Yes, it’s that time again: Evaluating a draft immediately after it happens.
This comes with the usual caveats that it takes years to determine the true value of a pick.
With that out of the way, there are a lot of analysts who simply love what the Minnesota Timberwolves did. And, of course, we’re mainly talking about acquiring Jimmy Butler from Chicago, but the selection of Justin Patton in the first round is nothing to sneeze at either.
Because the Wolves did more than just draft a player, we’ve divvied the grades up into three sections: Grades just on the Butler deal, grades just for the Patton pick and overall team grades (which includes the trade and draft choice).
We’ll see if in a few years if Minnesota is still getting high marks for its moves at the 2017 NBA Draft, but in the here and now let’s just say the Wolves have a great GPA.
Here are the grades from around the web for the Timberwolves and the 2017 draft:
Kevin Pelton of ESPN Insider: A+. “For a year, we’ve been waiting for Thibodeau’s regime to make a win-now move. The Timberwolves resisted last summer, spending modestly in free agency to conserve cap space for this year, and at the trade deadline. Now that this deal has finally come, it’s far better than anyone could have imagined or perhaps even dreamed.”
Rob Mahoney of SI.com: A. “A competitive defender who can create for himself and work over opponents away from the ball? That’s the sort of player every team wants and the Wolves desperately need. Butler can be a tone-setter. His leadership in Chicago wasn’t exactly unimpeachable, but it helps to have a coach (and team president) in place who have already earned Butler’s trust. That we can expect a smoother relationship between Butler and team administration also bodes well for Butler carrying out Thibodeau’s plans and demanding the right sorts of contributions of his teammates.”
Jeremy Woo of SI.com: A-. “Patton is a high-upside prospect who makes a lot of sense for Minnesota here. When you consider this selection in the context of the Wolves’ extremely favorable move to add Jimmy Butler, getting this pick back and landing a player with around as much long-term potential as any of the assets Minnesota surrendered is a big win. Patton has a lot of talent, particularly on offense, and will not need to be rushed thanks to the presence of Karl-Anthony Towns. This is the perfect risk for the Wolves to take.”
Chad Ford of ESPN Insider: B. “Patton isn’t an obvious fit, but he has tremendous upside. He is long, runs the floor well, can rebound and was very efficient in the paint. He can even stretch the floor. He’s a project, but a talented one.”
Reid Forgrave of CBSSports.com: A. “I like this pick. The Wolves are taking a home run swing on a risky but high-upside pick.”
Adi Joseph of USA Today: B-. “Patton may be most well-rounded center prospect in this class, though he lacks a one primary skill to stand out. He can handle himself in the post, as a roll man, as a pop-out shooter and more. A late bloomer, Patton stunned people this season as a redshirt freshman and still has upside as he becomes polished. The Timberwolves obviously have their center of the future in Karl-Anthony Towns, but Patton can be his backup if Gorgui Dieng is kept at power forward, which felt like the Timberwolves’ biggest need entering the draft and even after the Jimmy Butler trade.”
Sam Vecenie of The Sporting News: C-. “The Wolves got No. 16 in their pick swap with the Bulls here in the Jimmy Butler trade, and used it to select Justin Patton. On one hand, I like the idea of him being able to sit behind Gorgui Dieng, Cole Aldrich and, of course, Karl-Anthony Towns given that he’s a project. But overall, this is a reach for me, and it’s not a reach that fills a need given all of the depth they have at the center position.”
Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer: Value – B; Fit — B. “Patton is one of a glut of traditional centers expected to go in the middle of the first round, and he has an interesting combination of size, athleticism, and shooting ability, although he will need to get stronger and improve his overall defensive awareness to get minutes under Tom Thibodeau. The acquisition of Jimmy Butler means the Wolves are ready to win now, so even if Patton doesn’t end up getting moved in another deal for a veteran, he will likely be spending a lot of time in the G League.”
Adam Fromal of Bleacher Report: B. “Patton needs to build up his body and work on his rebounding fundamentals, but he could eventually show enough floor-spacing acumen to work with Towns in an ultra-sized lineup. And even if the 7’0″ big man remains a sixth man, his efficiency and ability to work in transition will look quite good alongside Butler’s and Wiggins’ athleticism.”
David Kay of WalterFootball: B. “Minnesota struggled defensively last season and Patton is long and athletic and can bring some shot-blocking inside. He is fairly skilled offensively as well, though he is a project big man. I am not sure how different he will be from Gorgui Dieng though.”
Ryan DiPentima of The Palm Beach Post: A-. “The seven-footer should line up nicely, both offensively and defensively, with Karl-Anthony Towns for a Minnesota team that skyrocketed into playoff contention on draft night with the Jimmy Butler trade.”
Tom Westerholm of MassLive.com: B. “The Timberwolves made out like bandits on Thursday, and Patton was no exception — a high-potential project big man whose defensive upside could look really good next to Karl-Anthony Towns in a few years, if he develops.”
Bill Difilippo and Brad Rowland of Uproxx.com: D+. “This is clearly a “best player available” decision from the Wolves but it doesn’t make much sense. Patton is an offense-first pure center on a team that already employs both Karl-Anthony Towns and Gorgui Dieng. Minnesota might have grand plans in the future but, as currently constructed, there is a struggle to find logic with this selection.”
Andrew Lynch of Fox Sports: A+. “Turning Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the No. 7 pick into Jimmy Butler was enough to give Tom Thibodeau’s team an A. Getting the No. 16 pick back in that same deal earns the plus.” Lynch, unsurprisingly, also had the Wolves as one of his draft winners. “What a steal for Minnesota. Now, we wait to see if the Wolves will be players in free agency, as they suddenly have a playoff team on their hands.”
Andrew Sharp of SI.com: A+. “The Wolves are arguably the biggest winners of the draft. Patton is a nice prospect, and Butler is worlds better than anyone Minnesota could have grabbed at No. 7. Losing LaVine will hurt, but Minnesota actually looked pretty solid after he was sidelined with a season-ending injury. … I won’t jinx the Wolves with too many expectations—the entire internet has made that mistake before (including me)—but next year will be fun.”
Jordan Schultz of Yahoo Sports: A+. “What a great night for the Wolves. You just don’t get superstar players in their prime – not in this league and not via trade. Jimmy Butler is just that, and he’s a Tom Thibodeau favorite coming off a second-team All-NBA selection. He can play the two-man game with Karl-Anthony Towns, and help alleviate the defensive pressure from the perimeter. Minnesota also went out and got Creighton’s 7-footer Justin Patton, a very promising offensive player who will blend well next to Towns.”
Ricky O’Donnell of SB Nation: A. “JIMMY BUTLER. Hey, Justin Patton is nice, too.”
Jordan Greer of The Sporting News: A+. “Let’s keep this simple. The Timberwolves got Jimmy Butler. That’s a good night.”
Nicholas Goss of NESN: A. “The T-Wolves traded the No. 7 pick, 2016 No. 5 selection Kris Dunn and guard Zach LaVine to the Bulls for Jimmy Butler and the No. 16 selection, which they used on Creighton center Justin Patton. Butler and Patton for that package is a huge win for the Timberwolves, who added two good pieces to a talented young core highlighted by former No. 1 overall picks Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Minnesota is a team on the rise and should have a great chance to end its league-long 13-year playoff drought next season.”
Matt Moore of CBSSports.com tabbed the Wolves as one of the draft’s winners. “They landed a perennial All-Star for almost nothing. They dealt a player in a positional logjam coming off a major injury (Zach LaVine), a flawed second-year point guard (Kris Dunn) and a nine-spot drop in the first round for Jimmy Butler. They get a leader and top-tier talent who makes tough shots, loves Tom Thibodeau, always plays hard and can generate his own offense. The Wolves also wound up with Justin Patton at No. 16, giving them a 7-footer with a plus-20 PER last season at Creighton. Patton is as good as anyone they would have taken at No. 7.”
Chad Ford of ESPN Insider has the Wolves as one of his four winners in Round 1. “The Wolves sent Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and the draft rights to Lauri Markkanen to the Bulls for Jimmy Butler and the 16th pick — a completely worthwhile trade. The Wolves needed a veteran star to pull the team together, and Butler should be ideal in that role. And with the 16th pick, Justin Patton has major upside, meaning the Wolves are getting help both now and in the future.”