The Minnesota Timberwolves could have used their draft picks in deals to help clear space under the salary cap for potential free agent additions next month.
They needed some high-ceiling young players just as much.
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, the Timberwolves selected Georgia Tech guard Josh Okogie with the 20th overall pick in the first round of the NBA Draft on Thursday night, targeting a tough-minded player with defensive versatility as a primary asset.
”Nothing presented itself that would be better than actually selecting at 20,” general manager Scott Layden said.
The same went for the 48th overall choice, when Ohio State forward Keita Bates-Diop was still available in the second round. The Big Ten Player of the Year was widely projected as a late first-round pick.
”Having a pick this year was critical for us, just to continue to grow,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. ”We think we have to have a blend, of young players, players that are in the middle and obviously the older veterans. But having those young guys, it’s important for the team, for the growth of the organization.”
Okogie played two seasons for the Yellow Jackets [url=http://www.newyorkgiantsteamonline.com/saquon-barkley-jersey]Authentic
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Born in Nigeria, Okogie grew up outside of Atlanta. He was third in the ACC in 2017-18 with an average of 1.8 steals per game and also grabbed an average of 6.3 rebounds per game. Okogie’s wingspan was measured at the draft combine this spring at 7 feet and his three-quarters-of-the-court sprint time was just 3.04 seconds.
With a vertical leap of 42 inches that tied Villanova’s Donte DiVincenzo for the highest at the combine, Okogie is capable of guarding multiple positions, an ability treasured by Thibodeau. Toughness is another trait that assuredly attracted Okogie to Thibodeau, conducting his third draft since being hired in Minnesota.
Okogie, who watched the draft with family, friends and teammates in Atlanta, had trouble composing himself when Thibodeau called.
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Depth at the wing positions was a glaring need for the Wolves this offseason, with no backups set yet for Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins. Jamal Crawford and Derrick Rose are set to become free agents.
Perimeter shooting is another priority after Minnesota ranked last in the league with an average of 8.0 made 3-pointers per game. The Wolves were 19th in the NBA with a 3-point shooting percentage of 35.7.
Last year, the Timberwolves used draft night to reshape their roster with a headliner trade for the All-Star Butler that dealt Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and seventh overall pick Lauri Markkanen to Chicago. The Bulls then sent the 16th overall selection, Justin Patton, to the Wolves. Patton sat out his entire rookie season with a broken foot. Markkanen made the NBA All-Rookie team after averaging 15.2 points per game.
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”I think I can help from day one,” he said.
The Wolves passed on one of the sharpest outside shooters in this draft class, Duke’s Grayson Allen, but took advantage of a rich pool of wing players to snag Bates-Diop, the leading scorer in the Big Ten as a fourth-year senior in 2017-18 at 19.8 points per game. He was limited to nine games as a junior because of a leg injury and took a redshirt for the 2016-17 season. The 6-foot-7, 235-pound Bates-Diop finished his college career as a 47.2 percent shooter from the field.
”Johnny Hockey” is getting an additional title: part owner.
Calgary Flames star forward Johnny Gaudreau is a member of an NHL-laden ownership group that purchased an equity stake in the U.S. Hockey League’s Dubuque Fighting Saints on Thursday. The group includes Buffalo Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons, former Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma [url=http://www.authenticsbuffalobills.com/cheap-harrison-phillips-jersey]Harrison
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Gaudreau and Girgensons were teammates on the Dubuque team that won the USHL championship in 2011. Luukko’s son Nick was also on the team. Their ownership group is titled Saints4Life Acquisitions.
”The first day I stepped into Dubuque, I knew it was a special place,” Gaudreau said in a statement issued by the league. ”I have a lot of special memories in Dubuque, including winning it all in 2011. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.”
Gaudreau was the USHL’s rookie of the year in 2011, when he was also drafted by Calgary. He eventually went on to win college hockey’s Hobey Baker Award at Boston College.
Girgensons described being part of the ownership group as a way to pay back the team for playing a key role in his development. A year after moving to North America from his native Latvia, Girgensons spent two seasons with the Fighting Saints and was preparing to play college hockey at Vermont before being selected by Buffalo in the first round of the 2012 draft.
”It’s a team that really got me to where I am today,” Girgensons told The Associated Press by phone.
Never envisioning the opportunity to be an owner, Girgensons joked he might need to contact Sabres owner Terry Pegula for a few pointers.
Edmonton Oilers president and general manager Peter Chiarelli will remain a part owner of the team. Philip Falcone, who previously was a part owner of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, is departing as the Fighting Saints’ principal owner.
The Fighting Saints have won two championships since returning to the USHL in 2010 following a nine-year absence.
Luukko immediately jumped aboard when he saw how his son’s experience in Dubuque helped prepare him for college.
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”Being involved in the National Hockey League for over 25 years, this is a chance to be able to be part of the development of young players and what is actually a good business also,” Luukko said. ”Listen, I don’t belong to a country club, so really this will be my fun.”