Meanwhile, the Timberwolves have gone the other way, from #3 (the 3rd worst record in the NBA) to #1 (the worst record in the NBA, barring none). In the draft lottery, of course, this is a good thing, moving from a minimal opportunity to get the #1 pick to the biggest chance to get #1. Of course, the Wolves have never in 14 tries ever improved their draft position over their place in the standings and there's no reason to think their luck will change now. So they should end up with the #1 pick, but they could and probably will end up #4, the worst they can do under NBA draft rules. Of course, they're only a half-game behind Cleveland in the battle for worst of the worst, and so they could end up 2nd in the standings and 5th in the draft.
Actually, I covered just such contingencies last time and said that if they drafted in the following positions, this is what they would do. But I did say that #3 was their most likely spot and, if #3, they would select Kanter.
In January, if picking #1. Perry Jones. If #2 or #3. Kanter. If #4 or #5. Trade down. If #6. Jan Vesely. If #7. Vesely or Donatas Motiejunas. If #8 or #9. Motiejunas. If #10, #11 or #12. Jonas Valanciunas, and keep him in Europe for a couple of years. If #13 or #14. Alex Burks.
Now, here's the new look.
If #1--Duke 6-1 freshman point guard Kyrie Irving
If the Wolves got the #1 pick, this is the obvious choice. Not only is he the consensus #1 pick in the draft, he meets what is surely the Timberwolves' #1 need. I mean, after all, they've only drafted a pair of point guards with their #1 pick in the David Kahn era. But Jonny Flynn clearly is not the answer. And it remains doubtful that Ricky Rubio will ever play for the Wolves.
So, with the #1 pick, you pick the best available athlete, and specifically, you get the best available point guard who has no leverage to decline to come to Minnesota to play for Glen Taylor. And, you package up Rubio and trade him away for a serviceable veteran and another 1st round pick. Maybe you package up Rubio and Michael Beasley and get a really serviceable veteran small forward or you get a #7-8 pick, say, where you can pick up a forward on your own. But the key here is to get Irving, whom most observers compare favorably to Chris Paul.
Irving was assumed to be out of the draft in January. He did not play this year until March due to injury. But in the short time that he was back, he showed the old quickness, scored 17.5 ppg with 5 boards and 4 assists.
If #2 and Irving is gone--Perry Jones, 6-11 freshman small forward, Baylor
Jones was the consensus #1 in January, but his stock has dropped a bit, or others' stock has arisen. But I like him a lot. He would be an upgrade, at least eventually, over Wes Johnson or Martell Webster as a perimeter scorer, and perhaps more consistent someday, if not better at his very best, than Michael Beasley. Despite his size, he's seen as a scorer in the Tracy McGrady mold, someone who takes people off the dribble and gets to the rim with ridiculous ease. He will be 3-4 years getting to that point, of course.
And that is why, if Irving is available, you pick Irving. He is 1-2 years out from realizing his potential vs. Jones' 3-4.
If #3 and Irving and Perry Jones are gone--I still like Enes Kanter, 6-11 freshman (ineligible) center-power forward, Kentucky (for whom he never played and never will)
Like P. Jones, Kanter's stock has dropped incrementally while Derrick Williams, in particular, has leap-frogged Kanter. Some also regard Jared Sullinger as a better prospect, at least for the right team. But Williams is 6-8 and Sullinger 6-9 and neither plays any further from the hoop than Kanter can. Kanter toyed with the USA juniors a year ago, breaking Dirk Nowitzki's scoring records with 34 points and 15 boards. Sullinger is probably the most NBA-ready right now but, hey, Sullinger and Williams play Kevin Love's position. Kanter plays Darko Milicic's position. Do I make myself clear?
If #4 and Irving and Perry Jones and Kanter are all gone--your best options are Derrick Williams, Jared Sullinger and Harrison Barnes, though Kemba Walker is your best true guard option. So in other words, you package up Rubio and #4 and maybe a Beasley or whomever, and you go out and get the best veteran perimeter scorer you can find. Period.
If #5 and Irving and Jones and Kanter are still gone--ditto. But how far down do you go and what veteran player do you set your hopes upon? Well, the 2 are interrelated. If you can get Luol Deng or DeMar DeRozan or Kevin Martin, you go down as far as you have to. If, on the other hand, the best you can do is Marco Belinelli or Chase Budinger or Richard Jefferson, you don't slide out of the lottery. I guess my wish list is either DeRozan or Martin for Rubio, #4 or #5, and another Woofie veteran--anybody not named Kevin Love, in fact.
Looking then at the entire lottery portion of the draft, based on today's NBA standings, it looks like this:
1. Minnesota--Kyrie Irving
2. Cleveland--Derrick Williams, Arizona, 6-8, SF
3. Toronto--Perry Jones
4. Washington--Enes Kanter
5. Sacramento--Jared Sullinger, Ohio State, 6-9, PF
6. Utah--Kemba Walker, Connecticut, 6-1, PG
7. Detroit--Harrison Barnes, North Carolina, 6-8, SF
8. Cleveland--Donatas Motiejunas, Lithuania, 7-0, PF
9. Charlotte--Brandon Knight, Kentucky, 6-3, PG
10. Milwaukee--Terrence Jones, Kentucky, 6-9, PF
11. Golden State--Jan Vesely, Serbia, 6-11, PF
12. Utah--Alex Burks, Colorado, 6-6, CG
13. Phoenix--Marcus Morris, Kansas, 6-9, PF
14. Houston--Kawhi Leonard, San Diego State, 6-7, SF
15. Indiana--Jimmer Fredette, Brigham Young, 6-2, CG
Scenario #1: Hang on to the #1 pick and get Irving
Then package up Rubio and Beasley, plus Ridnour and/or Flynn, and I get a veteran perimeter scorer and another top 15 draft pick who maybe turns into PF Marcus Morris from Kansas.
Scenario #2: Drop down to #4
Now you're back where you started from with Kanter. Or if Perry Jones is available, Perry Jones. Or, if Jones is not available--and maybe if he is--you package up #4 plus Beasley and Flynn, and maybe even Rubio, and get a veteran perimeter scorer and another top 15 draft pick who, if you didn't get Irving, might turn out to be Alex Burks.