Wolves draft Johnson, Hayward, Bjelica, and Prestes, team trades Gomes for Webster and more
From the Timberwolves site:
The Minnesota Timberwolves tonight selected Wesley Johnson with the fourth overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. Johnson, a 6-7 forward from Syracuse, averaged 16.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game for the Orange during the 2009-10 season en route to earning Big East Player of the Year honors.
"Wesley is both an incredibly talented player and an outstanding young man," said David Kahn, Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations. "He'll bring some much-needed length, athleticism and shooting ability to our roster and will be an important piece to the puzzle as we continue to build a nucleus of young talent."
The Wolves made two trades, drafted two foreign players and brought on two more in Webster and Hayward that the casual fan would have difficulty identifying as the makeover in Minnesota continues.
They drafted Nevada shooter Luke Babbitt at No. 16, then immediately shipped him and veteran Ryan Gomes to Portland for Webster, who has averaged 8.5 points and 3.1 rebounds in his career. They then took Clemson forward Trevor Booker at No. 23 and dealt him and the 56th pick to Washington for Hayward, the 30th pick, and Serbian forward Nemanja Bjelica at No. 35.
From the Associated Press:
The No. 23 pick by Minnesota was 6-foot-7 forward Trevor Booker from Clemson. At No. 56, the Timberwolves selected 7-foot center Hamady Ndiaye from Rutgers.
Those two players will head to the Wizards for the No. 30 pick, 6-foot-6 forward Lazar Hayward from Marquette, and No. 35 selection Nemanja Bjelica from Serbia.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have taken Brazilian center Paulao Prestes (POW'-low press-TEES) with the 45th overall pick in the second round of the NBA draft.
Prestes played last year in the competitive Spanish ACB League. The 6-foot-11 Prestes averaged 9.2 points and 7.3 rebounds and shot 69 percent from the field.
Just one year after the Timberwolves selected Flynn with the No. 6 pick in 2009, the organization reunited the former Syracuse teammates by nabbing Johnson, a 6-7 forward, with the fourth overall selection Thursday. And as Johnson stepped to the podium after hearing his name called, his grin said it all.
"Definitely looking forward to playing with him again," Johnson said referring to Flynn. "With the chemistry we'll have starting out playing with each other, he's eager. I'm fortunate enough to get drafted and play with him, so I'm excited."
From The Post-Standard:
Dick Vitale, via Twitter: "Wesley Johnson will fit in perfectly with Minn.-I believe he is redy to star n be the Rookie of the year!"
“It would be fun playing with Jonny,” he admitted. “We used to talk before he left school that he wanted to come back for his junior year and play with me rather than go in the draft. But to tell you the truth, if I went to the Timberwolves, I’d be kind of hurting. I’d be back in the cold, so I don’t know. Minnesota would be kind of rough for me.”
David Kahn and the Wolves weren't buying it. Go ahead, they said, take Johnson. We'll just take somebody else. Of course, the Nets didn't. They took Derrick Favors. Then Kahn got his man, a guy who can score from the wing, in Johnson. Soon to be 23, Johnson's only downside is that he might get creaky before the Wolves turn it around. He's old for a rookie. Otherwise, he fills a position of real need and is considered low maintenance.
"There wasn't a dance," Kahn insisted afterward. "Tuesday morning I called Rod and told him we are not interested in flopping picks. For us, it wasn't the right thing to do. We're not interested."
That's when the stories about Jersey being interested in Johnson began making the rounds. Kahn and his staff decided that if the Nets somehow did take Johnson, which would have been really dumb, the Wolves would take Favors. But by draft day, he was sure Johnson would be there for the taking.
"I know some people say, 'Why not Cousins?'" Kahn said. "To me, it was very simple and it was basketball- related. We spent most of this past season talking about the lack of length and athleticism and speed on our front line, and I didn't feel he would improve those areas. I expect him to be a very fine player in our league.
"We spent many hours talking about him and making sure we explored whether it'd be a fit or not, but at the end of the day we felt Wes was the right thing to do."
The New Jersey Nets floated the notion in the 48 hours before Thursday's draft that they just might take Johnson with the third pick. It apparently was a bit of typical predraft subterfuge designed to get the Wolves to make a deal for the chance to take Johnson, a player they reportedly had fallen for hard.
Though Johnson was the Wolves' top choice, Kahn said the club would have taken Favors if Johnson went to New Jersey.
"We got the player we wanted," Kahn said. "A lot of people around the league felt that Johnson might be the player in the entire draft most ready to play in the league right now."
Fans will certainly miss Gomes with his outgoing personality and positive vibe in the locker room. The Wolves simply needed to make the right financial move to allow for more cash to spend in free agency.
"It was not in our interest to maintain Ryan beyond June 30th," Kahn said. Ryan's contract was written in a way that there was a buyout, and if you exercise it before June 30, we had made that decision to do so, as a result if we had bought him out, he would not be on the team and there would be a small amount of money that would stay on our cap for next year which would have impeded a little bit of our progress in free agency or attracting a player through trade."
Tomorrow afternoon at 1 PM, timberwolves.com will provide comprehensive coverage of the introductory press conference for Johnson, Lazar Hayward, and Nemanja Bjelica.
"He caught not only my eye, but Kurt's eye [Wolves coach Kurt Rambis] during workouts," Kahn said of Hayward, who will turn 24 in November. "He's a mature, solid college player, a tough kid. I expect him to really challenge for playing time next season."
A Kukoc clone?
Kahn didn't have to rely on scouting reports in deciding to draft Serbian forward Nemanja Bjelica. He and Wolves coach Kurt Rambis watched the 6-10 forward in person last month when they flew to Serbia to meet with Darko Milicic.
Bjelica was playing for Red Star Belgrade, his hometown team in the Serbian League, and he must have impressed the Minnesota contingent.
The problem is, the Wolves have tried this good-guy-from-a-winning-program approach before, and it helped them to 15 victories last year. Jonny Flynn (Syracuse), Kevin Love (UCLA) and Corey Brewer (Florida) are good guys from good college programs. Add three more guys just like them and the Wolves can contend for a Big Ten title.
The Wolves can use Johnson. They desperately need a star.
They needed to take DeMarcus Cousins.
Minnesota: The Timberwolves took Syracuse forward Wesley Johnson with the No. 4 pick. Johnson is a versatile athlete who can score from three-point range and get out on the break. Through separate trades they ended up with Portland Trail Blazers forward Martell Webster and Marquette forward Lazar Hayward. Minnesota is loaded at forward, but Johnson adds a much-needed perimeter threat and liked the triangle offense when he worked out for the team.