2014 NBA Draft: 5 Players The Minnesota Timberwolves Should Target
2014 NBA Draft: 5 Prospects The Timberwolves Should Target
Although only five games back of the eighth seeded Phoenix Suns, the Minnesota Timberwolves are running out of time to make the 2014 NBA Playoffs. They have 22 games left to make a run at a playoff spot, but if they don’t make it, focus will quickly turn to the 2014 NBA Draft.
This season has exposed some holes in the Timberwolves’ roster, like the backup point guard role that is currently held by the underperforming J.J. Barea. The Wolves have yet to put together a solid and consistent backcourt, which is why drafting a combo-guard would be a smart move once the draft rolls around.
They added Kevin Martin to be a scorer, which he's done, but the perimeter and inside defense of the Wolves leaves something to be desired. Martin is a very one-dimensional player, and the combo of Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic down low won’t stop many of the leagues premier frontcourts.
Defense is where most of the focus will be spent this offseason, and hopefully current rookie Gorgui Dieng can continue to progress and take command of the backup center role next season. Shabazz Muhammad has finally been given some minutes as well, and his 20-point outburst against the Suns indicates he’s a real talent that has a future with this team.
As of now, it looks as if the Timberwolves did a solid job drafting last June, but this coming draft will be even more important for the team’s future. Rumor has it Love may be bolting after he’s able to opt-out of his contract next season, which means the Timberwolves should be looking at the following five players closely to ensure future success.
5. Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
The Timberwolves must begin thinking about replacing Kevin Love, and freshmen Noah Vonleh would be the perfect man to learn under Love before taking over in his second NBA season. Vonleh is a Top 10 talent, but with how deep the draft is, the Timberwolves may get lucky and be able to select the 6-foot-10 forward who has tons of potential on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. He’s shooting more than 50 percent from the field and averaging 11 points, nine rebounds, and one block per game, and after a year of adjusting to the NBA, he should begin his ascent to All-Star status.
4. Zach LaVine, G, UCLA
Zach LaVine is one of the most overlooked freshmen in the nation, but his versatility and upside will make him one of the draft’s Top 15 prospects. LaVine comes off the bench for UCLA, but he’s a combo-guard that could immediately fill in behind Rubio and Martin as a rookie. His versatility scoring the ball is what makes him a top of the line talent, and if he develops like he’s projected to, him and Shabazz could be the premier scorers for the Timberwolves for years to come.
3. Marcus Smart, G, Oklahoma State
Some questions about Marcus Smart’s maturity and levelheadedness have been raised because of an altercation with a fan during a game, but I still see him as one of the most complete and NBA-ready players in the nation. The Timberwolves would have to move up the draft board if they hope to get the do-it-all 6-foot-4 guard, but Ricky Rubio hardly looks like a cornerstone player, and Smart is a player that could immediately get 20 minutes per game as a rookie and make an impact. This also would give the Timberwolves the option of moving forward with Smart instead of Rubio at the one, a smart decision if Rubio’s shooting doesn’t improve.
2. Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
I’m sure by now the theme is clear, I don’t see the current form of Ricky Rubio leading the Timberwolves to greatness. He can’t shoot and his playmaking ability hasn’t been as noticeable as his early days in Minnesota. While Tyler Ennis isn’t a flashy player, he’s the type of guy the Timberwolves thought they were getting with Rubio – a pass-first point guard who makes everyone around him better. Ennis has led a less than spectacular Syracuse team to a 26-3 record, and his high basketball IQ would allow him to flourish as a rookie.
1. Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
The power forward class is shaping up to be a weak one, but one player who will likely be on the board when the Wolves pick is Michigan State big man Adreian Payne. Payne isn’t a physical specimen who could turn into one of the premier players in the NBA, but he should be an important role player that is effective at both ends of the court with his 6-foot-10 frame. Dante Cunningham has been an important piece for the Wolves the past two seasons, and Payne is a similar player who can hit the open jumper and provide relief off the bench right away.