Wolves in position to shape draft
Putting the Timberwolves in charge of their own pick in the first round of the NBA draft is challenging enough. Flipping them the keys for what happens through the rest of the lottery selections, the entire first round or 58 of the 60 picks overall could be an adventure.
Sitting at No. 3 -- after Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley, the consensus choices for Nos. 1-2, go in some order -- what the Wolves do at that juncture could affect all the teams lining up behind them, at least through any alleged second tier, the size of which changes according to the club or expert doing the projecting.
So vice president Kevin McHale and the merry men in his front office -- seven guys, McHale has said, are involved in the major personnel decisions in Minnesota -- will play a role in what Seattle's Sam Presti, Memphis' Chris Wallace, New York's Donnie Walsh and the rest do with their own lottery picks. All those astute basketball men will be on edge, waiting, wondering, crossing their fingers and hoping, maybe holding their breath and cringing -- basically, experiencing the draft the way many Wolves fans have through the years.
It hasn't been all bad. Randy Foye (the team's top pick in 2006) still has a world of promise in Minnesota's backcourt. Corey Brewer (its 2007 selection) could be dynamite if he ever finds his shot and builds his arm and leg muscles to the size of your average librarian's. Then there is Kevin Garnett, McHale's long shot that paid off for both their current and former teams.
But there have been missteps along the way, decisions that went awry in the months after the draft or looked bad in its immediate aftermath and stayed bad. Ndudi Ebi, a stab at a Garnett redo in 2003, left Kendrick Perkins, Leandro Barbosa and Josh Howard on the board. In 1999, Wally Szczerbiak could have been Richard Hamilton, Andre Miller or Shawn Marion, and William Avery could have been Ron Artest or James Posey. Two years ago, the Wolves actually had Brandon Roy, the 2006-07 Rookie of the Year, under their ball cap for a few minutes before getting too cagey and greedy for their own good; they swapped him to Portland for Foye, the lower salary slot for the No. 7 rather than No. 6 pick, and an extra $1 million.
Come to think of it, maybe Mssrs. Presti, Wallace, Walsh and the rest have nothing to worry about after all. Minnesota's decision-making, for those drafting later, frequently has been a gift that keeps on giving.
Still, no one will know the specific outcome, much less the long-term ramifications, until the Wolves act. Do something. Deem this prospect or that as worthy of No. 3 status or deal the pick for some package of established players, later selections and cash.
This assumes that Rose and Beasley indeed play out as the first two players chosen. So far, according to the mock drafts and the league pipeline, that hasn't changed; that noise you hear out of Miami is simply Heat president Pat Riley, a Type-A, proactive sort of guy, wrestling with the fact that his team's draft fate at No. 2 is held by Bulls general manager John Paxson at No. 1. Neither McHale nor Wolves assistant GM Fred Hoiberg expects either Rose or Beasley to still be available by the time their team goes on the clock Thursday.
That's why they have focused on the next cluster of players, a second tier that they saw initially as eight deep but now, after extensive research and live workouts, have whittled down to four.
"We're down to, like, four guys who we really like a lot,'' McHale said. "Any one of those four guys, we'd be really excited about. You might go right into Thursday, really liking guys and then talking about a lot of different stuff. We'll see.''
Which four guys? The Wolves aren't saying. But a few glances at most of the mocks, the list of players they already have brought to the Twin Cities, the names of guys who might be visiting a day or two before the draft and a peek at Hoiberg's most recent itinerary provide some clues.
Stanford's Brook Lopez, UCLA's Kevin Love, Ohio State's Kosta Koufos and Kansas' Brandon Rush already have worked out at Target Center. Hoiberg said Wednesday that the club is dickering to get Indiana's Eric Gordon and West Virginia's Joe Alexander into town next week. Arizona's Jerryd Bayless is another player the Wolves would like to work out.