Minnesota Timberwolves fans should be rooting hard for the Brooklyn Nets during the NBA restart this summer.
If the NBA continues to move forward with its restart plan, the fanbases of the 22 teams involved will have basketball to consume by the beginning of August. For fans of the Minnesota Timberwolves and others, however, those months may seem a bit disappointing.
To make those games more intriguing, Wolves fans should pay close attention to the performance of the Brooklyn Nets.
Why Minnesota Timberwolves fans should root for the Nets this summer
Minnesota holds the rights to Brooklyn’s first-round pick this year, which should end up at either No. 15 or 16 provided that Brooklyn remains outside the lottery. If the Nets fail to make the playoffs and thus become a lottery team, that pick will instead become a 2021 first-round selection, and likely more in the No. 20 to 30 range than No. 15-16.
The Nets are No. 7 in the East standings heading into this year’s modified version of the home stretch, but with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving both sidelined, their playoff spot may still be in jeopardy.
Even in a relatively weak draft, the value of a top-16 pick shouldn’t be dismissed. Giannis Antekounmpo was the No. 15 pick back in 2013, and Kawhi Leonard went No. 15 in 2011. The 2020 class is weak at the top, but there are still plenty of quality prospects to be found up to and beyond the No. 15-16 range where Minnesota would be picking.
The most surefire way for Brooklyn to secure a playoff spot this summer would simply be to take care of business during their eight regular-season games in Orlando. If the No. 8 seed in either conference is more than four games ahead of the ninth seed in the standings after those games, no play-in game will take place.
If the Nets were to lose two games of ground to the Washington Wizards (they currently hold a six-game lead), and if the eighth-place Orlando Magic also jumped past them to become the No. 7 seed, Brooklyn would then be forced to play a play-in game against Washington.
That isn’t the end of the story, though. If Brooklyn were to lose their way into a play-in game and lose that play-in game, they would still have one more play-in game to go against the Wizards. Basically, the Wizards would have to beat them twice in a row to jump past them and make the playoffs.
The chances Brooklyn loses its playoff spot are low, but still significant. With Durant and Irving out, Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert will be the key cogs for Brooklyn. Both are talented players; each one has seen some interest this year in the form of trade proposals over here at Dunking With Wolves.
But the schedule will also be tough for the Nets. With the statistical eight worst NBA teams out of play, each game for the rest of the season will likely be competitive. Easy wins, which might have been common in the Eastern Conference before, will be nonexistent for a Brooklyn team that might be the least talented one in Orlando.
The Nets are not a bad team without Kyrie Irving. They’ve managed a 30-34 record despite his only playing 20 games this year. They were also one of the hottest teams in the league before the NBA’s hiatus, winning four of their last five games, including beating Boston and the Lakers.
The starting lineup they’ll most likely take into the restart features Dinwiddie, LeVert, Joe Harris, Wilson Chandler and DeAndre Jordan. It’s not the most exciting bunch, but it could easily steal enough wins to avoid a play-in situation.
If that happens, the Timberwolves should be thrilled with the types of players who could potentially be drafted with the Nets’ pick.
This could all change but as of now, there are at least four or five 3-and-D type wings who could end up being drafted in the 10 to 20 range. Alongside D’Angelo Russell, Karl-Anthony Towns, and the Wolves’ first 2020 selection, a 3-and-D wing seems very likely to be the type of player the Wolves target.
Nesmith, a 6-foot-6 sophomore out of Vanderbilt, is one of the best shooting prospects to enter the NBA Draft in recent memory. He played only 14 games for the Commodores this year but in those games, he averaged 4.3 threes on 8.2 attempts (52 percent).
He made 48 percent of his threes a year ago, and many of those have come off NBA-style screening actions. As a defender, Nesmith has some work to do but has all the tools and work ethic necessary to become serviceable.
Green was a top-10 college prospect coming out of high school because of his elite athleticism and good feel for the game. At Arizona, he was an awesome defender both on and off the ball. Offensively, he struggled to create his own shot but was a positive contributor, scoring 12 points per game on 42 percent shooting, 36 percent from three and 78 percent on free throws.
If his jump shot continues to improve, Green could be the Danny Green/Gary Harris-type player that the Wolves desperately need.
Patrick Williams might be the surprise player of this draft. He's not a flashy prospect, but as a freshman, he was a key contributor for a Florida State team that would have been a No. 2 seed in the tournament.
He's 18 years old and a great athlete, though maybe not quite elite in that regard. He has good defensive instincts, and the ability to potentially switch onto positions 3 through 5. He also moves extremely well on offense and is incredibly smooth for a player his age and size at 6-foot-8, 225 pounds with a 6-foot-11 wingspan.
If Williams improves his shooting and develops a bit offensively, he could be exactly the type of versatile two-way forward that is so valuable in the current NBA landscape.
Any of these prospects and a few others would be exciting additions for the Wolves. For a chance at one of them, though, they can only hope Dinwiddie and LeVert return to play with something to prove.