Point Guard - Jonny Flynn - Flynn is entering his 2nd year after being drafted 6th overall in last year's draft. He is very fast, but isn't the best shooter, passer or defender and his numbers haven't translated very well in advanced basketball statistics. Backing him up is Ramon Sessions while waiting in Spain is Ricky Rubio. This position should be a strength for the Twolves considering they invested two top 6 picks in last year's draft on point guards. Still it is a question mark because Rubio isn't guaranteed to play for the Twolves and Flynn hasn't shown the ability to be anything more than a change of pace back up guard. If you look at their production by position on 82games.com you will see that the point guard position for the Twolves scored the 2nd most points per position, but unfortunately they didn't shoot the ball that well (eFG% of .457) and the opponent's point guard dominated them in shooting percentage, assists and turnovers. The overall net for the point guards from Minnesota was a -3.7 PER difference between the Twolves and their opponents. It all comes down to Rubio. If Rubio ends up playing for the Twolves and being as good as the hype then this is a position of strength. If Rubio doesn't come over then the Twolves are hoping for a huge change in production by *Flynn or Sessions.
Shooting Guard - I am tempted to write nobody, but I guess technically I should note that another former lottery pick (this team is full of them) Corey Brewer is the starter for the team. Backing him up is former UNC star Wayne Ellington. Brewer got a lot of hype from the Twolves for most improved player because he increased his PPG from the 6 point range in his first two season to 13 PPG. Also, his FG% increased to 43% and he shot and made a lot more threes, but despite this increase in FG% he still finished 22nd out 23rd in eFG% for all qualified shooting guards. In other words Brewer improved his shooting percentage and still was one of the worst shooters at his position in the NBA. Wins produced doesn't look kindly on Brewer or Ellington as both are rated as players that hurt the Timberwolves. Also, the net production on 82games.com is a negative 5.1 difference. A little deeper analysis seems to suggest that the problem was with shooting as opposing players shot 5.4% better in eFG%, which isn't too surprising considering Brewer's eFG% ranking in the NBA. This is a huge need area since neither Brewer nor Ellington should be a starter in the league. In basic terms the Twolves need a shooting guard who can shoot.
Small Forward - I am hoping this doesn't come off too depressing after my negative review of the shooting guard position, but the small forward position is an even bigger need for the Twolves than shooting guard. Ryan Gomes is the starter with Damien Wilkens listed as the backup. Wilkens was actually listed as a slightly above average NBA player according to wages of wins, which is appropriate since he currently isn't even signed with the team for the 2009/2010 season. When you combine Gomes and Wilkens the small forward position came out to be the worst position in terms of net PER. Opposing teams shot better, scored better, passed better and generally had better numbers across the board than the Twolves. This nets out to the small forward position being the worst postion for the Twolves with a -6.4 PER. If the Twolves needed a shooting guard who could shoot then they need a small forward who can do everything better then their current crop.
Power Forward - After the first three positions it is easy to see why this team only won 15 games. Now, we get to the position that contributed most to those 15 wins and is the one position with a positive net PER of 0.6. You can thank Al Jefferson and Kevin Love for what is going to be the only positive position review of the Twolves. Both Love and Jefferson continued the trend of having a worse eFG% than the opponents, but they made up for that with better numbers in free throw attempts, rebounds, assists, turnovers and personal fouls. Not surprisingly to anyone who watched the Twolves neither of these grounded players were proficient shot blockers, so that is one area that was a negative for these two talented offensive players. There have been talks about trading one of these players since they aren't supposed to be able to play *together, but I would have reservations about making that move. Jefferson had a down year coming off an injury and Love is still young and improving. Even considering those two points both players were above average players in wins produced and both had a net positive rating on 82games.com.
*I checked out the top 10 lineups the Twolves used last year. There were only 4 lineups that had scored more points than they allowed during their time on the court. 3 of those 4 including the top 2 included both Jefferson and Love. This isn't a stat that backs up the "they can't play together" argument. And for the record the best lineup of the top 10 for the Twolves was their 8th most used lineup of Sessions, Ellington, Gomes, Love and Jefferson. That seems to make sense based on the skill level of those players, but what doesn't make sense is why it was only the 8th most used lineup. I would much rather have that team than the most often used lineup of Flynn, Brewer, Gomes, Jefferson and Hollins. Why did Kurt Rambis win the best coach in the Twin Cities again?
Center - After such a positive position review for the power forwards it is back to being negative with a review with the center position. Ryan Hollins started 27 games and Darko Milicic started 18 games and most of the ones at the end of the season. It really doesn't matter which one you list as the 1st team center since both players are horrible. The both were negative in terms of wins produced and 82games.com net rating. One quote to describe Hollins was that he "had the dubious distinction of being the worst player in the league (according to Wins Produced)." The only reason the net PER was only -4.1 (compared to -6.4 for the small forwards) was because the Twolves played Love or Jefferson at center occasionally. Anyway, center is another area of need.
Recap - The Twolves need a point guard, shooting guard, small forward and center. The strengths of the team are the hope that the point guard position is going to turn around thanks to Rubio coming over or Flynn improving and also the power forward position.
What to do in the draft?
- Try to trade for the 2nd pick and draft Evan Turner. I would give up the 4th pick and Flynn or the 4th pick and the 23rd pick. Would I give up all 3 first round picks? If pushed for an answer I would say yes. I think Turner is going to be a good player who fits in well with the Twolves short term and long term strategy. Also, I don't know if the value you will get at the 16th and 23rd pick. I know that the team needs both quantity and quality right now, but right now I would lean to adding more quality than just quantity.
- If you don't want to trade up then stay at #4 and draft DeMarcus Cousins and put him in as your starting center for opening day. There might be questions about how you can have a front court of Cousins, Love and Jefferson when only two can play at a time. I think it is best to have a rotating front court where Jefferson plays 34 minutes a game, Love plays 34 minutes a game and Cousins plays 28 minutes a game. That adds up to 96 total front court minutes and has the added bonus of zero allotted time to Ryan Hollins or Darko.
- If Cousins isn't available then draft Wesley Johnson. He might not ever be an All Star, but at least he will provide some valuable outside shooting at a position (small forward) where the Twolves need the most help. If we were just to use the tier system he would be the pick. I would be happy with him.
- Stay away from Derrick Favors. I don't care how great of an athlete he is I just don't see him becoming a good NBA player without a lot of work. That isn't to say he can't put in the work, but I wouldn't bet on it. Also, unlike Cousins I see him as a true power forward and not a center, which means that the Twolves would be drafted a player who plays the one position that was actually a strength for them.
- Don't trade Al Jefferson...and if you do please don't trade him for somebody like Zach Randolph. This should go without writing, but just in case I want to have it down as proof when he is making the All Star team next year for Memphis or somebody else.
- Don't even consider draft Aminu, Davis or Monroe with the 4th pick. Don't consider trading down in the lottery for either of those players. There is no reason to get cute and there is no reason to trade down in a draft where there is a huge drop off from the first 5 picks (Wall, Turner, Cousins, Favors and Johnson) to the rest of the draft.
- The 16th and 23rd pick depend a lot on what you do with the 4th pick. If you go with Cousins with the 4th pick then I would target a wing player (Henry, Babbitt, Hayward, George) to help out. Any of those players should be an improvement.
- Hassan Whiteside would be a great pick at 23rd. The Twolves need to improve their defense in blocked shots and while he is raw he might be able to help there.
I am hoping for Turner or Cousins and would be fine with the consolation prize of Johnson for the Twolves. This draft is probably not going to be the one that turns around the franchise, but hopefully it is at least a step in the right direction.