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Northwest Notes: Saunders, Wolves, Nuggets

Despite an NBA-worst 16-66 record this year, Timberwolves coach and president of basketball operations Flip Saunders has the franchise moving in the right direction with some good fortune and solid return on past acquisitions, Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe writes. One positive is that Minnesota has the top pick in the draft. Saunders, who Wolves owner Glen Taylor expects to return next season, must now decide between Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor, Washburn adds. Saunders’ goal is to find the perfect complement to Andrew Wiggins, and trading the pick for an established veteran who may not match the team’s long-term plans is not an option, according to Washburn.

“When you talk about trading the pick, it would have to be a huge-type situation because I feel like there’s three or four players that will be All-Star, All-Pro-type players,” Saunders said. “You’re just not going to give somebody like that away. The positive from our standpoint getting the top pick — we’ve got two great 19-year-olds last year, we got [Adreian] Payne, and we’re waiting to see if [Anthony] Bennett can get healthy and Bennett can develop. They’re all going to be able to kind of mature together. Really similar to the situation Oklahoma City had. We’ve talked about what they’ve been able to do. They’ve been lucky and gotten the right players, and they were able to develop those players, so we’re hoping to follow suit.”

There’s more news from the Northwest Division:

  • With more on the debate of Towns versus Okafor, Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune examines which player would better suit the Wolves’ style and better fit the team’s needs. Kentucky’s Towns is the new generation big man — a mobile center who can shoot, while Duke’s Okafor is more of a throwback, low-post option, Zgoda adds. In theory, Zgoda writes, going with Okafor spreads the floor and creates open shots for Wiggins, Shabazz Muhammad and Zach LaVine. However, as Zgoda points out, the game has changed with more teams relying — and thriving — on shooting from beyond the arc, and Towns gives the team a way to keep up with everybody else in that regard.
  • Chauncey Billups wants to be a GM, and not a coach, and therefore the Nuggets would have to give him some say in player personnel matters if the team wanted to offer him the head coaching job, Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post writes in response to a question from a reader. The chances that Denver sticks with interim head coach Melvin Hunt are reportedly improving.

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