We were at Target Center for the NBA Draft last night, and here are five thoughts from the night for the Wolves:
1) We’re going to give first-round pick Zach LaVine a free pass and buy his explanation that it was a release of emotion, but not a negative one, that led amateur lip-readers to catch him dropping an expletive on multiple occasions after being picked by the Wolves. But we also know there are some for whom that left an immediate bad taste and a poor first impression. It will be interesting to see how long that follows LaVine — is it a one-day story soon forgotten, or will it become something revisited during his career here?
2) We made no secret that we liked Adreian Payne at No. 13 more than any of the options remaining. Coach and President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders talked after the pick about hitting home runs instead of doubles, which was not a knock on Joe Mauer but rather a metaphor for trying to get players with more upside rather than more known commodities who project more as solid rotation guys. We think Payne can be more than a solid rotation guy, but he is 23 while LaVine is 19. We know more about his game than we do LaVine’s game. To us, though, it comes down to the fact that the Wolves flat-out need good players. Payne is a good player and a ready-made replacement if and when Kevin Love is traded. We will see if this becomes another draft blunder.
3) That said, we can’t accuse Saunders of playing simply for the present with that pick, and that’s a healthy thing to see when it comes to Love. The biggest mistake the Wolves could make is trying to load up for one more year of Love in order to try to convince him to stay.
4) Glenn Robinson III is a solid choice at No. 40, someone Saunders said the Wolves had evaluated as a late first-round talent. We’re not sure if Robinson will stick this season because there are so many wings already under contract, but he could be a useful player in the coming years.
5) The Wolves had two other second-round picks — Nos. 44 and 53 — but they sold both of them for cash. Saunders was grilled pretty hard about that decision in the post-draft presser (and on Twitter), and his overall message is that the Wolves didn’t think there were players there who added value. He’s right that a lot of second-rounders don’t pan out. He’s also correct that the Wolves’ current roster is jammed with players already under contract. But good teams — particularly the Spurs — have found gems in the second round that have been cornerstones of championship teams. Even the Wolves have found value in that round with the likes of Nikola Pekovic. Bottom line: teams like the Wolves who have a hard time building through free agency because players don’t view this market or franchise as a destination need to use all the assets they have to build a winner.
Your thoughts, please, in the comments.