Great Moments In Wolves Draft History

On the eve of the NBA Draft, I would like to take a moment to reflect on some the great moments in Wolves draft history. Sure, I guess the words “great” and “draft” are hardly ever used when referencing a Wolves draft, but I thought it would be fun to go back and look at the good, but mostly not so good moments in Wolves draft history.

If a six-overtime game performance and a smile were needs to fill on an NBA roster, the Wolves hit the jackpot in 2008 when they decided to pass on current Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry and take Syracuse guard Jonny Flynn. Flynn played only two seasons with the Wolves before being dealt to the Houston Rockets. Two years later, Flynn was out of the NBA and now currently playing NBL in Australia. During his NBA career, Flynn averaged 9.2 points and 3.9 assists to go along with his 40% field goal percentage. Arguably, one of the most frustrating and mind-boggling selections in recent Wolves draft history. Thanks, Kahn!

The next great moment in Wolves draft history transpired 10 years ago today when the Wolves selected a forward out of Westbury Christian High School out of Houston, Texas. Take it away Mr. Stern.

What makes the Doody -err, I mean Ndudi Ebi pick so memorable is just that. Watching David Stern butcher his name is a classic.

The pick that put Wolves basketball on the map and made them relevant in the league for a decade came with the fifth overall pick in the 1995 draft. With the No. 5 pick, the Wolves took something called Kevin Garnett, a high school player out of the Chicago area. As we all know, “the big ticket” is the best player to ever put on a Wolves uniform and was arguably one of the best players of his time. KG was a 10-time All-Star with the Wolves and was the league MVP in 2004, a year in which he lead the Wolves to the Western Conference Finals — their deepest playoff run in franchise history. Garnett was eventually traded to Boston in 2007. One can’t argue that Garnett is the greatest draft selection in Wolves history.

Tomorrow, Flip will try to change the fortunes in the Wolves torturous draft history. Lets hope he takes Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

Wolves Notes: Love, Williams, Brooks, Mexico City

With only a few more days before Thursday’s NBA Draft, rumors have been swirling about potential trades that could go down involving the Wolves leading up to the draft. Here are some of those rumors, along with some other tidbits.

  • According to Andy Katz of ESPN.com, the Cleveland Cavaliers have offered a trade package centered around the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, along with forward Tristan Thompson and guard Dion Waiters for Wolves power forward Kevin Love. The Cavs like three players in this draft, but aren’t crazy about any of them so it makes sense that they would try to shop the pick around to see what they could get for it. President of basketball operations Flip Saunders refuses to move Love.
  • I wrote yesterday about the possibility of the Wolves dealing forward Derrick Williams to move up in the draft. It appears those rumors could be true as they presumably have offered teams in the top-five of the draft a trade package that includes Williams, the No. 9 and No. 26 picks, per ESPN.com. The article went on to mention that Saunders is “enamored” with Indiana guard Victor Oladipo.
  • Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News reports the Wolves have had discussions with the Brooklyn Nets about guard MarShon Brooks. Nothing is imminent, but Bondy went on to mention that an offer had been made to the Wolves and was waiting for their approval. Bondy believes that the Wolves would need to part ways with either point guards Luke Ridnour or J.J. Barea.
  • The Wolves are headed south of the border on December 4th as they will play a regular-season game against the San Antonio Spurs in Mexico City. This will be the Wolves second regular-season trip out of the country as they played the Sacramento Kings in Japan in 1999. The Wolves will be the “home” team in Mexico City.

Wolves Dangling Derrick Williams

According to sources, in an attempt to get something for him, the Wolves are offering third year forward Derrick Williams around to multiple teams, per Jerry Zgoda.

Like Zgoda states, it’s not surprising that the Wolves are trying to move Williams as he might have the most value of anyone on the roster that they’re willing to move. While Williams hasn’t been consistent in his first two seasons in the NBA, the former Arizona University power forward is only 22 years old, extremely athletic, and still has the potential to develop into a very serviceable power forward if he is able to consistently knock down open shots.

Two weeks ago it seemed the Wolves had a keen interest in Indiana Guard Victor Oladipo as president of basketball operations Flip Saunders flew out to Washington D.C. to talk with Oladipo’s camp and have a private workout with him. In many draft experts estimations, Oladipo is projected to be a top-five pick, so you would assume in order for the Wolves to get that high they would need to move Williams.

However, over the past few days it appears as though Saunders has changed his stance on draft — most recently saying he doesn’t believe there is an impact player selected Thursday — so it’s not clear if the team plans to use Williams to move up in the draft or to acquire a veteran player — most likely a shot blocking big man or shooting guard.

One would have to think the Wolves would opt to keep Williams if an impact player couldn’t be had at the top of the draft.

Wolves Nuggets: Pekovic, Kirilenko, Zeller, McCollum, Montreal

A few Wolves notes as today begins a busy stretch for the front office as they have six workouts scheduled over the course of the next eight days.

  • President of basketball operations Flip Saunders was in Europe this week to be in attendance for the Eurocamp. On top of scouting European NBA draft prospects, Saunders had hoped to meed with restricted free agent Nikola Pekovic in hopes to get the ball rolling on a new deal for the center from Montenegro. However, Flip never had time to meet with Pekovic and the two sides probably won’t meet before July 1st, per Jerry Zgoda. The two had planned to meet last week.
  • Andrei Kirilenko has until July 1st to decide if he will opt-in to his $10 million player option for the 2013-14 season. It sounds as though there is the possibility that Kirilenko could elect to become a free agent come July as he would like a contract that guarantees his stay in Minnesota past 2014, per Darren Wolfson.
  • Indiana University big man Cody Zeller had a private workout with the Wolves Wednesday. However, unless the team retools the roster, don’t expect them to take Zeller with the No. 9 overall pick in the draft. Saunders considers Zeller to be a “stretch 4″  and with stretch 4 power forwards Kevin Love, Derrick Williams, and Dante Cunningham on the team, selecting Zeller seems unlikely, via Zgoda.
  • Lehigh guard C.J. McCollum is scheduled to workout for the Wolves June 18th. McCollum, whom I’d like to see team at nine, averaged 23.9 points, five rounds, and 2.9 assists in his senior year, which was shortened by a broken foot.
  • The Wolves will play an Oct. 20th preseason game against the Boston Celtics at the Bell Centre in Montreal. This will be the second consecutive year the team will play in the NBA’s “Canadian Series.” Last preseason the Wolves played the Detroit Pistons in Winnipeg.

Could the Wolves Trade Up in the Draft?

While president of basketball operations Flip Saunders is in Italy for the next few days scouting the Eurocamp, it shouldn’t slow the team down from looking to make a trade to move up in the NBA Draft later this month.

Now, it’s obvious just by watching the Wolves for the last, oh say, decade-plus, that they’ve lacked competent play from the shooting guard position. Flip and company could be trying to change that come June 27th.

According to sources, the Wolves have shown a “strong interest” in Indiana guard Victor Oladipo. The Wolves have had talks with Oladipo and his representatives, however, the IU guard’s camp has been reluctant to schedule a workout with the team until the Wolves are able provide enough evidence that they are capable of moving up to one of the top four picks, per Darren Wolfson.

If the Wolves are indeed willing to move up in the draft, the Magic, who hold the No .2 overall pick, may be the most probable suitor as they are interested in trading down, via Brian K. Schmitz.

It’s unknown what the asking price would be to trade up from No. 9, but you would assume the Wolves would need to include in addition to the No. 9 overall pick, the No. 26 pick in the draft, which they received from Memphis, as well as forward Derrick Williams. With all that being said, the question we need to ask ourselves is, could the Wolves get more production out a player with the No. 2 pick — most likely Oladipo — then they could at No. 9, No. 26, and a still developing Derrick Williams? It’s an interesting question, but difficult question to answer as we simply won’t know until a few a years down the road once we are able to accurately grade this draft. Right now, it would appear they would as Williams looks to be a player that is destined to be a career bench player and players picked towards the end of the first round typically don’t become all stars.

Now, it’s no guarantee that Oladipo will develop into the next stud shooting guard, but HoopsHype.com compares him to that of Grizzlies guard Tony Allen and they believe he can become an upper echelon role player.

“While he may lack superstar potential, he appears to be the ultimate glue type player as an overachiever who brings boundless energy. His explosiveness is off the charts (42-inch vertical at the combine), particularly off of two feet and his shooting and ball handling have shown surprising improvement. At 6-foot-4 in shoes, he’s undersized, taking his long-term potential down a notch. Some wild comparisons such as Dwyane Wade and even Michael Jordan have been thrown out for Oladipo. But those are unfair for a player who projects as a high level role player, but not a star at the next level.”

Other reviews of Oladipo aren’t as optimistic about his shooting and ball handling skills. Trading a top-10 pick and a former No. 2 overall pick for a player like Oladipo is a risk, especially with the need for an improvement with his jump shot. Even more so, when you take into consideration the type of player Ricky Rubio is and how that would effect the way he is able to run the offense, one must take a moment and think if Oladipo is a good fit in the Wolves backcourt.

With all that being said, at this point, this is purely speculation. Flip doesn’t have a track record as the president of basketball operations so we have no idea how much he values the two first round draft picks or where he thinks Williams fits into the Wolves future plans.

If a move were to transpire, don’t expect it to happen until after the NBA Finals.

What Does Flip Saunders Hiring Mean For Wolves?

The David Kahn era, while it was somewhat short lived, is over in Minnesota. The news finally came to fruition Friday afternoon after NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner had reported April 26th that Kahn’s contract would not be renewed by the Wolves and former Wolves coach and, at the time, ESPN NBA Analyst Flip Saunders would be the new president of basketball operations. Which to most people seems like a great hire for the Wolves.

During his tenure, Kahn seemed to mismanage a few things with the team and organization, most notably Kevin Love over the last few season and of course the NBA Draft. With the hiring of Flip there are no guarantees that some of these areas of concern around the team will get any better, but there is a sense of hope that bringing a guy into the front office with a high basketball IQ will be able to turn things around.

To me, there’s three areas that Saunders will need to manage better than Kahn in order to get this team trending in the right direction again.

Kevin Love

It’s safe to say David Kahn and Kevin Love didn’t see eye-to-eye when it came to the team and the way Kahn handled Love’s contract negotiations. It’s my thought that towards the end of Kahn’s tenure with the Wolves, Love was unhappy in Minnesota and there was a possibility of Love requesting to be traded in the future. Saunders first goal as president of basketball operations should be the establish trust and rebuild the bridge Kahn and the front office burned down with Love. Per Jerry Zgoda, it appears as though Flip has reached out to Love already.

Flip’s understanding of what it takes to compete in the NBA on a given night and what it takes to make a run into the playoffs will help keep Love here in Minnesota. Showing his all-star power forward some love, no pun intended, might help too, but ultimately it will come down to wins and losses to keep the former UCLA power forward in a Wolves uniform.

Rick Adelman

Rick Adelman and David Kahn’s relationship was interesting to say the least. Through the media they both said they both maintained they had a good working relationship with one another, but you still got the sense that Adelman thought Kahn was a moron for a lack of a better term. At this point it’s unknown if Adelman will be back to coach the Wolves next season after he missed a chunk of the season due to his wife’s health. However, there are early indications that Adelman will be back for his third season following this shot he took at Kahn, via Jon Krawczynski.

I think that quote pretty much sums up what Adelman thought of Kahn and what he thinks of Saunders.

However, the real question here is, can Flip and Rick coexist? That remains to be seen, but Saunders knows he is dealing with a future hall of fame coach in Adelman and mentioned in press conference Friday afternoon that Adelman will still have a big say in roster management.

It’s also worth noting that during Flip’s presser he was asked if he had any intentions to coach the team at some point in the future, he didn’t give a definitive answer, which is interesting.

NBA Draft

Historically, the draft hasn’t been very forgiving to the Wolves. They’ve never won lottery and they’ve consistently missed on players. That trend continued once Kahn was hired prior to the 2009 draft. Here’s a list of player the Wolves opted to take in the first round of the draft under Kahn.

2009: Ricky Rubio, Jonny Flynn, and Wayne Ellington

2010: Wes Johnson and Lazar Heyward

2011: Derrick Williams

2012: Traded pick for Chase Budinger

If the NBA Draft was based around best smile, the Wolves nailed there picks in 2010 and 2011 by taking Jonny Flynn and Wes Johnson. However, since the premiss of the draft is taking players based on their skills of basketball, Kahn managed to miss all but one of their six picks over that four year span which was Rubio. The most glaring miss out of that bunch is Flynn who the Wolves decided to take over now Golden State Warrior Stephen Curry. Flynn was eventually traded out of Minnesota and is now out of the NBA and playing in Australia.

Now, it’s unknown if Saunders will be any better at evaluating players coming out of college than Kahn, but when you consider the way the Wolves drafted over the course of the last four years, it’s hard to argue that Flip could do any worse.

In my opinion, I would have given Kahn a grade of C as the Wolves president of basketball operations. While Kahn is easy to rip due to how he handled things with Love, his selections in the draft, or his seemingly awkward personality, he managed to put the Wolves in a position to be once again at least competitive. If not for a season that was snake bit due to injuries, the Wolves could very well have been playing in the postseason this year and Kahn more than likely would’ve received a new contract.

Now by no means am I saying that Flip Saunders is the front office savior this franchise has been looking for over it’s 23 years of existence, but what Flip brings to the table is the belief that a man who has been around the game for so many years, as a coach and as a player, will be able to build a relevant and competitive team for years to come. Something a former sports journalist, Kahn, wasn’t able to do.

The Week That Was 7/23 – 7/29

  • It was a busy week for the Wolves as the front office made five roster moves. President of Basketball Operations David Kahn started the flurry of moves on Tuesday night by shipping guard Wayne Ellington off to the Memphis Grizzlies in return for forward Dante Cunningham. The next day, the Boston Celtics rescinded a qualifying offer to Greg Stiemsma, making him an unrestricted free agent and allowing him to sign with the Wolves. On that same day, the Timberwolves announced that the team had signed Russian guard Alexey ShvedFriday afternoon the Wolves announced they completed a three-team trade that sent Wes Johnson and a future lottery protected first-round pick to the Phoenix Suns, the Suns sent Robin Lopez and Hakim Warrick to the New Orleans Hornets, the Hornets sent Brad Miller to Phoenix, and three future second-round picks to Minnesota. The trade freed up cap space for the Wolves as they announced later that day that they had signed former Utah Jazz and New Jersey Nets forward Andrei Kirilenko. Kirilenko and the Wolves agreed on a two-year deal worth $20 million, with a player option in the second year of the deal.
  • The Twins opened up this week in Chicago as they took on the White Sox. Franscico Liriano’s performance on Monday night would be a sign of things to come for the Twins. Liriano pitched two and 2/3 innings giving up seven earned runs on seven hits, including three home runs, one walk and two strikeouts. The south-siders outscored the Twins in the three-game series 26-10. Friday the Twins began a six-game home-stand as they took on the IndiansScott Diamond’s performance Friday night was the exact opposite of Liriano’s on Monday night. Diamond threw a complete game shutout, scattering three hits and striking out six. It was the first complete game of Diamond’s career and the first shutout for the Twins this season. The Twins swept the tribe out of Minnesota, outscoring Cleveland 28-6 during the three-game set. The Twins begin a three-game series with the White Sox on Monday night.
  • Following Saturday night’s 12-5 win over the Cleveland Indians, the Twins announced that they had traded Franscico Liriano to the Chicago White Sox. It appeared Liriano’s trade value wasn’t as high as many thought it was as the Twins received infielder Eduardo Escobar and pitcher Pedro Hernandez, which many considered to be C-level prospects. Escobar played 36 games for Chicago this year — mostly played at third base — hitting just .207/.281/.276. Per BaseballAmerica.com, Esobar’s glove will, “buy him at-bats for the rebuilding Twins.” Hernandez owns a 3.42 career ERA and a 1.24 career WHIP in five-plus minor league seasons. Hernandez, who has a “plus changeup and plus control,” according to BaseballAmerica.com, projects to be a back of the rotation pitcher.
  • Remember Lew Ford? The former Twin made his return to the big leagues in nearly five years today with the Baltimore Orioles. The left fielder went 0-3 in his debut with the O’s, but rather than making the highlight reels with his bat, Ford made them with his arm today when he threw out speedy Oakland Athletics center fielder Yoenis Cespedes trying to stretch a single into a double. In five seasons with the Twins, Ford hit .272/.349/.402. Baltimore called him up after he hit .331/.390/.550 in Triple-A this year.
  • The Vikings finally signed first round draft pick Matt Kalil on Thursday morning. At the time of the signing, Kalil was the highest draft selection — fourth overall — to not be signed to a deal. Kalil’s deal will be a four-year deal worth upwards of $19.7 million. The deal, which is fully guaranteed, includes a signing bonus of $12.8 million.

Vikings Sign Matt Kalil

Heading into today, Matt Kalil was the highest draft selection — fourth overall pick — who had yet to sign his first NFL contract. That all changed this morning when the Vikings signed the former USC offensive tackle.

The apparent hold up in Kalil’s signing was the Vikings stipulation on offset language in the contract. It would allow the team to regain some of the tackle’s guarantee money in the event that he becomes a bust and is cut before his contract is up. Minnesota folded on their offset language notion which ultimately allowed the deal to be signed this morning.

Kalil’s deal will be a four-year deal worth upwards of $19.7 million. The deal, which is fully guaranteed, includes a signing bonus of $12.8 million.

Wolves Update

  • As reported yesterday, the Timberwolves and Memphis Grizzlies agreed on a trade that would send shooting guard Wayne Ellington to Memphis in exchange for forward Dante Cunningham.
  • The Boston Celtics rescinded a qualifying offer to Greg Stiemsma, allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent and to sign with the Wolves.
  • It’s official, the Wolves announced this morning that the team has signed Russian free agent guard Alexey Shved. The terms of the contract are not immediately known.
  • According to Yahoo! Sports writer Adrian Wojnarowski, the Wolves are involved in a three-team deal that would help clear cap space for Andrei Kirilenko’s return to the NBA. In the deal, which includes the Phoenix Suns and New Orleans Hornets, the Suns would send Robin Lopez and Hakim Warrick to New Orleans, the Wolves would deal Wes Johnson and future lottery protected first-round pick to Phoenix, the Hornets would trade Brad Miller to the Suns, and the Wolves would receive two future second round picks from New Orleans.
  • Kirilenko, who has been playing overseas since the beginning of last year’s lockout, has a buyout in CSKA of Moscow contract that would allow him to return to the NBA. The Russian forward has been searching for a contract that would pay him around $8 million per year.

Wolves Deal Ellington, Acquire Cunningham

After days and days of being in the works, the Timberwolves and the Memphis Grizzlies, Wayne Ellington for Dante Cunningham swap, became official today.

The Wolves deal the shooting guard Ellington, who wouldn’t see the floor due to the already guard laden Wolves roster, to the Grizzlies in exchange for forward Cunningham, who plays both forward positions and is active on defense.

With the eventual singings of Brandon Roy and Russian guard Alexey Shved, who, per Jerry Zgoda could be signed as early as Wednesday, made Ellington expendable. The deal gives the Wolves another forward, who lost forwards Anthony Randolph, Michael Beasley, and could lose Anthony Tolliver. By trading for Cunningham, the Wolves won’t be adding to or relieving any of their cap space. Ellington and Cunningham are due to both make a little more than $2 million each.

Cunningham was selected 33rd overall by the Portland Trail Blazers in the 2009 NBA Draft. In three NBA seasons, the 6-foot-8 forward has averaged 5.2 points, on 48.5 percent shooting, 3.3 rebounds in 205 games.

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