Timberwolves Draft Receiving High Praise

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The Minnesota Timberwolves entered Thursday night’s 2023 NBA Draft with only one (very late) pick in the 2nd round. By the time it was all over, though, they “owned the rights” of a lottery talent, in Leonard Miller (G-League Ignite), along with a high-end wing defender, in Jaylen Clark (UCLA), who dropped because his shooting isn’t very good and he is actively recovering from a mid-season achilles injury.

Both Miller and Clark have been seen widely as steals, given where they were drafted (#33 and #53, respectively), but both guys will much of the next two seasons in the G-League, too. Still, that hasn’t stopped draft experts across the internet from praising Tim Connelly and the rest of the Timberwolves scouting staff on how this whole thing shook out.

ESPN draft analyst, Kevin Pelton, had both guys in his top-30 overall and The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie had Leonard Miller ranked as the 13th best prospect available last night. If a grade was given, you’ll see it in parenthesis.

Timberwolves draft (team) grades/analysis

Kevin Pelton – ESPN (B+) : Starting the night with only the 53rd pick after the Rudy Gobert trade, the Timberwolves somehow came away with two of the top 30 players in my projections. Clark being available at No. 53 was unsurprising given questions about his shooting (30% career on 3s), but Minnesota needed to package future picks to move into the early second round to select Miller. Like Clark, Miller must improve his shooting at the NBA level.

Kyle Irving – Sporting News (B) : The Timberwolves traded into the early first round to select Miller, a jack-of-all-trades and high-energy forward who can fill a role off the bench immediately. They stuck with defense with their late second-round pick, taking a former Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year in Clark, who should have a chance to work into Minnesota’s guard rotation.

Charles Curtis – USA Today (B) : Love both these picks. Big value here!

No. 33: Leonard Miller (G-League Ignite) grades/analysis

Sam Vecenie – The Athletic (ranked Miller #13 prospect in draft): Miller does stuff you can’t really teach. He’s a big ballhandler who hits the glass and can really attack and cover ground quickly with long strides but also decelerate and change direction with the ball. His athleticism is a rare blend.

He’s an elite finisher with incredible touch around the basket – the touch that kind of gives you hope long term that an elite shooting coach will be able to fix it. There’s some passing ability here. There’s some defensive upside here. It’s all just in the form of an entirely unshaped diamond who may never reach its full form because he’s starting from such a deficit in terms of experience.

John Hollinger – The Athletic: This pick was traded to Minnesota for two future seconds. I had a top-20 grade on Miller so I highly approve of this pick; Miller is a young forward whose shot needs work, but he’s big, he can handle the ball, he’s a good rebounder, and he was very productive as a teenager in the G League last season.

Adam Finkelstein – CBS Sports (A) : The Spurs made this pick and flipped it to Minnesota, giving the Timberwolves — for my money — a lottery-level talent and one of the better value acquisitions of the night. Miller has a funky-but-effective game as a big wing who can put the ball on the floor, pass and defend with versatility. He’s a high motor forward who will fit nicely as they build around Anthony Edwards

Zach Buckley – Bleacher Report (A-) : If the Timberwolves stay patient with Miller and really invest in his development, they may have nabbed the night’s top theft here. He is far more fascinating in theory than reality for now, but that’s fine. He doesn’t have to enter this league as a finished product. Instead, he’ll go in as a possible jumbo-sized ball-handler who can finish, distribute, defend and knock down shots from distance. Some of those are theoretical skills, but the framework is in place for a pretty special player at some point.

No. 53: Jaylen Clark (UCLA) grades/analysis

Sam Vecenie – The Athletic (ranked Clark #51 prospect in draft): Clark is a prospect of extremes. The defense is elite. You could put him on an NBA court right now after about a month of adjusting to his team’s scheme, and he’d be able to impact the game.

He has a very strong case as the best perimeter defender in this draft class, and he’s one of the better ones I’ve evaluated in the last few draft cycles. But the offense is a real worry outside of running the court in transition. In his jumper’s current state, I’m worried teams won’t have to guard him when he’s spacing the court.

John Hollinger – The Athletic: A ball-hawking guard whose draft stock may have suffered due to a late-season Achilles injury, Clark is short for a wing and his 3-point shot is suspect, but he has some discount De’Anthony Melton potential if everything clicks.

Adam Finkelstein – CBS Sports (A) : Defense, defense, defense. That’s what Clark brings to the table for Minnesota. He had an Achilles injury at the end of last season that might’ve pushed him down the board, but the two time All-Pac 12 defense honoree is a disruptive defensive presence worth betting on.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan

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