The Scoop: Saunders Visiting Oladipo Friday
Updated: 10/08/2013 10:06 AM KSTP.com
By: Darren Wolfson
Since taking over the decision-making responsibilities in the Minnesota Timberwolves' front office in early May, Flip Saunders has traveled to New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, Miami and most recently Italy for work-related reasons.
He can now add Washington D.C. to that list.
According to a league source, Saunders is meeting with Indiana two-guard Victor Oladipo in D.C. on Friday morning.
There's a lot of subterfuge in the weeks leading up to the June 27 Draft. But numerous team and league sources insist Saunders' interest in Oladipo is genuine and the former Indiana star is likely the top player on the Wolves' board.
The clear admiration and the fact Oladipo could fill a clear need has Saunders continuing to engage the teams in the top-5 in trade discussions. Not one league official thinks Oladipo gets out of the top-5, and there's even recent buzz that he could be the No. 1 overall pick.
Whether forward Derrick Williams is the trade bait to facilitate such a move remains to be seen, but league personnel think Saunders' lovefest with Williams right now is a ploy to increase his value.
That Oladipo's camp granted Saunders the gathering shows that he's demonstrated to them an ability to move up.
• Outside of restricted free agent center Nikola Pekovic hopping on a plane for Treviso, Italy on Sunday for no reason, fans shouldn't be worried that he failed to connect with Saunders. The two had hoped to meet for a couple hours.
Team sources maintain that retaining Pekovic this summer is a high priority. What'll still be interesting to follow is if the Wolves are willing to pay him $12 million per year, or more, the going rate for good big men.
• Pekovic is scheduled to play for Montenegro in the FIBA EuroBasket championships in Slovenia in September.
• Wolves' director of player personnel R.J. Adelman is expected to remain with the organization, per a team source. But two league sources this week suggested that a move to the 76ers to work under friend, general manager Sam Hinkie, is under consideration.
• R.J. Adelman didn't travel to last weekend's Adidas EuroCamp, but joining Saunders from the Wolves was assistant coach Bill Bayno, European scout Zarko Durisic and director of operations Rob Babcock.
Keep in mind that under former boss David Kahn, Babcock was rendered nearly useless, which didn't make a lot of sense with his history in the NBA. He even tried to get the Hamline coaching job. Now under Saunders it looks like Babcock is once again being given a lot of responsibility.
• There was some talk of guard Alexey Shved playing for the Wolves in the summer league, but he will not be. Like Pekovic, he'll play for his country, Russia, in the EuroBasket championship.
• Saunders watched 6-foot-9, 18-year-old forward Giannis Antetokounmpo for the Greek U-20 team on Monday. He's maybe in play at No. 26 in the draft. His game was 45 minutes outside Treviso in Jesolo.
• Louisville center Gorgui Dieng and the Wolves are still trying to fit in a workout at Target Center. Nothing is scheduled as of now.
• Saunders spoke briefly with Maryland center Alex Len's camp in Italy. But it doesn't look like Len will make it to Target Center for a pre-draft visit. It also doesn't look like he'll be on the board at No. 9, assuming the Wolves can't move up for Oladipo.
• The Wolves are one of a few teams talking with the Iowa Energy (Des Moines) about a single-affiliation D-League relationship. The Heat entered into a similar agreement with Sioux Falls this week, forcing the Wolves to find a new developmental home.
• The Wolves are not one of the teams interested in 6-foot-9 forward Gani Lawal, 24. He's playing well in the top Italian league. He was Phoenix's second round pick in 2010.
• Admittedly, it's our own speculation, but the thought of a Kevin Garnett-Saunders-Timberwolves reunion has crossed this columnist's mind. But a source close to Garnett said it would never happen. Garnett has a no-trade clause in his contract with the Celtics.
• Wolves center Greg Stiemsma, who has a team option on his contract that has to exercised or terminated by July 17, will be at the draft party.
• Add Duke center Mason Plumlee to the list of players the Wolves will workout at Target Center. He's in on June 22.
• For those asking about a potential Twins' marriage with free agent center fielder Grady Sizemore with Aaron Hicks hurt, I checked. He's still "a ways away from getting on the field," per a source.
• One trainer/agent the Twins are dealing with heavily as international free agency approaches on July 2: Amauris Nina.
Among the players Nina is tied to is 16-year-old Eloy Jimenez, a 6-foot-4, 200-pound outfielder. He's considered one of the best kids to get. Twins vice president Mike Radcliff recently said the team will be very active in the international market where they have the fourth-most money to spend.
• A Twins source said they fully expect to sign high school left-handed pitcher Stephen Gonsalves, their fourth-round pick.
• Radcliff expects the Twins to sign 27 or 28 of their draft picks, although declined comment on specifics. He did offer up that of their late round picks, two guys that really excite him are 11th rounder Puerto Rico high school middle infielder Nelson Molina and 20th rounder University of Buffalo outfielder Jason Kanzler. The Twins expect to sign both.
• The Twins admit that there is no chance they sign 29th round pick pitcher Logan Shore (Coon Rapids HS).
• Twins scouting director Deron Johnson and at least four of the team's scouts will be at the Metrodome this weekend for the Perfect Game Showcase. It brings together the best high school players in the country. In other words, it's many of the top 2014 draft picks. Many of the top advisors/agents are also coming in for the event.
• The Twins never had interest in pitcher Chien-Ming Wang, who signed this week with Toronto. He opted out of contract with the Yankees after they didn't promote him to the 25-man roster.
• Gophers pitcher Tom Windle (Osseo HS) and his family went to Ridgedale Mall to buy Dodgers hats on Friday afternoon. He was Los Angeles' second round pick. Windle was in L.A. Thursday for his physical. He signed for the recommended slot of about $987,000
• Drake transfer Joey King (Eastview HS) officially signed his Gophers paperwork last Thursday. He and Gophers' officials are confident he can get a waiver to be eligible right away. A team source also noted King is a "pick and pop four, who stretches the defense and makes shots."
• A Gophers source reiterated this week that the final scholarship for the 2013-14 season will go to one of two power forwards: Rutgers transfer Derrick Randall or Florida International transfer Rakeem Buckles.
Both could get waivers to be eligible immediately. The Gophers are still working diligently to get Randall in for a visit. He toured the Wagner and Pittsburgh campuses this week. Iona is also in his mix. New York-based reporter Adam Zagoria was the first to report Randall's final four schools.