MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Timberwolves took UCLA guard Zach LaVine with the 13th overall pick in the first round of the NBA draft on Thursday night.

The 6-foot-6 LaVine averaged 9.4 points and shot 37.5 percent from 3-point range as a freshman for the Bruins last season. He is considered one of the most athletic players in the draft, and the Timberwolves are in the market for a dynamic perimeter player to run the fast break with Ricky Rubio.

LaVine averaged fewer than 25 minutes per game for the Bruins last season. But the Wolves believe the 19-year-old has a lot of room to grow and can develop into a playmaker on the wing.

The Timberwolves were also in conversations with several teams about trading All-Star forward Kevin Love. Golden State, Phoenix and Philadelphia were among the teams pursuing Love.

The Wolves entered draft night engulfed in uncertainty, a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in 10 years with an All-Star eager to move to a team with a better shot at winning. Love can opt out of his contract after next season, which has prompted team president and new head coach Flip Saunders to explore his options.

The Warriors have an intriguing package that could include young shooting guard Klay Thompson and former All-Star forward David Lee, but the two sides were butting heads over other parts that could be included in a potential deal. The Timberwolves wanted to send Kevin Martin and the final three years and about $21 million of his contract with Love to the Bay Area, a proposal that was giving the Warriors pause.

The Wolves could make a move with Love on draft night or wait until free agency begins on July 1 to establish a new market for the face of their franchise. Any teams missing out on LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony during that period could turn their attention to Love, a three-time All-Star and one of the best power forwards in the league.

Saunders also has said he would be comfortable starting the season with Love on the roster, making adjustments to the roster through the draft, free agency and other trades to improve a team that finished 40-42 last season and trying to change Love’s mind about his long-term future in Minnesota.

The first step in that theoretical process happened on Thursday night when the Wolves grabbed LaVine. They passed on Michigan State power forward Adreian Payne, Michigan State guard Gary Harris and Duke swingman Rodney Hood, other players that could have fit in well in Minnesota.

LaVine isn’t a polished, proven product. But his numbers may have taken a hit in part because he played on a UCLA team stacked with some of the best young talent in the country. His highlight-reel dunks and super-smooth shooting stroke tantalized scouts, while his inconsistency and UCLA coach Steve Alford’s seeming reluctance to have him on the floor down the stretch of tight games left some to wonder just how ready he was to make the jump to the NBA.

Ready or not, here he comes.


Zach LaVine, UCLA, Minnesota Timberwolves, 2014 NBA Draft
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