Tari Eason, Forward, LSU
Eason is another player who resembles a current Timberwolf. After all, he’s a big, long forward who uses his non-stop motor and athleticism to wreak havoc on defense and play bigger than he is. Sound like anyone that has won the hearts of Wolves fans this year?
The exciting part about Jarred Vanderbilt comparisons for Eason is that he is even farther along offensively than Vanderbilt was coming out of Kentucky. He needs to improve his composure with the ball — his fidgety feet can create travels and he makes plenty of ill-advised passes — but he’s much improved as a shooter from his one year at Cincinnati, making 37 and 79 percent of his 3-pointers and free throws, respectively.
Eason would also be more ready to come in and help the Wolves right away than Brown or Sochan. He’s two years older than them and just won SEC Sixth-Man of the Year, so he’d be familiar with making an impact in a bench role.
If you’re going to watch Eason with an eye to his draft stock, keep in mind that LSU just fired head coach Will Wade and will enter the tournament with plenty of uncertainty.
Walker Kessler, Big, Auburn
Mark Williams, Big, Duke
These are two remarkably similar players who could help fill a need for a Timberwolves team short in size. There’s an argument to be made that the depth of big men in the NBA makes using a first round pick on one a poor value proposition, but these could be two of the safest players on the board when the Wolves pick.
The elevator pitch on these two is that they’re both statistically elite rim protectors who move well enough for their size and score efficiently around the basket. Both are 7-feet tall with long arms (Williams has a 7-4 wingspan, Kessler 7-5) and were defensive player of the year in a power conference, which suggests their defense should translate to a decent degree.
Kessler’s season has been particularly eye-popping; he’s blocking 4.5 shots per game and leads the country in block rate. He is the biggest factor in Auburn making a massive jump from No. 103 to No. 8 in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric.
Williams, meanwhile, is no slouch himself at 2.8 blocks per game and is more projectable offensively as a rim-roller because of his springiness. Kessler is averaging a respectable 11.7 points per game on 64.4 percent true shooting, but Williams is averaging 10.9 on a nation-best 71.6 true shooting percentage. Just think what he could do partnering with an elite pick-and-roll guard at the next level.
The problem here is that neither is an elite rebounder, which is the biggest problem the Wolves’ size deficiency causes. Still, there’s something to be said about having a very tall man waiting under the basket to dissuade any shot the opposition brings his way.