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Thursday, June 23, 2011
Malcolm Lee drafted by Bulls, traded to Minnesota

By Peter Yoon

Malcolm Lee went on a 16-city tour over 40 days in preparing for the NBA draft, and his travels continued even during Thursday night's draft.

The Chicago Bulls selected Lee with the 13th pick in the second round (No. 43 overall) and then immediately traded him to the Minnesota Timberwolves as part of a draft-day deal.

"I feel good," Lee said in a conference call with reporters after he was drafted. "I just have to work from here. I got one foot in the door and I just have to keep it going."

The middle of the second round is pretty much where most experts had Lee pegged to go. A 6-foot-6 combo guard, Lee is a staunch defender who shut down many of the country's top scorers last season while at UCLA. He has some offensive deficiencies but has nice quickness and good size for a guard.

"I thought I was going to squeeze into the first [round], but it is what it is," Lee said. "You can’t dwell on it, you just have to keep moving on."

Lee said he was too nervous to watch the draft, so he instead went to an afternoon showing of the movie "Super 8." By the time he got out, the first round was almost over, but he still stayed away from televisions.

"I felt like my nerves would be better if I didn't watch it," he said.

Lee visited Minnesota twice during his month-long journey across the country to showcase his skills for NBA teams. When he got a call back from the Timberwolves, he said he figured something might be up.

"I kind of knew they were interested," he said. "But I didn't know if they were going to pick me."

It turns out they didn't actually pick him, but the trade with the Bulls had already happened, meaning the Bulls basically picked Lee on behalf of the Timberwolves. In the deal, the Timberwolves sent Nikola Mirotic to Chicago for Lee and Norris Cole. Minnesota then traded Cole to the Miami Heat.

"I look at it as a perfect situation," Lee said of landing in Minnesota, where he will have the chance to play alongside former Bruin Kevin Love.

Second-round picks are not given guaranteed contracts, so Lee still has some work to do if he wants to stay in the NBA. Even so, he said he has no regrets about leaving UCLA after his junior season instead of coming back and trying to improve his draft position.

"I entered this draft not based on where I was going to go, but just trying to get in the league because that was my dream," Lee said. "I felt like it was the right time. If someone told me I would go 43, I would still do it."

And, he said, he's confident he can make the Timberwolves glad they selected him.

"The competitor I am, I just feel like I’m going to go in there and compete and show them that I can help this team out to better themselves," he said.

Lee is the 109th UCLA player drafted by an NBA team, the most of any school. North Carolina and Kentucky are tied for second with 101. The last UCLA player selected with the 43rd pick was Trevor Ariza by the New York Knicks in 2004. Ariza was the first player drafted in the Ben Howland era.