Evaluation of International Talent: Minnesota Timberwolves

International Players Under Timberwolves Control:

Nemanja Bjelica: Nay-MON-yah bee-ELL-leets-zah

Birthday: May 9, 1988 Age: 23 From: Belgrade, Serbia Height: 6-10 Weight: 220 Position: SF Best Case Scenario: Hedo Turkoglu Type: Versatile

Drafted with the 35th pick of 2010 draft. Bjelica possesses very good ball handling for his size, and has ability and experience playing point guard and shooting guard. His greatest strengths of his game lie in his ball handling and passing. Great in transition, Bjelica has the ability to create shots off the dribble and to create his own shot, at least against European competition. His questions come from his high turnover rates, decision-making, and shooting from beyond the arc. He does not possess above average speed and his foot quickness on defense is of concern. He is a much more efficient player when running the offense through him, but there are questions about his ability as a spot-up shooter and ability to play off of the ball. His defense remains unpolished and is his greatest area of concern regarding his NBA prospects.

Bjelica signed a five-year contract with Caja Laboral on August 3, 2010, with a buyout option to leave for the NBA after two years.

It will be interesting to see if the Timberpups decide to bring in Bjelica after this season. As a second round pick, Bjelica could sign a non-guaranteed contract worth a small amount, serving as a low risk, high reward investment. Assuming Brad Miller retires at seasons end, the Timberwolves will have money committed to as little as 10 players for next season and the possibility that Bjelica comes over looks very possible. Look for him to get minutes at small forward, if he plays at all. Bjelica is the top international prospect for the Timberwolves.

Henk Norel: Henk NOR-el

Birthday: September 17, 1987 Age: 24 From: Gorinchem, Netherlands Height: 6-11 Weight: 211 Position: PF/C Best Case Scenario: Fabricio Oberto Type: Hustle

Drafted with the 47th pick in the 2009 draft. The Dutch big man is a hustle-type player. He won’t dazzle you with his superior ability or athleticism, but what he can’t do he makes up for with his effort. He has a good frame but has not filled in completely yet, and he will need to add weight in order to play with NBA power forwards and centers. He does not possess a great skill set on the block, and he succeeds the most when coming off pick and rolls and scoring on second chance baskets. His lack of strength limits him and is the largest factor keeping him out of the NBA. He is not an above average rebounder, but has decent shot blocking ability.

Norel signed a two-year deal with DKV Joventut on July 13, 2010.

I do not see Norel in the Timberpups plans as of now. For one, they are log jammed at power forward and Norel does not possess the abilities that they are in need of. Norel is a hustle player and has his head in the right place, but with because of his size and lack of flash he is up against the odds to make an NBA roster. His best chance to end up on the Timberwolves is to continue to fill in and develop in Europe, but at age 24, it appears Norel’s NBA future does not lie with the Timberwolves, if with any team at all.

Paulao Prestes: POW-low PREH-stes

Birthday: February 15, 1988 Age: 23 From: Monte Aprazivel, Brazil Height: 6-10 Weight: 270 Position: C Best Case Scenario: Anderson Varejao Type: Power

Drafted with the 45th pick of 2010 draft. Prestes possesses great size, average athleticism, and a very long wingspan. Prestes thrives off of the pick and roll and has most of his success with his back to the basket. His size and length have led to a lot of success on defense throughout his career. He is a traditional center, having poor mobility and slow feet while possessing above average rebounding ability. He has a nonexistent perimeter game and his mid-range jump shot is below average. Matched against similarly built centers, Prestes can be very efficient and can contribute on both ends of the floor. However, he can be exploited with matchups that include smaller, faster players.

Prestes has shown a lot of positives regarding his NBA prospects, but he needs to fine-tune his post game in order to compete for an NBA roster spot. The Timberwolves are in need of a center, but Prestes does not seem to be a viable option at this point. His lack of mobility completely conflicts with the Timberwolves new up-tempo offense. Regardless, he remains an asset of positive value for Minnesota going forward.

Sources: Draft Express, NBADraft.net

Photo Credits: Colunistas.ig.com.br, nadlanu.com, blogdelbressol.com