by the way, since it was lottery-protected. Had the Wolves missed the playoffs, they would have kept the pick. The Hawks, who now have three first-round picks, were rooting hard for the Wolves to beat Denver in the season finale).
More importantly, the pick the Wolves are getting from the Jazz (which originally belonged to the Thunder) is the No. 20 pick. OKC was the winner in a four-team tiebreaker, so that pick could have been as low as No. 23.
Now that we know where the Wolves are picking, and we know a lot of the underclassmen who have declared for the draft (the deadline is April 22), looking at mock drafts can at least yield somewhat useful information.
Last year, the Wolves drafted for need but also took a chance on potential when they grabbed Creighton’s Justin Patton at No. 16 after their swap with the Bulls. He spent the first part of this season rehabbing a foot injury before having some strong moments in the G-League.
This year, one of the more intriguing players they might be able to get at No. 20 is Patton’s former teammate — Khyri Thomas, a Creighton junior guard who declared for the draft earlier this month.
Baskeball Insiders has Thomas going to the Wolves at No. 20 in its latest mock draft, and it’s not hard to see why. He’s a good three-point shooter (over 40 percent for his career) and is considered a very good defensive player. He’s not overly tall (6-3 or 6-4 depending on where you look), but he has a 6-10 wingspan. He averaged 15.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.7 steals last season, helping Creighton make the NCAA tourney. He might not have a ton of star potential, but he could be a solid pro and exactly the kind of player the Wolves could use.
Here’s a five-minute highlight video. I have to admit, I really like his game (and yes, I’m aware these are just highlights).
Mock drafts will undoubtedly change as time goes on, and there will surely be other names to consider. Thomas’ stock could rise or fall once workouts and camps start, and he could still pull out of the draft since he has not hired an agent.
For now, though, he’s an interesting early name to think about — especially as you watch the Wolves in the playoffs and wonder what their roster would look like with a potent “three-and-D” guy coming off the bench.