Domantas Sabonis can be the Timberwolves’ power forward fix


The biggest need for the Timberwolves is probably starting power forward, and there’s a chance they could plug this hole through Thursday’s draft.

Gorgui Dieng played well starting next to Karl-Anthony Towns last season filling in for the injured Kevin Garnett, but it was still clear that his natural position is center.

He’s not quite quick enough to guard stretch power forwards and switch onto guards on the perimeter, and while his mid-range jumper is great, he doesn’t create quite enough space for KAT when he’s operating in the post as his range is somewhat limited.

The Timberwolves have been linked to a couple of big men in this summer’s free agent crop, notably former Chicago Bull Joakim Noah (who played a large role for Tom Thibodeau in his time there) and, very optimistically, former Atlanta Hawk Al Horford.

Both of those players would be great additions for the Wolves. The hardest part about integrating Noah into the team would probably be getting him and Garnett to put aside all the hard feelings harbored over the years. Horford is more of a prototypical center, but he is an elite passer and stretched his shot out past the arc this year, shooting 34.4 percent from deep on 3.1 attempts per game. He and KAT would pair well together.

However, it is unlikely the Wolves get Horford through free agency. According to reports, Thibodeau and GM Scott Layden are still looking to use the 5th pick in tonight’s draft to land veteran help.

There is one player that can fill the power forward hole that Thibs and Layden can look into if they do in fact move down in the draft: Domantas Sabonis.

Domantas is the son of former player Arvydas Sabonis, who starred in Russia and transplanted to the NBA in the 1995-96 season, when he was already 31 and foot injuries and a ruptured Achilles were sapping his athleticism. The senior Sabonis could do it all at 7-feet tall: he could score and rebound, but he was also a fantastic passer, a good three-point shooter (better than 37 percent in over 1.5 attempts per game in his first two NBA seasons), and he was great on the defensive end.

Domantas picked up that well-rounded play from his father, flashing great vision and passing while playing with Gonzaga this past season (the most impressive part of his game to me). He averaged a huge 17.6 points and 11.8 rebounds per game and shot 35.7 percent from deep, albeit on just 14 attempts all season.

Although Sabonis played center for Gonzaga, he profiles as a power forward in the NBA, as he doesn’t quite have the length and strength to compete with NBA centers but is quick enough to defend perimeter-oriented bigs.

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The great draft website Ridiculous Upside wrote that “Sabonis is the classic example of an NBA power forward due to his offensive versatility and knack as an offensive rebounder. Those traits could allow him to be a solid fit next to DeMarcus Cousins…”

You know who is has a similar skill set as Cousins? Karl Anthony-Towns. Cousins is definitely more of a bruiser and built like a tank, but, outside of his obvious post play, he has the ability to run a fast break, launch threes, and create off the dribble against slower, bigger defenders, just like KAT.

Sabonis and KAT as twin towers in the front court? Sign me up. They would complement each other extremely well. Both have great vision and are willing passers. Running some high-low action with those two would unlock some beautiful passing that already has me drooling.

They both have the range to make defenses respect them on the perimeter, creating space inside when one of them posts up. Sabonis isn’t quite the deterrent Towns is on defense, but he’s got a great feel for when to rotate over on help defense and showed some good timing on blocks in the three rounds Gonzaga played in the big dance, when they faced better competition than they did in their conference. He struggled a bit with foul trouble, but with his energy and high motor, he would be a player that Thibs would be able to mold into a great defender.

As of right now, I really don’t know how the Timberwolves are going to trade back in the draft. The Bulls seem intent on making it Jimmy Butler’s team with the trade of Derrick Rose, so that option is assuredly out the window now. There isn’t a team in the 10-15 range that is really looking to trade up, which is where Sabonis is pegged to go in most mock drafts.

Picking Sabonis at #5 would be quite the reach by the Wolves, with at least two of Buddy Hield, Dragan Bender, Jamal Murray, and Kris Dunn still on the board. However, if the Wolves do find a trade partner and get a pick in the middle of the first round, they need to target Sabonis. He is my favorite player in the draft and as well-rounded as big men come. His game would mesh so incredibly well with KAT’s.

Next: Should Timberwolves Trade For Kenneth Faried?

So, here’s my plea to the Wolves for tonight: if you do move the 5th pick for veteran help, make sure to get that team’s first round pick in this draft in return as well. Then do the right thing and grab the best big man in this draft not named Ben Simmons.

Get Domantas Sabonis.