Glen Taylor has owned the Timberwolves since 1994. The team traded for three-time All-Star Jimmy Butler during the NBA draft last Thursday, and now Taylor says he hasn’t been so excited for a new season to begin since the Wolves landed Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell to join Kevin Garnett in 2003-04.
He was asked if this is a high point for him as an owner.
“I would say the answer to that is yes,” he said. “We have so many good things in place now, we just have to hope that our guys stay healthy and win and get ourselves in the playoffs again so we have a chance to compete against the elite teams.”
Taylor, who also owns the Star Tribune, broke down how the trade came about with the Chicago Bulls on draft night.
“We had the feeling going back a couple of weeks ago that Chicago was going to entertain offers for Jimmy,” Taylor said. “We knew that because they had called us, but they had also called some other teams, and we were aware of that. As in all cases, things just move slow. You talk and do all of those things until the last day.
“When it got down to the last day, they sort of insisted upon having Kris [Dunn] and Zach [LaVine] as part of the trade. I mean, we hated to give up both of those guys because they’re tremendous young guys, but they insisted upon that. We then came back and insisted that we wanted to swap draft picks and move down to their 16th and keep that, rather than just give up the seventh. In the last minute, they went along with that. We didn’t have a deal until about an hour before the draft took place. I’m also excited, just like all of our fans, with moving ahead a little bit faster.”
NBA free agency opens late Friday night, and Minnesota already has been rumored as a possible destination for some available big-name players. Taylor said he thinks, as do Wolves brass Tom Thibodeau and Scott Layden, that Butler’s presence will make an impact in luring free agents to come play for the team.
“We think having [Karl-Anthony] Towns and [Andrew] Wiggins here, with their potential, and then having somebody established that people will see us as a real contender,” Taylor said. “I think so many of these players want to be on winning teams. It’s not something we’ve had for a number of years here.
“… We’re going to find out as we move into summertime. But as far as having the top players, we have three of them on our team plus we have two other starters that are pretty seasoned now. We have that part pretty well taken care of. We have to bring in guys that will come in and substitute for injuries and bench time.”
And perhaps more importantly for the Wolves, Taylor said he thinks this move for Butler will help keep Wiggins and Towns with the team past the end of their rookie deals.
“We’ve had this as our plan, in drafting these top-notch guys, that we want to keep them here for a long time,” Taylor said. “The first part of that will come up this year because Wiggins … most likely we will negotiate with him for a longer-term contract.”
For Wiggins, that means most likely a five-year deal worth around $145 million that the team could offer him this summer.
Many around the NBA were shocked the Wolves could land Butler without giving up Wiggins, but Taylor said he was not a trade candidate.
“I mean, we even hated to [trade] Zach, but we knew we had to do that,” he said. “But Karl and Wiggins are part of our future.”
The Wolves are looking to add several players after dealing Dunn and LaVine and waiving Jordan Hill.
Taylor broke down his view of the roster.
“Now we have, with Kris not at [point] guard, we probably want to look at that area,” Taylor said. “Do we have somebody to back up Ricky [Rubio], can [Tyus] Jones handle that? That’s a consideration. At the wings we have a couple of starters, but we have to have somebody behind that, is that Shabazz [Muhammad], is he going to stay or not stay? That would be a consideration.
“At the bigs we’ll see what this rookie [Justin Patton] does that we got in, I think we were fortunate to get the guy we did at the No. 16 spot. Patton is a guy that has a lot of potential. He’s probably kind of raw, but he has some ability there.
“But then just in general … we need some three-point shooters. That may be the priority. Then we need some defensive guys. It’s really open at guys we’re looking for. We just have to see who’s out there and then set some priorities at the skill sets that are left. We won’t be able to fill them all, but we have to try our best. We have about four or five guys we can bring in.”
With the addition of one of the best players in the NBA in Butler, this is looking like a big year for Taylor and the Wolves.
• The word is that M.A. Mortenson Co., the local contractor who built U.S. Bank Stadium, has earned the bid to build the $2 billion NFL stadium in Las Vegas, one that will house the Oakland Raiders when they move there, probably for the 2020 season.
• Shortstop Royce Lewis, who the Twins selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the MLB draft earlier this month, has had a great start to his pro career. Lewis is hitting .333 with a home run, double and five RBI in three games for the Gulf Coast League Twins. … The Twins’ other high draft pick (35th overall), Mississippi State first outfielder/first baseman Brent Rooker, is playing at Elizabethton, a class higher than Lewis. He is hitting .316 with two home runs, four RBI and four runs scored in five games.
• Former Wolves guard Alexey Shved was recently named the 2016-17 VTB United League regular-season MVP after averaging 22.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.1 steals for Khimki in Russia. The VTB United League is the highest professional league in Russia. Former Wolves forward Andrei Kirilenko also was MVP of the league in 2011-12.
• Mark Nelson of Maplewood will referee the Manny Pacquiao-Dan Horn boxing match in Australia, a fight that will be televised on ESPN — the first non-pay-per-view match for Pacquiao in 12 years.
• Former Gophers basketball standout Trevor Mbakwe said recently that he still gets offers from NBA teams for summer league positions but he thinks he will remain playing overseas, which he has done since 2013 when he signed with Virtus Roma in Italy. Last season he played his first year of basketball in Russia, and Mbakwe said he hopes to play at least five more years.
Sid Hartman can be heard on WCCO AM-830 at 8:40 a.m. on Monday and Friday and at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org