Flip Saunders' to-do list will include a healthy dose of recruiting
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Flip Saunders might not have been able to come to an agreement to be the next men's basketball coach at the University of Minnesota, but that doesn't mean he won't be doing some recruiting in his new job as president of basketball operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
With the NBA free-agent negotiating period set to open at 11:01 p.m. Sunday, Saunders will be in Southern California for the next few days.
Here's Saunders' agenda, in no particular order, according to multiple sources:
* Meet with unrestricted free agent shooting guard O.J. Mayo. His agent, Rob Pelinka, has his office in Los Angeles. Saunders could also check in on another Pelinka client in Andre Iguodala, who also is an unrestricted free agent. According to ESPN, Pelinka will have Mayo and Iguodala together. The price for Iguodala is expected to be far too high for the Wolves, who plan on retaining restricted free agent center Nikola Pekovic. They won't have the financial flexibility needed to sign a player for more than approximately $7 million per year. Iguodala will command far more than that annually.
* Meet with Wasserman Media Group unrestricted free agents J.J. Redick and Mike Dunleavy Jr. A source involved added that unrestricted free agent Dorell Wright also will likely get face time with Saunders.
* Meet with unrestricted free agent Chase Budinger. The Wolves have Budinger's Bird Rights. In other words, they can go over the salary cap to retain him. He's a big priority and a favorite of coach Rick Adelman. Budinger makes his offseason home in San Diego.
Another unrestricted free agent shooter, Kevin Martin, is on the Wolves' radar, according to a source with direct knowledge of the situation. Martin's agent, Dan Fegan, will be hosting teams the next few days in Los Angeles for free agent center Dwight Howard. It's possible that Fegan also has Martin there. If he does, assume Saunders will see him, too.
If Saunders swings-and-misses on all of the above, he will turn to an unrestricted free agent shooter such as Marco Belinelli. But he's in a different tier, and is not the priority the others are, when it comes to the Wolves wish list.
A source close to unrestricted free agent small forward Andrei Kirilenko said, "the Wolves will be considered." The veteran opted out of his contract on Saturday, turning down a $10.2 million salary for next season.
There is a scenario where the Wolves can retain Kirilenko, Pekovic, and Budinger and have the mid-level exception to sign a free agent, while still staying under the luxury tax threshold. The more likely scenario is that Kirilenko signs elsewhere.
In a conversation earlier in the week, owner Glen Taylor said his strong preference is to avoid paying the luxury tax. However, if Saunders presents him with a can't miss proposition, he could be swayed. But it sounded unlikely, especially if you consider the harsher than ever penalties.
Saunders is open to moving them, as well as either J.J. Barea or Luke Ridnour, and forward Derrick Williams. Williams was in play in Saunders' quest to move up in Thursday's draft but a deal could not be worked out.
While Saunders can talk to players in the coming days, no player can be signed until next season's salary cap is set on July 10.