Does Lauri Markkanen fit with the Timberwolves?

Does Lauri Markkanen fit with the Timberwolves?

Timberwolves

Does Lauri Markkanen fit with the Timberwolves?

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The 2017 NBA Draft is hours away and up to this point many Timberwolves fans have seen a number of mock drafts featuring the Timberwolves selecting Arizona forward Lauri Markkanen with the seventh pick. Markkanen doesn’t seem like a bad option for the Timberwolves. He is a seven footer who shot 42.3 percent beyond the arc last year as a freshman with the Wildcats.

The Timberwolves desperately need another three point shooter to add to the roster as they finished last in made three pointers per game last season. Markkanen would immediately bolster the Timberwolves shooting ability and provide head coach Tom Thibodeau with lineup flexibility.

The video below from DraftExpress highlights Markkanen’s strengths. Note Markkanen’s ability to make difficult shots with a hand in his face. Since Markkanen is long, he won’t have any trouble getting his shot off against NBA defenders.

Markkanen could play stretch four alongside center Karl-Anthony Towns or play center when Towns is taking a breather on the bench. So, Markkanen addresses an obvious need in shooting. Great. But what about on the defensive end of the floor? The Timberwolves have a tremendous need on defense as they finished fifth worst in defensive rating and sixth worst in opponent’s points in the paint.

Markannen isn’t developed as a defender yet. He struggles guarding perimeter players as well as protecting the rim. Below is another video from DraftExpress, but on Markannen’s weaknesses, which shows his vulnerability on the defensive end.

If Markkanen isn’t ready to contribute defensively, that means the burden of protecting the rim will fall on Towns. While Towns certainly has the ability and the body to become a great rim protector, he would drastically need to improve and commit to that end of the floor.

Among centers, Towns finished last in the NBA in opponent’s points in the paint, allowing 35.7 points per game last season. Towns also finished 23 in the league in blocks logging 1.3 per game. The table below shows how Towns stacks up against the NBA’s best defensive centers.

Player

DEF RTG BPG

OPP PTS PAINT

Karl-Anthony Towns

110.8 1.3

35.7

Rudy Gobert

100.6 2.6

27.6

Marc Gasol

105.1 1.3

26.0

DeAndre Jordan 103.7 1.7

26.7

Markkanen also doesn’t possess great quickness. Towards the end of Markkanen’s weaknesses video above, you consistently saw his inability to get around defenders when driving to the rim. If he struggled driving to the basket in college, he will also have trouble against more athletic defenders in the NBA.

So if Markkanen isn’t going to help the Timberwolves on defense anytime soon and isn’t going to contribute making plays for his teammates, how is he going to help the team other than three point shooting?

He probably won’t contribute in another way immediately and  playing him significant minutes would be asking Towns to become an elite defender sooner rather than later. Towns is coming off a season where he should have been third team All-NBA and showed that he is one of the best young players in the league. The Timberwolves should be building around Towns, not drafting players that would require him to change his style of play.

There are scenarios that Markkanen could fit on the Timberwolves. For example, if Towns takes a leap forward on the defense and the team signs other good defenders in the offseason like small forward Andre Iguodala or small forward P.J. Tucker, Markkanen could be a good fit.

However, with the seventh overall pick in the draft there will likely be other players available that are a better fit and could contribute more than just three point shooting. Florida State forward Jonathan Isaac is already graded as one of the best defensive players in the draft and shows promise shooting the basketball. Isaac would be an ideal fit with the Timberwolves and if he is available at seven the team should draft him, not Markkanen.

Logan Metzger is a contributor to HowlinTwolf.com. Follow him on Twitter:@loganmetzger33

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