Although the Timberwolves haven’t reached the playoffs since 2004, there’s reason to be optimistic in Minnesota. They have two legitimate All-Stars in Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins leading their squad for the foreseeable future. The pair of young T’Wolves are two of the best young players in the league. The front office also has the chance to greatly bolster their roster with the 7th pick in this year’s draft.
Purely looking at their starting lineup, the most glaring hole would be the front court spot opposite of Towns. Towns is a versatile big man — with the capability of truly playing either spot. Depending on where the front office and Coach Tom Thibodeau see their star playing in the future will greatly impact where they decide to go with this pick.
The front court talent at the top of this class is shallow – especially at the center spot. Of course in today’s NBA, centers don’t look anything like they looked in year’s past. However, even small-ball savants like the Warriors and Cavs started a more “traditional” looking center in Zaza Pachulia and Tristan Thompson – even if they weren’t always on the court to end games. Players like Lauri Markkanen, Zach Collins or Jonathan Isaac could seamlessly share the front court duties with Towns — cross matching on defense when necessary and providing the necessary spacing on offense.
Unless they trade down it’s unlikely they pick Collins at the seven spot, leaving them with the choice between Florida State’s Isaac and ‘Zona’s Markkanen. Isaac has immense defensive potential with his rangy frame, and flashed the ability to put the ball on the floor and create in spurts. His jump shot is a work in progress. The ability to stroke it from the perimeter is where Markkanen shines.
Markkanen is one of the smoothest outside shooters in the draft, with natural scoring ability from all levels on the floor. Minnesota being able to run pick and pops with either Markkanen or Towns as the screener could be potentially devastating. Both players fit the bill of a modern-era small ball big man, offering their individual skills to aid Towns on both ends.
If they decide to go another direction, the T’Wolves may look to find an additional wing to run with Wiggins. Zach LaVine saw a substantial leap in his production last year before tearing his ACL, effectively ending his season. There are some worries though that LaVine isn’t the perfect third-wheel for Wiggins and Towns. Finding somebody that could be effective off the ball might behoove this team.
The name that will generate the most intrigue is Kentucky’s Malik Monk. Monk is a deadeye shooter that is far more comfortable running off screens than creating off the dribble. It would open up the floor for the T’Wolves bevy of slashers, and provide point guards Ricky Rubio and Kris Dunn a quality back court running mate. The selection would allow Minnesota to bring LaVine off the bench – in a Jamal Crawford role potentially – or trade him while he has some value.
Thibodeau will surely have some say in the pick, and if he has it his way it’s likely that the T’Wolves draft the more defensively-inclined Isaac. This T’Wolves team has some solid pieces on that end of the floor though, and a player like Markkanen or Monk could truly unlock their offensively firepower.
THE VERDICT: They aren’t thrilled about it, but the T’Wolves stand pat and grab the sharp-shooting Lauri Markkanen.