Minnesota Timberwolves Must Trade Up in 2014 NBA Draft

By Nick Baker
Julius Randle
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Timberwolves currently hold the No. 13 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, but with the likelihood of Kevin Love departing either this or next offseason increasing by the day, the Wolves must trade up in the draft this year and begin rebuilding. Whether they do this through trading Love, or the 13th pick and a different player, the Wolves must find a way into the top seven come June 26.

This draft class is extremely talented at the top with players like Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker among others, which is exactly the reason the Wolves must make a move now and snatch a franchise player. While it will be tough to get into the top three, unless they trade Love for the first overall pick, the Boston Celtics at six and Los Angeles Lakers at seven are both teams rumored to be looking to make a deal.

While selecting at six or seven means the Timberwolves would miss out on the top three players, they would likely get either Julius Randle or Noah Vonleh, the two highest-rated power forwards in the draft. Either could replace Love from Day 1, and each would bring a different dimension to a young Wolves team.

Both Vonleh and Randle are relatively raw as each played just one year of college basketball. Vonleh has already established himself as a defensive stopper and rebounder, however, as he averaged the most rebounds per 40 minutes of all first-round prospects, and also has potential to turn into a multidimensional scoring threat.

Vonleh didn’t take many jump shots while at Indiana, but he performed well in a small sample size — 16-of-33 from three-point range — and showed good form as well. While he won’t be the immediate threat that Love is from deep, Vonleh has the tools to be just as good of a rebounder, while also showing the upside to be an offensive threat as well.

Randle is quite the opposite, however, as he’s a more finished offensive product than Vonleh and is a stretch-four who can drive from the arc or put a spin move on a defender down low. He’s a bit reliant on his left hand, but is the most physically dominant player in the draft and will be one of the many favorites to win Rookie of the Year.

Randle also has the potential to develop into a solid three-point shooter like Vonleh, but his strength lies in the post where he can bully opposing forwards and finish through contact. Because of his size, 6-foot-9 and 250 pounds, Randle is able to jockey for position on rebounds, and just like Vonleh would have no trouble filling the rebounding void left by Love.

Neither is a complete product, but both are under 20 years old and show plenty of potential on both ends of the court. Randle would be the better fit considering he is a score-first player and the Wolves are about to lose one of the best shooters in the league, but Vonleh would be a nice consolation prize who in a few more years could form one of the best defensive low-post tandems with last year’s 21st overall pick, Gorgui Dieng.

The Timberwolves are about to make some major coaching and roster decisions, but with a solid core of Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic, Shabazz Muhammad and now Dieng, they must act fast and move up in this loaded draft class to find the next face of the franchise so they can return to the playoffs sooner rather than later.

Nick Baker is a contributing writer for Rant Sports and you can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and add him to your network on Google.

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