Jerry Zgoda missed the entire Kevin Garnett era, but he's back covering the Timberwolves after working the beat for their first four seasons two decades ago. In between, he covered a bit of everything: Gopher men's and women's basketball and NCAA athletics, golf, outdoor recreation, sports media and a little Vikings and Twins.
Citing a lack of “impact players” available, Wolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders sounded like a man unlikely to move up in Thursday’s NBA draft.
The Wolves hold the No. 9 and No. 26 picks in the draft, which Saunders said is full of good players but not great ones. By impact, Saunders means players who project to be All Stars within a year or two of entering the league. “In order to move up, and dilute the talent pool on your roster, you have to get an impact player,” Saunders said.
That would indicate that Saunders – who said he is in touch daily with teams around the league – is not eager to pay the price to move up in the draft.
So, assuming the Wolves stand pat, it appears most likely the team will address its need for a three-point shooter. Both C.J. McCollum and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are both strong-shooting off guards who could be available when the Wolves pick comes up.
Not that Saunders was about to tip his hand. Indeed, Saunders said the only position he wouldn’t consider with a first-round pick would be point guard. After that? Anything could happen, he insisted.
The team needs to bolster its three-point shooting, make sure the team has enough big men.
But it appears bolstering perimeter play is a priority.
Saunders pointed to the recently-concluded NBA finals as proof that teams need to be effective from behind the three-point like to be successful. The Wolves, last in the NBA in three-point shooting last season, figure to improve simply by getting healthier; Kevin Love will be back, and Saunders hopes to bring back free agent Chase Budinger.
But the team needs more depth on the perimeter.
“We need shooting, but we want a multi-purpose player,” Saunders said. “We want a two-way player, not a player who is just a shooter. There are a few players who have the ability to do that.”
Both McCollum – whose senior season at Lehigh was cut short with a left foot injury -- and Caldwell-Pope are players fitting that mold. “They’re both good players,” Saunders said. “Both have the ability to knock down shots, both are multi-dimensional players. Both played where their teams (Caldwell-Pope played for Georgia) didn’t get a lot of publicity – McCollum because he got hurt.”
Pope is taller, Saunders said, while McCollum has more range. “But I don’t think we’ll look at just one factor when taking somebody,” Saunders said.
It might not be his call, as many draft experts have McCollum coming off the board before the Wolves make the No. 9 pick.
Here are some other notes from today:
--Saunders was late to the press conference because the team was working out North Texas forward Tony Mitchell. Saunders said it was the last pre-draft workout for the team.
--Saunders said a number of players had gathered in California to work out together. That group includes Love, Ricky Rubio, Derrick Williams, Budinger and Chris Johnson. It is possible J.J. Barea could join them, as could Alexey Shved, who is supposed to be in the country later this summer.
--Saunders said there was perhaps only one player of the many the team brought in for workouts who he wouldn’t consider drafting because of the impression that player left. Saunders, of course, would not name the player.
--Andrei Kirilenko has not yet told the team whether or not he will exercise his $10 million player option for next season. “I have an inclination,” Saunders said of the situation. “Not going to tell you.” Kirilenko’s deadline is Saturday, and Saunders said he probably won’t know of Kirilenko’s decision until after the draft, which could complicate the team’s draft-day decisions.
The Wolves, unless there's a late change of plans, are down to their final three days of workouts this week before next week's NBA draft.
They've got former Gophers forward Trevor Mbakwe, North Carolina forward Reggie Bullock, New Mexico forward Tony Snell, Ohio State forward Deshaun Thomas, Arizona State swingman Carrick Felix and Utah center Jason Washburn.
Bullock, Snell and Thomas all are candidates if they're still around when and if the Wolves use that second first-round pick, 26th overall.
Lehigh guard C.J. McCollum is due in on Tuesday and the Wolves, as of right now, are scheduled to hold their final day of workouts on Friday.
If you're wondering about the Wolves moving up after Flip Saunders' visit to Washington D.C., to see Victor Oladipo last weekend...I'd say there's a better cha ce they move up from the 26th pick into the late teens or early 20s to make sure they get a guy they like than it is they'll be able to move up far enough to get Oladipo.
Flip Saunders headed to Las Vegas after the Timberwolves finished the third and final days of workouts at Target Center on Thursday, and by Saturday he'll be three time zones over in Miami.
Yes, he's got a lot of work to do before the June 27 draft.
Saunders supervised his team's first individual workouts Thursday, when the Wolves brought four shooting guards to town along with a couple of big men.
Georgia's Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was the only one of the four the Wolves will consider taking with that ninth overall pick.
The other three -- Cal's Allen Crabbe, Michigan's Tim Hardaway Jr. and Providence's Ricky Ledo -- all are candidates for that 26th pick.
Saunders praised all four for their good shooting and good size, two of the biggest needs in a new shooting guard.
Caldwell-Pope shot it well from the little we got to see at the end of the workouts, but didn't look to me as big and/or long as the other three.Crabbe is longer, Ledo and Hardaway both a bit taller than the 6-5 1/2 Caldwell-Pope.
When asked what he learned about Caldwell-Pope, Saunders said, "Nothing more than we knew about him before. Just what the scouting report says: Can shoot the ball, has good size, good quickness. He was a very very good player in the SEC. The things people said about him, that's what he does. That's what you like about him. I believe he's a player who has a lot of upside and he's a two-way player."'
Saunders made it clear he's looking for size and shooting in a much-needed shooting guard.
He headed to Vegas to attend a pro there Friday featuring Russian shooting guard Sergey Karasev, a teammate of Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved on the Russian Olympic team.
Then Saunders will fly to Miami to meet Ricky Rubio for the first time since he replaced David Kahn as the team's new boss.
He'll head to Italy next week for the annual Eurocamp. The team won't hold more Target Center workouts until he returns, starting, as they have it scheduled now, June 12.
Representatives from 25 other NBA teams attended the Wolves' two-day group workouts that ended this afternoon at Target Center.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo was here, too.
He's serving as something of a draft adviser to pal Flip Saunders, the Wolves' new president of basketball operations.
"He's good because he has seen a lot of these guys play, recruited a lot of these players," Flip said. "Him coming in to look and talk just helps, gives you insight. One of the biggest things you want to do is background checks, so you know as much about players and where they were four or five years ago and what improvement they've made. Have they reached their full potential or do they have a lot more to go. He helps with that."
Other bits of this and that from these first workouts as the June 27 draft approaches:
* Rick Adelman did come to town -- I didn't see him there yesterday -- for these two days of workouts and Thursday's first individual workouts and he chatted with Kevin Love high up in the Target Center stands at the end of today's second session.
* Those first individual workouts on Thursday are scheduled to feature shooting guards Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Georgia), Allen Crabbe (Cal) and Ricky Ledo (Providence) in a six-player group.
Caldwell-Pope is perhaps the leading possibility for that 9th overall pick. The other two guys are candidates for the Wolves' second first-round pick, 26th overall.
Those Thursday workouts are the last until after Saunders returns the second week of June from Italy for the annual Eurocamp.
* Flip will leave after Thursday's workouts for Las Vegas and will watch Russian prospect Sergey Karasev -- a 6-7 shooting swingman who the Wolves will consider with that 9th pick -- in a pro day there on Friday.
He'll then fly to Miami to meet with Ricky Rubio on Saturday.
* While in Europe, Flip also hopes to meet with Alexey Shved -- as well as Nikola Pekovic -- before he returns to Minnesota to continue workouts starting June 12 most likely.
* Flip says he has talked to many candidates -- above and beyond the names of Washington's Milt Newton and New Orleans' Tim Connelly -- for a front-office position but say he won't do anything (if he does anything) until after the draft.
"I've talked to a lot of people about a lot of things," he said. "We're going to wait until after, to see where we are. If I feel comfortable where we're at, we'll continue as is. If I feel we need to bring in somebody else, we'll do that."
He said he wants to streamline the scouting operation and intends to have regional scouts Milt Barnes and Derek Pierce do more extensive pro scouting. He also wants to build a more extensive NBA scouting database.
He wants other front-office personnel based in Minneapolis so they can see the team practice and play daily. There's a chance a guy like longtime international scout Zarko Durisic could move back to the Twin Cities from Los Angeles.
* Flip said he'll bring former Gophers Rodney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe in for individual workouts as the draft approaches.
Williams was in Wednesday's first group of workout and Flip was rather blunt about Williams' NBA prospects at this point.
When asked what parts of Williams' game translate to this next level, he said, "Right now, nothing...Everybody knows he's a great athlete, but at this level you don't just get by with athleticism. There are players in our league who are athletic. Your other skills have to develop. With Rodney, can he make that transition over the next three weeks and use his athleticism defensively and maybe tickle someone's fancy with the way he plays. That's what we're going to have to see."
Flip said he's not sure what position Williams is: He played power forward in college but considers himself an NBA small forward and Flip said with Williams' size, he might have to play shooting guard instead.
"He has to become a perimeter player rather than an inside player," Flip said. "His ball skills and shooting skills have to improve."
* I asked a longtime NBA scout if he'd trade Derrick Williams to move from the ninth pick into the top four if he were the Wolves so he could take one of the two top shooting guards, Indiana's Victor Oladipo or Kansas' Ben McLemore.
No way, is what he said.
He said Williams might be better than anyone in this draft and probably would go top 4 in this draft.
The list of draft prospects -- mostly guys who will go undrafted or might slip into the second round -- for the Wolves' annual two-day camp here at Target Center this week is out.
Gophers forward Rodney Williams is there, in the Wednesday's group.
Princeton, Minn.'s own Jared Berggren -- by way of Madison and the University of Wisconsin -- will work out in one of Tuesday's two groups.
Other names: Baylor guard Pierre Jackson, Illinois guard Brandon Paul, Memphis swingman D.J. Stephens, French center Mouhammadou Jaiteh and Texas A&M guard Elston Turner Jr., whose dad could end back on Rick Adelman's coaching staff after a couple years away.
There's nobody whose names you are going to hear when the Wolves make their two first-round picks in June.
But just to cover all their bases for the draft's second round and summer-league rosters, the Wolves are bringing these guys in on Tuesday and Wednesday for annual workouts attended by scouts from just about every other NBA team:
Anthony Marshall, G UNLV
Kenny Boynton Jr., G, Florida
DeWayne Dedmon, F, USC
Mouhammadou Jaiteh, C, France
Carrick Felix, F, Arizona State
Chris Babb, G, Iowa State
Solomon Hill, F, Arizona
Will Clyburn, G, Iowa State
Michael Snaer, G, Florida State
Brandon Paul, G, Illinois
Derrick Nix, C, Michigan State
Jared Berggren, F/C, Wisconsin
Matt Dellavedova, G, St. Mary's
Pierre Jackson, G, Baylor
Brandon Davies, F, BYU
Jackie Carmichael, F, Illinois State
D.J. Stephens, F/G, Memphis
Rodney Williams, Jr., F, Minnesota
Elston Turner, Jr., G, Texas A&M
B.J. Young, G, Arkansas
Alex Oriakhi, F, Missouri
James Southerland, F, Syracuse
Elias Harris, F, Gonzaga
Jamelle Hagins, F, Delaware
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