Timberwolves head coach Ryan Saunders recently sat down with ESPN NBA insider Zach Lowe on the Lowe Post Podcast and had a ton of interesting things to say.
Over the course of the near hour-long episode, Saunders and Lowe discuss a variety of topics, including Minnesota's offseason moves, Karl-Anthony Towns' commitment to being a better defensive player, Andrew Wiggins' shot selection, and being Kevin Garnet's ball boy as a teenager.
Here's what Saunders had to say about the team's offseason moves this summer.
"I think we had an underrated summer in the terms of what we added. What we do is how do we build around what Karl can do and then ultimately, Andrew, him being really into the fold and him being that great scorer that he can be. And having pieces around those guys to make Karl's life easier. We feel good about Jake Layman. He's underrated for what he does for a team. He's the type of guy that gives himself up for the group. And we have a number of guys who may have had – I don't know if you want to call them rough starts to their careers – but starts that people wish they wanted more of. So I think we have a group of guys that are hungry to prove something."
Everyone knows about Towns' offensive contributions but the two-time All-Star has some work to do defensively and Saunders says that Towns is aware of his critics.
"I do believe in KAT in that sense. He hears those things and I think he has something in him that wants to be that great player. And I think he'll use a number of things to fuel that now. The fact that defensively some people talk about him maybe not being able to put forth that effort and he hears that. We've talked at length about it and we feel we're going to have a great system next year."
When asked if Towns was upset that he was snubbed for All-NBA team, Saunders said he had a conversation with Towns about it and that he'll keep that private. He did, however, say: "He is motivated and I do see a different level of commitment to things because he is motivated."
The bigger lingering question isn't necessarily Towns taking a next step but if Wiggins can improve upon a dreadful season in the second year of his max deal.
"We are an actions over words organization, and we've been saying that this summer. So unil we see it consistently, anything I say really doesn't mean anything. His commitment level this summer has been different. He's spent time in Minnesota and been going through the workouts with the young players. I think he hears what people say about (him) as well. He understands this is a big year for him. When you see the talent that he has, to me that's something that can make you keep going. I see him maturing and I'll continue to say I believe in Andrew and I think something's there."
Wiggins, a former No. 1 overall pick, has flashed massive potential but has done so inconsistently. One reason why could be his shot selection, which Saunders says they're working to eliminate mid-range jumpers and replace them with 3-pointers and attacking drives.
"I want us to be educated and smart with our shot selection. And that means working on the shots that we want, the high-volume shots and the shots at the rim. Andrew gets fouled; that's the highest points per possession – I believe it's 1.57 points per value shots possession-wise. He's good with that. Now, obviously extending the range to the 3 to be a consistent 3-point shooter is going to be a big thing for him. We've been working this summer and been doing very little in the mid-range."
Saunders also talked about being Kevin Garnett's ball boy as a teenager when his dad Flip was the coach in Minnesota.
"I was an unbelievably quiet kid growing up and KG he saw that I was a respectful kid so he always seemed to put his arm around me. I learned so much from him. I have three sisters, so no brothers, so he always seemed to be giving me advice. One of the things I started with KG when I got to high school and really started becoming a better basketball player and just by working at it was, he'd have me come down with him late in the summer time and rebound for him. And this is an NBA Hall of Famer and he'd say, 'all right it's your turn' and I'm just a high schooler trying to basically make it. He has this level of humility that he'd rebound for a 15, 16-year-old high school kid."
You can listen to whole podcast by clicking here.