The Minnesota Timberwolves will make the first overall pick in the NBA Draft next month. Now that it’s common knowledge that they will be making the selection, speculation about who they’ll actually choose can officially begin. Here’s a quick look at the three most likely selections for the Wolves:
Karl-Anthony Towns, University of Kentucky – Early in the process, it certainly seems like Towns is the favorite to be selected with the top overall selection, though that may have been the case regardless of which team landed the top overall pick. Minnesota, though, could certainly use a star in the frontcourt to supplement some of the star power they appear to be fostering in the swingman rotation with Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine. Nikola Pekovic is locked up for three more years, but he can’t seem to stay healthy and while Gorgui Dieng has shown flashes of greatness, he is much too inconsistent to be an All-Star.
Towns, meanwhile, would be a legitimate stud in the frontcourt for them and would really give them an interesting core to build around, along with Wiggins, LaVine, Dieng, Anthony Bennett and Shabazz Muhammad. In five years, Wiggins and Towns could be one of the most devastating one-two punches in the league if the ball bounces right, as both players are about as promising as young players get on both ends of the floor. Towns can defend the rim and he’s shown a remarkable ability to score efficiently, and while there have been questions about how he’d hold up in a larger role (he’s in foul trouble a lot), Minnesota has enough talent and frontcourt depth where he wouldn’t have to be “The Guy” like he would in Philadelphia or L.A. It’s a great fit for both him and the Wolves, which is why for now he seems like the most likely selection.
Jahlil Okafor, Duke University – If it’s not Towns, Okafor is the next best candidate. Minnesota could use him for all the same reasons they could use Towns, but the difference between the two big men is that Okafor isn’t anywhere near the defender that Towns is. To be fair to Okafor, though, he’s a much more polished offensive player – so much so that there already are plenty of scouts calling him the most polished rookie on that end since Tim Duncan came into the league, which is a serious compliment. He’s got huge hands, is extremely nimble and already can score on just about anybody. If Minnesota values a sure scorer like Okafor over the defense that Towns brings, he could make just as attractive a pick and could have just as promising a future in that Minnesota lineup. There are differences between both bigs, but either would be a fantastic addition.
Emmanuel Mudiay, D.R. Congo – To say that Minnesota needs frontcourt help because the current staff there is inconsistent wouldn’t be fair to point guard Ricky Rubio, who’s been equally unreliable and very often injured himself. Grabbing a point guard with that top overall selection would be risky in that it would require passing on two franchise big men, but there’s an outside chance that they decide to select the 6’5, hard-working floor general who has wowed scouts nearly as much as Towns and Okafor. He had a perfectly fine season in China playing for $1.2 million, and he’s about as likeable and hard-working and professional a prospect as there is in this class. He would be a tremendous fan favorite in Minnesota and would allow LaVine to stop having to play point guard (a blessing for both player and team), so there’s upside to drafting someplace other than the frontcourt.
Ultimately, though, it’s those two frontcourt players who will deservedly garner the most attention and debate leading up to the draft. Towns is the favorite for now, but there’s no telling what might change by the time the draft finally rolls around in late June.
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