Flip Saunders Q&A: Wolves' No. 1 pick, draft strategy, KG's future and more
On Sunday, Timberwolves president and head coach Flip Saunders joined The Chris Mannix Show on NBC Sports Radio to discuss the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NBA draft, his coaching future and if Kevin Garnett would return next season.
Chris Mannix: So who are you picking?
Flip Saunders: "You sound like everyone. I was in the airport the other day and I had six people come up and ask me who I was going to take. I said, ‘Sorry, I’m not going to reveal that yet.'"
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."
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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."
Mannix: Are you going to coach this team?
Saunders: "Right now I’m coaching the team. It’s a question everybody asks. It’s interesting, when I ended up coaching a year ago, it was the right thing to do at that time for the organization. We had the unknowns with Kevin Love, we would have pigeonholed ourselves if we took a veteran coach and maybe not have the flexibility to go as young as we did. Right now, the most important thing is to develop our young talent. We have done a pretty good job with our staff and organization moving in that direction. Until I feel we can get somebody who can move forward a little bit, we’ll [stay] where we’re at."
Mannix: Do you hear from coaching agents often?
Saunders: "Last year I probably talked to 12 coaches. A lot of people probably weren’t aware. I’m not one to advertise. I’ve done the same thing as far as numerous coaches this year. It might not be for right now, but it could be down the road. I’m constantly in the evaluation process for coaches."
Mannix: Do you know what Kevin Garnett wants to do?
Saunders: "I’ll say this: when we traded for him, I traded for him with the idea that it wasn’t for him to come in and finish his career this past year and wave to everybody and walk off into the sunset. The idea was that he was going to come in, play some, he would mentor; unfortunately for him and for us, at the time he had a knee injury and the way our record was, it wasn’t best for him to play and put extra miles on those tires. So I didn’t play him. All indications are that he is doing things now to get in shape to come back. I’ve had conversations with him over the last 2-3 weeks about the guys we are drafting. I’m sure he is going to peak his head in to see these guys when we bring him in to work out or have some type of communication with him. We’re assuming right now that he does want to continue to play and that he does want to continue to play in Minnesota."