MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Kevin McHale, whose Minnesota Timberwolves have the 52nd overall choice in Wednesday's NBA draft, was asked about the depth of this year's crop of amateurs.
From the Timberwolves' perspective, of course, it's 52-deep.
"Fifty-three stinks," McHale deadpanned. "Fifty-two is where it's at."
Seriously, though, Minnesota can't expect to find much with that pick. The Wolves are without a first-rounder again, their punishment for illegally negotiating a long-term contract for Joe Smith nearly two years ago. But even if they had one, it would be No. 23.
It's not common for an impact player to come from that position, or anywhere among the last 10 selections of the first round, and the teams clinging to high lottery picks aren't going to want to give them up without a steep price.
So the Timberwolves don't appear likely to make any pre- or during-draft deals. They'll talk trade with anyone who'll listen, but -- even after finishing their sixth straight season with a first-round ouster from the playoffs -- they're not going to do anything irrational.
Even so, McHale, coach Flip Saunders and the rest of the staff have readied themselves for the draft as if they were picking No. 1.
"From a preparation standpoint," Saunders said, "you go through the same situation -- rank every position. You have to be prepared in case something does happen."
Quipped McHale: "I've got Flip scheduled to fly to Beijing tonight and see Yao Ming."
If owner Glen Taylor is willing -- indications are that he might be, if a player Minnesota are high on is available, and if a team is OK with giving one up, the Timberwolves could purchase a first-round pick.
But those are a lot of ifs.
"I think it has to be a situation where a player you really like is there," McHale said.
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