All offseason talk surrounding the Minnesota Timberwolves has revolved around Kevin Love. It’s been assumed for a while now that the Wolves would have their All-Star forward moved before the 2014 NBA Draft. That didn’t happen, but the team still missed a great opportunity by passing on Michigan State forward Adreian Payne on Thursday night.
This isn’t a condemnation of the team’s selection of UCLA guard Zach LaVine, far from it actually. LaVine has caught the eye of scouts across the league with his incredible athleticism, and he should provide a spark in the backcourt paired with Ricky Rubio. But the timer on Love’s departure is ticking. In a best-case scenario for the Wolves, he’s gone at the end of the 2014-15 season, and the power forward spot becomes an immediate issue if they don’t get someone who can step in for him in a deal.
Payne, at 6-foot-10 and 245 pounds, has an NBA-ready body, and his defense would allow the Wolves to address a glaring problem from this past season, which was a big part of their sub .500 record and positioning in the lottery in the first place. Quite honestly, if they had made the necessary improvements earlier, they might not be doomed to lose their best player since Kevin Garnett.
Head coach Flip Saunders is saying all the right things about the LaVine selection, as well he should. Love isn’t going to stay, and anybody who thinks there’s a chance of that is dreaming. But as good as LaVine may be in the coming years, Payne was the move for right now. You don’t get a shot at a big man who can move like Payne all the time, and no matter how good LaVine may be in the coming years, more losing seasons won’t do anybody any good.