Wolves' Saunders: All Options On The Table

Saunders: All Options On Table

Wolves President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders took Tuesday’s NBA Draft Lottery in stride for what it is. Minnesota did not move up, nor move back, and at this juncture in the Draft season process the Timberwolves are slated to pick exactly where they fell in the wins-loss scheme this season—at No. 9.
But that doesn’t mean that’s where they’ll sit come June 27. The next few weeks represent a work in progress.
“We’re going to exhaust every opportunity to make this team better, whether it’s through trades, getting lucky (and having a good player fall to them at 9),” Saunders said. “I don’t think anybody expected when Portland was picking at 6 last year that they’d have the unanimous rookie of the year.”
Saunders sounded resolute to delve into any potential scenarios that will help this team win now. The Wolves have a budding window of opportunity stemming from their young roster, their Hall of Fame coach and the optimism that, without injuries, this team might not have been in the Lottery at all this year. There are needs that should be addressed, and Saunders is currently in New Jersey at another pre-draft camp working toward figuring out who—if anyone—in this draft pool might be able to fill those needs.
There’s no question the Wolves need to get more size on the wing, ideally a lengthy shooting guard who can defend and shoot. They also need to pay attention to the center position, as they have an uncertainty with restricted free-agent Nikola Pekovic looming and would like to add another piece that can protect the rim.
This particular draft doesn’t have the headliner that some often do—there is no LeBron James or Derrick Rose in this class—but Saunders said that doesn’t mean there isn’t value and balance across the board. There’s a good chance a guy taken at 12 that some might take at six, Saunders said.
“I’m not saying it wouldn’t be nice to be in the top three. I’d love to be in the top three,” Saunders said. “It’s not where I’m looking to say where our franchise is happy we didn’t’ get in the top there. But with the players that we have, adding through free agency or trades and guys getting healthier, that’s how we’re going to make our jump next year.”
Saunders was at the Draft Lottery with forward Kevin Love, getting to know his All-Star a little bit better through a day representing the team in New York. Love is coming off two broken hands and a knee surgery this past season, which limited him to 18 games. But he said he’s healthy, he’s nearing the point where he can play unrestricted ball, and he’s shooting it with the type of touch for which he’s become known.
Love said there are gems wherever you pick, and that players outside the Lottery even tend to become standout players from time to time. So he’s not concerned with sitting ninth in this draft. If anything, it’s another asset that opens up more options for the team.
In addition to the No. 9 pick, the Wolves currently own No. 26 in the first round and Nos. 51 and 59 in the second round. The Draft will take place June 27 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., and will be broadcast on ESPN beginning at 6 p.m.
Saunders said unlike the widely popularized moves in the NFL Draft, it’s highly unlikely in the NBA to package those two first rounders to move up to a top three spot. Instead, the question Saunders will ponder is if there is a situation where the No. 9 pick and a player on the current roster could help them move upward. He said teams are not in deal-making mode—teams are instead in Draft mode and will see if there is a player they fall in love with. He said the Wolves, too, have some players they’re taking a hard look at.
There is also a possibility of taking a good hard look at the group of projected late-first rounders and second rounders who will participate in next week’s pre-draft workouts at Target Center and find a steal at the 26th pick.
Whichever route the Wolves take, the team will no doubt address the perimeter shooting they struggled with throughout the 2012-13 campaign.
“I think we were 30th in the league in 3-point shooting,” Saunders said. “That has been a weakness. That’s going to improve with Love coming back, being one of the best shooting forwards in the league. When you look at the fact of just being able to spread the floor and help the rest of your offense, that’s what we need.”
The other part of the equation, of course, is size up front. Saunders said when you look at San Antonio and Memphis still playing in the West, having combos like Gasol/Randolph and Duncan/Splitter are important assets to have.
“I anticipate some movement in our roster at some point, whether it’s a trade or somehow,” Saunders said. “Everyone is always looking to see if they can get another big.”
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