Taylor: Wolves May Trade Draft Pick
Owner Glen Taylor told Sports Headliners his basketball decision makers are looking at a “scenario” where the Timberwolves acquire a veteran player by giving up their No. 7 pick from the first round of the June 22 NBA Draft.
The team’s starting lineup has three players 22 or younger, and the others are ages 27 and 26. That young core has talent and promise but the last two seasons the Wolves have won a combined total of only 50 games, and haven’t made the playoffs since 2004. The team’s development could be enhanced by a skilled veteran player. Specifically, a defensive stopper who will limit the opposition’s best scorer, according to Taylor.
President-coach Tom Thibodeau and general manager Scott Layden are looking at alternatives on how to improve the team including evaluation of potential draft choices. Taylor won’t demand roster changes before next season but he wants potential moves to be explored by his two top basketball executives.
“I don’t think we’re just going to sit there and say we’re going to go with what we’ve got,” Taylor said. “We could do that. I think they’re willing (Thibodeau and Layden) to do that, but I think they want us to look at…other opportunities…and I guess it would be a free agent or a trade. I don’t think their expectations are our draft choice, even though it’s seven, is going to be an immediate answer.”
Taylor said a challenge in evaluating players for the June 22 draft is sometimes access to watch them, and also to obtain medical information. Agents will set limitations in both areas, trying to do what they think is most advantageous for clients.
“I was hopeful that when we were doing the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) discussions that we would get some of these things handled better so that we would have more consistency,” Taylor said. “That all medical records were shown equally. (That) everybody had access to watching a player scrimmage against some of the other players.
“We weren’t able to get that. Personally, I don’t think it’s the best way to do things, that the agents are controlling the players much more and giving you less access to them.”
Taylor met with Thibodeau and Layden recently to understand why his promising team won only two more games last season than the year before. He was told it was a combination of things including major injuries to starting guard Zach LaVine and reserve forward Nemanja Bjelica. Another key was the team’s inconsistent and often inadequate defense.
Taylor had news about center Nikola Pekovic who didn’t play last season and has a history of recurring injuries. About a month ago Taylor said a doctor declared Pekovic probably can’t play next season and now the Wolves need corroboration from an NBA doctor. “We’re waiting for that confirmation,” said Taylor.
Next season is the last of Pekovic’s contract with the Wolves and likely the end of his NBA career. If doctors rule the 31-year-old can’t play, insurance covers 80 percent of the Wolves’ obligation.
Starting guard Ricky Rubio had his best of six NBA seasons in 2016-2017 but rumors continue to circulate about the Wolves trading him. “I don’t know where they’re coming from,” Taylor said. “I’ve read them just like you’ve read them, but I don’t know where they’re coming from, or why they’re saying that.”
College football magazines are now on newsstands offering predictions including for the Big Ten’s West Division. Athlon, Lindy’s and Street & Smith’s all forecast a fifth place finish for Minnesota in the seven-team division.
“The first seven games all are very winnable. After that—yikes,” Lindy’s says. Minnesota’s last five games are on the road at Iowa, Michigan and Northwestern, and at home against Nebraska and Wisconsin.
Lindy’s has the Gophers ranked 40th in the country and Street & Smith’s projects a Quick Lane Bowl invite to Detroit. Athlon sees Minnesota finishing with a 6-6 overall record and 4-5 in the Big Ten.
Both Athlon and Lindy’s include Gopher junior placekicker Emmit Carpenter on their first team All-Big Ten offensive units. Gopher senior Steven Richardson is part of Lindy’s first team All-Big Ten defensive line.
Street & Smith’s labeled new Gophers coach P.J. Fleck best interview on a Big Ten list that also says Ohio State’s Urban Meyer is the league’s best coach and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is the best tweeter. “No coach will be more entertaining at Big Ten Media Day than Fleck,” the magazine says.
The 46th annual Big Ten Football Media Days are July 24 and 25 in Chicago. Fleck addresses the media on the second day.
The Big Ten office announced TV times for 35 games on ESPN and FOX Sports last week. The only Gophers’ game listed was Minnesota’s Homecoming against Illinois on October 21 with a 2:30 or 3 p.m. kickoff.