What’s the Plan? is a weekly series where we look at the long-term outlooks for teams that aren’t immediately contending for a championship. This week, we look at the team that won the lottery, the Minnesota Timberwolves.
With the first pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves will select … I’m going to be honest, I can’t tell you who the Timberwolves will take with the first pick in the draft. Some people have them taking Karl-Anthony Towns, while some believe they’ll use the pick on Duke’s Jahlil Okafor. Perhaps they figure out which of the two Los Angeles prefers and try to make a trade to swap picks. Regardless of what the Timberwolves do with the pick, the team has caught a break they desperately needed.
It may not seem like Minnesota caught such a break in landing the No. 1 pick, because they did have the worst record in the league. But since the weighted lottery system was put into place in 1990, only three teams had won the lottery with the best odds. Those three teams were New Jersey in 1990, Cleveland in 2003, (The Cavaliers were actually tied for worst with Denver that year) and Orlando in 2004. The Cavaliers and Magic wound up with LeBron James and Dwight Howard, respectively, and the Wolves are hoping they draft a player with close to the same impact.
Assuming the Wolves take one of the two centers with their pick, they need to make a decision on what kind of a team they want to build for the future. Most importantly, they need to decide what they’re going to do about Ricky Rubio. Rubio’s shooting hasn’t improved since coming to the league in 2011, shooting between 35 and 38 percent from the field in each of his four seasons. If Minnesota believes Rubio’s passing makes up for his deficiencies shooting the ball, they need to build an offense where he’s not asked to shoot any more than is absolutely necessary.
The Timberwolves got the steal of a lifetime trading Kevin Love for Andrew Wiggins. I actually think both teams got exactly what they wanted out of the deal. The Cavaliers got a proven, highly skilled big man, something they needed, and Minnesota received the best young prospect of last year’s draft for a player who wasn’t going to re-sign with the team. Adding Wiggins has made it so this team has a lot of exciting young athleticism on the perimeter in Wiggins and Zach, NBA Dunk Contest Champion, LaVine. It’ll take time for them to convert their athleticism into genuine NBA skills, but if they develop their gifts adequately, they’ll do a lot in terms of bringing this team out of the league’s basement.
Minnesota’s developmental needs are found more inside the paint than out of it. Kevin Garnett is a great veteran presence for the locker room, but he’s nearing the end of the line and won’t be on any Wolves roster that wins a championship. Nikola Pekovic has done a good job for them at center, but his injury troubles make him an unlikely solution for them long term. Gorgui Dieng is a nice young player, but he’s more of a solid role player than a game-changer.
Luckily for the Wolves, they have their choice of the two best centers in all of college basketball. Give this team enough time to develop, and they could find themselves with a formidable roster ready to make some noise in the Western Conference.