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Posted: Friday June 20, 2008 12:18PM; Updated: Friday June 20, 2008 4:18PM
Steve Aschburner Steve Aschburner >
INSIDE THE NBA

Wolves in position to shape draft (cont.)

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On Friday, Hoiberg and a crew of evaluators were scheduled to fly to Los Angeles to check out Italian import Danilo Gallinari, UCLA's Russell Westbrook and Lopez again. After another Friday flight, this one to Chicago, the Wolves were lined up as one of seven teams invited to a special workout of USC's O.J. Mayo.

"That's kind of the way things are now, making you come see him. Inivitation-only,'' Hoiberg said. "It's coming from the agent on most of these things.'' Mayo these days is represented by Leon Rose, after his split with Bill Duffy's agency.

Here is Hoiberg on a few of the above players:

Mayo: "We've been doing a lot of background work on him. I played for [Trojans coach] Tim Floyd at Iowa State and with the Bulls for a year and a half. I would hope that he would tell me the truth on everything with O.J. We know a lot of people who have been around him throughout his life. We're just trying to put as much information [together] as we can and then have a chance to sit in front of him and hopefully have him answer some questions that we have about him. We've seen him play enough, we've seen him play live a lot of times. We've seen him play almost every game on tape.

"People have questions whether he's going to be a point guard in this league. He will be able to play some point. I don't think he's going to be an exclusive point guard. But I do think he can get you into some basic sets. The real thing he can do is space the court. His shooting stroke is beautiful. His range will equate to the NBA [three-point] line. From talking to people, he is the ultimate competitor. The kid wants to win every drill. .. We feel that he's a guy we're very seriously going to look at, at the third pick.''

Love: "His passing just makes people so much better. You could put him at the high post. He would be a great high-low feeder with Al [Jefferson]. His ability to take one step out of bounds, fall backward and, Dan Marino-like, put [the outlet pass] right on the numbers is phenomenal. He makes up for his size [6-foot-9] with his basketball IQ and his smarts.''

Gallinari: "The intriguing thing is he grew up as a point guard and, a couple of years ago, he shot up five inches. The great thing about him is how versatile he is. He handles the ball, he's still got those point-guard skills, he can go with the right or left hand. He's got a beautiful shooting stroke. He's going to be a mismatch nightmare on the offensive end. He can take guys off the dribble and with his ability to shoot the ball, people are going to have to play him honest and stay up on him. He will live at the free-throw line.''

Much has changed in the Minnesota front office, and international scouting department, since the team imported Gundars Vetra for 89 unwatchable minutes in 1992, had Andres Guibert mocked as the "Cuban Big Dog'' a year later and fell in love with Australia's Shane Heal from a pre-Olympic game in 1996. Rasho Nesterovic was a solid choice deep into the 1998 first round. But let's not forget Igor Rakocevic, either, an overmatched second-rounder from 2000. Might that track record argue against an overseas choice?

"Our European guys have been following [Gallinari] since a pretty early age,'' Hoiberg said. "We have a pretty good read on him. We've all seen him play live.''

All of which means ... what? That those players are among the four Minnesota is considering with the No. 3 pick? That they are guys the Wolves want teams to think they're considering, as a smoke screen? Or that they are players Minnesota would be glad to have from a spot or three down in the draft, hoping to generate enough leverage to trade the pick for another, with a few side benefits thrown in?

In terms of need, Minnesota ought to be looking for a legitimate point guard or a center who could relieve Jefferson of that role. It already has shooting guards such as Foye (a "combo'' it would like to use at point), Brewer and Rashad McCants. But the best talent at No. 3 might overlap what it already has, suggesting a possible move.

"We've got offers,'' McHale said Wednesday. "I would tell you there's not an offer I'd do today. I think if we do anything, I think it would be that night. It depends on what happens in front of us, too -- there are a lot of strange things happening in this draft.

"It's like anybody out there who has bought a house. They usually don't come out with their highest offer right away, they kind of wait for the deadline. You talk about it. You set the table. We've been talking with these teams for a month now.

"You say, 'We'd consider this or that,' and they say, 'Aw, we would never do that.' We'll see. When they tell you they would never do that on Thursday at 5 o'clock, they're pretty serious. That's when a lot of those deals get done.''

Eager rival GMs could drive up the value of that No. 3 pick, fast-tracking McHale's rebuilding efforts a little more. Then again, based on past performance, eager rival GMs might want to sit back, rub their hands together and lust for any guy Minnesota doesn't choose. By definition, he ought to be pretty good.

Steve Aschburner covered the Minnesota Timberwolves and the NBA for 13 seasons for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He has served as president or vice president of the Professional Basketball Writers Association since 2005. His new book, The Good, the Bad & the Ugly: Minnesota Twins, can be ordered here.

 
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