Saunders: Wolves must improve defense and 3-point shooting


Defense and three-point shooting are the two main areas where Timberwolves coach and president of basketball operations Flip Saunders said he wants to see his team improve the most.

"We have to improve defensively," said Saunders told reporters. "We feel that can really come with strength. So our players, especially our young players, have to get stronger."

The Wolves shot just 33 percent from the three-point line this season and averaged a league-fewest 5.0 three-pointers a game.

Saunders acknowledged that improvement at the three-point line will have to come from within the players on the roster and through some options in the draft and free agency.

Still, Saunders thinks that despite Minnesota's 16-66 record, the team did make some progress this past season.

"It's not very many times when you lose as many games as we lost and feel like you accomplished something," said Saunders. "Our young players developed at a rapid pace, we had four guys in the rookie-sophomore game. One guy was the MVP and the other guy maybe would have won it if their team had in Wig (Andrew Wiggins) and Zach (LaVine)."

The future

The next big step for the Wolves will be the NBA Draft. Minnesota knows it will have a high draft pick and Saunders is confident they'll find another piece.

"I believe this: I believe when you draft in the top four or five, I believe you're going to get a good player," Saunders added. "This is a pretty deep draft, and it's a pretty top-heavy draft really compared to some of these past years. What you have to do at that point is take the best player available and not be as concerned with what position he (plays)."

Duke's Jahlil Okafor and Kentucky's Karl Anthony-Towns are expected to be among this year's top picks. But a number of top college players have already declared for the draft – including native Minnesotans Tyus Jones and Rashad Vaughn.

With the continued injury issues for Nikola Pekovic, the Star Tribune's Michael Rand believes Saunders really has to be eyeing one of the two big men. But Saunders himself wasn't giving too many hints.

"Whoever we draft will be a piece (next year)," said Saunders. "The draft is that good."

The NBA Draft Lottery is May 19, while the draft itself is in June.

Next Up