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SB Nation Blogger Mock Draft: Timberwolves Select F Nikola Jović at No. 19

You can find the full mock draft results with explanations for each choice here.

The Minnesota Timberwolves have a definitive but versatile core that will see President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly and his front office go nearly every avenue possible in Thursday night’s NBA Draft.

Despite how quickly Wolves have gone from NBA depths to a likely perennial playoff team, that doesn’t mean they have incredibly pressing needs that need to be met come draft night.

Assuming a D’Angelo Russell is coming shouldn’t guide Minnesota’s offensive plan Thursday. Even though Wolves essentially fired him next season, it’s fair to believe they’ll make it back to the playoffs and potentially win a first-round series at worst, health permitting. There aren’t many teams in the league that have the security that head coach Chris Finch and franchise cornerstones Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards provide.

Photo by Kavin Mistry/Getty Images

This safety blanket puts Wolves on the fringes of the lottery with two options: make a swing or draft a need.

Wearing my president’s hat, I decided to take a swing by selecting SF Nikola Jović, No. 12 overall on my personal big board.

Santa Clara winger Jalen Williams and Ohio State guard Malaki Branham, two of my favorite players and hypothetical Wolves targets in this draft, have already been selected, as has State forward of Ohio EJ Liddell and LSU swingman Tari Eason.

The pick went to Arizona second-year guard Dalen Terry and 19-year-old Jović. Minnesota certainly needs more play and long, nimble defenders — like Terry — but size, offensive versatility and perimeter shooting are vital qualities in today’s NBA and those are the strengths. by Jovic.

Jović — who just turned 19 this month and is the sixth-youngest prospect among those on the consensus Top 50 ranking — was 6-foot-11, 223 pounds with a 7-foot wingspan at last month’s NBA Combine in Chicago, and that appears on film.

The Mega Bemax product (Serbia) is an inverted perimeter shooter that has good footwork, great consistent shooting motion and deep reach. Jović shot 35.6% in 4.7 3s per game and, frankly, I’d be surprised if he didn’t improve on that with improved shot selection to the next level. He’s comfortable running off screens to quickly catch and fire triples, usually shoots just above contending defenders in traditional C&S situations, and is able to set up 3s with dribble combos of base that keep the larger wings unbalanced. His shooting skills are undoubtedly NBA caliber.

When his clashes get too committed, Jović flashes his above-average fluid grip for his size to use the lower two levels of the floor to create for others and score against rotating defences. He grew up playing keeper and it shows in his game.

He averaged 3.4 assists for 2.7 turnovers (1.2 A/TO) per game in 25 games for Mega Bemax last season, which holds up well among second-tier designer wings in this class. year. His turnover percentage (15.5%) is too high, but he would work with more space, have easier reads and hopefully have a bigger impact passing with Wolves, as long as he is decisive in doing so. Also, don’t be surprised if Jović develops a post-match. He has shown his willingness to bring smaller defenders there and create out of the block as well.

Coming off the bench alongside a ground general like Jordan McLaughin – who creates 3 open corner looks as well as any player in the entire NBA – and knockdown shooters from Malik Beasley and Taurean Prince would give Wolves a second bigger, more versatile and offensively powerful. unity. Adding a second size creator to this group would allow Minnesota to simultaneously bring Jarred Vanderbilt off the bench and replicate some of what Jaden McDaniels brought as a reserve on the stretch run this season.

Finch could turn to Jović with the starters during game times to create a giant roster as well. A D’Angelo Russell, Edwards, McDaniels, Jovic and Towns group would average around 6-11 in wingspan and contain five defensive playmakers whose skills are accentuated by the team’s high-wall scheme.

There may be some growing pains at first with Jović learning the high wall scheme and what it demands of him as a low man scoring rolls and xing to challenge shooters on the perimeter, but he plans to being someone who can do those things given his length, fluid mobility, and playmaking instinct to make it work. He’s always looking to use it on the ball, where he’s struggling because he’s getting up too much of a position and needs to improve his lateral agility.

Drafting Jović as a long-term 4 would ensure Towns remains a center, as he should, to maintain maximum spacing on the floor so he can capitalize on a career year as a driver. Towns has never played alongside a 4 with the size to hold on on the glass, effectively defend the ball and space the floor. He played with a player who specializes in one of the three skills, or a combination of the three, but not a player who uses all of those skills like Jović does.

Hell, Finch could run 4-5 pick-and-rolls with Jović’s handling. He has an excellent touch on passes over the defense. He used his 9-foot standing reach to throw entry passes to the rollers, as well as the big guys who sealed and posted in the middle of the lane, with ease and precision. This length and grip are also useful for throwing pocket passes at angles that smaller guards can’t reach.

This skill set could also allow him to be a solid playmaker in the short term. He was very rarely used as a roller in the half court given the composition of the team, but he has all the tools to be a deadly short-term passer once he learns the throwing angles and establishes good contact on the screens. He picked and jumped into smaller lineups a bit, but rolling would unlock a new element of his game to accentuate his versatility.

A player as talented as Jović would complement Wolves’ already versatile and moldable core with greater roster flexibility as a shooter and creator, which is hard not to get excited about. He has the play itch needed to survive and thrive in the high wall scheme, and could be a positive impact defender if he can improve his lateral agility and the angles he takes to wall off drivers. If he can do those things, he’d be a steal at 19, but that’s not guaranteed.

One, it could be a big ask, and two, Jović might not even be available when Minnesota selects at No. 19, if they stick with it. Atlanta (No. 16) and Chicago (No. 18) are both looking to improve on the wing (if they don’t trade picks), and Jović would be a great choice in Houston at No. 17 – even if they select Paolo Banchero at No. 3. San Antonio (No. 20) and Denver (No. 21) are also logical fits and have the ammo to jump over Wolves if needed.

It was confirmed Minnesota welcomed Jović for training earlier this month, so it’s clear there’s at least some interest from Wolves in the Serbian national team player.

Connelly is no stranger to hitting a home run with a Serbian Nikola Jo-ićs, so why not start his tenure at Wolves by rolling the Nikola dice again?

The bottom line is that with the first of four picks, Minnesota needs to be aggressive within reason. Jović has home run potential and there are no other prospects likely to be available at 19 who carry his mix of potential and immediate translatable skills that match the needs of the roster.