As the teams gather at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn this evening, eyes will be on the Minnesota Timberwolves and President of Basketball Operations/Head Coach/Oracle Flip Saunders and the team’s 13th pick.
But several questions shroud the team — will they deal Kevin Love? Will they stay put at 13? What other picks will they obtain if they trade Love?
Members of the Daily Journal staff sat down to pronosticate what they pick will be, how many there will be and where the former franchise stalwart will end up.
LeBron, Carmelo dampens T-Wolves bargaining chips
By Aaron Stanley
Unless the Timberwolves plan on recruiting LeBron James to pair up for the long haul with Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, the team should look to deal Love sooner rather than later – and preferably before or during tonight’s draft.
The reason being is that Love has made it clear that he wants out of Minnesota and that he will walk after next season if he isn’t traded. Since receiving nothing in return for him would be abysmal, Flip Saunders and company need to pull out all the stops to put together a deal with a potential suitor, such as Golden State, Chicago or Boston.
There is increased urgency because any deal will surely involve a package of draft picks. Since this year’s draft class is the deepest in recent memory, with All-Star caliber talent littering the top 10, now is the time to load up on draft picks and use those to bring in a new potential franchise player. Sadly, stockpiling picks for the future at this point is akin to throwing in the towel on the season.
However, the emergence of LeBron and Carmelo Anthony in the free agent market is poor timing for the T-Wolves, as it seems to be diminishing Love’s trade value. Many suitors are saving up their ammunition for a run at the one of the superstars and putting Love on the backburner. It’s possible that Love’s value might increase once LeBron and Melo are signed, but by that point it will be to reap the spoils of this year’s talented draft class.
Love-to-Lakers may be the best option
By Chris Reinoos
The Wolves are between a rock and a hard place with their superstar. Kevin Love has made it clear he will be testing free agency next summer and seems to have one foot out the door already.
It is a difficult decision, a franchise-altering one, to trade a top-10 player in the league. But the Wolves have to move on, and getting something for Love is better than keeping him for one more year and watching him leave with nothing, or close to it, in return.
But therein lies the rub: teams with high lottery picks generally are not interested in acquiring a player one year from free agency. These teams are more than one player away and likely will not want to price the draft pick and prospect price for Love.
But one top-10 team is in a completely different situation: the Lakers. While their roster is depleted, they have already committed to Kobe Bryant for two more years at more than $20 million per season. With Bryant in the fold, the team will want to get competitive as quickly as possible.
A deal sending Love to the Lakers for the seventh overall pick, Steve Nash’s expiring contract, another future first-round pick and perhaps point guard Kendall Marshall could work. The Wolves could pick Love’s replacement in the front court, someone like Noah Vonleh or Julius Randle, this season and give Ricky Rubio one more year to prove himself before deciding on a course of action with next year’s pick.
At this point, the Wolves will be trading Love for cents on the dollar. But facing the virtual guarantee of Love leaving after next season, it would be wise to cut bait and start a new era of Wolves basketball.
Finding Love’s replacement a key
By Zach Stich
After Timberwolves superstar Kevin Love made it apparent through his agent that he will not be back in Minnesota after 2014-15. With a few pieces in place, Flip and his crew should focus on finding a long term replacement for the all-star.
The scenario that I suggest is packaging the Timberwolves first round pick (13th overall) and two of its three second round picks (40th and 44th overall) in exchange for the Sacramento King’s eighth overall pick. Most of the prized small forwards and power forwards would be off the board, except for the one that is compared to Love the most — Creighton’s Doug McDermott.
The NCAA’s fifth all-time leading scorer and originally hailing from Grand Fork, North Dakota, has the size and shooting ability that has compared him to the UCLA product. For a big man, McDermott shot 44.9 percent from beyond the arc and his defensive effort is a step above most players in the draft. He lacks explosiveness, but excels off screens and in isolation.
Other options for the Timberwolves include power forwards Julius Randle of Kentucky or Arizona’s Aaron Gordon. Randle still needs to polish his game, but an instant impact would be felt on the offensive glass. His 2.4 possessions generated off of putbacks per game was second in this year’s draft class. Much like Randle, Gordon will project as someone in need of seasoning before he is expected to make an impact. His speed and athleticism, as well as basketball I.Q., make him a top 10 selection, but his need to bulk-up will make the pick an investment and not an immediate impact.
I believe that Saunders will look to McDermott to fill the Timberwolves’ need and give him valuable time to find the right package for Love.
T-Wolves can find value at lucky number 13
By Rian Bosse
Making draft predictions is silly. It’s silly for sportswriters and it’s silly for any franchise. If you don’t have the option to draft Parker, Embiid or Wiggins, it’s really a crapshoot. Even with the top “can’t miss” picks, it’s still a crapshoot.
That should be the attitude of the Minnesota Timberwolves brass heading into this year’s NBA draft. If you stick with the 13 pick overall, you’re either going to be stuck with a bust or, probably less likely, a Jalen Rose, Karl Malone or Kobe Bryant (all taken at lucky number 13).
Instead of relying on luck and superstition, I offer this advice to our beloved T-Wolves: Understand that we won’t have Kevin Love for much longer. He’s going to leave. The draft is your opportunity to take an educated guess and try to find a franchise player, a game changer for the organization. If you aren’t going to trade Love for one of those top picks, take a swing with someone who has the size and shooting ability to eventually replace him. If you don’t get what you want, make sure you get a few more in the loss column next year to move one up the draft boards. Seriously, that is the only way anything changes in the NBA — if you’re willing to suck it up for a year full of misery.
There are, however, some players hovering around that spot that I wouldn’t mind the Wolves taking that should provide some future depth in the organization. I read one mock draft that has Minnesota taking Nik Stauskas. His three point ability would be nice to bank on in the future. Adreian Payne may also be available, which could give the Wolves another nice physical presence. I also like Shabazz Napier, who, I believe, could become an exciting player in the NBA.
Still, it all just comes down to luck.