Rivals move up, but Wolves stay stuck in place

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 23, 2007 - 12:13 AM

Minnesota will draft at No. 7, where it was most likely to select, while Portland and Seattle beat the odds to get the top two picks.

Timberwolves fans should get a chance to see Greg Oden and Kevin Durant on a regular basis next season at Target Center. Unfortunately, they will be wearing visitors' jerseys.

The NBA draft lottery was held Tuesday in Secaucus, N.J., and for a Wolves franchise that has never had much luck in these things, the result came as a double whammy.

The Wolves, represented by Randy Foye, stayed put at No. 7 for the June 28 draft, the pick they were most likely to get. It was the 11th time in 11 tries the Wolves have failed to improve their lot in the lottery. But that's not the end of it.

Two teams did buck the odds and move up, and both are in the Northwest Division, along with the Wolves: Portland, which had the same chance (5.3 percent) as the Wolves of winning, finished No. 1. Seattle, which had the fifth-worst record, moved up to No. 2, with Atlanta moving up one spot to No. 3.

"Huge, unbelievably huge," Trail Blazers General Manager Kevin Pritchard told the Associated Press. "Franchise making."

The losers? Memphis, which had the worst 2006-07 record and a 25 percent chance of finishing with the top pick, tumbled to fourth. "It's about as disappointing as you could ever hope for," Grizzlies boss Jerry West told the AP.

Boston fell from No. 2 to No. 5, and Milwaukee dropped from No. 5 to No. 6.

And then came the Wolves.

The Wolves had a 5.3 percent chance of winning and a 6.0 chance at No. 2, which would have given them the opportunity to get either Oden or Durant, the consensus top two picks in the draft. Oden would have given them a much-needed shot-blocking, glass-cleaning center, and Durant would have offered instant scoring punch. Now those two likely will be doing so for Portland and Seattle.

"As expected, we ended up with the seventh pick, our pre-lottery draft position," Wolves Vice President of Basketball operations Kevin McHale said. "This is a talented draft class, and we will be able to get a solid player to add to our nucleus with this selection."

If there is any consolation for Wolves fans, it is that this year's draft is considered to be very deep. And, after the top two, there isn't a lot of separation between the next handful of picks. Wolves assistant GM Fred Hoiberg echoed McHale.

"We can sit around and feel sorry for ourselves or we can go to work, continue doing our homework and go out and find the best available player at No. 7 who can come in and help us," Hoiberg said. "It will be a good pick."

McHale has said he wants the team to get bigger at forward and center, and there should be a player available to fill that role, though none as ready to play as Oden or Durant.

Among those who could be available are Yi Jianlian, the 7-footer from China whose game is polished if not powerful; power forwards Brandan Wright (North Carolina) and Al Horford (Florida); forwards Joakim Noah and Corey Brewer, both from Florida; Georgetown center Roy Hibbert; and Ohio State point guard Mike Conley Jr.

The league will hold a predraft camp in Orlando that starts May 29, and Wolves coach Randy Wittman and the entire basketball operations staff will attend. Starting June 5, teams can bring in players for workouts.

"Starting [today] we'll be calling agents, scheduling individual workouts, where we can work the players out against other players who might expose any weaknesses they might have," Hoiberg said.

Note

• Wittman said Tuesday that he and the Wolves were close to agreeing on a contract to bring him back as coach. The deal could get done as early as today.

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