Draft 2011, t-minus one week: Williams and Kanter visit, Rambis and Kahn meet and other stuff
- Blog Post by: Jerry Zgoda
- June 17, 2011 - 1:39 AM
The draft is now less than a week away and counting and there's news, news, news everywhere you look around here.
On Thursday alone...
* David Kahn and Kurt Rambis met for talks that are expected to continue to Friday. This is their first in-depth conversation since the season ended two months ago and it likely will produce a decision on Rambis' future as coach, one way or the other.
* Ricky Rubio called a press conference in Barcelona for Friday afternoon (5 a.m. Twin Cities time) when he will announce he's headed to the NBA and the Timberwolves now that his European season is over and all the paperwork regarding his buyout from Regal Barcelona has been processed through FIBA and NBA offices.
Expect him to be introduced at Target Center sometime next week leading up to Thursday's draft night.
* Arizona center Derrick Williams and Turkish center Enes Kanter came to town for the first -- and likely only -- big workouts by prospects whom the Wolves will choose from with that second overall pick.
Kanter worked out against others in a morning group that included a head-to-head matchup of shooting guards Alec Burks and Marshon Brooks.
Williams worked out with a group of guards, against whom the Wolves measured his perimeter skills and speed and, according to assistant GM Tony Ronzone, came away mighty impressed.
First off, Ronzone was appreciative that each player agreed with compete against other players in an age when agents for many top prospects allow their clients only to work out alone.
Ronzone said he was impressed by Williams' ball-handling skills out on the floor.
"Very talented, very skilled," he said. "What impressed me today is his handle. I mean, he has a big-time 1-on-1 handle. He shakes guys off. He goes left to right real well. He really operates on the left side of the floor rather than the right right now."
Ronzone admitted Williams' shot "is a little different, but it goes in. Same thing with Alex English, Jamaal Wilkes, (James) Worthy and those guys had."
Williams worked out with the Wolves Thursday after working out for the Cavaliers on Tuesday. He said those are the only workouts he will do. He is headed home on Friday to California, where he will hang out and wait until flying to New York City and the draft on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Kanter has worked out for the Toronto, Utah, Washington and said he will go to Cleveland on Monday for a second time to work out again and meet Cavs owner Dan Gilbert. His agent said Kanter is not going back to the Cavs to audition for that fourth pick that the Cavs also own, a suggestion that the Cavs would consider picking Kanter No. 1 overall over Williams and Duke guard Kyrie Irving.
Whether that's typical draft-time posturing remains to be seem. It did clear Thursday, though, that Kanter's agent is lobbying hard for the Wolves to draft his client second overall. He went out of his way after the workout to talk with us media weasels, enthusiastically praised the Wolves' growing collection of young talent and said the Wolves could become an "electrifying team" that might be the next coming of Oklahoma City.
The impression I got from reading between the lines on Thursday: Kanter's strength and power were obvious, but Williams made the greater impression of the two with his skills and upside.
Whether it's a smokescreen or not, Ronzone also seemed to indicate a change in the team's thinking. Until now, my impression is that the Wolves would like to trade for a veteran such as Lakers star Pau Gasol or pull off a 2-for-1 deal, swapping their second pick for a young player (DeMar DeRozan? JaVale McGee?) who has more experience than a rookie and perhaps a pick further down in the lottery.
After Williams worked out, Ronzone said the team needs to get the best talent it can obtain, even if it already has Johnson, Beasley and Anthony Randolph.
"The bottom line is, where we're at, you take the best player available," he said. "You can't pass up on guys and get creative and try to get another guy. (Williams) is someone who have to look at strongly at that spot. He's a talent. He can play well."
Now the question is whether the Cavs actually will take Irving first overall, a big if with Thursday's draft now less than a week away.
Williams has been working out with Wolves Wes Johnson and Michael Beasley and says he thinks the three -- small-forward types all -- could play together at times because of the way all three can stretch the floor and because he and Beasley in particular are capable of creating mismatches.
Both Williams and Kanter each said they're out to prove they are the best player in the draft.
Well, one of them must be wrong.
"He's a confident kid," Ronzone said of Kanter, who enrolled at Kentucky last season but was declared ineligible by the NCAA because he accepted financial benefits from his Turkish team. "Most big kids don't like playing basketball. He actually likes it. He's addicted to it. He wants to be in the gym. You can't keep him out of it. That's huge."
A couple last things:
* Ronzone said Irving's representatives haven't returned a call seeking a look at him. Irving thus far has only worked out for the Cavs, but Ronzone said the Wolves might have to push a little harder to get a look at Irving, just in case.
If Williams goes first, expect the Wolves to try to auction that pick and the right to take Irving to the highest bidder. They might do so anyway, even if the Cavs take Irving.
* Ronzone called the matchup featuring Burks and Brooks a push. Of course, he did.
Brooks was scheduled to work out Friday, but he got a wakeup call at 8 a.m. Thursday from his agent informing him to get his behind over to Target Center pronto for a matchup against Burks that reprised their meeting in Charlotte earlier this week.
That's all for Thursday.
Looks like the rest of these workouts through Monday will only be players the team might consider if they trade for a second-round pick or who they might sign for a free-agent look.
San Diego State's Kawhi Leonard was scheduled to come to town, but he cancelled because it seems obvious he will go neither second nor 20th overall, the two picks the Wolves currently own.
© 2013 Star Tribune