For nearly a half-hour Tuesday, Timberwolves president of basketball operations and coach Tom Thibodeau and General Manager Scott Layden sat down and talked about Thursday’s draft. It is a testament to their NBA experience that they managed to say little in the way of specifics.
But there were hints.
The Wolves, slotted with the No. 5 pick, have fielded numerous calls from other teams. The possibility of trading the pick either for extra selections or for a veteran player remains. In what they feel is a strong draft, they’d be happy waiting and using the pick.
The bottom line is they have to be ready for anything in a draft Layden thinks could get rather eventful.
“I think we have the makings of a fun day with teams with multiple picks,” Layden said. “There probably will be more trade activity than usual.”
This draft is odd in that several teams have multiple first-round picks; Philadelphia, Phoenix, Boston and Denver all have three picks, and the 76ers, Celtics and Suns draft ahead of the Wolves at No. 5. Some of those teams might not have room on their rosters for so many picks. On the flip side, there are teams who don’t have a first-round pick who’d like to get back in and might be willing to trade a veteran to do so.
So the Wolves have to be ready.
This will be the first opportunity for fans to gauge the direction Thibodeau and Layden want to go with the roster. In this area, there weren’t many clues. Known for his love of toughness and defense, Thibodeau also expressed a desire for shooting and the team’s need to improve on three-pointers.
“When you go through the games from last season, you’re looking at a team that will probably be different next year,” Thibodeau said. “In terms of a draft pick, free agency and how the roster will unfold. … I think we’re ready for all the possibilities. We’re excited. We feel that we will get a good player and go from there.”
The perception of the franchise continues to trend upward. At the NBA draft combine, Providence guard Kris Dunn raved about Thibodeau. During a teleconference Tuesday, Kentucky coach John Calipari said star guard Jamal Murray wanted to be picked by the Wolves.
“Jamal? I’m saying this to you and no one else,” he said. “He loves Minnesota. As a matter of fact, that’s where he’d like to go.”
Calipari said Murray and Wolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns know each other.
“That’s what Jamal likes, that situation,” Calipari said. “He looked at that situation and said, ‘They need me and I’d love to be there.’ ”
Whether he’s available at No. 5 and the Wolves have a mutual attraction? That remains to be seen. But on a team looking to improve, it’s good to know players want to be here, something that could be even more important during free agency in July.
But Thibodeau and Layden are focusing on the draft first.
When asked if drafting a young player would give his team too much youth, Thibodeau said not necessarily so.
“As a coach, you have to base your decision on performance,” he said. “Ideally there is a balance. There’s some young guys, some guys in the middle of the road and some veterans who can contribute. I think you want a balanced roster, but if a young guy proves he can play, he plays.”
So we’ll have to wait and see if there is a trade or a pick.
“There are four people picking before us,” Thibodeau said. “We think we have a pretty good understanding of how it may go, but you never know. If there is a trade, it gets changed. I think we’re ready for all the possibilities.”
• Layden said the team continues to talk with potential front-office and assistant coaching candidates but haven’t yet made a move while draft preparation took precedence.
• Thibodeau said he has talked with veteran Kevin Garnett, but said he wouldn’t divulge what they’d talked about or whether Garnett wants to return for another season. He missed much of last season because of a sore knee, but is under contract for one more year at $8 million.