Neal: Wolves should do whatever it takes to get Mark Williams of Duke

If the Wolves, indeed, want Karl-Anthony Towns to spend more time at power forward in coach Chris Finch’s offense, that means they would need a center.

And I have one for them.

He’s Duke’s former big man, ACC defensive player of the year Mark Williams. He would fit nicely into the Wolves lineup. And yes, that would mean those of you who have held a grudge against Mike Krzyzewski’s teams (except when Tyus or Tre Jones were there) would have to get used to another Dukie in Wolves colors.

But the potential payoff—helping the Wolves rise up the list of Western Conference powers—would be worth it.

As of this writing, Clint Capela, whom the Wolves reportedly fancy, remains with Atlanta. Williams is a cheaper solution, and indications are that he has fans among Wolves leadership. So they should go get their man on Thursday night during the NBA draft.

It will be a little tricky, as most mock drafts have him going a few picks before the Wolves’ selection at 19. Center-needy Charlotte, with the 13th and 15th picks, is the likely destination in most of these predictions. For Williams to drop down to 19, Memphis big Jalen Duren, a top 10 pick in a couple of mock drafts, would have to slide down to Charlotte.

Most likely, the Wolves might have to offer to swap picks — dangling one or two of their three second-round picks as sweeteners — to move up in the draft to reel in Williams. That’s a move they should make.

Williams is an excellent athlete with less than 6% body fat. He was listed at 7 feet, 1 inch at Duke. When he was measured last month at the NBA scouting combine, he was 7-2 in shoes and had a 7-6 wingspan. His standing reach was 9 feet, 9 inches, meaning he can touch the rim from the tips of his toes.

His offense is centered around catching alley-oops and put-back dunks, which was how he was a ridiculous 29-for-36 (81%) from the floor in his first five NCAA tournament games.

Although he attempted one three-pointer last season for the Blue Devils, some believe he has the makings of a reliable shot. That’s perfect for a Wolves offense that revolves around Towns and Anthony Edwards.

Besides being limited offensively, Williams’ challenge will be defending the pick and roll at the next level. He appears quick enough to recover defensively and alter shots if he’s beaten.

This could allow Towns to play more power forward, where he can spread his immense skills all over the court while Williams holds down the paint. Edwards would have another big man option to pass or lob to as he slaloms to the hoop. Opposing offenses would have to think twice about attacking the basket with both Towns and Williams on the floor. And KAT could always slide back to center when matchups call for it.

New Timberwolves President Tim Connelly is a modern executive with the ability to provide good quotes without revealing much. But he didn’t hold back recently when asked where the club can improve.

“We’ve got to get better defensively at the rim,” Connelly said. “We can’t be a defensive rebounding team like we’ve been in the past. We’ve got to close possessions.”

Williams’ 110 blocks last season were fifth-most in the country. He averaged 7.4 rebounds to go with 11.2 points per game, while playing just 23 minutes a game. There’s your closer.

It’s unclear how serious the Wolves’ interest in Capela is, but he carries cap hits of $18 million, $20 million and $22 million over the next three seasons. Williams would cost them less than half of that while bringing plenty of upside.

A fallback draft pick could be Auburn’s 7-1 center Walker Kessler. Kessler was the defensive player of the year last season, led the nation in blocks and can hit an occasional three. Most mock drafts have him going in the late first round, so he would be available at 19. But Williams has greater potential.

Williams helps the Wolves defensively.

Williams allows KAT to be KAT.

Williams is a player who is liked inside the offices at Target Center.

The Wolves should go get the Dukie.

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