Trade rumors involving All-Star forward Kevin Love grabbed most of the attention surrounding the Minnesota Timberwolves heading into Thursday night’s NBA Draft, but with a lottery pick and three second-round picks they also had an opportunity to add some young talent. After some wheeling and dealing in the second round the Timberwolves selected two players in this year’s draft, and here’s my grade of both picks.
#13 Overall, Zach LaVine, G, UCLA
LaVine was on the Timberwolves’ radar for quite some time, and president of basketball operations Flip Saunders has called him “the best athlete in the draft” despite lackluster production (9.4 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game) in a bench role during his only season at UCLA.
Lavine can play both guard spots, but he may have to add some bulk (6’5″, 180 lbs.) to hold up defensively against NBA shooting guards on a consistent basis. He made over 37 percent of his three-pointers last season, and his athleticism should fit very well alongside Ricky Rubio in Minnesota’s backcourt. If Kevin Martin is part of the trade that sends Love elsewhere, LaVine may start immediately at shooting guard.
I liked Kentucky guard James Young as a better fit for the Timberwolves at No. 13 overall, which keeps my grade of the LaVine selection in check, but his upside is as good as any player in this year’s class.
#40 Overall, Glenn Robinson III, F, Michigan
Robinson III was a key cog in Michigan’s success over the last two seasons, with a run to the national title game in 2013 and a Big Ten regular season title last season. He has NBA bloodlines, with his father Glenn Jr. playing 11 seasons in the league after being selected first overall in 1994. Robinson III is not the prolific scorer his father was at the same stage of his career, but he had the highest standing vertical jump (36.5″) at the NBA Combine and adds some much needed athleticism for Minnesota.
Robinson III will enter the mix for playing time at small forward, even with Corey Brewer and 2013 first-round pick Shabazz Muhammad already in place, but the looming result of a trade involving Love makes the situation fairly fluid for all three right now.
Maybe his name has me overrating him, but based on where he was selected and the possible return Robinson III looks like a potential steal.