The Timberwolves season is over and it’s now again time for draft season. Except this year we don’t have to nervously watch the NBA draft lottery to see if we landed a high pick! No, this Timberwolves team made the playoffs as the 7 seed! And unlike last year Minnesota has draft picks! And the Timberwolves have 4 (!) of them (19,41,49,51). Minnesota had tied with the Chicago Bulls to end the season, and they lost the coin-flip for the 18th pick.
Who to take with pick 19?
There’s a variety of names Minnesota could take. The need is for more of a front-court piece, but that doesn’t mean a big guard is off the playbook. But the consensus opinion and the most likely scenario is Minnesota drafting a forward or center to add size to a small roster. Some of the top names: Tari Eason (LSU), Mark Williams (Duke), Kendall Brown (Baylor), Jeremy Sochan (Baylor), Malaki Branham (Ohio State). There are more (Jovic, Beauchamp, Liddell, Dieng, Kessler, Agbaji, Wesley) but the 5 I chose I deem most likely to go to Minnesota.
Tari Eason LSU:
Eason is personally my favorite pick for Minnesota. Eason is a 6’8 215LB forward who’s 20 years old. Let’s first talk about Eason on the defensive end. Tari is a multi-positional defender that forces numerous turnovers and provides great ball pressure. His close-outs and rotations are good. He’s a good recovery and isolation defender. He has active hands which leads to large steals numbers, and he’s a productive weak side shot blocker! The offense: Eason is mostly known for his scary transition offense. Eason thrives in transition, turning defense into offense. He’s very quick and athletic, which is a great combination for putting someone on a poster, which he does a lot. He fights through strong contact a LOT and knows how to draw fouls. Eason shoots 5.7 FT’s a game in just 24.4 MPG and makes 80% of those foul shots. Eason is QUICKLY improving as a catch and shoot threat from 3, shooting over 40% in the second half of the season. He’s very talented as a driver with the right hand and knows how to draw good contact with his left shoulder. He does need to become more consistent as a shooter and improve what he does with his left hand.
Eason came off the bench in 29/33 games for LSU. He played a similar role to what Scottie Barnes and Patrick Williams did in Leonard Hamilton’s system at Flordia State University.
Mark Williams Duke:
Williams is a massive center, 7’0 243 LBS with a monster 7’7 wingspan. Something worth noting is Williams is a front line trade up candidate. 9/10 mock drafts will have Mark selected before the wolves pick, BUT with what he brings I speculate Minnesota could trade up for him. Let’s talk about the defense. Mark is a fantastic rim protector with elite timing. He’s very athletic and mobile and can block shots as a weak-side defender often. He’s a good drop coverage defender with quick feet. Mark guards outside of the paint well for his size, always contesting threes with his 7’7 wingspan. And what Timberwolves fans will enjoy a lot is the rebounding, Mark uses his body very well and can be a rebound magnet. On offense, Mark is primarily a big-time lob threat that can go crazy in the paint. He shoots 81% on cuts and is a great baseline lob threat. He’s a great P&R roll man threat and has nice touch through contact. He also uses good pump fakes to get better shots and draw fouls! Mark could expand his range as a shooter and could improve as a playmaker. He can also struggle from the FT line, as seen in the final 4 game vs North Carolina…
Kendall Brown Baylor:
Brown is a 6’8 205Lb freshman from Baylor. The Cottage Grove Minnesota native comes next on my list. Brown is a plus defender with an NBA-ready body. Brown can guard all over the court, with good shot-blocking instincts in the paint. He’s very strong and it’s hard to blow by him. He’s a big-time transition threat with his crazy explosion and decent playmaking ability. while he did show improvement in his shot-making ability, he still lacks in that area. He can do a lot physically on offense. Another big forward you can run a lot of P&R action with. I think he’s a little more offensively developed version of Jarred Vanderbilt. And he’s a lot faster and more athletic than Vando but doesn’t rebound like Vando.
Jeremy Sochan Baylor:
Sochan is a 6’9 230 LB forward from Baylor. The big 12 6th man of the year comes next on my prospects list for Minnesota! Sochan is a rare defensive talent that’s capable of guarding positions 1-5 off switches. Sochan’s defensive versatility intrigue makes me speculate Minnesota could want him. Sochan has a sweet handle on offense, especially for a big man, putting pressure on the defense constantly. He needs to work more as a shot-maker, not the best 3-point scorer or free throw maker. The defensive and partly offensive interest he will present could make him a lottery pick.
Malaki Branham Ohio State:
Branham is a 6’5 180LB guard from Ohio St! While I speculate Minnesota selects a front-court piece in the draft, we can’t rule out guards. Branham wouldn’t be a bad pick at all. Branham has a LOT of intrigue as a P&R jump shot scorer. Branham shot 46% on jumpers this past season at OSU. Branham moves slow but knows how to speed himself up, and has a nice vertical jump and quick release with his shot. Branham likes to play through contact as well and has a good sense of drawing calls. Branham shot 78% off rim attempts on ball screens, he can finish everywhere off screens. Branham is a super talented catch and shoot 3-point scorer, but lacks an isolation creator outside. He has the making of a good defender with his size but needs to become more intense defensively. Branham doesn’t play physically enough, bites on pump fakes, and gets hurt with jab steps.
If we are talking MOST likely Minnesota draft picks, I think it’s either Eason or Sochan. Both could instantly improve the Wolves’ defense, with offensive/transition upside!