The NBA draft is approaching on June 23 and the Minnesota Timberwolves have the No. 19 overall pick. After a march to the playoffs this past season the Wolves will be looking to take the next step forward and it starts with the draft.
Who might they be interested in with the No. 19 pick?
In this edition, we take a look at Auburn forward/center Walker Kessler.
Kessler was a consensus five-star recruit and in his senior year of high school was named Mr. Georgia Basketball and the Georgia Gatorade Player of the Year.
With offers on the table from Duke, Michigan, Vanderbilt and many others, Kessler chose North Carolina.
After one year at Chapel Hill with Kessler averaging 4.4 points and 3.2 rebounds per game, the former Georgia product transferred to Auburn.
In his one year in the SEC, Kessler became one of the premier shot blockers in the nation and was named a third-team All-American along with SEC Defensive Player of the Year.
NBA COMBINE RESULTS
Did not participate in the drills portion of the combine.
Weight: 256 pounds
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
“Kessler is an elite level shot blocker who should be able to translate that skill well to the next level because of his ability to play physically without fouling while still maintaining the space needed to go up and actually block the shot … He’s a good but not great rebounder who will need to take better care of the ball as he plays against stronger players down low … It’s clear he wants to expand his offensive game, but his shot doesn’t look ideal mechanically, so he will likely get most of his offense from offensive rebounds, the pick and roll game, and from having teammates create shots for him.” - NBAdraft.net
“Though Kessler got some opportunities to play out of the post and shoot from the perimeter, he did his best work in catch and finish situations. Providing a target for lobs and drop passes, he ranked among the more prolific dunkers in college basketball but showed nice touch finishing layups with both hands as well. While his jumper remains early in its development, his coordination with the ball and ability to make the simple play as a passer afforded him some versatility. Ranking among the better per-minute shot blockers in the last decade, Kessler’s length, timing, and feel for making rotations stood out all season as he drove Auburn’s success on the defensive end. Switching on the perimeter in spots and still rebounding his area effectively, the 20-year-old was arguably the most impactful defensive anchor in the college game last season.” - NBA.com
HOW HE FITS
While Karl-Anthony Towns is one of the top-tier centers in the NBA, the Wolves would be wise to add defensive depth behind KAT. Naz Reid (if he returns; Minnesota has to pick up his option) is really solid in his role but shines more on the offensive end of the floor. Jared Vanderbilt has flourished as someone who doesn’t need the ball on offense and does the dirty work on defense but he’s not a traditional five. Kessler is. Kessler could come in and be a legit rim protector off the bench for head coach Chris Finch. His offensive game isn’t non-existent and he may have more layers to peel back on that end but his real impact in Minnesota would come on the defensive end. Looking back at the playoffs when the Wolves were eliminated by the Memphis Grizzlies, they were eaten alive on the boards and specifically the offensive glass. Kessler could help wipe clean some of those opportunities brought forth by the opposition and he would add another level of difficulty for those who try to orchestrate within the paint against Minnesota.