Given a chance to draft a polished college sharpshooter or a precocious college sharpshooter with the fifth pick in the 2016 NBA draft, Wolves boss Tom Thibodeau took the best defensive guard available. Get used to it.
Logic dictated taking a three-point shooter who could address the Wolves’ most obvious need. Thibodeau looked at his roster and his draft board and went for a player who proved to be a mild surprise to all of us who momentarily forgot who Thibodeau is.
Providence point guard Kris Dunn is a strong defensive player with a wide wingspan and the ability to make outside shots and draw fouls.
He’s not merely a defensive player, and it’s an oversimplification to say Thibodeau is purely a defensive coach. He runs an efficient offense and doesn’t mind responsible fast-break points.
But if he were an NFL head coach, he’d be the guy in the draft room arguing for the physical safety instead of the flashy receiver.
“The league is starving for two-way players,” Wolves General Manager Scott Layden said.
The amazing thing is that as he said it, Thibodeau’s lips didn’t even move.
OK, that’s not fair. Layden is an experienced guy, and he plays a vital role. Somebody’s gotta talk to the Bulls.
Thibs did not experience a pleasant departure from Chicago, but it is the Bulls who employ the most polished player theoretically available on Draft Day 2016: veteran swingman Jimmy Butler.
According to the best NBA reporters, the Timberwolves and Bulls discussed deals that could bring Butler to the Wolves. If the Bulls decided to strip down and rebuild from scratch, trading Butler for Dunn would make some sense.
The sticking point would be what else the Timberwolves would be forced to include. Andrew Wiggins? Too much. Shabazz Muhammad? Too little. Zach LaVine? That would warm up the talks, but trading a player of LaVine’s immense talent and rapid growth would be frightening for a franchise that wants to be great for a long time.
Barring a late-night, deadline-busting trade, here’s what we know:
The Wolves selected the most intriguing scenario available.
Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield was the safe, even obvious, pick. Kentucky’s Jamal Murray was the safe upside pick. Dunn was a less obvious fit. Just because he surprised us doesn’t mean he’s not the right guy.
Dunn was the boldest possible choice, because his arrival will mean Thibodeau will have to face questions about Ricky Rubio’s future — and some of those questions might come from Rubio himself.
Thibodeau said Rubio and Dunn can play together. They could be a daunting defensive duo and an uncertain offensive one.
Dunn turned the ball over too much in college but shot a competent 37 percent from the three-point line. He might already be a better outside shooter than Rubio.
He’s also the kind of athlete who commands respect before you even meet him. Dunn and his brother spent part of their childhoods parentless before being reunited with their father. He could have ruined his life before it really started. His toughness is rooted in more than fighting through picks.
What might be different about this draft than many in Wolves history is the faith the fandom has placed in Thibodeau.
There were many times in Wolves history when passing on the obvious choice would have elicited ridicule.
Wolves fans roasted David Kahn for taking multiple point guards in the 2009 draft. Turns out he actually took a couple of good ones — Rubio and Ty Lawson. His problem was taking Jonny Flynn instead of Steph Curry, and trading Lawson.
Thibodeau and Kahn don’t belong in the same sentence, so let me formally apologize for this sentence. With Thibodeau, making the less-than-obvious move creates suspense rather than panic.