Wolves pick Johnson in proposed swap with Suns
By Dave Campbell
AP Sports Writer
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — New Minnesota president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas took an aggressive tack toward his first draft with the team.
The Timberwolves wound up with another wing player, Jarrett Culver, and he comes with a strong defensive pedigree.
With the 11th overall selection, the Wolves took North Carolina small forward Cameron Johnson, but with the intent of trading him with power forward Dario Saric to Phoenix in a proposed pre-draft swap that pushed them up five slots for the rights to Culver, according to a person with knowledge of the agreement. The person spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday because the trade cannot become official for salary cap purposes until July 6, when free agent contracts can be signed.
Culver, a 6-foot-6 shooting guard, played two seasons at Texas Tech , helping the Red Raiders reach the Final Four for the first time in program history.
Culver’s last game was actually in Minnesota when the Red Raiders lost to Virginia in the NCAA championship game . He was the first recruit coach Chris Beard contacted after taking the job, a native of Lubbock, Texas, who stayed in town to play for the hometown school. Beard transformed Texas Tech into a defensive machine, and Culver was his best offensive player.
Saric was acquired last November from Philadelphia in the Jimmy Butler trade, with small forward Robert Covington and point guard Jerryd Bayless. Covington was the centerpiece, but he played in only 22 games for the Wolves because of a knee injury.
Saric, thus, wound up with the most visibility. The 6-foot-10 native of Croatia averaged 10.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in 68 games for Minnesota, getting 28 starts. Saric shot 38.3% from 3-point range. He can be a restricted free agent next summer, and the Wolves don’t have much room under the luxury tax threshold after awarding maximum contracts to center Karl-Anthony Towns and small forward Andrew Wiggins.
Rosas, who left the Houston Rockets front office last month to take over the Timberwolves , vowed to use all avenues possible to help the team return to the playoffs. The only untouchable player on the roster would be Towns.
“We want to make sure that we’ve got people in place that can grow and develop with him and peak at the right time,” Rosas said this week. “You win in this league with high-end players, and fortunately on our roster we’ve got a high-end player.
The Wolves also owned the 43rd overall selection, in the second round.