Timberwolves

Looking Back At the Historic 2018 Draft Through Wolves-Colored Glasses

Photo Credit: Kevin Jairaj (USA TODAY Sports)

There are draft classes we’ll never forget, the groups you see in the rookie photoshoot, and say to yourself, Holy shit, those guys were all in the same draft class?!

Think 2003 with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Carmelo Anthony. Or 1985 with Karl Malone and Patrick Ewing. How about 1996 with Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen, Steve Nash, Allen Iverson, and Peja Stojaković?! And then there’s the draft class that will never be beaten from 1984 with Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, and Hakeem Olajuwon.

The 2018 draft isn’t in that realm quite yet, but it feels like we’re on our way: Luka Doncic is going to be a multiple-MVP winner. Trae Young is going to be a 10-time All-Star. And then there are lottery tickets like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Deandre Ayton, Michael Porter Jr., Jaren Jackson Jr., Mitchell Robinson, and Mikal Bridges.

Considering this is a website about Minnesota sports, let’s focus on how the Wolves fared in that draft.

They gave up the rights to their own pick (No. 19) due to the horrific Adreian Payne trade from 2015. We should have known this was a bad trade when Payne did his first media session with the Wolves wearing … an Atlanta Hawks sweatshirt. (The Wolves played the Hawks the night before, so it did make sense that he didn’t have any other clothes, I guess?)

If you want some Payne/Sam Mitchell stories, buy me a beer sometime.

With the 19th pick, the Hawks picked Kevin Huerter, a player who has shot 38% from the 3-point line in his first three seasons in the league.

Coincidentally, the Wolves had the very next pick from the Utah Jazz, thanks to the Ricky Rubio trade.

With that pick, the Timberwolves drafted Georgia Tech guard Josh Okogie. To be honest, Okogie really wasn’t on our radar as a guy who could get drafted at that point — and we worked for the team. There are players that you prep graphics, articles, and other content for. Okogie wasn’t one of those guys.

Most of us were actually hoping that Huerter would fall.

That’s not a knock on him at all, or Tom Thibodeau or Scott Layden. It was just a bit of a surprise pick. But in fairness, players we thought the Wolves could select (Jacob Evans, Khyri Thomas, and Aaron Holiday) haven’t exactly taken the league by storm.

Timberwolves fans have come to love Okogie for his energy and defense. That being said, it’s hard to be super optimistic about Okogie’s first three years in the league. He’s shot just 40.3% from the field and 27.4% from the 3-point line. While his effort can never be questioned, neither can his inability at the offensive end. At only 22, there’s plenty of room for improvement, but of guys who have played NBA minutes from this draft class, only Jerome Robinson and Kevin Knox have a lower VORP (value over replacement player).

He’s one of those “Oh, no!” players on offense, and it hasn’t gotten any better over time.

Players available who would have added more value: Mitchell Robinson, Robert Williams, Devonte’ Graham, De’Anthony Melton, and Jalen Brunson are a few.

With the 48th-overall pick, the Wolves took forward Keita Bates-Diop. KBD was a guy who many thought the Wolves could take at 20, so this was a pretty well-respected pick among experts at the time. Rookies from the draft class even named him the steal of the draft.

Bates-Diop was 23 when he was drafted, so there wasn’t a lot of upside from the get-go. At best, he is a stretch 4 who is a smart passer. He’s played for three teams already in three seasons, and it’s hard to be considered a stretch four when you’re a career 30.6% 3-point shooter.

He’s on a San Antonio Spurs team playing 7.2 minutes per game, which is more than what most mid- to late-second-round picks can say. The Wolves traded Bates-Diop with Shabazz Napier and Noah Vonleh to the Denver Nuggets as part of the Robert Covington/Malik Beasley deal last year.

It is pretty Wolvesy that the Wolves, a team that has almost always had a lottery pick, didn’t have a lottery pick in one of the best drafts of the last 20 years. They have had two No. 1 picks since 2015, so you can’t really say the team hasn’t had good luck, but having Luka Doncic (who ended up being the third pick) instead of Towns or Edwards would be an absolute game-changer for this franchise.

But, hey! The Wolves have another shot at getting a franchise-altering talent in what is supposed to be a loaded draft class led by Cade Cunningham, Jalen Suggs, and Evan Mobley.

History could repeat itself, however.

If the Wolves don’t land in the top three, they won’t have a single pick in the draft.

Seems about right, huh?

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