On an NBA draft day that promises to be frenetic, the Timberwolves are still sitting with the No. 5 overall pick and plenty of options. Trade down. Trade for a veteran. Or stand pat and make the pick.
If they keep the pick, there is a chance — depending on what Boston does with the No. 3 selection — that the three top guards in the draft could be available: Providence’s Kris Dunn, Kentucky’s Jamal Murray and Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield.
A least one prominent member of the otherwise tight-lipped Wolves organization has made his thoughts clear.
Center Karl-Anthony Towns, who is familiar with Dunn and Murray, said he thinks both will succeed in the NBA. He has no firsthand knowledge of Hield, but everyone knows the Wolves need better outside shooting, and Hield is considered the best in the draft.
OK, so Towns won’t be making any decisions Thursday. But the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year does have some insight into two potential Wolves’ picks.
Of Dunn, Towns said simply: “I just know he’s a great player.”
“I’ve seen a lot of Jamal,” said Towns, the former Wildcat who loves all things Kentucky. “He’s a heck of a player. So is Kris. I think both have a different way of playing the game. Jamal shoots the ball well, very athletic. They have different styles. It’s up to us [as a team] to pick out everyone in the draft.”
Towns and Dunn are represented by the same agency and both have been working out in the same L.A.-area gym. Towns, whose mother is from the Dominican Republic, and Murray, a Canadian — played together on the World team at the 2014 Nike Hoops Summit in Portland, when Murray scored 10 points with five rebounds, five assists and two steals in a loss to the U.S. team. Murray returned to the Summit in 2015 and scored 30 points, more than four other guys from that game who are in this year’s draft class — Ben Simmons, Brandon Ingram, Skal Labissiere and Jaylen Brown.
Towns also mentioned Murray’s 22-point, six-assist, four-rebound game off the bench in Canada’s 111-108 OT victory over the U.S. at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto.
Should the Wolves look for a guard, Dunn, Murray and Hield present different options.
Dunn, the Providence junior, is a big, physical, mature player who plays superb defense. All are attributes that have him going before No. 5.
“A lot of people think he may be the most NBA-ready of the prospects of this draft because of his elite size for his position, his elite length and the fact that he’s such a terrific defender right now,” said ESPN draft analyst Chad Ford.
Dunn clearly has the defensive ability and the physical and mental toughness Wolves president of basketball operations and coach Tom Thibodeau loves.
But when Thibodeau and General Manager Scott Layden did their predraft news conference, Thibodeau also talked about the Wolves’ need for more outside shooting. Both Murray and Hield fit that bill.
As a senior at Oklahoma, Hield shot 50.1 percent from the field and an impressive 45.7 percent on three-pointers, taking nearly nine per game.
“I think he’s going to be the first senior off the board,” Ford said.
Murray, meanwhile, is a true combo guard. He played the point while playing for the Canadian team, but off the ball at Kentucky with Tyler Ulis at the point. He averaged 20 points per game, shot 45.4 percent overall and hit 40.8 on threes.
In a teleconference Tuesday, Kentucky coach John Calipari suggested Murray wanted to be selected by the Wolves. He also said his guy would have the biggest impact among rookies.
“I believe that Jamal Murray will be the leading-scoring rookie in the NBA,” he said.
Could be. But each guard has drawbacks. Some have questioned Dunn’s shooting, though Towns disagreed. Murray and Hield have defensive deficiencies that could make it hard for them to play for a coach such as Thibodeau, who stresses defense.
Dunn and Murray have expressed interest in coming to the Wolves.
“Me and Tom Thibodeau are on the same page,” Dunn said at the draft combine after meeting with the Wolves. “They have a bunch of athletes on that team. You can see they’re ready to blossom.”
Calipari, meanwhile, expressed Murray’s draft desire.
“He loves Minnesota,” Calipari said. “As a matter of fact, that’s where he’d like to go.”
Staff writer Jerry Zgoda contributed to this report.