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.
May 29, 2020, 7:43 pmEric GordonSG, Houston Rockets
Rockets guard Eric Gordon has improved his diet, focused on sprints, and has apparently shed 12 pounds in the process, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic.
Gordon has battled knee ailments for essentially his whole career and has dealt with his fair share of nagging injuries this season as well. Losing weight to create a lighter frame would seem sensible, especially with the knee issues. The Rockets, remember, fully adopted the "small ball" lineup and move fast so Gordon is smart to keep his endurance and fitness at high levels. He's going to have to play well and make shots for the Rockets when the NBA returns to action, otherwise coach Mike D'Antoni won't be able to justify giving Gordon minutes. We don't anticipate much fantasy value out of him if and when the league starts back up.
Source: The Athletic
May 29, 2020, 6:03 pmLeBron JamesSF, Los Angeles Lakers
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN is reporting that the NBA is planning for a Board of Governors vote on Thursday, during which they are expected to approve Adam Silver's proposal for re-starting the season in Orlando.
The trend lines are all moving in this direction, and this adds another bullet point on the schedule as the league prepares for launching games on July 31. Adam Silver has been able to bridge any divides between ownership and the players, and has been taking into account all his key constituent's views as we approach approval of a plan for moving forward. We still have plenty of items to resolve before we see game action, but the NBA is gaining momentum as these details come into place.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter
May 29, 2020, 4:44 pmBradley BealSG, Washington Wizards
On Friday, the Wizards resumed holding voluntary workouts at their practice facilities.
The Wizards have joined a chorus of teams that are returning in limited capacities to their facilities at this point. The NBA as a whole is continuing its march towards the resumption of play with a target date of July 31 now established. The District of Columbia also entered phase one of reopening today, and it makes sense for the team to proceed on a similar trajectory.
Source: Candace Buckner on Twitter
May 29, 2020, 4:03 pmJulius RandlePF, New York Knicks
Part of the Knicks' off-season thinking is to shape the roster around RJ Barrett, and it unclear where Julius Randle will fit in those plans.
Barrett and Randle have similar offensive styles, as they typically have an advantage relying upon their strength to attack the basket, but neither has a component deep ball at this stage in their careers. As Barrett is the younger option it makes sense that the Knicks want to sign shooters to give him more space to operate with. Randle's lousy percentages and turnovers has made for a disappointing season with the Knicks thus far, and Barrett will also need to make some strides in the shooting department to become a 12-team asset. Randle is under contract for next season is owed at least $4,000,000 in 2021-22.
May 29, 2020, 3:46 pmJayson TatumSF, Boston Celtics
On Friday, the Celtics' announced that their practice facilities would reopen on June 1.
That leaves us with four NBA teams without access to their facilities. Things are beginning to accelerate throughout the league as teams ramp up activities in hopes of resuming competition in Orlando on July 31. So far so good, but the NBA still has many hurdles to overcome on the path to resuming the season.
Source: Celtics PR on Twitter
May 29, 2020, 3:40 pmRJ BarrettSF, New York Knicks
The Knicks reopened their practice facility for voluntary workouts on Friday.
Another step in the right direction for the NBA's return to action at the end of July. It's still unclear if the Knicks will even be involved in whatever plan is agreed upon, but it is good to learn that the players can now access their facilities in New York. Only five team facilities have not opened up in some capacity at this point.
Source: Knicks PR on Twitter
May 29, 2020, 3:15 pmLeBron JamesSF, Los Angeles Lakers
On a call with the Board of Governors on Friday, Adam Silver and the league office confirmed July 31 as a target date for the resumption of the NBA season, according to a report from Shams Charania.
We have to imagine that this is just one of the possible options on the table, as the league still has much to figure out. Charania adds that the league has four scenarios for the return: 16 teams move directly to the playoffs, 20 teams engage in group/stage play, 22 teams have games to determine seeding with a play-in tournament, and all 30 teams reconvene for a 72-game season with a play-in tournament. It's seemed unlikely that we'll have a full 30-team return given the stated priorities for player safety. There are still tons of logistical hurdles to clear but the NBA is getting its ducks in a row for a potential return.
Source: Shams Charania on Twitter
May 27, 2020, 9:06 pmAndre IguodalaSF, Miami Heat
Andre Iguodala returned to South Florida after living in California since the NBA season was suspended.
Iguodala returning to the market where his team is could mean that he believes team workouts will begin soon. However, there is no official timetable on when team workouts will begin and Jimmy Butler has yet to return to Miami.
Source: Ira Winderman on Twitter
May 27, 2020, 7:52 pmZach LaVineSG, Chicago Bulls
K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reported that the Bulls were cleared by the Governor of Illinois and are in talks with city officials to open practice facilities on Friday for voluntary workouts that would follow the NBA guidelines.
The NBA's guidelines currently state that a maximum of four players are allowed in the facility at any given time and there can only be one player per hoop. The Bulls are currently eight games behind the Orlando Magic for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls may not play again this season given how far behind they are in the standings and the recent reports of proposals to not continue the regular season.
Source: K.C. Johnson on Twitter
May 27, 2020, 7:08 pmLuka DoncicPG-SF, Dallas Mavericks
Marc Stein of the New York Times has reported that the Mavs plan to open their practice facility on Thursday.
This news would make the Mavs the 23rd team to have their facilities open for "voluntary and socially distanced player workouts". Continue to monitor the wire as we should learn more about the potential of the league resuming in early June.
Source: Marc Stein on Twitter