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The Timberwolves need some help at the shooting guard position, and two potential draft picks who fit the bill are UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad, left, and Kansas’ Ben McLemore.

DEAN HARE • Associated Press (Muhammad); DAVID EULITT • Kansas City Star (McLemore) ,

Kansas Jayhawks guard Ben McLemore (23) hits a three-point basket over West Virginia Mountaineers guard Gary Browne (14) in the first half at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas, Saturday, March 2, 2013. Kansas defeated West Virginia, 91-65. (David Eulitt/Kansas City Star/MCT)

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Zgoda's NBA Insider: Many guards would meet Wolves' needs

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA
  • Star Tribune
  • March 9, 2013 - 4:54 PM

Didn’t think you’d have to start paying attention to NBA mock drafts and NCAA March Madness again, did you, Timberwolves fans?

Well, yes, it’s that time of year again for a team that would pick eighth and own a 3.5 percent chance to get the June draft’s No. 1 overall pick if the season ended today.

Timberwolves Nation wants a legitimately-sized shooting guard for a team that plays three point guards at times. If the Wolves go that way with their first of two first-round picks — if they don’t trade the pick for an established player — there’s a crop of ’em that could go among the top 10 selections.

Ben McLemore

Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 195 Age: 20

Pos.: Shooting guard

College: Kansas Year: Freshman

GP FG% 3PT% FT% PPG RPG BPG APG SPG

30 .502 .425 .868 16.5 5.4 0.7 2.1 1.2

Once considered a potential No. 1 overall pick — depending on who’s doing the picking, of course — he has not played well down the stretch leading into the postseason. He’s undersized (more like 6-4½) for a classic NBA shooting guard and not a great shot creator (definitely a Wolves need) on his own, but he’s an excellent athlete, skilled shooter, has fine defensive tools and plays so effortlessly at times. He was dismissed from his prep-school team for violating team rules and is a redshirt freshman after not meeting the NCAA’s eligibility requirements a year ago.

Shabazz Muhammad

Ht.: 6-6 Wt.: 225 Age: 19

Pos.: SF-SG

College: UCLA Year: Freshman

GP FG% 3PT% FT% PPG RPG BPG APG SPG

27 .449 .415 .717 18.1 5.0 0.1 0.9 0.8

He was considered the top prospect in the 2012 national high school class and possibly No. 1 overall NBA pick who now just might be hanging on in the top 10 because of an uneven freshman collegiate season. He started the season overweight and out of shape and, to begin with, never was considered overly explosive. But he’s also considered a hard worker, versatile scorer and natural leader, and he has long arms and is a lefty. Naturally, perhaps, he invites comparisons to Houston star James Harden. He also plays in a Ben Howland system that doesn’t show off players’ pro talents but churned out NBA stars Arron Afflalo, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Jrue Holiday and Darren Collison from 2007 to 2009.

Victor Oladipo

Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 214 Age: 20

Pos.: Shooting guard

College: Indiana Year: Junior

GP FG% 3PT% FT% PPG RPG BPG APG SPG

30 .631 .491 .735 13.7 6.0 0.8 2.1 2.3

He’s rising fast up draft boards — from out of the lottery to top-five or maybe higher — by transforming himself in his junior season from defensive specialist to breakout star. Not real big, but he’s strong, relentless and an excellent jumper and rebounder as well as a potentially hellacious perimeter defender. He just might have the quickness to defend some point guards and the strength to defend some small forwards in the NBA. Defense is his calling card, but the growth in his offensive game is why he’s rising. Not a great dribbler or playmaker, but he’s aggressive getting to the basket and has made himself into a fine college three-point shooter.

Gary Harris

Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 210 Age: 18.

Pos.: Shooting guard

College: Michigan State. Year: Freshman

GP FG% 3PT% FT% PPG RPG BPG APG SPG

27 .475 .422 .738 13.3 2.5 0.1 1.3 1.3

Smart, athletic, energetic and a lottery sleeper pick who could win over NBA scouts as the draft approaches. He, too, is smallish for a pro shooting guard, but he’s a smart defender and good ballhandler who has impressed despite back and shoulder injuries that often have left him less than 100 percent this season. Big question is whether he will develop into an NBA three-point shooter.

A different kind of homecoming

Dwight Howard returns to Orlando on Tuesday for the first time since the Magic traded him to Los Angeles.

He spent last week defending comments he made to an L.A. TV station. He told KCAL, “My team in Orlando was a team full of people who nobody wanted, and I was the leader and I led that team with a smile on my face,” and later told others he meant no disrespect, only that his Magic was a team of underdogs.

“I’m not surprised by it,” former teammate J.J. Redick told ESPNLos Angeles.com. “I would be more surprised when Dwight starts taking responsibility. That would be the most negative thing I can say, but that’s the truth. You can’t take all the credit and not accept any of the blame.”

Spurs keep on keeping on

San Antonio has continued on without injured star Tony Parker and has done so by relying upon Cory Joseph and Patty Mills to go 3-0 since Parker went out for a month because of a significantly sprained ankle.

Oh, it doesn’t hurt that the Spurs — visitors to Target Center on Tuesday night — still have Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan, too.

“More than anything, you depend on the professionalism and the character of your players to carry on,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told reporters. “There are two choices: You can cry and moan, or you can compete … You act like that person doesn’t exist for now.”

THE WOLVES’ WEEK AHEAD

Sunday: 6 p.m. vs. Dallas (Ch. 29)

Tuesday: 7 p.m. vs. San Antonio (FSN Plus)

Wednesday: 6 p.m. at Indiana (FSN)

Friday: 7 p.m. at Houston (Ch. 29)

Player to watch

Paul George, Pacers: Taken six picks after the Wolves took Wes Johnson fourth overall in 2010, he’s a candidate for both Most Improved and Defensive Player of the Year and a big reason why the Pacers might be the East’s best chance to knock off the Heat come playoff time.

Voices

« I get hit harder than that every night. »

— Wolves guard J.J. Barea questioning Ray Allen’s dramatic reaction — and manhood — to his flagrant foul last week that the NBA on Tuesday downgraded from a type 2 to a type 1.

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