Flip Saunders met with the local media Wednesday morning for the final time before he makes arguably the most important draft pick in franchise history — and one for which he said the anticipation among the Wolves’ fan base compares to nearly 20 years ago when Minnesota added Stephon Marbury to go with Kevin Garnett, forming the type of dynamic duo (albeit all-too-briefly in the case of KG and Steph) that current fans can envision next season with Andrew Wiggins and Thursday’s top pick.
Signs have been pointing toward the Wolves taking Kentucky center Karl-Anthony Towns, to the extent that most of the free world expects it to happen and those writing about it are saying it more confidently with each passing day. But the one man who could put an end to any lingering doubts about whether it will be Towns declined to do so Wednesday — not because he has any doubts about who he is going to take but because, well, he doesn’t have anything to gain by telling us who it is.
“There’s no reason to do it,” Saunders said during a news conference at the team’s new practice facility, a building Flip said impressed draft prospects when they came in for workouts. He added this, just to cast that shadow of doubt: “Something crazy can happen.”
Kentucky head coach John Calipari used pretty much that same last phrase recently when talking about Towns and whether he would be the top pick, saying it would take something crazy for it to not be Towns. Combine that nugget with Saunders’ declaration Wednesday that, “I think we have an idea” of who the Wolves are going to take and that, “We are pretty comfortable right now,” and the evidence for Towns, regardless of official confirmation, is pretty strong.
Sprinkle in the praise Saunders gave to Towns on Wednesday, saying he rates as the draft’s top player in terms of analytics plus has an underrated offensive game to go with strong pick-and-roll defense, and you have another clue that there really won’t be much mystery Thursday night. Add in Flip’s comments that the Wolves plan to address their ballhandling and shooting later in the draft and/or in free agency, and you get another clue yet.
When asked if he’s worried about making a mistake at the top of the draft or feeling pressure because he has the top pick, Saunders quickly dismissed both notions. Teams that get in trouble in the draft are ones who pick for need and not simply to add top talent, he said. “We’re taking the best player. We’re not drafting for need,” he said, adding later that, “This has been the least-stressful draft” because he doesn’t have to worry about not getting the player he wants since nobody picks in front of Minnesota. (For the record, Saunders did say that a week before last year’s draft he wrote Zach LaVine’s name on a piece of paper as the player he wanted).
Saunders did take some time to marvel and maybe even pat himself on the back a little, recalling the position the franchise was in a year ago with the Kevin Love situation looming and the Wolves charting a typically aimless course. Things are certainly better now; Saunders said things even have a chance to be “special” if everything works out the way he and the Wolves hope.
A big piece will be revealed Thursday night. There might not be much mystery, but there will still be plenty of intrigue.