On Monday Minnesota Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach Flip Saunders was on "The Chris Mannix Show" on NBC Sports Radio. During the course of the interview Saunders elected not to reveal who the team would be selecting with the first overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, but he did offer up this info:
Mannix: Do you know who you are going to take?
Saunders: "We're still determining. It's like anything, if I had to make a decision today, you probably have a guy you know you would take. But we are still open. It's still really early in the process. We're finding out backgrounds on players. More than anything else, we have a really good nucleus with [Andrew] Wiggins, we look [Zach] Lavine, with [Shabazz] Muhammad and the type of year he had, even with Gorgui Deng. We have to make sure we get a guy who can help grow with those guys and is going to make Wiggins and those guys better.
"Mannix: What was your reaction when you saw that you were getting the first pick?
Saunders: "Well we have had such bad luck over the years. We have had many times where we had the opportunity to get the No. 1 pick and we would always be one short of the pool of players that you have. The one thing we did feel going in, I felt there were probably five solid players, upper-echelon type players. So when [Wolves owner] Glen Taylor went to the draft I said, ‘Glen, the pressure is off.' Four is the worst we could get and we were going to get a good player. Really we went there with low expectations. As it kept on going, and there was no surprises through the first 10 picks, I thought there was a pretty good chance we were going to be somewhere in that top three. It happens so quick at the end.
"Mannix: Will you draft for position or will you take the best player in the draft?
Saunders: "If you look at the history of the draft and if you look at people who draft strictly by position, that's where mistakes have been made. They have foregone the superstar player who could maybe change your team because you maybe had a very good player there. We feel if we can get a player who we feel in 2-3 years could be the top player at his position, we definitely will lean more towards that type of player.
"Mannix: When the Lakers are sitting behind you, is there any concern that a player will try to avoid you to get to them?
Saunders: No, because we haven't had that at all. I have had contact with most of the top players and all they talk about is wanting to be the No. 1 pick and basically explaining why they should. We have an enticing situation. The enticing situation that we have is that we have got some great youth, as I said with Wiggins, a potential top-five player in this league, we have a great point guard in [Ricky] Rubio, we'll get him back healthy, we have got a great mentor and still a pretty good player in [Kevin] Garnett that we hope to sign in July. We have a lot of things moving in the right direction. We just opened up a $29 million practice facility. We have a $160 million renovation of our arena starting in about a year. We have a lot of positive things. When we get people here and they can see what we have going on a little bit, it will sell the situation even more."
There have been rumors that some of the top players, such as Jahlil Okafor, might try to dissuade the Wolves from selecting them so that they will be available for the Lakers to take with the 2nd pick in the draft. Apparently that hasn't happened (yet), and in fact Karl-Anthony Towns stated publicly stated that he will play basketball anywhere.
It has to be mentioned that Okafor has not met with the Timberwolves yet, so a "don't pick me" plea could still be coming. However, rumors persist that Saunders currently has Okafor ranked first on his draft board, ahead of consensus top pick Towns, and it may take a demand from Okafor to prevent Saunders from selecting him.
It's also interesting to hear that Saunders went into the Draft Lottery with the belief that there are 5 top players in this draft, so landing the top pick wasn't as essential as it has been in years past. This adds credence to the notion that even though most mock drafts have Towns as the first pick his hold on that position isn't rock solid, nor is the ranking of any of the top players in the draft. In truth, many executives around the league think that the difference between Towns and Okafor is very small, and an argument can be made for D'Angelo Russell as well.
Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak will have a very difficult decision to make on June 25th, but it's certainly going to be an exciting day for Lakers fans. Let's hope that Saunders passes on whoever Kupchak has ranked number 1 on the Lakers draft board.
Keep checking in here at SS&R for more pre-draft news and rumors.