Everyone has an opinion about how the NBA draft is going to go Thursday night, and there are enough differing thoughts about most of the picks above the Wolves that analysts have the team going in a number of directions with the seventh pick.
Here's a look:
If the Wolves can't land Isaac, they should take Smith. Either they can keep him—as a supercharged version of the lottery pick they wanted Kris Dunn to be—or they can auction his services to the highest bidder. Smith spent most of his high school career as the top point guard prospect in this class. Then a knee injury derailed his senior season, while "going to NC State" derailed his lone year at NC State. Still, he's an incredible athlete and a great scorer, and he's got a chance to be as explosive as Damian Lillard, Isaiah Thomas, Kemba Walker, and every other point guard we've seen anchor offenses over the past few years. Put him in the spread pick-and-roll and he could be a nightmare. Whether it's Minnesota or someone else making this pick, Smith shouldn't slip any lower.
A home-run swing for a team that's one young star away from making some serious noise in the Western Conference. I loooove Isaac's potential. Think it's the highest ceiling in this draft, in fact. He's 6-11 and, according to his college coach, still may be growing. A late growth spurt meant that he grew up playing guard positions before he shot up in height, a la Anthony Davis. Coaches have raved about his unselfishness and work ethic. Florida State's Leonard Hamilton, a onetime NBA coach, told me Isaac has one of the best basketball IQs he has ever seen. And a near-seven-foot athlete who can shoot, pass and blocks shots is a huge asset in today's NBA. While his offensive game is far from complete and he needs to pack muscle onto his thin frame, Isaac is a helluva shooter for a big man, making 34.8 percent of his 3s and shooting 78 percent from the free-throw line. "He has the versatility to be whatever a coach wants him to be," Hamilton told me. If this pick hits, the Timberwolves will be contending in the West in a few years. And I think it'll hit.
There's a distinct possibility the Wolves trade this pick, likely for a point guard. If they do keep it, I like Markkanen's floor-spacing next to Karl-Anthony Towns' outstanding offensive game and promising defensive potential. As long as Towns reaches his ceiling on that end, he should cover any flaws in Markkanen's game.
Frank Ntilikina has been rising as fewer teams view him as a project. His polish, commitment to defense and rapid learning curve have turned heads. The Timberwolves should be praying that Isaac falls here, but if not, they’re stuck without an ideal fit no matter who they take. Ntilikina can play both guard positions and has increased trade value with the Knicks and Mavericks highly interested.
It’s too early to call Kris Dunn a bust, but if he has another season like the past one, the team is likely to grow impatient. Smith is not universally loved, but his talent is undeniable. Reports that Minnesota targeted Jimmy Butler last year with the 5th pick lead to an interesting trade idea. Minny gives 7, Zach Lavine and Ricky Rubio for Butler and 16.
Jonathan Isaac makes the most sense for the Minnesota Timberwolves, who could use a defensive-minded 4 between Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. But this is a pick that's also likely to be shopped, with the Wolves already loaded with young players. Does another one this deep in the draft help? Isaac jumps out as a high-upside trade target for someone looking to move up, just like Marquese Chriss in 2016. He fits Minnesota, but Isaac should also be coveted by other teams for his unique two-way versatility.
The Wolves are continuing their pursuit of point-guard solutions, but they do need a stretch-4. If any of the "Big Three" point men slip, the Wolves would probably scoop one of them up. Or they could take a shot on (Frank) Ntilikina or Smith. But Markkanen’s value as a big shooter is low-hanging fruit, and the Wolves can check a box by taking him. Of course, Minnesota is also eyeing a trade here, as usual.