Flip Saunders knows reaction to first-round picks was 'not really good'
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Timberwolves fans might not have approved of the job Flip Saunders did in the first round of the NBA draft on Thursday night, but give the team's new president of basketball operations credit for being candid.
Asked what he thought his Twitter feed looked like during a press conference after the opening around, Saunders said: "I'm sure it's blowing up, and I'm sure it's not really good."
Saunders acknowledged this following a first round in which he took Michigan point guard Trey Burke with the ninth-overall pick and then dealt Burke to Utah for the 14th and 21st selections. Those picks turned into Shabazz Muhammad, a shooting guard and small forward from UCLA, and Gorgui Dieng, a center from Louisville.
Saunders had been hoping to get a shooting guard with the ninth pick, but the Wolves top three choices at that position, Indiana's Victor Olidapo, Kansas' Ben McLemore and Georgia's Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, were all gone by the time the Wolves were on the clock.
Olidapo went second to Orlando, McLemore was taken seventh by Sacramento and Caldwell-Pope was grabbed by Detroit one pick before the Wolves. Saunders groups various prospects in boxes, much like an NFL team will stack its board.
"It was chaotic from the first pick," Saunders said. "The first pick when (Anthony) Bennett was taken off the board, I think that set the tone pretty much for the whole draft. Going into the draft we had four scenarios planned out and we were at the fourth scenario.
"Our guys at No. 9 were off the board. We thought one of them would be there and we had a decision to make. ... (So) could we move back and maybe get who we wanted, maybe at 14? Because those guys were all ... we had another box. We thought that one of the guys would be there and that's why we moved back to get 14 and 21."
Saunders said he engaged in plenty of trade talks and discussed the possibility of moving up but it became clear the price was too high to do that.
"That was not a possibility," Saunders said. "When McLemore started falling, there was value ... all of a sudden a lot of value in that five to 10 (range). You look there and you see (Nerlens) Noel is there, you look at (Alex) Len and you look at McLemore. So three guys that some people had picked in the top three are all of a sudden sitting there in that middle. We thought at that time we would be in pretty good shape and then a couple of guys that we had were taken off the board."
Saunders said the Wolves came away with a scorer by getting Muhammad, even if they did not completely address the need for a shooting guard.
"The reason you want a shooting guard is because you think what they're going to be able to do is make shots for you," Saunders said. "Put the ball in the basket and score and spread the floor. If you don't have that, the hope you can have is you can have a guy that can score. The way we're set up, there were only about three guys that were going to. ... When you really look at the wings in this draft, small forwards and shooting guards, there were probably really only about three or four guys that were going to have an impact in the draft. Unfortunately for us, they all went in front of us."
So was Saunders as disappointed as some fans?
"What I'm not disappointed in is we addressed our defense inside (with Dieng) and we addressed our ability to score. We have not addressed our ability to make perimeter shots, so that's something we're going to have to address through trades and have to address through free agency.
"I said prior to the draft, 'Sometimes things don't go the way you want.' We were very active, we were trying to make trades. ... There was no one that really wanted to do anything significant really early. When you look at some of the trades that happened, some people gave up unbelievable value to move up to No. 5. (The 76ers sent point guard Jrue Holiday to New Orleans in a trade for the rights to Noel, whom many projected would go No. 1 overall.) That was a lot of value to give up.
"I'm not disappointed, but what it does is we still have some things we have to fill. I know people probably aren't happy. People have ideas of who they want. We have to fill a roster and there's a lot of ways to fill it."