The Blue Route NBA Mock Draft: Pick #11 – Minnesota Timberwolves

Blue Route is bringing you draft coverage leading up to the NBA draft on June 20th, 2019. The Philadelphia 76ers are slated to select 24th pick in the draft. The NBA draft often sees movement, trades and drama, so to prepare you for various potential outcomes, the Blue Route will be giving you draft profiles for the all of the likely top picks, as well as our very own mock draft.

  1. New Orleans Pelicans – Zion Williamson
  2. Memphis Grizzlies – Ja Morant
  3. New York Knicks – RJ Barrett
  4. Los Angeles Lakers – Jarrett Culver
  5. Cleveland Cavaliers – DeAndre Hunter
  6. Phoenix Suns – Coby White
  7. Chicago Bulls – Cam Reddish
  8. Atlanta Hawks – Sekou Doumbouya
  9. Washington Wizards – Bol Bol
  10. Atlanta Hawks – Jaxson Hayes

Current State of the Minnesota Timberwolves

Nothing but drama. Last season bottomed out before it started when it was all over social media that Jimmy Butler took a team of lesser players and defeated the Timberwolves starters during practice in October. It was reported that Jimmy Butler was heard screaming “you can’t win without me” belligerently to his teammates. The message was loud and clear, and the Timberwolves finally made the trade to move Jimmy Butler to the Philadelphia 76ers.

After the Jimmy Butler trade, a bone bruise limited Robert Covington to only 35 games last season. Dario Saric, another key piece of the trade, had an up and down season. He very clearly struggled fitting in and often times looked hesitant on offense. While he showed flashes, Dario showed the same kind of inconsistencies he displayed in Philadelphia.

Karl-Anthony Towns had a very good season and made his second consecutive All-Star team. After Tom Thibodeau was fired following a 19-21 start, Towns seemed to only get better and better as the season progressed. The Timberwolves finished 17-25 under Ryan Saunders, the NBA’s youngest head coach. To put it lightly, it was a roller coaster of a season for Minnesota who missed the playoffs for the 14th time in the last 15 seasons.

Last season began with drama, and this offseason appears to be no different. Derrick Rose will be releasing a 200 plus page book in September titled I’ll Show You that will detail all the team’s conflict that occurred between Jimmy Butler and Tom Thibodeau.

It was a disastrous year with the Timberwolves. It was a season that I’m sure all Minnesota fans are excited to put in the books and move on. The Timberwolves have the 11th and 43rd picks in this year’s NBA Draft. From an outsider’s perspective, they are in desperation mode for production from the draft this upcoming season based upon their cap situation (see below). Could an instant impact player be had with the 11th pick?

Looking Ahead into 2019 Free Agency

It’s not looking any better. The Timberwolves enter the offseason with minimal cap space, even while a good chunk of their roster will be hitting free agency. Jeff Teague recently opted into the final year of his contract for $19 million (yikes) while $27 million of the team’s cap space will be going towards Andrew Wiggins (double yikes). The Timberwolves have $108 million dollars on the books for next season.

Taj Gibson, Jerryd Bayless, Anthony Tolliver, Luol Deng, and Derrick rose are all unrestricted free agents. It’s highly unlikely that Derrick Rose or Luol Deng return to Minnesota next season. Tyus Jones is restricted free agent, and things could get pretty interesting depending upon what happens with Derrick Rose and Jeff Teague. Minnesota hopes to bring a couple of these guys back on veteran minimum contracts or a mid-level exception.

Recently, The Athletic has reported that the Minnesota Timberwolves have set their sights on D’Angelo Russell of the Brooklyn Nets. We all know that there is history between Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell. However, Russell doesn’t exactly have a say in the matter as he’s a restricted free agent, and the Nets can match whatever contract is offered. Could the Timberwolves and Nets be working on a sign-and-trade? We shall see in the very near future.

The Selection – Nickeil Alexander-Walker

The two players I kept going back and forth on for Minnesota was Brandon Clarke of Gonzaga and Nickeil Alexander-Walker of Virginia Tech. Both of these guys project to be solid impact players during their rookie seasons. Ultimately, I went with the better shooter in order to provide as much spacing for Karl Anthony Towns as possible. For a much more in depth look, here is a player breakdown on Nickeil Alexander-Walker from our very own @BusterDucks.

It is extremely difficult to draft a player who has star potential with the 11th pick. While I don’t think NAW has an incredibly high ceiling, he is certainly a very good prospect that can do a lot of positive things on a basketball court. He’s the sort of prospect that is very good at many things but not great at one specific skillset. Nickeil Alexander-Walker is a combo guard that can defend, shoot from three, and disrupt the passing lanes.

I think Nickeil Alexander-Walker projects to be a good to very good starter in the NBA. If NAW can jump in and play like a Gary Harris or Jamal Murray, then this would be a major home run draft for the Timberwolves. Minnesota desperately needs a player who can play defense, create plays for others, and space the floor right away. Alexander-Walker is a guy that checks off all of those boxes.

Rookie Prediction

Nickeil Alexander-Walker is one of the more versatile players in this draft. He has the size to defend either guard position, he’s a 37-39% shooter from beyond the arc, and he can even fill in as a secondary ball handler if he’s asked to. NAW’s defensive instincts and basketball IQ are off the charts. These are all traits of a player that should be able to make an immediate impact in the NBA.

I think anywhere between 10-12 points and 35% from three would be an extremely good rookie season for Nickeil Alexander-Walker. Similar to guys like Cam Johnson and PJ Washington, I believe Alexander-Walker’s versatility, defense, and playmaking ability will allow him to get decent minutes on an NBA court as a rookie. This is not a home run pick that is oozing with star potential. However, anyone who drafts Nickeil Alexander-Walker will have improved their team very significantly. I love him.

Here is a highlight reel I made of Nickeil Alexander-Walker’s best plays from last season.

For everything NBA Draft, make sure to follow @BlueRouteTPL on Twitter