Instincts more important than statistics in drafting, Saunders says

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 25, 2013 - 10:55 PM

Wolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders joked with former Indiana star Cody Zeller at a predraft workout.

Photo: CARLOS GONZALEZ, Star Tribune file

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Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders and his staff have evaluated hours of game tape, watched prospects in a Chicago gym, conducted interview after interview and pored over statistical analytics all so their heads and hearts confirm what their eyes see when they make draft-night decisions come Thursday.

When it comes down to it, sounds like Saunders will trust his eyes and instincts over advanced statistical analysis.

“We use that, but it’s information, confirmation,” he said. “I don’t think you can put your whole weight on it.”

He mentioned NBA champion Miami and quoted Heat Executive President Pat Riley as once saying, “Statisticians make me squeamish,” and pointed out teams such as Indiana with Larry Bird and Donnie Walsh running the show and Memphis before it hired ESPN numbers guy John Hollinger last season.

“Those organizations were built on basically the eye test and basketball instincts,” Saunders said. “Stats give information. You can look at someone, like them, look at their stats and you will either become more enamored and feel better about them or you might get more questions. I don’t think stats can get you the whole true test.

“If that was the case, [Mike] Muscala would be the No. 1 pick because statistically he rated out higher than anyone probably in the draft when you look at rebounds, points and you put values on all of his statistics.”

The 6-11 Muscala, who grew up in Roseville, is considered an offensively skilled power forward who could be drafted late in the first round.

Los Lobos

The Wolves will play San Antonio in Mexico City on Dec. 4, the Wolves’ first regular-season game outside the United States since they played Sacramento twice in Tokyo in 1999.

The game — part of the NBA’s Global Games series — will be considered a Wolves home game. The Wolves have two Spanish-speaking players, Ricky Rubio and J.J. Barea, on their roster.

Brooklyn and Atlanta play in London on Jan. 16. This is the first time the league will play regular-season games in two countries outside the United States and Canada in the same season.

Checking in

In the midst of his draft preparations, Saunders flew to Los Angeles on Monday and had dinner with Kevin Love, Rubio and Derrick Williams, among others. He also watched the three Wolves players work out together Tuesday.

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