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NBA commissioner David Stern, left, poses with Ricky Rubio, of Spain, after being picked fifth overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves during the first round of the NBA basketball draft, Thursday, June 25, 2009 in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Timberwolves pick Spanish star Ricky Rubio with No. 5 pick, Syracuse's Flynn at No. 6

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Minnesota Timberwolves started laying the groundwork for the future with a four-pick bonanza in the first round of the NBA draft.

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Now the question is, how long will it take to come together?

The Wolves delighted their disillusioned fan base Thursday night by grabbing Ricky Rubio, the Spanish teenager with the Pete Maravich-like passing skills, with the fifth overall pick. Those same fans were scratching their heads five minutes later when their team took another point guard -- Syracuse's Jonny Flynn -- at No. 6.

New Wolves president David Kahn assured everyone that the two can play, and flourish, together.

But when?

The 18-year-old Rubio, the first NBA player drafted to be born in the 1990s, he has a $6.6 million buyout from DKV Joventut Badalona in Spain.

"Yeah I want to play in the NBA. I don't know if it's this year or next year, but we're going to see," Rubio said. "Because, you know, my buyout is big. We are talking about that with my agent and he's working hard."

The Timberwolves can only give Rubio $500,000 to help offset the cost of the buyout. Rubio has to come up with the rest himself, which is why he may have to play next year in Spain.

That appeared to be fine with Kahn, who has taken over a team that went 24-58 last season and hasn't made the playoffs since 2004.

"If any team in this league can afford to wait a year, dare I say two, it's us," Kahn said.

The Timberwolves took their third point guard of the night in North Carolina's Ty Lawson at No. 18, but traded him to Denver for a future first-round draft pick. They took Tar Heels shooting guard Wayne Ellington at No. 28 to cap an eventful first round.

"This group could really grow and blossom if things work out," Kahn said. "And that's the hope."

Minnesota was thrilled that Rubio slipped to fifth after being projected to go as high as second, but the money lost in that tumble could hurt the Wolves' chances at seeing him next season.

"We just have a lot of talking to do," Kahn said. "It will be an interesting ride."

As far as the fans are concerned, Rubio can't get here fast enough.

After watching his no-look passes and nifty ball-handling on YouTube all week, Rubio was the one long-suffering fans here wanted. He was the one they got. A few thousand gathered at Target Center for a draft party went crazy when the pick was announced. Hundreds shouted "Ole! Ole! Ole! Ole!" in homage to Rubio's Spanish roots.

"I think Ricky Rubio is simply special," Kahn said. "I don't know how to define it. ... He just has a feel for the rhythm and a tempo of the game. He really is like an orchestra conductor."

Rubio may be a baby-faced kid, but like a pesky little brother, he's been playing with the big boys for a long time. Rubio has spent four years playing for Joventut Badalona in one of the best leagues in Europe, the Spanish ACB. He averaged 10.0 points and 6.1 assists in 22 games last season, and played for the silver-medal winning Spanish national team in the Olympics.

He started playing professionally at 14, the youngest player ever to play in an ACB game, and was named FIBA Europe's young player of the year the past two seasons.

The Wolves passed up Davidson sharpshooter Stephen Curry to take the charismatic Flynn at No. 6. Flynn is listed generously at 6-feet tall, which puts the Timberwolves' backcourt of the future a little on the small side.

But with a 40-inch vertical leap and a king-sized heart that helped carry him through 67 minutes of Syracuse's six-overtime victory over UConn in the Big East tournament, Flynn thinks he plays much bigger.

Flynn averaged 17.4 points and 6.7 assists as a sophomore last season and carried the Orangemen with 34 points and 11 assists in that epic win over the Huskies.

"You're going to see a lot of flair, a lot of finesse out there in Minnesota," Flynn said of his combination with Rubio. "A lot of Minnesota fans can get ready to see a great show."

The Timberwolves capped an eventful first round by taking North Carolina swingman Wayne Ellington with the 28th overall pick.

Ellington was the team's fourth pick of the first round Thursday night.

And he is the first one who doesn't play point guard.

Ellington's outside shooting should be an asset for a team that is sorely lacking in that area after trading Mike Miller and Randy Foye to Washington.

The Timberwolves took their third point guard of the night at No. 18 in North Carolina's Ty Lawson. But the Wolves agreed to trade him to Denver for a future first-round pick.

The Timberwolves traded second-round pick Nick Calathes to the Dallas Mavericks for a 2010 second-round pick and cash considerations.

The Wolves selected the Florida guard with the 45th overall pick.

But with first-rounders Ricky Rubio, Jonny Flynn and Wayne Ellington already coming to a jam-packed roster, the Wolves really didn't have room for Calathes this season.

Calathes has already signed a contract to play professionally in Greece.

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Pioneer staff reports
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