The Timberwolves conducted another round of predraft workouts on Thursday and then new president of basketball operations Flip Saunders quickly slipped out of Target Center to catch a flight to see Indiana guard Victor Oladipo on Friday.
Saunders flew to Las Vegas two weeks ago to watch Russian guard Sergey Karasev in a pro-day workout. On Thursday, he headed to the Washington, D.C. area to see a player the Wolves would have to move from their ninth pick into the top five — or maybe even top two — to get a chance to draft.
The Wolves have limited assets to swing such a deal, namely third-year forward Derrick Williams, second-year guard Alexey Shved and the ninth and/or 26th picks in the draft.
They also likely will trade one of two veteran guards —Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea —by draft night.
The Wolves’ biggest need is a traditionally sized shooting guard and Saunders has stated more than once that he wants — and expects — to get with that ninth pick a player who can help his team next season.
Oladipo, 21, presumably fits both, although he has repeatedly says he won’t trade Williams to move up in the draft.
Oladipo measured 6-4 ¼ in his sneakers at last month’s draft — certainly not big by NBA standards, but bigger than 6-1 Ridnour who started at shooting guard last season. But Oladipo was impressive in his junior season at Indiana with his explosive athleticism and relentless will that makes him a determined defender.
Oladipo and Kansas freshman Ben McLemore are considered the draft’s top two shooting guards, although Saunders has claimed he prefers Oladipo because he’s a more ready-made NBA player next season.
Saunders says Oladipo has the “It” factor, “whatever that is,” he said last month.
“There’s just something about him,” Saunders said. “I’ve seen him take over a lot of Big Ten games.”
Saunders and his scouting staff didn’t get the chance to interview Oladipo at the Chicago combine — the Wolves requested him, but the NBA limits the numbers of interviews for each player — so he flew to Washington, D.C., where Oladipo grew up.
The Wolves worked out Kansas center Jeff Withey and Brazilian center Lucas Nogueira — both players they’d consider with their 26th overall pick — and four others Thursday before Saunders left town. They’ll resume Target Center workouts Sunday, when UCLA forward Shabazz Muhammad and Kentucky guard Archie Goodwin, among others, are expected.