The Minnesota Timberwolves got a bit of luck this season as Utah narrowly made it into the playoffs, sending Utah’s first round draft pick to the team as conditioned in the Al Jefferson trade. With the 18th overall selection in the deep 2012 NBA Draft, the Wolves will certainly have their options when they are on the clock. Due to their draft position, we will never know if a high profile prospect will fall to them until draft day, but in the meantime, here are five realistic options who may be available for the team at 18.
5. Terrence Jones
Position: SF/PF | School: Kentucky | Year: Sophomore | Age: 20
The Timberwolves saw virtually no offensive production out of starting SF Wesley Johnson this season and desperately need consistent scoring out of the 3 spot. While Derrick Williams is undergoing rigorous two a day, 5 day a week workouts with his goals being to lose 15 pounds and come back next year as the teams starting SF, the Pups need to have a vital plan B and prepare as if D-Will will be unable to make the transition. Enter Terrence Jones. Jones has ideal size (6-9, 252 lbs) , length (7-2 wingspan), athleticism (34.5 inch vertical leap), and an extremely unique skill set that is very similar to that of Josh Smith. A classic “tweener” forward, Jones was a main contributor to Kentucky’s national championship run and would bring a shot-blocking presence that the Pups certainly lack. He is very comfortable as a ball-handler and can knock down shots extending out to three-point range. Most importantly, Jones can get to the hoop and can be a rebounding force, which would add to Minnesota’s dominance in the paint when paired with Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic. The Wolves may decide that their need at the 2 guard position is much more dire, but if Jones happens to fall to 18, they may not have a choice. Jones projects to chosen anywhere from number 7 (Golden State) to number 19 (Orlando).
4. Austin Rivers
Position: SG | School: Duke | Year: Freshman | Age: 19
A dream selection in the eyes of many Timberwolves fans, I am not as high on Austin Rivers as many Minnesota fans. Although he possesses a remarkable ability to create his own shot and has even made his mark in clutch situations, he is not a true SG due to his inability to play without the ball in his hands. Coming into a Timberwolves team that wants the ball in the hands of rising star Ricky Rubio, Rivers would need to significantly alter his game in order to fit in with the team. He desperately needs to improve his play off-ball, including running off screens, rotating, etc. Rivers failed to live up to his enormous hype coming out of high school and operated as a high-volume, moderate percentage shooter who can be compared to a young Monta Ellis or even a Nick Young. What the Timberwolves need is a SG who can find ways of getting open, knocking down open shots, and providing good ball handling and defense. While Rivers is an impressive ball-handler and shooter, he is a terrible defender and his selfishness could compromise the teams developing chemistry. With Kevin Love set to receive the majority of the looks on offense, Rivers could have a very tough time adjusting to the NBA. However, if he can give up his me-first mentality and buy into the team mentality, Rivers has the size (6-5, 200 lbs) and raw talent necessary to be a good SG. Rivers projects to be selected anywhere from number 8 (Toronto) to number 21 (Boston).
3. Royce White
Position: SF/PF | School: Iowa State | Year: Sophomore | Age: 21
Few players have taken a route to the NBA that is comparable to the one taken by Minnesota’s own Royce White. After transferring to Iowa State after a tumultuous and brief stint with the University of Minnesota, White exploded onto the college basketball landscape and led the Cyclones in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks (yes, you heard me correctly). Possessing tremendous size (6-8, 260 lbs), White is a point-forward who is one of the most unselfish players in the draft at his position. Although he scored primarily in the paint, White could be a very capable SF due to his impressive passing and ability to get to the basket from the wing. His biggest knock comes from his poor shooting, and it will likely take a few years for him to develop into a true scoring threat. However, his unselfishness and team-oriented attitude are infectious and if in the right situation, White can be a matchup disaster for opposing defenses. White has a very public anxiety disorder and fear of flying that he has brought to light in the past year, and those off the court issues are the only things keeping him from being a lottery selection. With White, the Timberwolves could address several needs in one pick, but would a team that is about to part ways with Michael Beasley want to take a risk on another elite talent with off the court troubles? White projects to be selected anywhere from number 17 (Dallas) to somewhere in the second round.
2. Jeremy Lamb
Position: SG | School: Connecticut | Year: Sophomore | Age: 20
Early on in the draft process, Lamb was considered a potential top-5 pick but has slid due to this years extremely talented draft class. A 6-foot-5 SG with a remarkable 6-11 wingspan, Lamb is a very good ball-handler who, as similar to Rivers, operates primarily with the ball in his hands. Lamb first emerged during his freshman season in which he was a primary contributor to UConn’s national championship run. After Kemba Walker departed the team for the 2011 NBA Draft, Lamb emerged as a primary ball-handler for the Huskies and had a very up-and-down sophomore season. He an improving shooter and is a dynamic scorer, but lacks the bulk (185 lbs) and finishing ability that a team would like from their SG. In Minnesota, Lamb would experience some of the same growing pains as Rivers, but if he adds weight and becomes a knockdown shooter, the sky is the limit for the young swingman. Lamb most likely will be a mid to late lottery selection, but there is a slight possibility that he could fall to number 18.
1. Terrence Ross
Position: SG | School: Washington | Year: Sophomore | Age: 21
Surprised? Despite gaining very little national spotlight during his time at Washington, Ross has become a popular name for the Timberwolves at 18. A true SG, Ross possesses ideal size for the NBA, standing at an outrageous 6-foot-7 and weighing in at just around 200 lbs. He excels off-ball and is very effective at getting himself open, needing very slight pockets of space in order to get shots up. Ross has very impressive shooting mechanics and with more hard work could evolve into a sharpshooter at the next level. His biggest question marks relate to his ball handling, as he did not display a consistent ability to beat his defender off the dribble and struggled at times when finishing at the rim. As he fits in with the Timberwolves, Ross would not be required to be a primary ball handler and could specialize in getting open and knocking down open threes set up for him by Ricky Rubio. Ross is also a game-changer on the defensive end and is versatile enough in order to shut down both SGs and SFs alike. Oh, and he has a 37.5-inch vertical who would be another viable alley-oop option for our Spanish wunderkind.