Whatever happens Tuesday in the NBA’s draft lottery, the Timberwolves can draft no lower than fourth come June. Wolves coach and chief basketball executive Flip Saunders says his team will get a building-block piece to play alongside Andrew Wiggins, Ricky Rubio, Shabazz Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng and Zach LaVine, whether the Wolves win the draft lottery and get the No. 1 overall pick for the first time in their history or lose out and draft, at worst, fourth. ¶ “We’re going to get a good player,” Saunders said. “This is a pretty top-heavy draft really, compared to some of the past years. Whoever we draft will be a piece. The draft is that good.” ¶ Here are the possibilities:
Ht. 6-11 • Wt. 275 Age: 19 • College: Duke Year: Freshman
Precociously skilled big man who, like Wiggins, has been getting national acclaim since he became a teenager. … Potentially unstoppable back-to-basket, low-post scorer compared by some NBA scouts to Tim Duncan because of his footwork and array of spin moves all at the tender age of 19, two years younger than Duncan was when he left Wake Forest for the NBA in 1997. … Accomplished passer, particularly out of double- and triple-teams. Quick leaper and surprisingly agile, but not a great, explosive athlete. But he runs the floor well for such a big man, something to note if he plays with Rubio …Huge hands, just like San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard. Looks like he’s palming a grapefruit when he grabs a basketball out of the air with one hand. An elite finisher around the basket, probably because of those hands. … Bad free-throw shooter, about 50 percent, also perhaps because of those hands. … NBA scouts question whether he can, or will, play defense. He often looked disinterested or lazy at that end in his one collegiate season. He also should be a better rebounder, particularly on the defensive end. … Was considered the consensus No. 1 overall pick for most of the college season until ESPN.com, DraftExpress and other draft websites dropped him to No. 2 in March. … Didn’t impress in NCAA title game against Wisconsin, yet his team went to him twice late in the game and he scored consecutive big baskets to ensure the championship. … If he’s chosen No. 1 overall, it will be because some NBA team think he’ll be unguardable down low in its league . … One other thing to note: He’s great friends with Apple Valley’s Tyus Jones; the two of them announced at the same time that they would attend Duke together.
Ht. 6-11 • Wt. 250 • Age: 19
Pos. C • College: Kentucky Year: Freshman
He supplanted Okafor as this season’s top prospect on many draft websites in March because he’s considered the superior defender and rebounder, even elite perhaps in both areas. Good offensive rebounder. He’s also more versatile offensively, can score around the basket and on drives to the basket and has a jump shot that could eventually extend to NBA three-point range. He’s considered a superior shot-blocker and is superior to Okafor as a free-throw shooter, too. … He was hidden somewhat, particularly statistically, on a deep Kentucky team that rotated starters and bench players in and out. But he asserted himself more offensively as the season progressed. … Distinguishes himself from Okafor because NBA scouts believe he has the size and mobility to defend both centers and power forwards. … Runs the floor extremely well for a big man, probably better than Okafor. … Wasn’t considered an elite prospect in high school, but impressed NBA scouts playing for the World team — he was born and raised in New Jersey, but his mother is from the Dominican Republic — at the Nike Hoops Summit in 2013 and 2014. … Can be undisciplined defensively, leaving the floor and playing out of control too often, and can be inconsistent on both ends of the court. Like Okafor, he is not a truly explosive athlete and certainly isn’t the polished low-post scorer that Okafor is.
Ht. 6-5 • Wt. 200 • Age: 19
Pos. PG • Team: Guangdong, China
Big, physical point guard who committed to play for Larry Brown at SMU, then decided instead to play professionally in China, where at age 18 he held his own and then some playing against grown men. … NBA scouts know him well because of his play in the 2014 Nike Hoops Summit, where he was the World team’s star. … He was born in the Congo, but played high-school basketball in the United States. … Good rebounder for a point guard because of his size and probably is the draft’s best point guard, even if he still might be more of a combo guard than a true point. … Good aptitude for the pick-and-roll and strong enough and big enough to get to the rim and finish at or above it. He’s not a great shooter and can be pressured into committing turnovers, but will post up and can score inside against smaller guards. … Fast and good in the open floor; some NBA scouts mention John Wall when speaking about him. Good and willing passer. … His season in China was sidetracked by an ankle injury that limited him to 10 games at season’s start and the playoffs at season’s end. Still, he played well enough that, depending on draft order, he could go anywhere from No. 1 through 5, particularly if a team such as Philadelphia wins the lottery. He probably has the most at stake in pre-draft workouts with individual teams, depending upon how many with which he actually works out.
Ht. 6-5 • Wt. 175 • Age: 19
Pos. PG-SG • College: Ohio State • Year: Freshman
Dynamic lefthanded scorer. Not quite a true point guard, not exactly a scoring guard — who invites comparisons to Houston star James Harden both because of his innate scoring ability and because he, too, is a lefty. Excellent ball-handler who can shoot off the dribble and is an excellent shooter with deep range and a quick release. Poised and can play at different speeds, sees the floor like a point guard and scores like an elite shooting guard, but he’s not an elite NBA-level athlete. … Needs to improve with his right hand. … Projected to be able to play both guard spots in the NBA. … Two words he uses to describe himself: Silky and smart. Has the size to rebound well for his position and see over defenses, but needs to get stronger and better at finishing at the rim. Must be more consistent and not disappear for significant stretches, too. …Expected to struggle against bigger, stronger, better athletes until he learns to compensate for his lack of explosiveness. Like all 19-year-olds, also needs to become a better, more consistent defender. Probably the second guard taken, but could go as high as third.
Ht. 7-1 • Wt. 220 • Age: 19
Pos. PF • Team: Seville, Spain
He could be the draft’s sleeper and maybe its most unique player, a 7-1 stretch power forward who was expected to be chosen among the draft’s top 15 picks last summer but withdrew before the deadline. Great size, mobility and athleticism, can really run (and dunk) and good quickness, too. Good shooter even when on the move, with great range and quick release. … Potential to become a rim-protector who needs, above everything else, to get stronger. One word, three times: Skinny, skinny, skinny. He’s much more small forward than center as a second position, even with that 7-footer’s size. … Doesn’t have great defensive instincts but has the tools to become a good defender who’ll also block shots. … ESPN.com’s analysis calls him a top-three draft talent and cites Dirk Nowitzki and Pau Gasol as comparisons, saying Porzingis plays with the same fluidity as Gasol but is a better athlete. … Left his native Latvia when he was 15 to play professionally in Spain. He was coached part of this season by former Wolves forward and former NBA assistant coach Scott Roth in Spain. … Expect Wolves coach Flip Saunders to get a good look at him on his European scouting trip and don’t be surprised if Porzingis gets serious consideration from the Wolves as the draft approaches, depending upon, of course, their lottery luck.
Three others to consider
• Croatian small forward/shooting guard Mario Hezonja, now playing for Rubio’s former Barcelona team.
• Duke freshman small forward Justise Winslow
• Kentucky junior center Willie Cauley-Stein