JON KRAWCZYNSKI, AP Basketball Writer
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — There’s been so much talk about the player that the Minnesota Timberwolves could be giving up on draft night that there has been little attention paid to the player who could be arriving.
The Timberwolves have the 13th pick in the first round on Thursday night, and they need help with 3-point shooting and a wing player who can get to the basket. They also could be in the market for a power forward if they trade three-time All-Star Kevin Love.
The Love talks have consumed the conversation to this point, but it remains very possible that the Wolves hold onto their franchise player through the draft and revisit trade talks after the free agent market opens on July 1.
That’s only one big decision President Flip Saunders and the rest of the Wolves staff have to make. Hitting on a player who can help them at 13 is crucial for the long-term health of a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs in 10 years.
Rookie contracts provide the kind of affordable talent that is necessary for small-market teams, and several misses on recent high picks from previous executive David Kahn continue to haunt the team. Saunders had success with his first draft last summer with Gorgui Dieng, the 21st overall pick who blossomed into a starting-caliber center by season’s end, and Shabazz Muhammad, the 14th pick, who the team hopes can provide bench scoring.
Time for him to do it again.
“I believe there is a lot of potential in the draft and a lot of guys who will go in the top 10 who have a chance to be all star players,” Saunders said. “So I think that’s why you look at it being a deep draft.”
Here are five things to watch from the Timberwolves on draft night:
LOVE’S WHEREABOUTS: Indications are that Love will remain with the team through the draft. But teams to watch that could sweeten their offers on draft night include Golden State, Boston, Cleveland and Chicago. The Cavaliers have the No. 1 pick, but would need assurances from Love that he would resign with them. Love wants to go to a contender, preferably in a big market. Short of the Cavaliers landing LeBron James in free agency, it is hard to imagine a scenario where Love could be persuaded to stay there long term.
LOVE’S REPLACEMENT: Whether Love remains on the team or not, the Wolves are in the market for a young power forward. Michigan State’s Adreian Payne is one candidate. Saunders and Spartans coach Tom Izzo go way back and the 23-year-old Payne could bring range and toughness to the team.
DREAM SCENARIO: Saunders covets outside shooting for a team that struggled in that area last season. Creighton’s Doug McDermott and Michigan’s Nik Stauskas are widely considered the top two shooters in the draft. The Wolves would love to see one of them fall to 13, but that appears unlikely at this point.
TAKE A CHANCE ON ME: One of the intriguing options that could be available is UCLA shooting guard Zach LaVine. He didn’t put up impressive numbers in his lone season with the Bruins, but his athleticism and shooting have teams thinking he could blossom into a potential star with some hard work on his game.
SAFE PLAY: Michigan State guard Gary Harris might be the most reliable choice. Harris was up-and-down offensively with the Spartans, but his ability to defend would make him an immediate asset for a team that struggled to stop opponents last season.
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