Wolves might have to look deep into your big board

With the final ping pong ball being graced with the Orlando Magic logo last week, the NBA has officially set the order for the 2022 NBA Draft. The experts have made their mock drafts, headed by Jabari Smith Jr. of Auburn , Chet Holmgren, from Gonzaga, and Paolo Banchero, from Duke. But after the first selections, it’s an open question where the rest of the prospects will land.

The Minnesota Timberwolves’ new board will need to do their due diligence to find players who will help them build on last season’s success. But with the 19th overall selection, Wolves will likely have to scrape several names off the top of their big roster.

It’s been clear for some time that Wolves need a power upgrade. Everyone loves Jarred Vanderbilt. With his constant engine and willingness to do the dirty work, he’s the kind of player every team would love to have on their roster. He also proved to be a viable option to defend some of the best perimeter players in the league this season. The biggest downside to Vanderbilt’s game is his lack of shooting, which was on full display during Minnesota’s opening series against the Memphis Grizzlies. And for a team whose offense is centered on spacing, the Timberwolves desperately need a 4 that can keep the opposing defense honest on the perimeter.

I recently wrote that Ohio State’s EJ Liddell is the perfect prospect for Wolves. A 6’7″, 240 lbs. Forward power with the ability to take down three, change rim shots, and guard multiple positions, Liddell could quickly earn a role as Minnesota’s starting PF. But with such a versatile player designed to go mid-to-late first round, several teams with higher picks than the Timberwolves could pick up the former Buckeye.

The Chicago Bulls seem more likely to take Liddell before 19. The Bulls appeared to struggle early in the season but quickly showed their lack of defense in the low block. Night after night, any opposing player with a competent postgame was making light work of a Chicago team with Nikola Vucevic anchoring his defense. Recently, the Bulls have also shown that they prefer to draft versatile forwards, having picked Patrick Williams with the fourth overall pick in 2020. For a team that shares the same division with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Milwaukee Bucks, it makes sense for Chicago to add depth in power forward. .

In addition to a versatile winger, Minnesota’s current roster can use an additional 7 feet. Anyone who watched Wolves’ opening series against Memphis could see it. The Grizzlies played virtually with backup center Naz Reid, a player not known for his ability to defend the cup off the court. So it’s clear that the Timberwolves’ front office needs to make a move this summer for a big shot blocking. With University of Memphis’ Jalen Duren likely going off the board in the top 10-12 picks, Duke’s Mark Williams is the next best option. At 7’0″ with a wingspan of 7’7″, the ACC Defensive Player of the Year could immediately contribute to a Timberwolves team struggling with rim protection.

Mock draft after mock draft, I have to read about how unlikely Williams is to pass the Charlotte Hornets, who have the 13th and 15th overall selection. Charlotte finished the regular season with a defensive rating of 113.1, 22nd in the league. Seriously, what did they expect to happen to Mason Plumlee in his top five?! But the Hornets didn’t just fight defensively. They also failed to make it past the play-in tournament for the second season in a row. For a young team with an All-Star point guard at LaMelo Ball, NBA fans should expect to see Charlotte’s president of basketball operations, Mitch Kupchak, make a winning play this summer to help with his team’s defensive lapses. And with two mid-round picks, it shouldn’t come as a shock to see the former Blue Devil wear a teal and purple hat on draft night.

How news that the Wolves have hired Tim Connelly as his next POBO, fans of the franchise quickly did their research on the former Denver Nuggets exec. He is an NBA draft genius who struggles in a few other areas of basketball operations. Yes, he twice selected MVP Nikola Jokic in the second round. But he also offered a maximum contract to Michael Porter Jr., who has had three back surgeries. However, with a new team and trading expert Sachin Gupta, Connelly can look to validate his ability to make impactful trades. Ironically, Malik Beasley is Minnesota’s most likely commercial candidate.

With his team-friendly contract and ability to take down the three open and contested, Beasley’s name is constantly making the rounds in commercial rumour. If a Malik-centric deal helps Wolves take the next step, I see no reason why it can’t be moved. How could Connelly replace what the sixth-grade marksman offers the team that led the NBA in 3’s this season? Elaborated by Ochai Agbaji.

A senior Kansas winger, Agbaji, 22, would fit perfectly into the void left by Beasley if the Wolves traded him. Having helped Kansas win the National Championship by dropping 41% on more than six three-a-games, Agbaji is one of the best bottom pitchers in the draft. And with a 6’5″ frame, Agbaji possesses both the size of the NBA and the potential to be a capable 3 and D player at the next level.

Recency bias is the only problem Minnesota could have with Ochai’s arrival at 19. NBA teams love college players who have a college title under their belt. And I see no reason for Sam Hink – I mean, Sam Presti wouldn’t mind taking Ochai to 12. The Oklahoma City Thunder attempted the seventh highest number out of three but hit the lowest 32.3% in the league. OKC also finished the regular season in the lower half of teams’ defensive ratings. And with OKC’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander now nearly 24, Presti could look to find a more NBA-ready running mate in the SGA.

Less than a month away from the 2022 NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves have plenty of options to update their roster. In addition to the 19th pick, they also have three chances to get a useful player in the second round. But then again, other teams share some of the same off-season needs as Wolves. And if any of the above prospects turn blue and green next season, Minnesota’s newly built front office will only have one chance to make a lasting impression on the team’s loyal fanbase.

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