No, I do not know what Flip Saunders’ and Milt Newton’s actual draft board looks like heading into Thursday evening’s draft.
I mean, I have a feeling, and it isn’t a good one. But I’m going to ignore those thoughts and concerns and post my draft board as if I were sitting in Saunders’ chair.
1. Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
Regardless of the back and foot injuries, a likely once-in-a-generation big man talent like Embiid simply cannot be overlooked. It’s a gamble, to be sure, but if it turns out in your favor, you may just have a dynasty on your hands. Given relative health, Embiid is a near sure-thing as a frontline center in the NBA, and he has an excellent chance to be a transformational superstar.
2. Marcus Smart, G, Oklahoma State
The 6′ 3″ combo guard could play off the ball alongside Ricky Rubio or come off the bench as a sixth-man-type player to start his career. Rubio’s length and defensive ability would allow the pair to play together, and provided that Smart improves his outside shooting stroke, it would be an epic one-two punch in the back court for Minnesota.
3. Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
Look at Vonleh’s college statistics, measurements, and body type, and it seems as though he is your prototypical, raw, early entrant into the NBA draft at the power forward/center slot. Take a second to watch his game film, however, and it becomes very apparent that he isn’t so raw, and he in fact got a raw deal at Indiana regarding the number of minutes he played in his lone season under coach Tom Crean.
4. Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
At first glance, seeing a large-but-still-kind-of-tweener-sized, athletic forward from the University of Arizona would certainly cause Timberwolves fans to flinch. But look beyond the obvious shared characteristics between Gordon and former number two overall pick Derrick Williams and Gordon is a very nice prospect. Peripheral and rate-based statistics suggest that Gordon could grow into a more consistent three-point shooter than Williams (35.6% is modest compared to Williams’ crazy showing in college, but it’s also less likely to be a blip on the screen), and he’ll be a more consistent rebounder. The atrocious free-throw shooting (42.2%) is a concern.
5. Kyle Anderson, F, UCLA
Yes, despite the national media’s consensus that Anderson is a mid-to-late first round pick, he should be in Saunders’ top-five heading into the draft. Anderson shoots three-pointers at a 48.3% clip, and at 6′ 8″ would be a towering addition to the Wolves’ shaky stable of wing players. He played a bit of point forward at UCLA, handling the ball a lot and dishing out assists at an insane 34.3% rate. He also grabbed more than 1/4 of available defensive rebounds while on the court. Especially if Saunders is hell-bent on hanging onto Kevin Love, wouldn’t he want to surround Love, Rubio, and Nikola Pekovic with lanky shooters and generally all-around contributors?
6. Dante Exum, G, Australia
Exum is an exciting player, and would be absolutely scintillating on the fast break next to Rubio. At 6′ 6″ and with similar passing flair, Exum already has a more polished offensive game when it comes to getting into the lane and shooting off of the dribble than Rubio did when he entered the league after playing internationally. Having a starting back court consisting of the 6′ 4″ Rubio and the lanky Australian would be a nightmare for opposing guards, too.
7. Jabari Parker, F, Duke
Parker is a consensus top-three pick, and will likely be a top-two pick if Embiid’s foot surgery indeed scares off both Cleveland and Milwaukee. He should turn into a nice NBA player and will likely be a good rotational piece. His assist and steal rates were both relatively low, and hanging around the perimeter a bit too much certainly contributed to those numbers. Parker has a high ceiling, but he’s not likely to be the superstar that teams with picks one through three will be looking for. Still, he’d be a nice fit next to Pekovic.
8. Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette
Payton could very well end up being a starting point guard in the NBA, but he should be a nice backup almost immediately. Historically, point guards with steal, assist, and rebounding rates in college similar to Payton’s have almost always been positive contributors in the professional ranks. His shooting is a big issue, and because of that he can’t really play next to Rubio, but he’d be an improvement on J.J. Barea off the bench.
9. Jordan Adams, SG, UCLA
Another UCLA guard/forward-type, Adams’ 24.5 inch no-step vertical and 29.5 max vertical jumps at the NBA Draft Combine made (embarrassing) headlines. Turns out, however, Adams can play. He shot 35.6% from long-range and saw his statistics improve across the board from his freshman to sophomore seasons. Despite his relative lack of athleticism, Adams finishes very well in the lane, draws a lot of free throws, and drains his freebies with regularity when he gets to the charity stripe.
10. Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
Similar to the Gordon/Arizona fear, there’s an admittedly unfounded trepidation in resisting picking a point guard from Syracuse. Alas, Ennis will be a productive NBA player, and, per usual with players emerging from Jim Boeheim’s defensive system, the biggest question marks are regarding defensive ability. Beyond that, however, Ennis will be a good player and would be an immediate upgrade at backup point guard.
11. Andrew Wiggins, G/F, Kansas
Wiggins will likely be drafted first overall by Cleveland, but there isn’t a whole lot of tangible evidence that supports the idea that he’s the best prospect in this draft. Sure, he looks like he could/should be an NBA superstar. And he averaged north of 17 points per game as a freshman in the Big 12. His peripheral numbers and tendencies tell a different story, however. Sure, he could absolutely turn into a star, and he’ll almost certainly be a useful rotational player for somebody. But he’s definitely not a sure-fire, #1 overall pick-type talent.
12. Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
Randle will certainly be a top-ten pick, and likely will be gone within the top-seven or eight selections. His size is one of the more appealing aspects for prospective future employers, although his extreme rawness will carry a sharp learning curve as he heads into the professional ranks. He’s more of a boom-or-bust pick than anything else.
13. Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
Stauskas is an absolute dead-eye shooter, which is something that the Wolves have been sorely lacking. Even beyond that, the Michigan product is 6′ 6″ and very athletic, and he’s almost certainly be a valuable role player at absolute worse. His length, athleticism, feel for the game, and pure shooting stroke should be enough to get him a starting job or valuable bench role in the NBA in fairly short order.
14. Gary Harris, G, Michigan State
Another combo-ish guard, Harris is 6′ 4″ and was a 37.6% shooter in two seasons under Tom Izzo at Michigan State. His lack of size and consistency are what keeps him out of the top-ten, but his decent defensive ability and shooting stroke would make him a sensible selection for Saunders and the Wolves.
15. T.J. Warren, F, North Carolina State
Warren is a versatile tweener that shot too many three-pointers at a poor percentage last year for the Wolfpack, but is an intriguing pro prospect for a number of reasons. He’d slot in nicely off the bench for the Wolves if they are able to move one or two of Corey Brewer, Kevin Martin, or Chase Budinger off the books. Warren has nice overall potential as a scorer, but will need to commit to either drastically improving his jump shot or rarely stray outside the paint on offense.
Part Two Coming Soon….