MINNEAPOLIS — Flip Saunders' first draft running the Minnesota Timberwolves was a chaotic one, with players falling and then disappearing right in front of them and trades happening every 10 minutes.
When the dust settled, the Wolves came away with UCLA swingman Shabazz Muhammad and Louisville center Gorgui Dieng in the first round. They weren't the first choices the Wolves would have made, and Saunders knows that they will take some selling with his fans.
"We felt pretty confident that we were going to get one of our guys, but we didn't," Saunders said Thursday night. "We moved back. I know it's not a popular pick with Shabazz. And I've been very critical of him. And I told him that when he came in here."
The draft was shaping up beautifully early for the Timberwolves, who tried to trade up from No. 9 into the top five for a chance at one of the top two shooting guards in the league. They couldn't make a deal, but with Anthony Bennett and Cody Zeller both surprisingly going in the top four picks, Kansas guard Ben McLemore was sliding down the board.
Then the Kings took McLemore at No. 7 and the Detroit Pistons took Georgia shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope right in front of the Wolves at No. 8, leaving Saunders with few options.
"Our guys at No. 9 were off the board," Saunders said. "We thought one of them would be there. We had a decision to make, whether we thought who we could get, if he wasn't there at 9 who we could move back and get at 14."
With Gonzaga center Kelly Olynyk and a few other players still available, Saunders drafted Michigan point guard Trey Burke for Utah in return for pick Nos. 14 and 21. But the Boston Celtics swooped in to grab Olynyk at No. 13, leaving the Wolves to take Muhammad, a highly touted prep star from Las Vegas who had a rocky one-year stay at UCLA.
Muhammad averaged 17.9 points and 5.2 rebounds per game in his lone season at UCLA. He has the natural scoring instincts that the Wolves have lacked in recent seasons, but also carries with him some questions about his background that may have caused him to fall down the draft board.
He was forced to sit out the first three games at UCLA and repay $1,600 in impermissible benefits after the NCAA and UCLA found that Muhammad accepted travel and lodging during three unofficial visits to Duke and North Carolina. It was also revealed in a story by the Los Angeles Times that he was actually 20 years old, a year older than the age that Muhammad's father had said he was all along.
Muhammad said he's working hard to show that any concerns about his character and background are unfounded.
"I think I'm just having a really good attitude with everything and going to come to Minnesota and try to (learn) as much as I can," Muhammad said.
Saunders, an alumnus of the University of Minnesota, was highly critical of Muhammad's uninspired performance in a first-round loss to the Golden Gophers in the NCAA tournament. Muhammad knows he comes into the league, and to Minnesota, with something to prove.
"I have definitely a chip on my shoulder and really can't wait to get to work and really take coaching well," Muhammad said.
The Wolves then took Dieng at No. 21, giving them a rim protector that their frontcourt lacks with Nikola Pekovic, who is a restricted free agent, and Kevin Love in the starting lineup. He averaged 2.5 blocks and 9.4 rebounds per game for the national champion Cardinals last season.
They traded the 26th overall pick and guard Malcolm Lee to the Golden State Warriors for cash considerations and a future second-round pick and rounded out the night by taking North Carolina State point guard Lorenzo Brown with the 52nd pick and Montenegrin forward Bojan Dubljevic with the 59th pick in the second round.
Saunders ended up not being able to address the team's most glaring need. Adding perimeter shooting was his top priority for a team that was dead last in the NBA in 3-point accuracy last season. Muhammad shot 37.7 percent on 3s at UCLA last season, but the Wolves will still be looking for more help in that area going forward.
"There were probably only about three or four (shooters) in the draft that were going to make an impact," Saunders said. "And unfortunately for us, they all went in front of us."
One who didn't was Lehigh guard C.J. McCollum, who was drafted 10th by Portland. But the Wolves were looking for size on the perimeter and McCollum is just 6-foot-3.
|Dallas||37||4th Qtr 2:00|
|Jacksonville||17||4th Qtr 1:20|
|NY Jets||37||4th Qtr 0:31|
|Philadelphia||34||4th Qtr 3:18|
|St. Louis||3:25 PM|
|TBA||1/3/15 2:00 AM|
|TBA||1/3/15 2:00 AM|
|TBA||1/4/15 2:00 AM|
|TBA||1/4/15 2:00 AM|
|Oklahoma City||6:30 PM|
|New York||8:00 PM|
|Central Conn St||48||FINAL|
|Long Beach State||67||FINAL|
|UMKC||62||1st OT 1:34|
|Hofstra||81||2nd Half 3:26|
|Coast Guard||26||2nd Half 16:41|
|Thomas (GA)||29||2nd Half|
|Texas Southern||21||2nd Half 19:36|
|Rutgers||29||2nd Half 19:28|
|NC Wesleyan||25||2nd Half 17:48|
|South Dakota St||30||2nd Half 17:54|
|Central Penn College||27||2nd Half|
|Bowling Green||35||2nd Half 18:00|
|SE Missouri St||36|
|Robert Morris-IL||31||2nd Half 16:43|
|Northland College||37||2nd Half 15:53|
|North Dakota St||51|
|Milwaukee||26||2nd Half 16:55|
|Northwestern St||30||1st Half 3:58|
|Saint Peters||0||1st Half 14:53|
|St Katherine||8||1st Half 17:35|
|Haskell||0||1st Half 19:28|
|Wake Forest||4||1st Half 14:58|
|Fla Gulf Coast||3:00 PM|
|SD Christian||0||1st Half 18:15|
|Miss Valley St||4:00 PM|
|Delaware State||4:00 PM|
|NW Christian||5:00 PM|
|UC Davis||5:00 PM|
|Abilene Christian||5:00 PM|
|Stony Brook||7:00 PM|
|(15) Arizona State||36||FINAL|
|Texas A&M||12/29/14 1:00 PM|
|Oklahoma||12/29/14 4:30 PM|
|Arkansas||12/29/14 8:00 PM|
|Notre Dame||12/30/14 2:00 PM|
|(13) Georgia||12/30/14 5:45 PM|
|Maryland||12/30/14 9:00 PM|
|(9) Ole Miss||12/31/14 11:30 AM|
|(21) Boise State||12/31/14 3:00 PM|
|(8) Miss State||12/31/14 7:00 PM|
|(10) Georgia Tech|
|(19) Auburn||1/1/15 11:00 AM|
|(7) Michigan State||1/1/15 11:30 AM|
|(16) Missouri||1/1/15 12:00 PM|
|(2) Florida State||1/1/15 4:00 PM|
|(5) Ohio State||1/1/15 7:30 PM|
|Houston||1/2/15 11:00 AM|
|Iowa||1/2/15 2:20 PM|
|(11) Kansas State||1/2/15 5:45 PM|
|Washington||1/2/15 9:15 PM|
|East Carolina||1/3/15 11:00 AM|
|Toledo||1/4/15 8:00 PM|
|(10) Oregon State||63||FINAL|
|(20) Michigan State||57|
|(24) Green Bay||66||FINAL|
|Milwaukee||70||2nd Half 0:46|
|Richmond||59||2nd Half 0:11|
|William & Mary||56|
|Western Mich||41||2nd Half 9:41|
|Davidson||61||2nd Half 5:11|
|UNC Greensboro||21||1st Half 1:55|
|Denver||29||2nd Half 15:31|
|VA Commonwealth||34||2nd Half 20:00|
|Huston-Tillotson||12||2nd Half 17:06|
|Miss Valley St||25||2nd Half 17:46|
|Saint Louis||39||2nd Half 16:46|
|Middle Tennessee||40||2nd Half 20:00|
|Penn State||24||2nd Half|
|Purdue||29||2nd Half 18:23|
|Sam Houston St||13||2nd Half|
|South Dakota||24||1st Half 4:23|
|Fla Gulf Coast||3:00 PM|
|(4) Notre Dame||0||1st Half 20:00|
|Coll of Charleston||0||1st Half 20:00|
|Alcorn State||2||1st Half 18:44|
|Dartmouth||0||1st Half 20:00|
|Michigan||0||1st Half 20:00|
|(25) Arizona State|
|UC Santa Barbara||4:00 PM|
|Long Island||4:00 PM|
|Long Beach St|
|Jackson State||4:00 PM|