The Minnesota Timberwolves have something novel to look forward to this offseason: a first-round draft pick! After Gersson Rosas sent his 2021 picks to the Golden State Warriors as part of the Andrew Wiggins for D’Angelo Russell trade. Minnesota’s only rookie this year was Leandro Bolmaro, a 2020 draft pick who they stashed and has had a limited impact this season. With an incoming pick that is slotted at 17 if the season ended today, the Wolves have a chance to add another young impact player to the roster.
It’s vital for ascending teams to nail picks in the mid-late first round. Look at what the Memphis Grizzlies did with Desmond Bane at No. 30 in 2020 or Golden State with Jordan Poole at 28th overall in 2019. A quality role player can immediately impact a team looking to go on a playoff run.
Adding a complementary forward or center at 17 would go a long way to turning the Wolves into a perennial playoff team.
A versatile forward with 3-and-D upside would help the Wolves instantly, slotting into a possible bench spot with Josh Okogie (RFA) and Taurean Prince (FA), and Jake Layman (FA) potentially leaving. Luckily, a pair of potential 3-and-D players could be available at 17.
Tari Eason is a 6’8”, 216 lbs. rangy forward from LSU. He is a sophomore with an excellent motor and quick bounce who will be 21 on draft day. Eason’s energy helps him on the defensive end. He’s a pest who can hang with forwards and guards alike. His offensive game is based around his skill set, using athleticism to get buckets around the rim.
Eason has a decent developing 3-point jump shot, but it will be something he needs to continue to work on. His other knock is that he’s a tweener forward, so the Wolves would have to find a positionless fit for him rather than slot him in as a 3 or 4.
Lastly, he has chemistry with Jaden McDaniels because they played together in high school during Eason’s junior season at Federal Way. Eason could slot directly into the bench forward role and lean into his strengths to make an immediate impact.
Jeremy Sochan is a 6’9”, 230 lbs. forward out of Baylor with intriguing defensive upside and the ability to stretch the floor. His defensive prowess and versatility have pushed him up on boards lately and significantly helped his Baylor Bears. He will only be 19 on draft day and has shown a lot of upside in a higher-usage role on the offensive side of the ball.
Sochan has to continue to get his feel for the game, whether that is his discipline or building off his weaknesses. His free-throw percentage is a red flag, but that should not be too problematic. Similarly, Sochan needs to hit his three-point jumper with more consistency. A better three-point shot will separate him from Maurice Harklesses of the world and turn him into a player like Robert Covington.
Could we see the Wolves draft a center? Naz Reid has struggled to hold down his backup center spot, and Karl-Anthony Towns has his defensive shortcomings. Therefore, a rim-runner who can play some defense would be the perfect fit.
Mark Williams is a 7’0”, 242 lbs. center from Duke who excels as a rim-runner and rim protector. Williams offers a little bit of everything, including scoring in the post and rebounding on both ends. He’s a gritty traditional big man who the Wolves could benefit from having on the roster. He has shown significant improvement in his sophomore year and will only be 20.5 years old on draft day.
However, Williams is not superiorly gifted athletically, and he can be flat-footed at times. Williams has little to no range and isn’t incredibly skilled on the offensive end, but he can get the job done. His defense in the paint is singular, but his mobility in the pick-and-roll will give some teams pause.
He’s not a sexy pick, but Williams would do a great job filling a void.
Walker Kessler is a 7’1” 245 lbs. center out of Auburn and is the best shot-blocking prospect in the draft. Kessler excels both as an on-ball defender in the paint and the help side. He also uses his frame well, and Kessler’s ability to affect shooters is a massive strength. This year, he has experienced a breakout after struggling at UNC as a freshman. Kessler will be just shy of his 21st birthday on draft day.
Kessler has shown the ability to stretch the floor but has been inconsistent. He has still had enough success to keep defenses honest. He can get behind on faster guards and can’t always recover. And like any other young shot-blocker, Kessler often finds himself in foul trouble.
Kessler would fill Minnesota’s need for an interior defensive presence while offering some upside with potential stretchability.
Everything points back to the Wolves needing to add some size to this roster. They should be looking to target any forward or big over 6’7” that can produce sooner rather than later and help continue the path towards playoff normalcy.