Georgia Tech guard Josh Okogie wasn't the name many draft prognosticators expected to be called when it came to the Timberwolves selection at No. 20 in the NBA draft on Thursday, but Okogie surely possesses some of the skills the Wolves were looking for late in the first round.
Okogie has all the markings of someone who can become a good shooter. He hit 82.8 percent of his free-throw attempts, which was good for 10th in the ACC last year, while also finishing 14th in shooting percentage at 41.6 percent.
The Wolves' biggest weakness last season was a lack of three-point shooters. Okogie hit 38 percent from beyond the arc, which could be a big plus if he can adapt to the NBA's longer three-point distance. Only two Wolves — All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns (42.1 percent) and Nemanja Bjelica (41.5) — shot better on threes last season.
Okogie also performed well against top competition. When the Yellow Jackets squared off with No. 9 Duke last February, he scored 29 points to go along with six rebounds, four assists, two steals and one block and was the most dominant player on a court shared with a number of first-round picks on Thursday night, such as Duke's Grayson Allen and Wendell Carter Jr.
Still, it's his defense that is going to be intriguing for Tom Thibodeau, the Wolves coach and president of basketball operations. While Okogie is only 6-4, he has a 7-foot wingspan — the fourth-longest measurement of any guard at the NBA combine — and can guard multiple positions.
When Georgia Tech faced Florida State in January, Okogie grabbed 16 rebounds and scored 16 points.
"They love the fact that he's got a long wingspan. They love the fact that he's a year younger, he did well at the combine," his coach, Josh Pastner, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution before the draft. "They love his character."
The Wolves were able to add forward Keita Bates-Diop, the Big Ten Player of the Year out of Ohio State, with the No. 48 pick. That was a shocking pickup — several analysts thought Bates-Diop could be the Wolves' first-round pick. ESPN had him going No. 29 overall in its mock draft, so there's no doubt this was a second-round steal.
Bates-Diop averaged 19.8 points, 8.7 rebounds and shot 48.0 percent from the field and 79.4 percent from the free-throw line during his senior season. And there's a good chance the Wolves valued his maturity. Bates-Diop is only 11 months younger than Wolves forward Andrew Wiggins.
A pick that sticks?
The draft has been a bit of a wasteland lately for the Wolves. Since 2009 the franchise has made 14 first-round picks and currently has only one of those players on their roster in Towns.
The only reason they had a first-round pick this season to draft Okogie was because they traded Ricky Rubio to Utah for the Jazz's first-rounder.
How bad has the Wolves draft track record been? Rubio, who was drafted by the Wolves in 2009, had the fourth-longest tenured career as a franchise draft pick at six seasons and 353 games.
He trails only Kevin Garnett (14 years, 970 games), Doug West (nine years, 609 games), and Wally Szczerbiak (seven years, 438 games).
Players such as Kevin Love (six years, 364 games) and Gorgui Dieng (five years, 376 games) also have had lengthy stays with the team, but they were part of draft-day deals after other teams selected them.
Last year they acquired center Justin Patton in a draft-day deal that sent Lauri Markkanen, whom the Wolves had selected at No. 7, along with 2016 first-round pick Kris Dunn (No. 5 overall) and 2014 first-round pick Zach LaVine (No. 13 overall) for Jimmy Butler and the Bulls' No. 16 pick, which became Patton.
If you want one reason why the Wolves haven't had great depth, it can start with nearly a decade of draft misses that has thinned their margin for error.
For Thibodeau and General Manager Scott Layden, Okogie and Bates-Diop could be key picks, but they need to stick on this roster and make a real impact.
Vikings pass protect?
It was somewhat surprising to see Pro Football Focus rank the Vikings 13th in the NFL in pass protection, and credited former quarterback Case Keenum with scrambling his way out of many potential sacks.
They ranked Nick Easton, who is looking to renegotiate his contract, as their best pass blocker, writing: "[Easton] allowed just three hits and nine hurries on his 401 pass-block snaps and finished one of just five guards to play more than 400 pass-block snaps without allowing a sack. With so much invested in new quarterback Kirk Cousins, the offensive line will need to improve their play heading into the new league year."
Gophers stay hot
The Gophers football team continues to bring in great prospects for the Class of 2019. On Tuesday they had running back Treyson Potts from Williamsport, Pa.; tackle Joacheim Price from Algonquin (Ill.) Jacobs; wide receiver Tre Mosley from West Bloomfield, Mich., and running back Darwin Barlow from Newton, Texas, on campus.
Coach P.J. Fleck continues to impress recruits when he gets them to the U. Potts, who was being recruited by schools such as Penn State, Rutgers and Maryland, committed Wednesday.
The Gophers now rank fourth in the Big Ten in recruiting according to 247 Sports, behind only Ohio State, Michigan and Purdue. They are 20th in the nation and their 18 commitments are tied with Texas A&M for the most of any school in the country.
Look for them to get more commitments before midnight Monday when the NCAA enters a dead zone for recruiting for a month.
•Wander Javier, the Twins' top international prospect, is missing the season after having surgery on his shoulder. The 19-year-old shortstop is one of the stars of the Twins' farm system, but they're closing in on another. The Twins are the front-runner to sign Misael Urbina, a 16-year-old outfielder from Venezuela who MLB.com has ranked as the third-best international prospect on the market this season
•Gophers athletic director Mark Coyle on the impact of naming Lynx point guard and former Gopher Lindsay Whalen as women's basketball coach: "It has turned out to be a really good [move] for us. Obviously she landed two Top-100 recruits [guard Mercedes Staples of Bountiful (Utah) Viewmont and Stillwater guard Sara Scalia] right away when we named her head coach. Season ticket sales are going great. I think we're above 700 new season tickets."
Sid Hartman can be heard on WCCO AM-830 at 8:40 a.m. Monday and Friday, 2 p.m. Friday and 10:30 a.m. Sunday. • firstname.lastname@example.org