Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, No. 9 (Mock)
The TWolves pick an athletic 2-guard who scores from deep.
by Jay Wallis / @JayWallis11
The Wolves are almost “there.”
In each of the past two years, Minnesota has been on the verge of successfully having their first winning season since 2005. Last season, on March 3, 2012, the Wolves lost a close game to the Lakers 105-102 while still holding onto a 21-20 record. Losing Ricky Rubio for the season late in this game, they struggled the rest of the way, finishing 5-20. This season, they made a statement by beating the Nuggets 101-97 in Denver—something that only happened to the Nuggets three times during the regular season. They held a 15-14 record after this win. But due to Kevin Love taking his turn with a season-ending injury, the Wolves crawled to the end yet again, finishing 16-37.
My point here is that this team arrives at the 2013 NBA Draft in a much different position than the other lottery teams. This isn’t the Suns. This isn’t the Bobcats.
The Wolves are a few pieces away from finally leaving the group known as the bottom feeders in the West and becoming a legitimate Playoff team. (For an example of a franchise recently making this leap, please take a look at this year’s Warriors.)
And the return of Flip Saunders as president of basketball operations only increases the likelihood of their return to relevancy since the last time the Wolves made some noise was when Flip was head coach. He took the team to eight straight playoff appearances and the Western Conference finals in 2004.
The first thing Flip needs to do is retain this core by re-signing budding center Nikola Pekovic—a bruiser with a genuine center’s approach to the game—and wingman Andrei Kirilenko to do the dirty work. There’s no reason these team-first, hardworking players should be let go in order to roll the dice with an injury-ridden Alex Len or an even riskier Shabazz Muhammad. Don’t try to fix what’s not broken.
With stars Rubio and Love looking to play a full NBA season together for the first time, there’s one position left that must be filled. It’s a position that has needed to be filled since Wally Szczerbiak was shipped out of town. Shooting guard, 2-guard, off guard—call it what you want, the Wolves desperately need it.
Turning a dog into a wolf is the answer.
With the ninth pick in the 2013 SLAMonline Mock Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select…
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope from Georgia.
The reigning SEC Player of the Year has been rising up draft boards faster than Stephen Curry’s stardom status. Well…maybe not that fast.
Even though KCP (18.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg) comes from a mediocre Bulldogs team (15-16, 9-9 SEC) and had the burden of being the only player the team could rely on offensively, he still scored in double figures in every single one of his team’s games. He was that team’s “guy” and has already experienced his fair share of pressure situations.
Standing at a lengthy 6-5, KCP can hopefully continue to grow into his frame since his 205 pounds body doesn’t have much bulk to it. With this improvement, he will be ready to step in as a legitimate 2-guard and make an impact with his off-ball scoring. KCP hoisted seven three-pointers a game last year and shot 37.3 percent from this range. Shifting to NBA range won’t be a problem for him with his high-release point, quick release and soft touch.
Why does KCP’s three-point ability matter so much to the Wolves? Well, to put it simply, they don’t know how to shoot. At all. Last season, the team shot an abysmal 30.5 percent from behind the arc—a solid last in the NBA. Even though KCP tends to fall too much in love with his jumper and shoot his way out of slumps, he would stretch the opponent’s defense and be ready to fire right when Rubio throws him a behind-the-back pass or Love/Pekovic kick the ball out to him.
KCP is mainly praised for his ability to shoot but don’t let that make you think he is one-dimensional on the offensive end of the court. With a full head of steam, this kid can get above the rim and throw it down. Just ask Georgia Tech about his athleticism. Going to Minnesota means he would be ooping plenty of Rubio’s alleys.
The most encouraging aspect about this Bulldog is his potential to continue improving his game. From his freshman year at Georgia to his sophomore year, KCP only played an additional 1.8 minutes; however, he found a way to increase his scoring (+5.3), rebounding (+1.9), free-throw percentage (+14.5 percent) and three-point percentage (+6.9 percent). This type of development in one year without a significant increase in minutes played but with an increase in attention from opposing defenses shows substantial growth and a willingness to get better. What more could you ask for from a rookie?
Even with this improvement, KCP still exhibits weaknesses in his decision-making, inclination to pass and ability to score off the dribble. The Wolves can gladly accept these flaws. By pairing him in the backcourt with Rubio, KCP won’t need to do much dribbling and can continue to improve his passing and decision-making by learning from one of the smartest and savviest guards in the League. (Also—would there be a better pair of rebounding guards in the League?)
Defensively, KCP knows how to hold his own, and with improved strength, shouldn’t have much of a problem matching up with most guards and small forwards in the League. Kirilenko and KCP could potentially cause a lot of havoc for opposing wingmen. With the offensive pressure off his shoulders, KCP could devote more of his energy to the other end of the court.
Drafting KCP and eventually putting him in a starting lineup with Rubio, Kirilenko, Love and Pekovic is the first step for the Wolves to get back to .500, relevancy and the Playoffs by next season. There may be a learning curve for the gunner guard and there may be times when he struggles. There is still clearly a “raw” feel to his game. But Minnesota is the perfect place for KCP to grow and ultimately shine.
This isn’t the time for the Wolves to develop a player overseas or stick a youngin’ in the D-League for over half the season; this is the time to move forward. The time is now.
KCP is the piece that can help take the Wolves “there.”
|2013 SLAMonline Mock Draft|