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Continued: Saunders: Love deal is possibility only if he can upgrade team

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Last update: June 23, 2014 - 11:03 PM

He will probably never be an All Star, unless he keeps playing the way he finished last season. He averaged nearly 18.8 points and 10.1 rebounds and shot 54.6 percent from the field after the All-Star break and doesn’t turn 25 until November.

The rest of the deal: Small forward Wilson Chandler and possibly Orlando guard Arron Afflalo, whom the Nuggets likely would acquire with their 11th overall pick. The Nuggets could send that pick directly to Minnesota, if they can fashion a deal that makes the money work under salary cap rules.

Second thoughts? There’s probably not a real star — Faried comes the closest — among the group and Faried, like Thompson, is due for a contract extension. He’s looking to cash in big, like eight figures per year big.

Opting for defense

The Chicago deal

Power forward Taj Gibson (below)

and shooting guard Jimmy Butler

Yes, you can consider both nothing more than role players, but the role they play best is one that was rarely considered when this Wolves’ roster was assembled over time.

Each plays defense. Imagine that ...

Butler was voted to the NBA’s All Defensive second team and Gibson received more votes than the Wolves’ top vote-getter, Rubio.

The rest of the deal: The Bulls also have the rights to European prospect Nikola Mirotic, plus the draft’s 16th and 19th picks. The Wolves probably want it all; but expect the Bulls to hug Mirotic’s rights tight and probably suggest Tony Snell instead of Butler. How much will the Bulls give if they instead possibly can sign New York star Carmelo Anthony for no more than cap-space clear and big money paid?

Second thoughts? Mirotic has a big buyout with his Spanish team, just like Rubio five years ago, and he’d have to agree to come to Minnesota when he probably had his heart set on Chicago. The Wolves also probably take back Carlos Boozer’s expiring $16.8 million salary so the Bulls don’t have to pay him off. Also, Gibson— drafted the same summer as Rubio (2009) — is older than you think, turning 29 on Tuesday.

Opting for intelligence

The Boston deal

This doesn’t suggest rookie draft picks are in any way smarter than experienced NBA players listed above. But if Saunders really wants to put his stamp on this roster as both president and coach, he could choose a package built upon primarily a collection of draft picks such as the one the Celtics can offer.

It’s not the route he will likely go, but if Saunders accepted Boston’s sixth and 17th picks as well as future first-round picks — including Brooklyn unprotected one in 2016 — he could handpick and groom his own chosen players. That’d let him select a player such as sharpshooting Creighton forward Doug McDermott — a coach’s kid — or have a choice of power forwards Aaron Gordon, Noah Vonleh or Julius Randle with that sixth pick.

  • related content

  • Golden State’s Klay Thompson could be the shooter and defender that Saunders would target to improve the Wolves.

  • Young forward Kenneth Faried, left, stands out for Denver with his athleticism and defense.

  • Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson (22) reacts to a call during the first half of game 4 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Washington Wizards in Washington, Sunday, April 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) ORG XMIT: NYOTK

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