October 18, 2017, 11:16 am
The Minnesota Timberwolves are entering a new era. Loaded with a reshaped roster, a new uniform design and a remodeled arena, the team is looking to put the last 13 years behind them and begin their chase for the playoffs.
What better way to to start the journey than against the San Antonio Spurs, who haven’t missed the playoffs in 20 years and are yet again expected to compete at the top of the Western Conference?
This will be the first chance for many people to get a peak at Jimmy Butler with the new look Wolves after they spent the preseason playing a shortened schedule in China. For the Wolves, this game is a chance to make a statement to the rest of the NBA that they have arrived and look to shake things up in the West. The team coasted through training camp without significant injures or drama and should be locked and loaded, ready to go.
The Spurs, meanwhile, look to continue their run of dominance that began in the late 90’s. Many players have come and gone, but Gregg Popovich has remained and that has been enough to sustain success.
The Spurs had a relatively quiet offseason. They were the only team in the NBA that didn’t complete a trade, nor did they land a marquee player in free agency despite being involved in several rumors. As a result many are overlooking them in the standings, believing the end has come.
That would be a mistake. Adding Rudy Gay to the mix gives the Spurs another dimension of scoring, and allows them to play small, with Gay sliding to the four and LaMarcus Aldridge sliding to the five. Or they can play big and slide Gay to the three and Kawhi Leonard to the two-guard. How well Gay recovers from his Achilles injury will be a big story for the Spurs this season.
The Spurs also reached an extension with Aldridge to keep him through the 2020-21 season, despite rumors earlier this year that he was unhappy in his situation. Those rumors either proved false, or were ironed out over the offseason.
The key to the Spurs though is Kawhi Leonard, arguably the top two-way player in the league and a perennial MVP candidate. Unfortunately Leonard will be out of this game due to a right quad injury that has held him out all preseason and has apparently lingered since last season. This is a huge break for the Wolves, but should still be a great challenge to win on the road.
Tony Parker is also out from offseason surgery on his left quad.
Where to watch:
9:30 ET/8:30 CT on Fox Sports North & ESPN.
Anthony Brown (coaches decision) – OUT
Justin Patton (foot) – OUT
Kawhi Leonard (quad) – OUT
Tony Parker (quad) – OUT
Towns vs. Gasol
Gibson/Dieng vs. Aldridge
Butler vs. the field
With the Spurs’ top perimeter players out, they are likely to pound the ball inside and run their offense through their big men, especially LaMarcus Aldridge. This will be a good early test for the interior defense, and also for the help defenders. If the Wolves decide to bring some double teams, the help defense will have to cover the rotations, especially when Danny Green and Patty Mills are on the floor.
The Spurs are going to try to slow things down and play the half court game, but without their best player on both sides they could have a tough time consistently getting stops.
For the Wolves, they’ll look to take advantage of the mismatch on the perimeter and the matchup of Towns and Gasol. It’s possible the Spurs could send Aldridge on Towns, but that would risk putting their best player into foul trouble. In either scenario, Towns will see plenty of touches in the post and away from the basket.
On the perimeter, Butler and Teague will trade ball-handling duties and setting up the offense, but look for Butler to be in attack mode most of the game. Without Leonard in his way he’s a matchup nightmare. Expect the Spurs to throw a few different looks at Butler, likely starting with Danny Green but also Kyle Anderson, Manu Ginobili and perhaps Rudy Gay.
Both teams will compete until the end, but ultimately this game means more in the short term to the Wolves than it does to the Spurs. A win on the road against a perennial Western Conference Finals contender would be an excellent way to kick off the season for these young Wolves. For the Spurs, it’s status quo.
May 26, 2019, 4:01 pmBrook Lopez - C - Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks have multiple decisions to make when free agency starts but re-signing Brook Lopez is a priority, according to Malika Andrews.
The Bucks will likely lock up Khris Middleton first and then will have to decide on Malcolm Brogdon. He is a restricted free agent, but keeping him may vault Milwaukee into the luxury tax. After those two, Lopez is a priority over the other pending free agents such as Nikola Mirotic and George Hill. The Bucks won't have Bird Rights on Brook Lopez meaning they'd only have the mid-level exception to offer him, and if they go into the luxury tax, the mid-level exception drops from about $9 million to about $5 million. He'd almost certainly be taking a discount to stay in Milwaukee, but it's still possible he remains a Buck.
Source: Malika Andrews on ESPN
May 26, 2019, 3:53 pmNick Nurse - Team - Toronto Raptors
According to Peter Yannopoulos, Nick Nurse will be the coach of Team Canada this summer at the World Championships in China.
Nurse will be succeeding Hornets assistant coach Jay Triano, and will be in a similar position that Gregg Popovich has with Team USA. Nurse has had a meteoric rise since being the innovator of the Raptors new offense in 2017-18 as an assistant, to being promoted to head coach, to making the NBA Finals and now being named Team Canada's head coach.
Source: Peter Yannopoulos on Twitter
May 26, 2019, 11:48 amOG Anunoby - F - Toronto Raptors
The Raptors are expressing optimism that OG Anunoby will be able to see the floor for their NBA Finals matchup with the Golden State Warriors.
Anunoby's size and defensive versatility could make for a very valuable weapon against the Warriors' small-ball lineups. That being said, he has been out for nearly a month and a half, and the Raptors' eight man rotation has hit its stride in the crux of this playoff run. It remains to be seen if he will make it back, but in the event that he can, there is no guarantee that he will be able to crack meaningful minutes in Toronto's tight rotation.
Source: Ryan Wolstat on Twitter
May 26, 2019, 11:19 amMichael Porter Jr. - F - Denver Nuggets
As a symptom from his back surgeries, Michael Porter Jr. developed drop foot, and will wear to a leg brace to help stabilize it when he makes his professional debut in Summer League according to Mike Singer of the Denver Post.
Drop foot makes it hard for one to lift the front part of their foot and is a common symptom of back related ailments, of which Porter Jr. has had two surgeries to address over the last year and a half. Porter Jr. remains an unknown commodity with a laundry list of health concerns as an NBA player. There has been some recent success with young guys being able to bounce back in big ways after suffering year-long injuries, but Porter Jr. will remain a mystery until we see him on the court for his inaugural season.
Source: The Denver Post
May 26, 2019, 11:04 amJonas Valanciunas - C - Memphis Grizzlies
Jonas Valanciunas said that he wants to see who the Memphis Grizzlies hire as their next head coach before deciding on his $17.6 million player option.
Valanciunas saw his role increase in Memphis after being traded from Toronto, and actually played to compete with the Grizz trying to win enough games to convert their, at the time, low-end lottery pick to Boston. Valanciunas made it clear that he doesn't want to return to Memphis if their plans are to pivot to a rebuild and not compete again next year, saying, "I want to know, how we gonna look in 82 games. I don't want to be a tourist. I want to win.". The Hoop Ball favorite will be hard pressed to find a situation that will give him as much run, and fantasy value, as Memphis did, making this a decision fantasy owners everywhere should monitor.
Source: Dontas Urbonas on Twitter
May 26, 2019, 10:06 amKawhi Leonard - F - Toronto Raptors
Kawhi Leonard held Giannis Antetekounmpo to just .353 shooting from the floor with an offensive rating of 89.4 when guarding him in the Eastern Conference Finals.
This is needed to emphasize just how dominant of a defensive player Leonard really is. For reference, Giannis shot .578 from the floor with an offensive rating of 121 through the regular season. A total swing of nearly 23 percent and 32 less points per 100 possessions is preposterous for any player, especially an MVP caliber offensive juggernaut in Antetokounmpo. Keep these numbers in mind as the debate over Leonard being the league's best player continues to heat up.
Source: Micha Adams on Twitter
May 26, 2019, 1:17 amKawhi Leonard - F - Toronto Raptors
Kawhi Leonard posted a monster line in Saturday's 100-94 Game 6 win, scoring 27 points with 17 rebounds, seven assist, two steals, two blocks and six turnovers.
Leonard put the Raptors on his back and carried them into their first NBA Finals appearance. After losing the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals the Raptors stormed back to take the next four to seal the series. Kawhi has been simply marvelous for this team and found a way to crank it up another notch, averaging almost 30 points per game this series. He was all over the court this game and dominated the Bucks from inside the paint. A 4th quarter dunk over Giannis Antetokounmpo punctuated this dominance and sent the hometown crowd in a frenzy. The Raptors will try to keep their hot streak going as they face the Warriors in the NBA Finals.
May 26, 2019, 1:14 amGiannis Antetokounmpo - F - Milwaukee Bucks
While Giannis Antetokounmpo will be eligible for a five-year supermax contract worth over $247 million, ESPN's Malika Andrews is reporting that the 2020 playoff run could swing whether or not Antetokounmpo stays with the Bucks long-term.
The Bucks have three of their starters and two key bench pieces heading into free agency this summer, so they might have to make some bold choices to keep the necessary parts around while also improving the team on a budget. It's possible that this is the Antetokounmpo camp's way of encouraging Milwaukee to empty the wallet and keep the current group together, but it goes against what Giannis has said publicly about the team and city from day one. The Bucks were eliminated mere hours ago but we're already having this conversation. The NBA news cycle is perpetual.
May 26, 2019, 12:59 amKyle Lowry - G - Toronto Raptors
Kyle Lowry posted a solid line in Saturday's Game 6 win scoring 17 points while adding five rebounds, eight assists, three 3-pointers, one steal and only one turnover.
After a pedestrian series against the 76ers, Lowry stepped it up against the Bucks, averaging almost 20 points per game in the Eastern Conference Finals. He did a great job making smart plays for the Raptors and they will need him to continue to operate at this high level as they head off into the NBA Finals next week.
May 26, 2019, 12:48 amMarc Gasol - C - Toronto Raptors
Marc Gasol scored six points, all from behind the arc, in Saturday's Game 6 win, adding three rebounds, two assists and a block/steal in 26 minutes.
Gasol continues to do what the Raptors ask of him though the years of grinding in the paint for Memphis are long gone. He has adjusted his game play and now acts as a facilitator for the rest of the team. Gasol continues to split time in the post with Serge Ibaka (25 minutes, nine points) and will see his minutes fluctuate based on the Raptor's offensive scheme heading into the NBA Finals.