It is distressingly regular tradition for any Timberwolves fan, and it happens in two parts. Part the first--the Timberwolves have a Lottery Quality season (which happens way too often, with the oasis of Kevin Garnett aside). Secondly, they enter the Lottery with odds being in their favor to hit a certain spot on the draft, and always end up a spot or two below that.
This is a favorite refrain of long-time, long-suffering Timberwolves fans. And it is deserved (Wolves lovers shall never forget the year they were practically guaranteed either Alonzo Mourning or Shaq, and ended up with Christian Laettner). I will not mention the own shooting of their feet that Timberwolves management has done with draft day trades of Ray Allen and Brandon Roy for Stephon Marbury and Randy Foye, respectively.
This year revealed no change in the bad juju--Timberwolves had a decent shot at the #1 pick, were likely to get the #2 pick, and ended up with, of course, the #4 pick.
But is this the draft to rend the garments and pull the hair? I'm not so sure. The Timberwolves were not favorites to grab John Wall--he was supposed to be destined to help turn around the New Jersey, but will now probably end up in DC--neither are the Land of the Sky Blue Waters. But if the Wolves had actually moved up in this draft, and grabbed the #1 spot, they would have been in a position where the must-draft player of the year played a position that the Timberwolves stocked like crazy last year in point guard. John Wall will be fantastic, of course--but the Wolves are committed until further notice with Johnny Flynn and yet-to-be-seen Ricky Rubio.
Evan Turner seems to be the de facto #2 pick, and he might well be the most talented player after Wall, but he also plays the same position that last year's revelation Corey Brewer does, and steady, reliable Ryan Gomes plays. At some point, the Timberwolves have to get a little bit older, a bit more veteran, and the best way to do that is to lock up the best players on the team, and draft to needs.
The most glaring need on the Timberwolves (and believe me, on a team that had 15 wins, that need must be glaring) is power, beef, defense and guts in the middle. The Timberwolves were, like they have been since Garnett left, woeful at times in defense in the paint. They lacked a center with tenacity and ability to finish that even the Dean Garrett-era Timberwolves had. And there are plenty of big-bodied, powerful young men who will be available at #4, or even lower down in the draft--it is worth noting that the Star Tribune already has a quote from Timberwolves GM David KAAAAAHHHHNNNN that he'll be "very surprised if we were [selecting] at [No.] 4, 16 and 23 on the night of the draft." (Another position of need--shooting guard, with the caveat that Wayne Ellington started to look like the real deal towards the end of the year. You can't have too many good-to-great shooting guards)
That obviously leaves a lot of wiggle room--and I won't get into all the permutations of trading those picks up or down, or deferring a year, or whatever.
Let's say that the Wolves hold onto that damned, doomed pick #4. Let's look at some of the projected picks right quick.
NBADraft.net has the Wolves taking Syracuse swingman Wesley Johnson. He is potentially a great NBA player, but again--he's playing the position that Corey Brewer and Ryan Gomes are playing at the Wolves, both of whom have gotten better and better each year. Players of note still remaining at #4: DeMarco Cousins, Greg Monroe, Patrick Patterson, and Cole Aldrich.
MyNBADraft.com has very similar results, which makes me wonder if any of these draft sites have taken actual team needs into account. I like Wes Johnson as much as any Georgetown fan can like a Syracuse star, but I strongly doubt that the Wolves will take yet another 6-7 small forward.
DraftExpress predicts the Wolves takes DeMarco Cousins. Can I say how much I back that idea? This draft isn't rife with badass 6' 5" shooting guards--it's rife with quality swingmen, and big men who may take some time to develop, and if you look at the Wolves frontcourt, a big powerful man who is prone to foul trouble, but is young and can be taught by the likes of Al Jefferson and Kevin Love sounds like a great match.
HoopsHype likes Cousins for the Wolves, too.
I don't think the Wolves pass on a guy who is 6' 11", 270lbs, with a love to dominate in the paint like DeMarco Cousins. He may have maturity issues--duh, he's not old enough to drink. Of course, he's going to have to mature--name a 19 year old who didn't. If he doesn't slide to the Wolves, don't be shocked if they reach a little bit for Cole Aldrich. All in all, the Wolves can address their biggest need with their first pick in a draft in which they hold three first round picks. Seems reasonable enough to me.