Syracuse star Johnson works out for Wolves
At 6-foot-7 and 210 pounds with a feathery touch from outside and a knack for rebounding, Syracuse forward Wesley Johnson has many of the attributes that the Timberwolves are looking for in this year's draft.
Another factor that certainly can't hurt his chances? Johnson actually wants to play in Minnesota.
Johnson worked out for the Wolves on Tuesday night and said he would love to be drafted by a team that won just 15 games last season and plays in a city that spends about four months of the year buried under snow and ice. Johnson transferred to Syracuse from Iowa State and grew to be close friends with Jonny Flynn, the Orange point guard who was drafted by the Wolves sixth overall last year.
``I would love to come here,'' the 23-year-old Johnson said. ``I really would. Especially with Jonny here. I've met a lot of the people, the coaching staff, and they're wonderful people. I think I would be a good fit here.''
The Timberwolves have pick Nos. 4, 16 and 23 in the June 24 draft.
Johnson's ability to shoot from the outside and his versatility as a shot-blocker and rebounder would fill big needs for the a team that finished with the second-worst record in the league last season.
Perhaps the biggest hole on the roster is the lack of an athletic, lanky scorer at small forward that forces perimeter defenders to pay attention to him rather than being able to double on Al Jefferson and Kevin Love in the post.
Corey Brewer showed great improvement last season and was one of the few bright spots on the team, but Wolves president of basketball operations David Kahn made it clear earlier this spring that the Timberwolves remain focused on that area.
``We have needs everywhere, especially at the wing position,'' Kahn said in May. ``We desperately need wings.''
Johnson sure seems to fit that bill. He impressed during his workout with his size and shooting ability. He shot 41.5 percent on 3-pointers last year and also averaged 1.8 blocks and 1.7 steals per game.
``He's got a beautiful stroke,'' Kahn said. ``He has almost a classic basketball body. Good height. I thought he picked things up very quickly during the workout and clearly can run, which is so important to all of us in terms of how we want to play.''
Kahn has been very open with his belief that Minnesota will make a trade leading up to, or during, the draft that will change how they sit on the board. He still hasn't said if they will move up or down, but trade talk is expected to start heating up later this week as the draft gets closer.
Some reports have said that the Wolves covet Johnson so much that Kentucky big man DeMarcus Cousins has declined to workout in Minnesota.
``I'm still hopeful that Cousins will come in,'' Kahn said.
If Johnson does wind up in Minnesota, he'll have a friend to show him around.
Flynn and Johnson never played together in college. NCAA rules required Johnson to sit out the lone season the two were on campus after he transferred. But that didn't stop them from forming a close bond.
All year long, Flynn told anybody in Minnesota who would listen that Johnson was the best player on that team that won the Big East tournament championship.
Flynn said the two talked four or five times a week last season while he was going through a difficult rookie year in Minnesota and Johnson was flourishing at Syracuse.
``I think he really fills a void that we really need,'' Flynn said. ``Other than him being a good friend, we could really use him on the team.''
The Timberwolves are nowhere close to making a decision on where they will be picking come June 24, let alone who they will take with that first pick. They plan to workout Georgia Tech power forward Derrick Favors on Thursday.
Johnson is scheduled to visit New Jersey and Philadelphia as well, and he said on Tuesday that other teams could be added to that list in the coming days.