MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — When the Minnesota Timberwolves and assistant GM Tony Ronzone parted ways last summer, team president David Kahn restructured the front office to redistribute Ronzone’s duties across the rest of his staff.
One of Ronzone’s major responsibilities centered around draft preparations, which included organizing workouts, bringing prospects to town for visits and evaluating talent.
Now that draft-time is upon the team again, Kahn is working closely with director of basketball operations Rob Babcock and director of player personnel R.J. Adelman to prepare for the 18th pick on June 28.
“Between R.J. and myself, we picked up the stuff that Tony was doing,” Babcock said. “We’re just kind of splitting it and David’s doing some more work, too. Just kind of readjusting.”
The first glimpse of the newly realigned operation came on Thursday, the opening of a two-day prospect camp that had representatives from all 30 teams at Target Center. Babcock was the point person for this event, a complex process of working with agents, players and team officials to put together a group of players that can work out in front of dozens of scouts and executives at one time.
“You spend a lot of time with guys in the league, so it’s a good place to have discussions, whether it be trades or sharing information,” Babcock said. “This is a really convenient place to do it because it’s centrally located.”
Most of the players who participate in this event are considered second-round picks or possible college free agents, including Duke’s Miles Plumlee, Northwestern’s John Shurna and Marquette’s Jae Crowder, who had to pull out at the last minute due to an ankle injury.
The names on the sideline watching are much, much bigger. Indiana Pacers president Larry Bird, Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak, 76ers GM Rod Thorn and Bucks GM John Hammond were among the many in attendance. Toronto coach Dwane Casey, Wizards coach Randy Wittman and even Ronzone, who is helping the Dallas Mavericks in draft preparations, showed up as well.
“It’s like playing in a big ACC game,” Plumlee said. “You’ve got the nerves running. Those are your heroes growing up. To see Larry Bird sitting over there, you kind of have to block it out and just go hard.”
The Wolves will host two more workouts on Friday that will include Missouri guards Kim English and Marcus Denmon, and Purdue forward Robbie Hummel, among others. Once those are concluded, they will turn their attention to their own workouts that will include prospects they’re looking at for the 18th overall pick.
Kahn has had a bit of a revolving door beneath him around draft time in his first three years on the job. Because of the timing of his hire in 2009, Kahn kept assistant GM Fred Hoiberg and several coaches from the previous regime on to help him organize and conduct the workouts prior to his first draft. Hoiberg left to coach Iowa State, and Ronzone was brought in to help in 2010 and 2011.
Kahn’s first three drafts have been up and down. He landed Ricky Rubio with the fifth pick in 2009, and the Spanish point guard had a superb rookie season to help revive the franchise a bit. Derrick Williams, the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2011, also showed plenty of flashes of potential, but Syracuse point guard Jonny Flynn — the No. 6 pick in 2009 — was a bust and Wes Johnson — the fourth overall pick in 2010 — had an awful second season in the league in 2012.
Adelman, the son of head coach Rick Adelman, has been charged with calling agents to get potential players to visit this year.
“We don’t have too many names yet confirmed, but we’re in the process of doing so,” Kahn said. “A lot of the players still all believe they’re in the lottery. So we’ve got 35 players who all think they’re going to be lottery picks and they’re a little bit hesitant to come and work out at 18. But those things sort themselves out.”
R.J. Adelman worked primarily with the pro scouting department last season, but Kahn has said that he could envision a greater role for him eventually. All the work he’s doing on the draft could be in vain. With a young core of Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic and Rubio, Rick Adelman is lobbying for more veterans, not another rookie. The 18th pick is one of Minnesota’s tradeable assets, and Kahn said those discussions started this week.
“It’s always easier when you see people in person for people to pull people aside,” Kahn said. “It happened to me a couple of times today where people pulled me aside and sort of dropped a hint or even more forceful than that.”
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