As dozens of others have said, the 2013 draft was perhaps the craziest draft on record. The "loose" consensus #1 pick was defensive wizard Nerlens Noel, with 3 point specialist Ben McLemore widely believed to be the #2 pick. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was supposed to go #9 to the Wolves, and little fanfare would ensue.
Well, an hour later, Noel was a member of the 76ers, 3 all-stars were traded, Kris Humphries is suddenly the #3 option in Boston, and the most polarizing figure of any draft I can remember, Shabazz Muhammad, is your newest Minnesota Timberwolf.
Let's break down the Wolves' draft in some simple bullet points. (Note: last night, I was livid with this outcome. Hyperbole was commonplace to the point where a T-Wolves staffer was telling me to calm down. Now that a night's sleep has passed, I'll try to be a little bit more rational in this assessment. Sure, there a dozens of negatives, but some things could go fine, here.)
What Went Well on Draft Night:
- Needs addressed. The Wolves needed significant help with size and shooting on the perimeter, as well as interior defense. Both of those needs were addressed. KCP was the obvious pick at #9, and he would have been the guy if not for the Pistons nabbing him up at #8. Now, in his time at UCLA, Shabazz was strong in transition basketball and spot up shooting. He can get to the line, is a high IQ player, and without a doubt has the potential to be a strong perimeter shooter. He has good size and an outstanding motor and work ethic. These are all positives about Shabazz. What is irking many is his one-dimensional attitude, he is a questionable teammate, low assist and steal rate, and general scoring inefficiencies (think Michael Beasley). He is also not an explosive athlete by any means, and could be overwhelmed trying to score against elite competition. Alas, a gamble was made, one that probably will not work out, but it promises to be interesting. In Deing, the Wolves got a nice pick here. While still raw, he has nice defensive and rebounding potential and fills yet another need.
- Shabazz was, literally, the last option: I'm not entirely sure this is a positive or what. It's not like Flip "fell in love" with Shabazz and did whatever it took to get him. What I mean by this is this likely doesn't sing too much of a song about how careless Flip will be from here on out in evaluating players. The Wolves had no intention of getting Shabazz. When KCP went 8, the Wolves made another move to move back, allegedly in an effort to get Olynyk, and ended up having to settle for Shabazz. He fills a need and, while it didn't work out as planned, we got a player who has a chance, albeit as slim as a needle, to be a player in the league.
What…Didn't go Well:
- The haunting of CJ McCollum. Flip had an excellent prospect staring him in the face. Size be damned, CJ can defend. He can shoot. He can create. He is probably better than Shabazz. I believe this will go down as another Foye/Roye situation, but even worse because CJ was widely believed to have been the pick when the Wolves were on the clock. Portland got an excellent prospect. While CJ doesn't have great size, there is zero question he was the right pick from a talent standpoint. This one is going to sting.
- Utah got their PG of the future. It is never good to make a division or conference rival better in trade. The Wolves did that a few years back by gifting Utah Al Jefferson, and we did it again by gifting them the college player of the year in a dire area of need for the Jazz. Now, I am not suggesting keeping Burke was ever possible or reasonable, but suddenly in an ultra-competitive conference and a fellow team jostling for the 8th seed, you gave them a guy who is without a doubt going to be a significant piece of the puzzle for years to come. Trey Burke may very well win rookie of the year.
- The Trade with Utah itself: What hurts the most is this: the Wolves added another first round pick for their troubles via Utah (which ended up being Dieng)….and then sold their own pick 26 (along with Malcolm Lee), for nothing. So, in essence, the benefit of the move-back was instantly negated for good-old &$%*&^$# cash considerations. I knew Glen Taylor being in the war room was an ominous sign. And by the way, If the price for the Wolves to move up was so high, why not hold Utah to the same standard? Why not require them to take JJ Barea in exchange for Gordan Hayward? While many may disagree, I dislike what Minny received in this trade. It's one thing if #26 was then flipped for something meaningful, but Dieng or a similar player such as Jeff Withey could very well have been available at #26. Instead, we moved back for a similar pick we already had, while making Utah much better and getting little in return.
- Shabazz was basically the one player many Wolves fans, and allegedly the front office, DIDN'T WANT. And we got him. We took him anyways. Of course we did. Not much else needs to be said. Maybe this is oversimplistic, but the fact that so many people despise this pick; the fact that Flip Saunders himself said he knew the fans would be disappointed; the fact that stats and eye test suggest he has little hope for a strong NBA future….it just leaves a rotten taste in one's mouth. This seems like Rashad McCants all over again. We'll see.
Final Grade: D+. Shabazz having a slight chance at a productive career, generally filling an area of need, and Deing prevents this from being an F. Lorenzo Brown in the 2nd round is a nice pickup as well (by the way, a byproduct of the Rambis buyout-a-thon). But the move-back was a steal for the Jazz (the kind of fake trade fans come up with that usually "isn't enough" in reality), and Shabazz is the most polarizing figure in the draft. He will have to overcome a dramatic amount of obstacles to succeed, the least of which is Adelman's leash and adjusting to a smaller role in the league. I'm not optimistic. Hopefully Flip does better in free agency, but if he wants AK47 out as much as reports suggest, we are looking at a pretty big downgrade in production next season.