Timberwolves, Wild Need Draft Buzz
The Timberwolves and Wild need to stir up excitement amongst their fan-bases during the next three days.
The Wolves have the No. 11 and No. 43 selections in Thursday’s NBA Draft that consists of two rounds. The Wild has eight selections, including the No. 12 overall, in the seven-round NHL Entry Draft that starts Friday evening and concludes Saturday.
Neither franchise made the playoffs last spring. Fan outlooks right now for next season can probably be fairly characterized as “ho-hum.”
A Twin Cities sports marketing authority, who didn’t want his name identified, has heard both the Wild and Wolves have concerns about season ticket renewals and new sales. The Wild needs box office buzz and hopes to obtain it in the free agent market this summer. NHL franchises, including the Wild, are more dependent on gate receipts than the NBA with its larger TV revenues. The Wolves have a superstar and ticket draw in All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns, but need more stellar personnel to become a factor in the talent-heavy NBA Western Conference.
The Wolves, according to the marketing authority, are interested in moving up in the draft and could offer the gifted but so far under-achieving Andrew Wiggins, who has played his first four NBA seasons in Minnesota but is still only 24 years old. Interestingly, this week Nbadraft.net’s mock draft had the Wolves using both their draft choices on small forwards, the same position Wiggins plays.
The website’s speculation Minnesota will draft North Carolina’s Nassir Little and Oregon’s Louis King could fit in with conjecture about parting with Wiggins. Taking Little and King would also make sense if the Wolves choose to play the 6-foot-8 Wiggins exclusively at shooting guard next season. The position switch could take advantage of his height against smaller defenders—posting up, or easily shooting over them.
This will be the Wolves’ first draft directed by new president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas. He is expected to shape and direct the organization in a strong manner, and there certainly could be major reshuffling of not only the roster but support positions, too.
This week Wild general manager Paul Fenton leads his second draft for Minnesota. The expectation is the Wild will be determined to add goal scorers in the draft and free agent market in the coming days and weeks, although there is some thought Minnesota might use its first draft choice on goalie Spencer Knight, a Connecticut native.
The club has many needs but probably should prioritize goal scorers in the draft who can contribute within a couple of years. Ideally, whoever Minnesota selects in the first round will cause some anticipation among fans who know fortunes can change quickly in the NHL—most commonly within a couple of years, but perhaps sooner.
That was substantiated dramatically by the Blues this year, who went from being one of the NHL’s worst teams to Stanley Cup champs within a matter of months.
The Wild will hold a development camp for draft choices and other prospects in the organization from June 25-28 at its practice facility in downtown St. Paul. The June 25 and 27 practices (start at 9:20 a.m.) are open to the public with free admission at the TRIA Rink at Treasure Island Center.
Tom Reid’s Hockey City Pub in St. Paul is the Wild’s official viewing party location for the draft on Friday night. NBC Sports Network televises the first round beginning at 7 p.m.
Minnesota hockey legend Lou Nanne said yesterday on Dan Barreiro’s KFAN Radio show he would be cautious about trading Wild forward Jason Zucker, who he predicts will score 25 to 35 goals next season.
Sports Headliners is told Mike Modano, the retired NHL star who has joined the Wild as an executive advisor, is assisting the franchise with ticket and sponsorship sales.
The Timberwolves host a free draft party tonight from 6 to 9 p.m. at Cargo inside Target Center. Josh Okogie, last year’s No. 1 draft choice, is scheduled to attend. ESPN will televise the draft.
Canterbury Park holds its Mystic Lake Derby on Saturday, offering a $200,000 purse that is the largest of the season. The field includes filly Spectralight who was bred in Ireland and has raced exclusively in Italy, but is based now at Canterbury Park.
Former Golden Gopher great Bobby Bell, the two-time All-American tackle on Minnesota’s only Rose Bowl teams, turned 79 on Monday.
The average base player salary is $345,867 in soccer’s MLS, according to the Major League Soccer Players Association.