Jim Souhan: Trading down is way to go for Wolves

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 24, 2008 - 10:26 PM

By packaging the third overall pick, they can also get rid of one of their problem players and get more draft picks instead.

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Wouldn't it be great if the Wolves could pick up additional first-round picks by packaging Rashad McCants with the No. 3 overall selection?

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If I were Kevin McHale ... I'd quit. But that would make for a really short column.

So let's try a more complex hypothetical. What would I do if I were Timberwolves exec Kevin McHale, I held the third pick in the 2008 NBA draft, my team was generating TV ratings that read like windchills, and my roster held exactly one potential star-quality player?

I'd take a good look in the mirror, see Kevin McHale, and deduce the following:

• If I take a player with the third pick, he's probably going to remind me of Christian Laettner. And not in a good way. Hold it -- is there a good way?

• I'm not just trying to add new players, but I'm also trying to get rid of old mistakes. Few people know this, but Marko Jaric picked up that supermodel he was dating last year by saying, "Hey, baby, do you know just how overpaid I am?"

Rashad McCants is what we thought he was (I now owe Denny Green 38 cents in royalties) -- a streaky scorer who plays defense like Wasswa Serwanga. They've got to go.

• I'm not just one good young player away from contending in the beastly Western Conference. I need platoons of help.

Take those three thoughts, stir, and you come to this conclusion: If I'm Kevin McHale, I don't try to trade up. I try to trade down.

If McHale can swing it -- and that "if" has grown like oil prices the past 10 years -- he should package the third pick in the draft and one of his many problems. He should find a way -- and this is going to require creativity and possibly a three- or four-team transaction -- to get a couple of picks lower in the first round.

If you're not going to land a superstar at No. 3, you'd be better off landing a couple of promising players later.

The favored NBA cliché holds that you build around superstars, but look at the league's final four. These teams win because they have cultivated winning cultures.

Detroit has zero superstars, and three of its four core players started elsewhere. The Pistons play exceptional defense, share the ball and make big shots.

Boston has three supposed superstars, but it's the Celtics defense and unselfishness that has allowed them to survive the frequent disappearing acts of Ray Allen and the occasional, expected sabbaticals of Kevin Garnett.

The Spurs have one star in Tim Duncan and two players -- Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli -- who might not be anything close to what they are now if they hadn't played for Gregg Popovich. The Spurs win because they're the toughest, best-coached team in basketball.

The Lakers have Kobe, but they're threats to win it all this year because Kobe has become the best all-around player in the game -- a guy who makes his teammates better -- instead of just the best scorer. He has changed the Lakers' culture.

Consider the players the Wolves might select at No. 3, and ask yourself if you wouldn't rather have two similarly good players:

• USC freshman O.J. Mayo: Let's see, a guy from SoCal named O.J. who hangs out with shady people and is about to write a book titled "If I Did It (Took Lots of Money at USC)." No thanks.

• Arizona guard Jerryd Bayless: Nice player, but how is he different from Randy Foye? Other than, the Wolves didn't trade Brandon Roy to get him?

• Italian star Danilo Gallinari: Would follow in a long line of Italian basketball stars, like Christiani DePauli and D'Amare Stoudamirioli.

• Stanford center Brook Lopez: This is what the Wolves need -- more centers from Stanford.

The earliest rumors (or lies) from NBAland offer the possibility that the Bulls will take Memphis' Derrick Rose, the Heat will take Mayo and Kansas State's Michael Beasley could fall to the Wolves at No. 3. If that happens, disregard all of the above.

Beasley is the player I want. If he's not available, the Wolves get creative, trade down, get rid of one of their problems and take a couple of guys who might be just as good as the player selected No. 3.

Then, next year, when the Wolves have the first pick in the draft, they can take a star.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon on AM-1500 KSTP. • jsouhan@startribune.com

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