We didn’t really like Flip Saunders’ first draft as Wolves President in 2013, when it seemed as though the team got caught without a plan when dealing the No. 9 pick (Trey Burke) for No. 14 (Shabazz Muhammad) and No. 21 (Gorgui Dieng). But now we’re absolutely in love with Dieng as a player and like the potential of Muhammad as well.
We weren’t sure about all of the free agent moves Saunders made last year — Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer, re-signing Nikola Pekovic — but in retrospect we at least could understand the reasoning of trying to build as good of a short-term roster as possible in an attempt to keep Kevin Love’s wandering eye from drifting too far astray.
When that didn’t work, we were sure the Wolves needed to deal Love before the NBA draft in June in order to maximize his value and expand the number of possible teams in play.
But Saunders, once again, is proving that he deserves the benefit of the doubt — this time in the most important decision of his tenure-to-date. Whether it was intuition that the post-draft, free agency world of the NBA could yield better Love deals — maybe even a hunch that LeBron-to-Cleveland could happen — or whether Saunders stumbled into some good fortune, his patience is being rewarded.
Love to Cleveland for the last two No. 1 overall picks, and perhaps some other assets, is a better deal than we could have imagined possible — not because we doubt Love as a player, but because the leverage in any potential deal feels equally divided between the Wolves, Love and the acquiring team.
Now it’s time to close the deal. We do not care one bit that Golden State is reportedly willing to part with Klay Thompson. This chatter with Cleveland is not to gain leverage in a mediocre trade with the Warriors. The purpose is to make the deal with the Cavs. Put Golden State on some version of eternal call waiting, Flip, and get this thing done with Cleveland.
Our guess is that Flip wants the Cavs deal. He talked post-draft about hitting home runs instead of settling for doubles. The baseball analogy was apt in that he was saying teams like the Wolves need to shoot for franchise players, even at the risk of swinging and missing. The Cleveland deal could be a home run. The Golden State deal, with Thompson, would be a double.
You’ve played everything perfectly so far, Flip. Finish this off, and you will have aced the biggest test of your tenure.