Heading into the 2022 offseason, the Minnesota Timberwolves have holes to fill in their roster. They have a solid foundation for the future. Still, rebounding and rim protection proved to be a problem in the playoffs against Memphis Grizzlies and in the regular season against big teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Toronto Raptors. Minnesota could use someone who can come off the bench or fit into the starting lineup when size is needed to get rebounds and defend the paint.
One way the Wolves could solve this roster problem is through the draft. They have the 19th pick in the draft and three second-rounders. That gives them ample opportunity to take a swing at a project big in the second round. They could also package a few picks and trade up for a more coveted prospect.
Duke’s Mark Williams is a big they should consider drafting. He’s listed at 7’0″ with a 7’7” wingspan and weighs 242 pounds, meaning he has an NBA-ready body. Williams was known primarily as a defensive specialist on a Duke team loaded with talent, including Paolo Banchero and AJ Griffin. Williams averaged 2.8 blocks this season and was an essential part of Duke’s run to the Final Four in the NCAA Tournament. Williams also won the ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year Award and has received several other defensive and conference honors.
Williams could be a huge help for the Wolves on defense. While Minnesota currently runs a switch-heavy defense, it would be nice to have a center who can play excellent drop coverage when a matchup calls for it. Karl-Anthony Towns can protect the rim against some centers, but beefy 7-footers like Jonas Valanciunas have given KAT trouble with how physically they play and how strong they are.
Towns proved himself to be a solid perimeter defender when he gets switched onto wings or power forwards. Therefore, it would be nice to have a player who can slot in at the 5 while KAT plays 4, so he doesn’t always have the pressure of protecting the rim. Having a 5 like Williams would allow Towns to play to his strengths and switch more while still having a safety net behind him.
Williams would also give the Wolves the option to go big against teams who run two bigs like the Cavaliers. He would also provide them with a rim protector and rebounder who can come off the bench if Towns picks up two quick fouls. There were several times this season where Minnesota had to ride out the storm and let KAT play regardless of how many fouls he had because they don’t have any great rebounders without him on the court.
In those situations, Williams could help stop the bleeding with his strong interior presence while Towns is on the bench. Additionally, Williams would give you the versatility to start KAT at center with Vanderbilt as a front-court pairing, but then move KAT to the 4 and sub Williams in at the 5 if KAT has a bad matchup.
Williams already proved that he can go toe-to-toe with the best bigs in college, so it’s likely he could grow into a high-level stopper in the NBA too. In a game against Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren, Williams put up 17 points, grabbed nine boards, and had an incredible six blocks. Holmgren is a consensus top-3 draft pick this year and one of the best defensive prospects in a long time.
Williams also profiles as a great rebounder. He averaged 4.8 defensive rebounds a game and 2.6 offensive rebounds a game for a total of 7.4. The Wolves desperately need rebounding help, and adding some height to the team would help. Williams would slot in as Minnesota’s only true 7-footer and could potentially solve multiple problems with his physical stature alone.
Mark is no slouch on the offensive end, either. He scored 11.2 points per game on 72% shooting this season and established himself as both a lob threat and a good low post scorer. The Timberwolves currently don’t have a player who can rim run for easy alley-oops. Williams could fill the dunker’s spot on the offensive end with a body that would likely allow him to get above the rim for lobs, and he’d give the Wolves another dimension on offense.
Williams already understands how to find his spots as a low-usage offensive player. Duke had a bunch of talented scoring wings who primarily ran their offense. There’s a natural parallel for the Wolves because they already have 3 high-usage offensive players. Therefore, Williams could initially play the same role for the Wolves as he did for Duke.
Williams is only 20 years old and has a lot of upside. If he continues to get stronger and builds upon the solid foundation of skills he already has, Williams could be a future starter in the NBA. If the Wolves continue to build around the team they currently have by adding Williams, they could run a crazy big lineup with Williams (7’0″) at the 5, KAT (6’11”) at the 4, Jaden McDaniels (6’10”) at the 3, and Anthony Edwards (6’6”) at the 2.
The NBA seems to be moving towards large switchable defenses that can cover as much of the court as possible. Williams could give the Wolves the potential to lean into that style of play. It could give the Wolves their version of the Al Horford–Robert Williams pairing that has been so dominant for the Boston Celtics defense. Additionally, if things don’t work out with KAT and D’Angelo Russell, you would have a young center with a lot of potential in-house to add to the theoretical “second timeline” with Ant and Jaden.
Williams may still be on the board when the Wolves pick at 19. Pundits have placed William in a wide range of spots in mock drafts, so it is hard to tell where he will land. Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman had Williams in his mock draft at the 13th pick, The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor had Williams at the 17th pick, and NBC Sports’ Tyler Bynum and Chase Hughes had him at the 20th pick.
A few teams ahead of the Timberwolves need a big man, like the Charlotte Hornets, and they currently hold picks 13 and 15. If the Wolves want a prospect as good as Williams, they may have to package a few of their second-round picks together and trade up to get him. However, given how great Williams played at Duke and how well he would fit into Minnesota’s young core, trading up for him would be a worthwhile investment into the team’s future.