• The 2018 NBA Draft will be held on June 21 and workouts, predictions and analysis have been in full force of late. The Minnesota Timberwolves are currently slated to draft No. 20 overall in the first round and No. 48 overall in the second round and have been looking at a wide variety of prospects.

    We think.

    The Wolves are one of the more secretive teams when it comes to draft workouts and interviews, keeping everything behind closed doors and not talking to the media. Likely afraid to tip their hand, the team just prefers an environment without distractions or outside influences.

    The secrecy makes it tough to lock down concrete information, but it doesn’t stop us from rampant speculation and examining potential fits.

    When looking at the Wolves’ roster and where they stand, some needs clearly stand out above others. The Wolves desperately need shooting at nearly every position. They need some playmakers on the wing. They need aggressive defenders. They need versatility. They need polish and experience.

    While that may sound like a long list, there are prospects out there that can check all of the boxes and not just in the top-10. This draft is deep with wing players and combo guards, especially outside of the projected lottery. While big-men dominate the top-10, plenty of solid wings pepper the board in the teens and 20s that the Wolves will certainly target.

    Of course there’s always the question of whether teams should just be drafting the best player available, regardless of their position and the Wolves have shown they’ve favored that route before. You only need to look back to last year when the Wolves selected Justin Patton No. 16 overall, and then targeting Taj Gibson in free agency. President and Head Coach Tom Thibodeau later said Patton was the top player remaining on their board despite a sudden glut of bigs on the roster.

    Even the year before with Thibodeau making Kris Dunn the No. 5 overall pick despite Ricky Rubio and Zach LaVine manning the back-court. Dunn was, more-or-less, the best player left and the Wolves didn’t hesitate to swoop him up. Of course now all three players have been traded, but that speaks to the nature of the team and the differences between now and then.

    Then the Wolves were just hoarding assets, getting talent at every position. They decided to cash-in on the assets instead of seeing them through, which leads the team to now. The Wolves are in a mode to compete, but they’re also cap-tied. With room to only sign one or two free agents over a minimum salary, the team needs these picks to contribute as role players from day-one, or cash them into something that can.

    Patton and this No. 20 overall pick are going to factor into the Wolves’ future one way or another, whether they’re traded this offseason or kept around. For the time being we’re going to assume the Wolves are keeping both guys and how each will alter the teams’ draft strategy.

    The front-court is locked in with four players (potentially five if Jimmy Butler sees more time at the four, as Thibodeau alluded to in his end-of-season conference) and the point guard is pretty set with at least two, probably three players vying for time (assuming Derrick Rose re-signs which seems very likely as of now). That leaves the wing where the Wolves basically have two players, Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins.

    Last year, depth at the wing was a major issue for the Wolves even when the team was at full-health. Nemanja Bjelica stepped in when Butler was hurt, and Jamal Crawford provided minimal value, but now both are gone and the position is wide open.

    Combine what we said earlier about the middle of the draft being deep with wings and combo players to the complete dearth of even just bodies behind Butler and Wiggins, and it makes this No. 20 pick fairly interesting from the Wolves’ perspective. By now you’re probably just craving some names, so here we go. We’ll start with a few guys who the Wolves could, and should look at for their 2018 NBA Draft selection.

    Jacob Evans | G/F, Cincinnati | 21 years old

    Measurables: 6′-5.5″ | 200 lbs. | 6′-9.25″ wingspan | 35.5 vertical

    Evans had huge expectations going into his junior season after a sophomore breakout. Unfortunately he took a step back in some key areas that sunk him into the middle of pack instead of standing out as one of the best “3-and-D” prospects available.

    Defensively Evans remains one of the more enticing options available. He’s a bulldog on defense, getting up close and personal with his defensive assignment. His length isn’t elite, but he makes up for it with his activity and physicality. He’s also very loud, communicating with his teammates on and off the ball directing traffic and making sure everyone is well positioned.

    Off the ball he fights through screens, deflects passes and snuffs out steals when he can. Evans isn’t a flashy player, opting to make the correct play most of the time. He’s capable of defending threes, despite being a little small, and can hound most twos.

    Offensively is where the question marks begin. His efficiency took a major jump from year one to year two, but declined from year two to year three without seeing a significant increase in usage. He’s also not an above the rim type of player, preferring a more physical, grounded game. That being said, his percentages still remain solid on the surface and perhaps the regression is being overblown.

    In his junior season Evans shot 67.1 percent at the rim, 35.3 percent on 2-point jumpers, 37 percent on 3-point jumpers and 75.4 percent from the line. His jumper is solid, enough to be a catch-and-shoot guy, but will likely never be a major threat off the dribble.

    For Evans to be successful, he really just needs a consistent 3-point jump shot because his defense will carry him far.  He hit 41.8 percent of his 3-point jumpers as a sophomore. If he reaches that clip in the NBA, he would be a valuable role player. Any additional offensive game he adds is gravy. He’s a good passer (1.7 assist/turnover ratio) and is just as vocal offensively as he is defensively. He’d fit into any lineup, but asking him to create would be a stretch.

    Envisioning Evans on the Wolves is easy. Being able to learn from Butler and develop under his wing is probably a perfect match. Thibodeau would value his defensive chops immediately and might have the easiest time finding minutes under Thibs among most rookies in this class. His ceiling might be capped off, but Evans provides everything the Wolves need right now.

    Chandler Hutchinson G/F, Boise State 22 years old

    Measurables: 6′-7″ 193 lbs. | 7′-1″ wingspan* N/A vertical

    He may catch people off-guard being from a mid-major program, but don’t be fooled. Hutchinson is a potent scoring wing who is supremely athletic, willing to chip in some counting stats and fit nicely defensively.

    In his senior season, Hutchinson was tasked with carrying his team’s offense and delivered with 20 points per game. He’s drastically improved his shooting over his four years in Boise. As a freshman he shot 35.6 percent overall, compared to 47.5 percent in his senior season. After his sophomore season he completely overhauled his jump shot and went from a non-threat from 3-point range (seven combined makes at 26 percent) to a weapon outside (72 makes at 36.5 percent).

    His bread-and-butter is his ability to drive the ball to the rack. He’s a slashing wing that’s comfortable going to either hand and is a strong finisher at the rim. He drew 7.2 free throws per game his senior season, showing a willingness to take contact.

    The development of his jump shot only opened up the driving lanes for him as well, making him into a dynamic scoring option. He shot 72 percent at the rim, 34.2 percent on 2-point jump shots, 35.9 percent on 3-point shots and 72.8 percent on free throws.

    Defensively Hutchinson has ideal size for a modern wing. He skipped out on the combine due to a first-round promise (rumored to be the Bulls at No. 22), so his measurements aren’t official, but he should be able to hang in there with most threes, and perhaps some twos and fours.

    His actual defensive performance is tough to evaluate because Boise State played zone the majority of the time, but his rebounding and steal rates paint a promising picture.

    There are concerns that knock Hutchinson from being a sure-fire lottery pick to more of a mid-to-late first rounder. His jumper, while drastically improved, is still inconsistent. Occasionally he reverts back to his old form when he gets tired or out of habit. The extra distance from NBA range may end up playing a factor as well.

    On drives Hutchinson isn’t a dynamite athlete that can hang in the air and change his shot on the fly, relying more on his strength and length to finish through players. He can get away with this in college, but at the NBA level he may have to get more creative. A consistent jumper would also go a long way in helping him create some space.

    He also needs to take better care of the ball. His 3.4 turnovers per game as a senior were much too high, though some can be attributed to a sky-high 33.2 usage rate. Hutchinson is less of a playmaker and more of a shotmaker. His 3.5 assists were by virtue of the offense running through him. He does show a willingness to pass on his drives, but sometimes forces it.

    Overall Hutchinson represents an excellent option for a scoring wing off the bench on day-one. His aggressiveness at the rim should translate right away and as he continues to tweak his jumper, he could turn into a double-digit scoring threat off the bench that’s highly efficient. His defense might be the furthest behind in his game, if only because he needs to learn the ins-and-outs of man-to-man defense.

    With Jamal Crawford opting-out, Hutchinson could step right into that role, and perhaps improve their fortunes there.

    *Hutchinson skipped the NBA Combine, therefore his measurements are unofficial 

    Khyri Thomas G, Creighton 22 years old

    Measurables: 6′-3.75″ | 205 lbs. 6′-10.5″ wingspan N/A vertical

    The first thing that stands out about Thomas is tremendous length, despite his smaller stature. Then the shooting numbers jump off his stat page. He shot 51.1 percent overall in his collegiate career, including 40.6 percent from 3-point range.

    In his junior season, Thomas shot 77.2 percent at the rim, which put him in the 96th percentile among wings, and 40.5 percent from NBA range, with was the 78th percentile (both stats courtesy of The Stepien.com). His mid-range was also well-above average.

    Thomas was the second leading option on a high-octane Creighton offense that relied heavily on spacing the floor. He’s not just a spot shooter either. He’s comfortable coming off of screens, shooting off the dribble and shooting off-balance.

    The problem is he might be a tad one-dimensional. Right now he’s not a reliable creator and has more of a scorers mentality when attacking the rim. There are also some questions about his ability in the pick-and-roll. Given his size, some primary ball handling ability could go a long way, but he doesn’t quite have it yet.

    Defensively he’s an ideal matchup for most guards. His wingspan creates havoc on smaller players, poking the ball loose and contesting nearly every shot. He may not be able to keep the fastest guards in front of him, but he slides his feet well and cuts off lanes players think they have.

    He can also guard wings (in college he always lined up against the opposing team’s best player, regardless of position) though his value is higher as a stopper on the ball and disrupting the offensive flow. If he’s on the wing, he just becomes an undersized one-dimensional player.

    As one of the best pure shooters on this list, and perhaps one of the best in the class, Thomas also brings a lot of experience with him. Starting 95 of 102 games in his college career, with NCAA tournament appearances in all three seasons, he’s a seasoned player who could make an immediate impact.

    Thomas would likely be the best 3-point shooter the moment he steps on the floor for the Wolves and work into the rotation quickly based on that alone. His size could end up working against him with the Wolves heavy on guards, but his length is so superior that with some additional strength he could bother some wings.

    He’s not necessarily a playmaker, which could also be an issue off the bench. He’s perfectly suited to shutdown opposing point guards with his length and size, but offensively profiles better on a wing. Adding the skills for a combo guard could vault him into starting lineups.

    Sharing the court with a bigger ball-handler right now would be ideal. He can cover the primary point of attack on defense, then slide to a secondary shooting role on offense. He’d fit nicely next to someone like Jimmy Butler, perhaps in some big lineup combinations.

    Keita Bates-Diop F, Ohio State 22 years old

    Measurables: 6′-8.5″ 224 lbs. 7′-3.25″ wingspan N/A vertical

    Bates-Diop is the biggest player on this list and perhaps the most versatile. The 2018 Big Ten Player of the Year prides himself on contributing in a number of different areas without being outstanding in any one area.

    He’s a solid spot-up shooter with range beyond the arc, hitting 35.9 percent on 3-point jumpers, 44.2 percent on 2-point jumpers, 72.4 percent at the rim and 79.4 percent at the line in 2018. He’s shown a good feel around the rim with a variety of layups and post moves. He also understands the nuances of the game like when to screen, cut and move the ball.

    Defensively he’s versatile, ideally fitting in against both threes and fours at the NBA level, while being an excellent candidate to switch a lot. He’s also shown solid rebounding (8.7) and blocks (1.6) for his size.

    On the downside Bates-Diop had some passiveness his game that might raise some red flags. He attempted just 4.1 free throws per game, signaling he may not have attacked the rim as much as he could have. He also averaged 1.8 turnovers to 1.6 assists. Bates-Diop isn’t the best playmaker with the ball, relying more on his teammates to put him in good spots. He typically knows what to do with the ball when he has it, but isn’t the most careful.

    There’s also some question of his motor and focus, and that he’s not completely letting all his talent shine because of it. He’s also still slightly undersized for the four and doesn’t have the elite athleticism to keep up with every three in the league.

    Overall Bates-Diop would represent a pick with some ceiling, but potentially more risk than others listed here. He’s proven that he can contribute in many areas, averaging 4.4 blocks, steals and 3-pointers combined in college. He could probably step in early and play small-ball four off the bench and take over spacing duties from Gorgui Dieng.

    He needs to become a better playmaker and fuel in internal fire at the next level, and he needs to get stronger to hang in there with fours or he may doomed to the dreaded ‘tweener’ label. Without one elite skill he needs to refine the entire game. He may never be a star player, but he has the ability to compliment any starting lineup nicely if he puts everything together.

    When looking at this list, a common theme here is guys that should be able to step right in and contribute, specifically in reserve of Andrew Wiggins and Jimmy Butler. They all may not have the highest ceilings but seem like solid bets to be rotational NBA players.

    There are other guys who could fit extremely well long-term, like Troy Brown Jr. and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, but are likely too raw for Thibodeau’s liking. Or there’s guys like Zhaire Smith and Lonnie Walker who are dream fits, but should be well off the board by the time the Wolves are on the clock.

    Off this list, my personal odd-on favorite for the Wolves would probably be Chandler Hutchinson. His offensive versatility, defensive potential and size is something the Wolves desperately need off the bench. Jacob Evans is also right there and someone I could easily see Thibs falling in love with. A lot can change between now and June 21, though.

    Thibodeau is looking for production out of the No. 20 overall pick, and whether it’s through one of these rookies or via trade, he will have plenty of options.

Fantasy News

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    NBA teams will not be allowed to conduct in-person or live video workouts for NBA Draft prospects but will be allowed up to four hours of virtual meetings per prospect.

    Whenever the draft happens, it will be with the least amount of research in quite a while. Teams will be without tournament game tape for college prospects and without the ability to watch live workouts. Combined with a lack of consensus on who the best players are, this could lead to a wild draft with the eventual best players going much later than usual.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    Adam Silver said there will be no way to know the NBA season's fate until at least May 1st.

    It's not much of a surprise to hear that Silver doesn't expect to have enough information to make a determination about the season until next month at the very least. He also mentioned that the NBA has looked a lot at games without fans.

    Source: Tim Bontemps on Twitter

  • Tyrese Maxey
    SG, College

    Tyrese Maxey has declared for the NBA draft.

    The freshman from Kentucky finished the college season with averages of 14.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.2 dimes, 0.9 steals, 0.4 blocks and 1.1 threes per contest. Maxey is gifted with a tremendous knack for scoring and has the looks of a lottery selection, though obviously this draft season could be a very strange one.

    Source: Malika Andrews on Twitter

  • Dennis Smith Jr.
    PG, New York Knicks

    Marc Berman of the New York Post is reporting that with new leadership in place for the Knicks, the team is likely to shop Dennis Smith Jr. this offseason.

    Knicks President Leon Rose has no attachment to Smith, and with head coach David Fizdale and assistant coach Keith Smart no longer around to justify his retention, there is little reason for the Knicks to continue relying upon DSJ's services. He struggled all season, from a back injury, to the loss of his stepmother, to an obscure oblique injury, and a concussion in February. Smith will be worth a flyer for another team to roll the dice on, but it is unlikely he gets a real chance to be the Knicks point guard of the future again. It will be difficult for Smith to become a standard league option no matter where he is playing next season. He is simply too lousy a shooter from the field and free-throw line. His turnover rate also remains an issue in 9-CAT formats.

    Source: NY Post

  • Ashton Hagans
    PG, College

    Sophomore point guard Ashton Hagans announced his intention to leave Kentucky and enter the 2020 NBA Draft.

    Hagans is projected to be a late second-round target for the draft and is unlikely to make noise as a rookie in the NBA. One has to hope he lands on a team devoid of point guard options to let Hagans emerge with much fantasy value as a rookie. He averaged 11.5 points, 6.4 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game while serving as the starting point guard throughout this season with the Wildcats.

    Source: UK Athletics

  • Theo Maledon
    PG, International

    French point guard Theo Maledon has completed all of the required paperwork to make himself eligible to be selected in the 2020 NBA Draft.

    Maledon is an up-and-coming prospect who will be only 18 years young on draft day. He was a contender to take home the Rising Star award based upon his play in the Euroleague this season before the action was cut short due to the coronavirus. He's been in the French system since he was 14 and is considered a pick just outside the NBA lottery on many draft boards. He was averaging 7.1 points and 2.3 assists in 17 minutes of action.

    Source: ESPN.com

  • Zach LaVine
    PG, Chicago Bulls

    Pacers GM Chad Buchanan declined to interview for the Bulls' top basketball operations position.

    Buchanan said he and his family are happy in Indianapolis and he is not interested in leaving. The Bulls are clearly moving fast with building their new front office after the announcement that GM Gar Forman and VP of Basketball Ops John Paxson are expected to move to different roles in the organization. A change in the front office and coaching staff could only be positive for fantasy purposes as the Bulls rank 29th in offensive rating this season. Hopefully a change would bring a more fantasy-friendly system with an emphasis on developing the younger talent on the roster.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    The NBA and ESPN are working together to televise a H-O-R-S-E competition with several high-profile players.

    Woj reported that the details of this competition are still being finalized, but it sounds like players will shoot in isolation, most likely in their home gyms. This would be a much needed source of entertainment for everyone who loves the NBA and, with bragging rights on the line, we would likely see some stellar performances from the NBA's best players.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Lauri Markkanen
    PF, Chicago Bulls

    According to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, Lauri Markkanen had been unhappy with the direction of the Bulls organization even before the league went on hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    Markkanen was so displeased, in fact, that he went on to state that if the situation were to remain unchanged, he'd prefer to be elsewhere. The Bulls power forward was a fantasy mess in 2019-20 and some of that could be attributed to the coach and some of it, to his injuries. Still, his statements put the team in a rough spot. considering Markkanen has been widely regarded as a core piece of their future plans. The Bulls are already shaking things up though, making moves towards freshening things up in the front office. The Markkanen-Bulls relationship is a must-watch storyline, especially given his potential in fantasy hoops.

    Source: Chicago Sun-Times.

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    Speaking on ESPN on Friday, Brian Windhorst said that there has been increasing pessimism about the NBA season resuming.

    Windhorst noted that the league has begun to discuss the financial ramifications of shutting the league down, and we've seen reports about the league looking for players to take paycuts as a result of the season's uncertain future. The fact that the CBA in China was set to resume and then delayed again is an ominous sign with NBA markets nowhere near the apex of COVID-19.

    Source: ESPN