Timberwolves

Who Fits the Wolves Best If They Retain Their Pick?

Photo Credit: James Snook (USA TODAY Sports)

Oh, to be a Minnesota Timberwolves fan. It’s a miserable experience. I guess I’m a glutton for punishment because I can’t get enough of this team. The Wolves are 4-12, last place in the west. Things are not looking good. Selfishly, maybe the NBA should stop the season and bubble up so that Minnesota can have a reset.

But, really, I want the NBA to bubble up for the safety of the players.

This likely won’t happen. I work at an elementary school and am headed back to school in person next week despite a flood of objections from the teacher and ESP union. The powers that be in this country seems to have given a collective shrug to COVID-19. Again, things are not looking good.

So, let’s look forward to what being one of the worst teams in the league (again) could do for the Wolves. As we know, their 1st round pick next year is top-3 protected, and as it stands, they are on pace to have a great shot at keeping that pick. I took a quick look at some of the top prospects to see how they would fit on this team. I looked at the top guys in college because there is more film to watch. I’ll preview Jonathan Kaminga and Jalen Green after they’ve played some games with the G-League Ignite.

Jalen Suggs, PG, Gonzaga

Minnesota’s own Jalen Suggs! The question is, do the Wolves want to draft another point guard? I’m not necessarily worried about having a glut at that position; Ricky Rubio’s contract expires after next season. I’m worried about Suggs’ skillset meshing with D’Angelo Russell.

So far, the Rubio and Russell combination has been disappointing. DLo is a ball-dominant guard who plays slow and methodically. He likes to operate out of the pick-and-roll, and his skill-set is best maximized when he is surrounded by shooters. Rubio is a lot of things, but a shooter is not one of them.

Suggs, on the other hand, appears to be a pretty good shooter. He is currently shooting 35 percent from three, which isn’t amazing but the types of shots he’s taking contribute to that percentage. Much like DLo, Suggs likes to pull up off the dribble from deep.

The idea of adding another bomber to this team is appealing, but at 6’4″, 205 pounds, Suggs doesn’t really fit the Wolves’ needs. He plays bigger than that. He’s great and getting up for boards and has a great vertical leap, but how does this team get their best guys on the court at the same time if most of them are guards?

Cade Cunningham, PG, Oklahoma State

Calling Cunningham a point guard is a bit misleading. His 6’8″, 220-pound frame looks more like an NBA forward than a guard, and his combination of size and skill makes him a tantalizing prospect.

More than anything, Cunningham is a scorer. He is averaging 18 points per game, shooting nearly 39 percent from three — his shot seems very real. The form is good, and he is shooting 81 percent from the free-throw line.

As much as I love Josh Okogie, he is not the long term solution at small forward (or power forward); Cunningham could be that for the Wolves. Gersson Rosas and Ryan Saunders preach that they want everyone on the team to be able to dribble, pass and shoot. Picture this:

Chelanga Langason’s 2021-22 Timberwolves Starting Lineup

PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Malik Beasley
SF: Cade Cunningham
PF: Jaden McDaniels
C: Karl-Anthony Towns

Theoretically, every one of the players in that lineup should be able to bring the ball down the court and initiate the offense. I don’t know how good that team would be, but it would certainly be fun.

Evan Mobley, C, USC

For those who were excited about the possibility of pairing Karl-Anthony Towns with James Wiseman this season, Mobley is the prospect for you. Mobley’s game is somewhere in between Jaren Jackson Jr. and Wiseman’s.

Mobley is impressive. He has a 7-foot frame with the skills of a wing player. He can run with the ball on the break, attack his man off the dribble, and is shooting 35 percent from three. He’s also got great mobility and hops, so he should be an excellent roll man with Russell.

Offensively, his game is all there. Defensively, he lacks Wiseman’s length and foot speed, and he’s a bit skinny (210 pounds). But he’s got great instincts for blocking shots and getting into passing lanes.

Would Mobley be a good fit with Towns? Yes and no. If Mobley can be quick enough to chase smaller players around the perimeter or devastating enough on the offensive end to force opponents to match his size, then yes. However, few teams have much success playing two “centers” at the same time.

The Los Angeles Lakers who play future Hall of Famers Marc Gasol and Anthony Davis together. Davis definitely meets my criteria of being “devastating on offense” and is one of the league’s best defenders. The Milwaukee Bucks play two bigs, but Giannis Antetokounmpo is more of a “freak” than a center.

Towns is also a freak, though. His shooting is spectacular, and his defense is underrated, so that opens the door for what type of player can play alongside him. I think the long and short of it is that whoever plays next to Towns needs to be able to shoot because KAT is getting better at taking advantage of double teams, and it’s on the rest of the team to be able to punish the opponent when they double him.

If Mobley’s shooting can transfer to the NBA, I think he and Towns could find success together.

I’ll take a more in-depth look at these players later on in the season.  I know now that each of these prospects looks like they have all-star potential, which is what the Wolves desperately need. So I guess we root for the Wolves to be bad, so they have a chance at drafting one of these guys? Oh, to be a Timberwolves fan.

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