People were very skeptical of Flip Saunders taking on so many roles within the Minnesota Timberwolves organization. But after three drafts, there is no question he is doing a fantastic job.
It all started back in 2013 when Saunders drafted Trey Burke, only to trade him to the Utah Jazz for the No. 14 pick and the No. 21 pick that turned into Gorgui Dieng.
Last year, Saunders drafted the athletic point/shooting guard Zach LaVine, a guy who only started one game at UCLA, with the No. 13 pick. Later in the summer, Saunders flipped (no pun intended) the disgruntled personality of Kevin Love for Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, and Thaddeus Young. While Young was traded earlier this year for Kevin Garnett, Wiggins was named Rookie of the Year, and rightfully so.
And now, last night. With the No. 1 pick, Saunders and his team picked Karl-Anthony Towns, an athletic, two-way, big man from Kentucky, and he has extreme star-like potential. Then, Saunders brought home the hometown kid, Tyus Jones, by trading the No. 31 and 36 picks to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Compare the last three drafts to the three drafts prior under Kahn. In 2011, Kahn selected Derrick Williams over Enes Kanter, Klay Thompson, and Kawhi Leonard; in 2010, Kahn picked Wesley Johnson over DeMarcus Cousins; and do we really need to discuss what happened in 2009? Ricky Rubio, Jonny Flynn, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, and Nick Calathes. He passed on Steph Curry and DeMar DeRozan. Minnesota didn’t have a first-round pick in 2012.
Gosh, that 2009 draft really hurt.
But that’s in the past. The future is now, and Minnesota, for the first time, has two centerpieces: Wiggins and Towns, and LaVine could be a third building block. Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic (for now, at least), Dieng, Muhammad, and Rubio surround those key pieces. If that doesn’t excite anyone in Minnesota, then I don’t know what is wrong with Minnesotans.
When was the last time the Timberwolves had two, possibly three, building blocks? Minnesota had only Garnett and Love in the past 25 years, and both were at different times. These guys – Wiggins and Towns – are legitimate pieces.
Not only are Towns and Jones going to be very good players, but both are very smart, young men. We won’t have to wait long before we see both players in action because the Las Vegas Summer League is just a few weeks away, and the Timberwolves will take on the Lakers in the opening game.
What Towns brings to the table is, potentially, elite defense and an under-appreciated offensive game. While it doesn’t mean much, I saw Towns’s workout video and I was impressed with how well he can shoot and his ball-handling is superb for a big man. I can’t wait to watch him play.
With Jones, he returns to Minneapolis after a one-year hiatus at Duke, where he won an NCAA Championship. He is a true point guard with big game ability. He is calm, smooth, and always under control. He is a leader and knows how to play the game of basketball. He is a winner and Saunders will have no choice but to find him some, or many, minutes during the season.
Now, don’t forget that this team is still young and there will be rough patches, maybe many rough patches. But there is no way fans of the Timberwolves can’t be excited for what is in place.
All we need now is the results.