February 21, 2018, 7:14 pm
As the All-Star break nears it’s conclusion, the Wolves currently sit at 36-25, which is good for fourth overall in the Western Conference and seventh in the entire NBA. They have the most wins versus the West in the league, and the best home record in the conference.
Despite all this, the Wolves find themselves only one game in the loss column from falling completely out of the playoffs. The season, which has gone so well with a top-five offense and a dynamic roster, still remains very much in the balance with just 21 games left to go.
When the Wolves were playing at their peak in late December to early January, it felt like reaching the two seed was a plausible goal and making the playoffs was an inevitable feat, a simple hurdle in a standard track meet.
After stumbling through a late stretch, including an active six-game road losing streak, it’s reminded that the NBA season resembles more of a steeplechase than a sprint.
The main obstacle for the Wolves has been their defense. Despite a third ranked offense, the defense ranks 26th and it remains the main issue in every loss. The Wolves have the best offensive rating in the NBA in losses, meaning every game they play in tends to be high scoring, they just don’t find a way to get a few stops when it matters.
Having a top-five offense and bottom-five defense is an unusual feat. In this current century (since 2000), only seven teams have achieved this. The Milwaukee Bucks in 2002-03, the Dallas Mavericks and the Seattle Sonics in 2003-04, the Sonics in 2005-06, the Washington Wizards in 2006-07, the Phoenix Suns in 2008-09, and last year’s Denver Nuggets.
On the other side of the spectrum, a top-five defense and bottom-five offense has occurred even fewer times. Only five teams, the Miami Heat in 2001-02, the Houston Rockets in 2003-04, the Chicago Bulls in 2004-05, the Milwaukee Bucks in 2010-11, and last year’s Atlanta Hawks, have achieved this in the same time-span.
All told, 12 teams since 2000 have finished the season on the “dramatic scale,” a top-five and bottom-five ranking. Less than half have even made the playoffs, only one has held home-court advantage and none have gone on to win a playoff series.
This puts the Wolves in a precarious position. Historically teams under these circumstances have not fared well, and there is little hope the Wolves will be able to dramatically turn things around in such a short span. The defense has been erratic all season, particularly on the road, and is unlikely to provide much aid when the team really needs it.
Among the 21 remaining games, 11 are away from the Target Center.
This does bring back the question of what the Wolves’ expectations are, raised at the beginning of the season. Having a winning record, being in the top-four and an incredible stretch as the hottest team in the NBA, perhaps the perception has changed a bit from simply “growth.”
With only a quarter of the season left to go, sitting in the pole position for a game-one in the Target Center come April, would it be a disappointment if that doesn’t come to pass? Despite 13 years of torment and failure, draft busts and trade flops, is it fair to expect it all to turn around so quick? As of now the answer is probably yes.
Even against the odds and their playoff standing on thin ice, anything less than that would be perceived as a failure. Consider where the Wolves got to this season. They jumped from a top-10 offense to a top-five, while remaining a bottom-five team defensively.
Without hardly even trying the Wolves have managed to improve their standing purely on as an offensive threat. If they begin to show consistent signs of development on defense, there’s no where to go but up. The original goal of “growth” still remains, but it’s directly tied to the standings at this point.
So long as the team continues to work on the defensive end and becomes a cohesive unit, they look to be a solid bet to hold steady in the playoffs.
It’s worth pointing out that 5-of-the-10 teams on the “dramatic scale” improved the next year, with the Hawks and Nuggets still to be determined (though likely looking at the former regressing and the latter progressing).
So the goal from the beginning remains the same, growth. Growth as a defensive team, getting off the “dramatic scale.” Growth from the young players, namely Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Building a team that is familiar with one another. The only difference in the goal now is the stakes got a bit higher.
June 4, 2020, 2:00 pmLeBron JamesSF, Los Angeles Lakers
The Board of Governors has approved the NBA's 22-team format to restart the 2019-20 season.
The vote was 29-1. It was widely expected that the format would get the go-ahead, even though more than one team didn't fully support the proposed plan, and the NBA has at least settled on what the season will look like once it's able to resume. They have also set the draft lottery for August 25 and the draft for October 15. The biggest hurdles remain anything that has to do with COVID-19, and to this point the league has yet to say anything about those challenges, but there is plenty of forward momentum these days.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter
June 3, 2020, 9:23 pmEnes KanterC, Boston Celtics
Sean Deveney reported that "multiple agents say not all players are on board with an NBA return".
One agent said, "Most of the guys are excited, fired up, they want to get back out there. Those are 95 percent of the conversations I have had". There are players that feel the money is not worth putting themselves and their families at risk. Enes Kanter weighed in on the topic, saying "there are some other team's players out there, that they don't want to play. They're like, 'It's just a game. I'm not going to risk my life". It is likely that the high-profile players will still play, but it looks like some role players may not be willing to take the risk to join their team when the NBA season resumes.
June 3, 2020, 4:39 pmDerrick RosePG, Detroit Pistons
The Pistons announced that they plan to reopen team facilities on Thursday, allowing voluntary individual workouts while following all the social-distancing guidelines.
Although the Pistons' season is likely over as they are not one of the 22 teams that will continue to play if the Board of Governors vote to ratify the plan on Thursday, this will allow players to stay in shape for the 2020-21 season which is expected to start in December.
Source: James Edwards III
June 3, 2020, 11:41 amZion WilliamsonPF, New Orleans Pelicans
Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the Pelicans, Blazers, Suns, Kings, Spurs and Wizards will be the six non-playoff teams resuming action when the NBA restarts.
This makes complete sense, as they're the only non-playoff teams that can sniff the postseason. Woj backs up an earlier Shams Charania report about a potential play-in tournament for the final playoff spot in each Conference as well. If the ninth seed trails the eighth seed by more than four games when the league's truncated regular season wraps up, the eighth seed makes the playoffs. If the deficit is under four games, however, the two teams will compete in a play-in tournament that is double-elimination for the eighth seed and single-elimination for the ninth.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter
June 3, 2020, 11:36 amLeBron JamesSF, Los Angeles Lakers
Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the NBA will have an eight-game regular season for the purposes of playoff seeding upon its return while Shams Charania reports that there will be a play-in tournament for the eighth seed.
This applies to the NBA coming back with 22 teams, as the league's bottom eight are well out of playoff contention and bringing them to Orlando would only negatively affect the league's pursuit for player safety. As for the play-in tournament, Charania describes it as such: "If the ninth seed is more than four games behind the eighth seed, the eighth seed earns the playoff spot; if the ninth seed is four or fewer games behind, then the eighth and ninth seed will enter a play-in tournament that is double-elimination for the eighth seed and single-elimination for ninth." Expect another announcement about the league's format in the coming days.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter
June 2, 2020, 10:02 pmCorey BrewerSF, Sacramento Kings
Corey Brewer, a veteran of eight different NBA teams, is still hoping to sign another contract before he calls it a career.
Brewer, 34, seems to think he has enough in the tank for one final stint in the NBA. “We had some talks with a few teams, but nothing really happened. My agent is still working on it, so we’ll see,” Brewer said. “I feel like I can still help a team and I feel like I have a few good years left. But you never know, man." Brewer has not suited up for an NBA team this season and, with a waning jump shot and increased age, his chances of securing another pact in the NBA are pretty unlikely.
June 2, 2020, 9:47 pmDeMarcus CousinsC, Los Angeles Lakers
Kings broadcaster Grant Napear stepped down from his position with the Kings on Tuesday after he said 'All Lives Matter..Every Single One!' when asked about his thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement during a Twitter interaction with former Kings center DeMarcus Cousins.
This is the first domino to fall in American professional sports in relation to the Black Lives Matter movement, even if it's a relatively insignificant one. Napear said of himself and the interaction, "I’m not as educated on BLM as I thought I was. I had no idea that when I said 'All Lives Matter' that it was counter to what BLM was trying to get across," he said. "I’m in pain. I’m 60 years old and I still have a lot to learn." The Kings will evidently have to find a new play-by-play man for their radio broadcasts to accompany Doug Christie when games resume.
June 2, 2020, 8:45 pmJohn WallPG, Washington Wizards
John Wall, who has long been rumored to have absolutely zero chance of returning to the court even if the current season is resumed, said in a conference call last week that he feels "110 percent."
Wall and the Wizards both maintain that he will not return to action this season, regardless of the outcome of the vote on Thursday by the NBA Board of Governors. This is good news, obviously, for the team as they set their sights on next season. As of late, trade rumors have been swirling around the franchise's two top assets: Wall and All Star guard Bradley Beal. Moving forward, there is a high possibility that the Wizards will decide between the two, as Beal's contract will expire after next season. Which player will the Wizards keep? Who will they trade, or will they trade them both? They are hoping to have some time to evaluate how the pair plays in tandem early next season, as Wall has missed significant time with a torn left Achilles he suffered during the 2018-19 season. But it may be too late to negotiate an extension with Beal at that point, so they will have to play their cards with extreme care.
Source: The Athletic
June 2, 2020, 8:27 pmBradley BealSG, Washington Wizards
Wes Unseld, a Hall of Famer and Washington Bullets legend, passed away on Tuesday due to complications with pneumonia and other illnesses. He was 74 years old.
An outstanding rebounder, Unseld is also one of only two players to ever be awarded Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player in the same season in 1968-69. He guided the Bullets to the NBA Finals four times, winning once in 1978, a series where Unseld took home MVP honors. Hornets' GM and former teammate Mitch Kupchak said of Unseld, “As a teammate, he was tough, dependable and competitive to no end.” Unseld was a fearless competitor and highly respected across the league during his 13 seasons with the Bullets franchise. Former Knicks center and fellow Hall of Famer Willis Reed recently recalled their battles against one another, "He was most consciously a rebounder — he could shoot, but he didn’t emphasize that part of his game — and felt that if he did his job right, by getting the defensive rebound and making the quick outlet pass, they would score quickly.” Unseld was undoubtedly a pioneer for the game of basketball and means a great deal to the city of Washington D.C.
Source: Rick Bonnell on Twitter
June 2, 2020, 7:58 pmLeBron JamesSF, Los Angeles Lakers
ESPN's Adrian Wojanrowski is reporting that Adam Silver and the NBA Board of Governors, who are planning to vote Thursday on how to continue the season, would like the NBA Finals to conclude no later than October 12.
With July 31 being the widely-reported restart date and the league tentatively planning to start 𝘯𝘦𝘹𝘵 season by Christmas Day of this year, it would make sense to crown a league champion as early as possible. The meeting with the NBA Board of Governors on Thursday will (finally) bring some clarity to the rest of the NBA season, as they will hold a vote to decide how to proceed. NBA fans have been waiting since the middle of March for some resolutions. This week will provide them.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter