Saunders Gives Final Take Prior To Thursday's Draft




Saunders Gives Final Take Heading Into NBA Draft



Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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The 2013 NBA Draft is full of moving parts—whether it’s who could become the No. 1 overall pick, if teams will make last-second trades or which position will the Wolves end up addressing with the No. 9 pick.

And the way it looks after Monday’s chat with Minnesota’s President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders, there’s no indication we’ll have a grasp on what will happen anytime soon. Take, for instance, Saunders’ description of his perfect Draft: “I’ll tell you on Thursday night.”

“There’s been offers, nothing has intrigued me enough to get excited about it,” Saunders said about the possibility of moving up in the Draft or staying put with the Wolves’ current No. 9 and 26 pick slots. “Some things will happen over the next 48-72 hours, nothing is really going to happen until the day of or the day before when we really have a better idea of where everything’s going to be going.”

The Wolves have been overwhelmingly adamant about trying to secure perimeter shooting and rim-protecting bigs during this year’s draft. At No. 9, there are a few options available but none are set in stone by any means and won’t be until Minnesota is on the clock Thursday night. In the meantime, the Wolves will need to sift through all the notes they’ve taken from watching these players both live and on tape, visited with in person and researched through background checks.

The Draft will be held Thursday night with the Cleveland Cavaliers going on the clock to kick off the Draft at about 6:30 PM CT. Timberwolves.com will host a live interactive show breaking down all the picks and taking fan questions beginning at 6:20 PM, and ESPN will cover the entire night beginning at 6 PM.

In the end, Minnesota is set on finding players who have the best overall package of skills to offer both on and off the court. The player’s play is important, as is the player’s potential at the next level, but another factor that goes into it is how the person interacts and presents himself to Saunders and the rest of the staff.

Saunders said throughout the workouts held in Minnesota over the past month, only one player interacted with the staff in a way that made himself a non-factor on Draft night. The rest are in play, and in the end the only thing that is certain is that the Wolves will be looking for shooters and bigs to complement the core pieces already in place on this team. It’s not just trying to find a player who can fit in, but also a player who can help the team’s cornerstones like guard Ricky Rubio and forward Kevin Love improve.

And unless the right situation presents itself, a trade is looking more and more unlikely at this point given the makeup of this particular draft.

“There are good players in this draft, but right now, there are not impact players. What I mean by that is that there's no one you look at tin this draft that within two years will be an All-Star, say like Kyrie Irving was,” Saunders said. “Players like that and so in order for you to move up and dilute your talent pool and your roster you've got to get in an impact type player, and I just don't believe... There's good players, probably pretty good players in this league, but are they going to be that impact player who's going to be an All-Star or future Hall of Famer? That's what you don't see. And sometimes that's something you don't see for two or three years in a row."

Saunders didn’t go in-depth about any particular players, but given the team’s needs when it comes to outside shooting and the position the team currently sits in the draft, it still appears plausible the Wolves will try to snag either Georgia’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope or Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum with that No. 9 pick—assuming one or both are available. When asked to compare the two, Saunders did say both have a strong ability to knock down shots and are multi-dimensional players. But there are so many moving parts leading into Draft night that Saunders is leaving everything on the table for now.

“"I'm at No. 9 right now. All I know is that's the only pick I have,” Saunders said. “I have no other pick. I'm not going to come out and say, could we move up? Sure we could probably move up but not what people want us to give up.”

Quick Hits:

  • Saunders did address trade rumors when it comes to seeing names flying around on the internet, and one of the biggest names, of course, is Kevin Love. He addressed head on why he thinks those rumors are out there, and he definitively said why they are false:

    “I think a lot of people because of where Kevin was this past year, some comments he made about him and being unhappy with the organization, when I first took the job everyone thought we were just going to give him away which was not the case. I said all along we were not going to trade him. He's one of the most unique players in the league because of his ability to rebound and be one of the top rebounders, a 3-point threat, you just don't find people like that... Kevin's been great. He's been committed to what we want to do.”


  • When asked about Andrei Kirilenko’s contract situation, Saunders said he hasn’t heard whether or not the veteran small forward will opt out of the one year remaining on his contract: “Don't expect to have an answer by Thursday. I have an inclination. Not going to tell you."


  • Saunders on how the team could use their 52nd and 59th overall picks in the second round: “Your second round picks, those are usually a project type picks. It's someone that probably is not ready so that's how we'll look at who has the best upside to be a player down the road…You take whoever you think has the most upside, whether he's a European player or you're not going to get him for two or three years then so be it."


  • The Timberwolves worked out one last player before the Draft on Monday, North Texas forward Tony Mitchell. Mitchell averaged 13.7 points and 2.9 blocks per game during two seasons at North Texas while also shooting 34 percent from 3-point land. Saunders said: "Yeah, he's good. He's really athletic. 6'9, 235, athletic, can play a couple positions and so just to kind of cover our bases and I think now we have pretty much in one way or another had our hands on most of the guys that we think will have an opportunity to draft at either No. 9 or at No. 26 or second round picks."



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