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Bjelica opts out of Europe deal, clears way to join Wolves

The Turkish team Fenerbahce Ulker overnight announced that Euroleague MVP Nemanja Bjelica has exercised an opt clause in his contract to leave for the NBA,

That clears the way for the Wolves to sign him, five years after David Kahn drafted him 35th overall in the 2010 NBA draft.

Expect Bjelica to sign a three-year deal worth at least $12 million, possibly more. The Wolves will use a good portion of their mid-level exception to sign him.

He was under contract with Fenerbahce until the clock struck midnight last night.

That's one more frontcourt player -- Bjelica is a natural "stretch" power forward who has the skills to play small forward, but you'd have to probably hide him defensively at that position -- coming to a team that already has Karl Anthony-Towns, Nikola Pekovic, Gorgui Dieng, to-be-signed Kevin Garnett and probably Robbie Hummel, Adreian Payne and Anthony Bennett.

That's A LOT of power forwards and center, which means they'll be some kind of trade or move either before training camp or by opening night.

Bjelica is 6-10, but played guard before he had a growth spurt. He has a guard's playmaking skills, but in a power forward's body. No question he has NBA skills offensively.Defense will be the question,

Bjelica is expected to sign by next week, but he's not expected to play with the Wolves' summer-league team in Las Vegas.

If you haven't seen him, here's a clip from his Euroleague play the last couple years.

Wolves' Saunders doesn't tip his hand about top pick

Wolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders met with the media today, the day before the team will make the first pick in the NBA draft.

He’s ready to make the pick, of course. And,  to the surprise of nobody, he was not willing to tip his hand as to who that pick will be. “There’s no reason to do it,” he said. “There are a lot of things that can happen, heaven forbid. …. There is no reason to let it [be] known, until you really have to.’’

Most expect the Wolves to take Karl-Anthony Towns with the first pick. And while Flip wasn’t saying who he’s taking, he did extol Towns’ virtues when asked about the Kentucky center.

Here’s what he had to say when asked about Towns’ best attributes: “Everyone talks about his versatility,” Saunders said. “He’s known right now [as] more of a defensive player. He’s very much underrated offensively, I think, because of playing [in Kentucky coach John Calipari’s] situation. By far, he’s the best pick-and-roll defensive big man in the draft. If you base things on it analytically, he’s the top analytical player, everything he’s done, on a per-minute basis. There’s a reason that people are looking at him as being one of the top players in the draft.’’

Here is a sampling of some of the other things Saunders had to say today:

--On how settled they are on their pick: “I think we feel really comfortable with the process that we’ve gone through. Thorough process. We brought in a lot of people, done a lot of intel, both in the players’ home towns and also here in our meetings. So I think we’re pretty comfortable.’’

--On how much input Kevin Garnett had in the process: “None. He came by, watched guys work out. One, I wouldn’t put him in that situation. That wouldn’t be fair to him, being a player. And he didn’t want to be in that. He just wanted to see these guys and see them in person and see how they were and see how they reacted. He was impressed with everybody that he saw.’’

--On what prospects thought of the Wolves: “You talk to those players…. There is no question if you look at you see the team that we have that it’s an up-and-coming team. There has been no hesitancy from any of the players from them coming saying, ‘Hey, I don’t want to be here.’ I think they all believe we have a chance to be special here.’’

--Has he had any sleepless nights worrying he might be passing on the next Michael Jordan? “They passed on Michael because they drafted for need rather than drafting who the best player was at the time. We’re taking the best player.’’

--On what he hopes to accomplish either with his two second-round picks or through free agency: “We’re probably going to look and see what we have in the backcourt-type situation. I believe that up front we’re pretty big. I think we’re pretty well set in letting some of our young guys develop.’’

That’s about all for now. Have a good day. 

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