June 28, 2018, 9:09 pm
The Minnesota Timberwolves entered the offseason with a wide range of possibilities, a fair amount of skepticism and even a little bit of drama. How would the Wolves maneuver this offseason while capped out in salary? Would they consider trading Wiggins? Would they trade their young assets for some salary relief? How would they approach the draft with a team looking to win now, but a bench filled with holes? Does Towns really have is sights set elsewhere?
Thankfully the Thibodeau and Towns rift, which was overblown in the first place, has seemed to quiet down of late (an upcoming max contract extension should shut the door on that for good).
As the draft came and went, the team was unexpectedly quiet. There were certainly some rumors that the Wolves were looking to move the pick. Before the draft it was speculated that they would be open to trading their first round pick in order to shed Gorgui Dieng’s contract. As the draft got underway there were rumors that the team was looking to move back in the first round, hoping to acquire an additional pick.
In the end they played it safe, opting to sit tight and pick where they were originally slotted. This strategy seemed to pay off as the Wolves were able to select the guy they loved at No. 20 in Josh Okogie, and land a guy they considered at No. 20 all the way in the second round in Keita Bates-Diop.
Looking back the draft was, on paper, a tremendous success for the Wolves, who were able to fill two positions of need with some upside without sacrificing anything. In addition to Tyus Jones and Dieng, the Wolves have every position firmly backed up with players under the age of 28 (Justin Patton remains a wildcard).
It’s unfair to expect Okogie and Bates-Diop to step in right away and contribute (this is Thibodeau we’re talking about), but both guys provide a baseline for the Wolves to work with.
Okogie is viewed as a spot-up shooter right now, and a guy that can make a difference athletically with his defense in short bursts. He will only need to pick Butler’s brain to learn the intricacies of Thibs’ system. He’s raw and isn’t a shot creator yet, but can still find ways to make an impact.
Bates-Diop is a bit more seasoned and gives the team insurance if they can’t bring Nemanja Bjelica back (who was just extended a qualifying offer). He’s versatile enough to play along side Bejlica if they re-sign him, or take over his role as a combo 4/3.
Thibs likely isn’t comfortable going into the season with rookies as the primary backups on up the wings, but each draft pick projects to fill in the cracks that plagued the Wolves last season. With their depth taken care of in the long-term, now they can look ahead to free agency and target niche players; guys that fit Thibs’ system and strengthen their bench.
The Wolves’ options will be limited on the free agent market, with just the mid-level exception (MLE) and bi-annual exception (BAE) available in their arsenal, but there’s enough talent out there that their MLE should still be enough to attract a valuable piece.
Now it will just be a matter of selling a free agent a role that is better than another team’s. Last year the Wolves had just two reserve players over 20 minutes per game, and the year before they had none. Thibodeau has a reputation of playing his starters significantly more minutes and with the Wolves he has doubled down on that effort. That gives potential players coming in some pause as they question their role. Jamal Crawford was vocal about his lack of playing time in December.
Thibs will have to convince incoming free agents that their involvement will be greater than what he has proven the last two years, but there is some room for optimism. When looking at the players of prior years, it’s fair to say that Thibs hasn’t had much to work with off the bench and his best chance to win has been with his starters. Crawford and Dieng certainly had their flaws last year and probably deserved the limited minutes they got.
With more versatile and better players, Thibs has shown a willingness to lengthen his bench (the days of Taj Gibson, Kirk Hinrich, Aaron Brooks and young Jimmy Butler come to mind). Of course last season there’s certainly an argument that Tyus Jones and Nemanja Bjelica didn’t get the looks they deserved (and Marcus Georges-Hunt was criminally underused).
It’ll be on Thibs to promise a better role for an incoming free agent, but also to make good on the players already here that deserve it. He has the personnel to do it, and thanks to the draft has some insurance options.
With concrete backups at the point and center locked in, expect the Wolves to target a wing with their MLE. Avery Bradley has gotten some early buzz, but someone like Joe Harris could be a great fit next to the more defensive-minded Jones and Dieng, and his switching ability would play well with Okogie and Bates-Diop in the long run. Derrick Rose also looms as a near-certain returnee, but he will likely be put aside until after the Wolves make their big move.
Our own Aaron Bruski recent released his free agent rankings, a valuable tool for an in-depth look at the market. Spoiler: he really like Joe Harris.
Free Agency opens at 12:01 am on July 1.
August 25, 2019, 8:29 pmVictor OladipoSG, Indiana Pacers
Victor Oladipo had little to say about his rehab process (ruptured quad tendon) at his basketball camp in Indiana.
We weren't expecting earth shattering details while Oladipo was busy overseeing his basketball camp, but more information about the Pacer would be most welcome. It is hard to know what you will get from Oladipo on draft day, but you have to figure someone in your league will be interested in taking a gamble on him. He is still not scrimmaging with other players, and whenever he does return to game action this season, it is unlikely he will resume being a top player in the early going.
Source: The Athletic
August 25, 2019, 8:08 pmBriante WeberPG, International
Briante Weber, after spending the end of last season with the Greek club Olympiacos, is joining the Metropolitians 92, based in Boulogne-Levallois, France.
Weber attended free agent mini-camps in June with the Raptors and Wolves, and spent time in the G-League last year, but has never been able to catch on long-term with an NBA team. He has had brief stops with several NBA squads over the years, so it is possible he could return to a roster at some point this season. There is nothing to see here in terms of fantasy though.
August 25, 2019, 7:54 pmRui HachimuraPF, Washington Wizards
Rui Hachimura showed off his scoring prowess with 31 points in Japan's comeback victory over Germany on Saturday.
After a nice string of Summer League performances, Rui Hachimura is continuing his strong play in FIBA World Cup exhibition games for Japan. He can clearly get his own look in the mid-range, and the rookie should get a chance to perform for the Wizards this year. Keep an eye on Hachimura's preseason opportunities, as the competition for the Wizards' power forward minutes isn't fierce. He could be worth a late-round flyer in standard league-drafts.
Source: Mike Schmitz on Twitter
August 25, 2019, 6:50 pmRobert CovingtonSF, Minnesota Timberwolves
Robert Covington (right knee) is not expected to have any limitations heading into training camp.
Covington had arthroscopic surgery in April after missing 47 games last season due to a bone bruise on his right knee.
Source: Chris Hine of the Star Tribune
August 25, 2019, 6:32 pmJeff TeaguePG, Minnesota Timberwolves
Jeff Teague (left ankle) is not expected to have any restrictions for training camp.
Teague had a left ankle debridement procedure in April to help alleviate inflammation. Teague's ankles have given him trouble throughout his career and he only played 42 games last season. With a clean bill of health Teague will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing season.
Source: Chris Hine of the Star Tribune
August 24, 2019, 11:09 pmDerrick WhitePG, San Antonio Spurs
Derrick White has reportedly passed the first concussion test after taking a nasty fall in Team USA's tuneup game vs. the Australian Boomers on Saturday.
This is good news. White has worked hard for his Team USA roster spot and should provide some guard depth for them once he clears concussion protocols. He was an eye-opener last season and should still hold some fantasy value despite the return of a now-healthy Dejounte Murray.
Source: Tom Orsborn on Twitter
August 24, 2019, 10:27 amKyle KuzmaPF, Los Angeles Lakers
Kyle Kuzma (sore left ankle) will not take part in the FIBA World Cup as Team USA announces its final roster.
Kuzma sat out Team USA's final tuneup against Australia on Saturday as Marc Stein reports that he is flying back to Los Angeles to get treatment. We should still expect him to be ready for training and congrats to Mason Plumlee for making the team as many speculated that he would be the final cut.
Source: Marc Stein on Twitter
August 24, 2019, 8:58 amKemba WalkerPG, Boston Celtics
Kemba Walker scored 22 points on 7-of-15 shooting with four rebounds with two assists as USA Basketball had it's 78-game winning streak in tournament and exhibition games snapped on Saturday.
Walker continues to assert himself as the team's best player but USA losing to Australia was the much bigger story in this one. Harrison Barnes also played well as he chipped in 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting to go with six rebounds. USA will take on Canada on Monday in their last exhibition before taking on the Czech Republic in the first official match of the tournament on September 1.
August 24, 2019, 8:44 amDerrick WhitePG, San Antonio Spurs
Derrick White left Saturday’s game after tripping and hitting his head on the floor.
White left without help but there is no word yet on whether he is dealing with a concussion. He finished with eight points, hitting 6-of-7 three throws in nine minutes with another update sure to come. The third-year guard put up top-125 per-game value, playing 25.8 minutes in his second season. Even with the return of Dejounte Murray, White should still be worth a roster spot in most standard leagues.
Source: Jeff Garcia on Twitter
August 24, 2019, 8:42 amMarcus SmartPG, Boston Celtics
Marcus Smart, sidelined for almost three weeks with calf tightness, returned to action on Saturday as USA lost to Australia in their exhibition.
Smart only played nine minutes in this one but still managed to score 7 points with three assists days after being named one of the team’s co-captains. Coming off an NBA All-Defensive First Team selection, he produced top-100 per game fantasy value as it seems he may have finally fixed his shot after shooting under 40 percent from the field in his first four seasons. He also produced a career-high in both steals and triples with 1.8 and 1.6 respectively as his career seems to be on the up and up.