Timberwolves are in a position of power as the NBA draft approaches

Published 3:16 am Wednesday, June 25, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS — With the NBA draft only two days away and Kevin Love there to be had for the right offer, Minnesota Timberwolves President Flip Saunders was asked if things are starting to get interesting.

“They’ve been interesting for four weeks,” Saunders said Tuesday.

Such is life for Saunders and the Timberwolves, who find themselves in a position of power as Thursday night’s draft approaches. With the three-time All-Star Love set to opt out of his contract at the end of next season, a 25-year-old power forward that rebounds as well as anyone in the league and can hit the 3-pointer like a shooting guard, is available.

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Saunders said his phone hasn’t stopped ringing with offers for Love and other players on a young roster that went 40-42 last season. He declined to discuss specific offers, but teams like Cleveland, Boston and Chicago could offer packages involving draft picks while Golden State is known to be involved with a package of established players.

“We’re fielding stuff every day,” Saunders said. “When I came down here just now I had three calls about our players. There is not going to be a cooling down period. It’s like catfish, when you feed ‘em. It becomes a feeding frenzy the closer, when they can see those (food) pellets.”

The Cavaliers have the No. 1 pick, the Celtics have No. 6 and 17 and the Bulls Nos. 16 and 19 in a deep draft that could all be dangled as the prime bait in trade packages. But Saunders reiterated that he views draft night as an artificial deadline. Once the draft is completed and free agency opens July 1, a whole new market figures to open up for Love.

The Timberwolves have had conversations with the Warriors, who have to decide if they want to part with shooting guard Klay Thompson in a package that would also include forward David Lee. Golden State does not have a first-round draft choice this year, which means any deal involving the Warriors can wait until after July 1.

LeBron James informed the Miami Heat he will opt out of his contract and become a free agent, and he will have suitors lining up to woo him. Many expect James to return to the Heat, so any teams that swing and miss at the game’s best player could turn their attention to Love, one of the top players in the league.

The Houston Rockets, led by ultra-aggressive general managers Daryl Morey, will be a team to watch. Morey is looking to add a third star to play with James Harden and Dwight Howard and certainly will look at Love and Carmelo Anthony should he be spurned by James.

The Rockets have Omer Asik, Terrence Jones and draft picks that they could offer in a package for Love, or could bring a third team into the mix to try to bring more established talent to Minnesota in an effort to out-bid the Warriors, Denver Nuggets and others.

Of course, Saunders also could keep Love on the roster, try to hit on a player with the 13th pick in the draft and bolster the roster through trades and free agency this summer in an effort to convince Love to stay.

“I feel comfortable with the guys that we have,” Saunders said. “If we can get something that makes our team better, we’ll do it. If we don’t, we’ll stay pat and go forward and enter into free agency on July 1.”