Focusing on the upcoming season is essential for any team. You want to create the best chance to compete and assemble the team that can do so. However, it never hurts to look years into the future and consider who is part of the team’s core. Look at the Minnesota Timberwolves’ guards, for example. D’Angelo Russell, 26, has a year left on his contract. Patrick Beverley, 34, has one more year under contract after his extension this past season. Jaylen Nowell, 23, is set to become a UFA in two seasons and Jordan McLaughlin, 26, is under team control for three more years.
While McLaughlin and Nowell are excellent backup options, the Wolves should consider looking for someone in the draft who could be a starting point guard in the near future. Russell has had peaks and valleys during his short time in Minnesota. The pandemic shortened his first season, and he was injured his second season. Last year, he was on an upward trajectory in the regular season, acting as one of the driving pieces toward the 7-seed this year. However, after a solid play-in game against the Los Angeles Clippers, his play trickled down against the Memphis Grizzlies. After Chris Finch decided to use Jordan McLaughlin to close out the game, people began to question whether Russell was part of Minnesota’s future.
Fortunately, the Wolves have the benefit of flexibility with the 19th pick. Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards are firmly in place as the building blocks of the future, but Tim Connelly and his staff must find the right pieces to put around him. The greatest teams have role players to bring out the best from the stars and vice versa. Ultimately, the upside big-swing pick should preferably be a ball-handler that could potentially develop and has the ceiling to be a lead guard in the league. Guard is the best fit for that risk with how the roster currently is assembled.
These two are players who Minnesota should be scouting closely right now.
TyTy Washington is the first player who should be on their radar should. Of the true point guards in this draft, the 6’3.75″, 196.4 lbs. freshman out of Kentucky is highest on experts’ draft boards. He averaged 12.5 points and 3.9 assists per game on 45.1/35.0/75.0 splits, despite adjusting to being a collegiate point guard at a blue-blood school.
Washington suffered an ankle injury halfway through the season, which limited his play the rest of the year. Therefore, his stock dropped a bit. However, Washington will likely be off the board when the Wolves select at 19, but Minnesota should consider trading up to get him. Washington’s excellent floater, point guard traits, shooting and 6’8″ wingspan should intrigue the Wolves enough to move up for him.
Toledo’s Ryan Rollins is the second player they should be looking at. A 6’3.25″, 179.2 lbs. sophomore combo guard, Rollins averaged an impressive 18.9 points and 3.6 assists per game on 46.8/31.1/80.2 splits last year. He led Toledo to a 26-8 record and a MAC regular-season championship, showing his incredible promise as a scorer.
Rollins was just as impressive as a freshman, averaging 13.7 points and 2.5 assists per game on 43.1/32.3/78.6 splits. While Rollins plays in the MAC, don’t discount his scoring talents and high ceiling. He still needs to add muscle and get into NBA shape and is only 179 pounds, making Rollins an excellent development pick.
He hasn’t developed his point guard ability as much as Washington, but he showed a lot of ability to move the ball effectively and operate efficiently in the pick-and-roll. Rollins showed out against similar prospects at the NBA Combine in Chicago last month, highlighting his scoring, high motor, and flaunting a 6’9.25″ wingspan. While Rollins has a long way to go to become a lead guard, he has an excellent fallback option as an offensive combo guard. He’s the kind of player teams should jump on immediately towards the end of the 1st round.
The Wolves are in a tricky spot because Washington is expected to be drafted ahead of them, while Rollins will probably be available later in the draft. Fortunately, the Wolves have the flexibility to trade around in the draft. Connelly has done that in the past, and the Wolves have paired him with Sachin Gupta, a savvy trader. A developmental ball-handler in this draft could be beneficial. With few options available, the Wolves should be willing to trade up for a player they feel has upside or use their three second-round picks to maneuver in the draft.