August 6, 2018, 7:13 pm
It’s the Dog Days of Summer, about the only time in the NBA calendar where teams are able to take a step back and relax juuust a little bit. Players are hard at work training for the upcoming season, most free agents have been signed and major trades are unlikely to go down. The rumor mill is quiet, for the most part, but there are still stories that appear here-and-there and we’ll round those up, plus a few unresolved mysteries surrounding the team and what Las Vegas thinks of the Wolves.
Wolves’ guard Jimmy Butler sustained a hand injury sometime late in the season after he returned from his extended absence related to his knee, although the severity was unclear and he played through whatever pain he had.
Recently it came to light that Butler was still favoring his right hand after some heads-up reporting from Sean Cunningham of ABC10 in Sacramento. Cunningham noticed that Butler was wearing a wrap on his right hand during a campus tour in Pepperdine and posted video evidence.
Friend of mine with some soccer students touring Pepperdine on Wednesday & they stumbled upon T’Wolves star Jimmy Butler in the gym – wearing a huge wrap or cast on right hand. I remember he was asked about wearing a wrap in playoffs on same hand & said it was for luck. 🧐 pic.twitter.com/v4I0gl5tyD
— Sean Cunningham (@SeanCunningham) July 26, 2018
This prompted a quick, official response from the Timberwolves to alleviate any concerns in what was simply described as an “elective procedure.”
— Timberwolves PR (@Twolves_PR) July 26, 2018
Luckily it doesn’t seem to be anything to worry about, and he allegedly returned to basketball activities less than two days after the procedure, if the timeline is to be believed (surgery on Tuesday, video on Wednesday, basketball activities on Thursday).
Butler also, unsurprisingly, turned down a four-year $110 million maximum offer extension from the Wolves in hopes of earning a bigger pay day in free agency next offseason. Butler is betting on himself here, but the injuries are starting to mount up. He should still be in line for a huge 2018-19 campaign.
C.J. Williams signs contract
In other official news, the Wolves signed guard C.J. Williams to a two-way contract last week, just three days after the Clippers waived him.
C.J. Williams has signed a two-way contract with the 🐺.
— Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) July 31, 2018
Last season was Williams’ first in the NBA, but he’s no puppy. After going undrafted in 2012, Williams played in the G-League for a year then went overseas for two years. He then returned to the States and played in the G-League again before signing a two-way contract with Los Angeles last season. He played quite well for the Clippers, making 17 starts in the middle of the season and earned himself a three-year contract in the process.
Unfortunately, Williams got lost in the numbers game after the Clippers’ loaded up his position with new acquisitions and eventually waived him. The Wolves make quick work and swooped him up.
At 28 years old, Williams is a competent defender and solid 3-point shooter (don’t let last year’s 28.2 percent with the Clippers fool you, he shot 40.5 percent in the G-League and 34.3 percent in Europe) that brings solid energy and good team play every time out. He’s not going to wow anyone, but he’s a smart, reliable role-player that will give a team productive minutes outside the stat-sheet.
The signing brings the Wolves to 14 players on the roster, including their two-way players. Each team may carry up to two players on two-way contracts and 15 on NBA contracts. That gives the Wolves three open slots, and though they are unlikely to fill all three it’s possible they could look at one more player on a minimum contract before the season begins.
Depth at wing
As of now, the Wolves don’t really have what you would call a true small-forward on the roster. Butler and Andrew Wiggins are both quite capable at the position, and the two rookies Josh Okogie and Keita Bates-Diop can fit the mold. Anthony Tolliver and Williams could potentially steal minutes there as well, but as of now it’s going to be a lot of mixing and matching at that position for Tom Thibodeau, who has a restrictive reputation with rookies.
With three open roster spots, the Wolves physically have some space to add players, but financially don’t quite have that luxury. In fact it’s the luxury tax that prevents the Wolves from adding anyone over the minimum at this point as they are right up against the line.
With financial space to perhaps add one player, and no trade in sight, there are still some possibilities out there that the Wolves could target. As mentioned above, Williams was lost in the Clippers’ offseason shuffle and they still have an excess guys they are looking to unload.
Still are risk for Clippers (waiver or trade): Thornwell, Evans, Wes – someone has to go before the season starts.
— Eric Pincus (@EricPincus) August 5, 2018
Sindarius Thornwell, Jawun Evans and Wes Johnson are the trio of players at risk here. Evans is a guard and while Johnson would make for an interesting reunion, his approximately $6 million owed next year is far too rich for the Wolves to swallow (unless he’s waived and signed later).
That leaves Thornwell as a possible option. He’s not perfect (again, more of a guard), but like Williams, can play some minutes at the wing. Thornwell didn’t put up eye-popping numbers last year as a rookie, but did average 6.4 points and 39.3 percent 3-point shooting in 17 starts last year.
He also had this amazing dunk in his penultimate game of the season.
— NBA (@NBA) April 10, 2018
The Wolves would have to wait until the Clippers waive Thornwell (which isn’t guaranteed), and he’s not a perfect fit, but he has some experience and little bit of upside at a position the Wolves could use some bodies at.
Or the team could bring back Marcus Georges-Hunt, but all is quiet on that front as of now. Sean Kilpatrick and Patrick McCaw also remain unsigned. If the season started today, it would appear Thibs would have to have a change of heart and play his two rookies some meaningful minutes.
Karl-Anthony Towns extension?
One of the major moves of the offseason was the expected signing of star center Karl-Anthony Towns to a max contract extension (upwards of five-years, $190 million). Devin Booker, a fellow player from Towns’ draft class and close friend, signed his max contract extension in early July and many believed that Towns would soon follow suit.
However, here we are in August and still no resolution on that front. It’s still widely expected that the two sides will figure out a deal (monetary terms are likely not an issue) but perhaps Towns’ camp desires a little more clarity on the long-term plan for the team and ongoing conversations with Thibodeau about their chemistry.
The two sides have until October to reach an agreement.
Finally, the Las Vegas odds makers have spoken by releasing the over/under numbers for the upcoming season. The Wolves open at 44.5 wins (the team won 47 games last season), putting them eighth-highest in the Western Conference.
Vegas set some over-unders on NBA season win totals Sunday.
— ESPN (@espn) August 6, 2018
The San Antonio Spurs sit right behind at 43.5, with the Blazers rounding out the early contenders at 41.5. The West looks as tight as ever and once again the Wolves will face a tremendous challenge. It’s worth remembering, though, that the team was third in the conference by a decent margin before Butler went down and were on pace to win more than 50 games.
The team hasn’t added any major pieces, but they also didn’t lose much either. Depth will be an issue once again should injuries befall them, but right now it looks like a solid OVER bet for the Wolves.
It’s worth reminding that the NBA is the first major sports league in the U.S. that has an open relationship with betting. This is uncharted waters for many people, and will be interesting to follow along with this season. This article from ESPN breaks it all down.
July 15, 2019, 5:49 pmGoga BitadzeC, Indiana Pacers
The Pacers have announced the signing of first-round pick Goga Bitadze.
Bitadze's visa issues prevented him from playing in Summer League, but he has a chance at cracking the rotation in his first season. He will be playing behind Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis, however, which means it's unlikely he receives significant playing time. Bitadze's versatile game warrants attention in dynasty formats but he could require some patience.
Source: Indiana Pacers
July 15, 2019, 5:44 pmKyle AlexanderC, Miami Heat
The Heat have signed Kyle Alexander to an Exhibit 9, 10 contract.
An Exhibit 9 contract is for one year at the minimum, and they cannot be signed by teams until there are 14 players on the roster already. In essence, it's the sort of contract that can help hard-capped teams (like Miami) in the case of preseason injury, where a similar injury to a player on a different contract would have larger cap ramifications. An injured player's salary becomes fully guaranteed until he recovers, while an Exhibit 9 player can be waived at a cost of $6,000 to the team. Alexander averaged 4.8 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in Summer League. Look for him to spend his season in Sioux Falls.
Source: Ira Winderman on Twitter
July 15, 2019, 5:37 pmBrandon ClarkePF, Memphis Grizzlies
Rookie Brandon Clarke has been named the 2019 Summer League MVP.
Clarke put the Grizzlies through to Monday's championship game with a game-winner in Sunday's semifinal matchup, and he'll look to put the finishing touches on his strong debut with another trophy tonight. He's averaged 14.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.2 steals and 1.6 blocks on .570 shooting across five games so far, all in only 21.4 mpg. Clarke has increased his stock as much as anyone in Vegas, though the presence of Jaren Jackson Jr. could make it hard for him to carve out huge minutes from the jump. Still, there's a chance that Clarke puts himself on the standard-league map and he can be considered a late-round flier in competitive formats.
Source: NBA on Twitter
July 15, 2019, 5:32 pmMitchell RobinsonC, New York Knicks
Mitchell Robinson, Jarrett Allen, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Brandon Clarke and Kendrick Nunn have been named to the Summer League First Team.
Robinson averaged 13.8 points, 10.6 rebounds and 3.4 blocks in only 25.2 mpg in Vegas, and the hype train will continue to roll. Allen had a slow start to his Summer League but came around to dominate as a player of his caliber should. Alexander-Walker and Clarke showed out for the rookie class, with NAW finishing third in scoring at 24.3 points per game. Nunn put up 21.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.5 steals in his summer session and will look to crack the backcourt rotation in Miami this year.
Source: NBA on Twitter
July 15, 2019, 5:27 pmRui HachimuraPF, Washington Wizards
The 2019 Summer League Second Team is comprised of Rui Hachimura, Lonnie Walker, Anfernee Simons, Jaxson Hayes and Chris Boucher.
Of the bunch, Hachimura looks the most likely to be fantasy-relevant this season. He's going to have a great chance to log minutes for a Wizards team that's short on depth at the forward spots. In three games in Vegas, Hachiumra averaged 19.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. Walker is looking to crack the rotation after an injury-plagued rookie season but might have a hard time outplaying San Antonio's capable guards. Simons could slot into the Portland backcourt with the departure of Seth Curry while Boucher is the reigning G-League MVP and Hayes looks like an interesting long-term prospect next to Zion Williamson in New Orleans.
Source: NBA on Twitter
July 15, 2019, 5:21 pmJR SmithSG, Cleveland Cavaliers
The Lakers should be considered an "unlikely destination" for J.R. Smith, according to Adrian Wojnarowski.
The Lakers are the only team that's really been tied to Smith, so that's not great for him. L.A. has done a decent job filling out their roster and no longer has a need for Smith, and his market figures to be fairly limited. Rebuilding teams are unlikely to see him as a typical veteran presence considering the Cavs told him to go home rather than sulk around their young players, and he has a lot to prove after last appearing in a game on November 18.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter
July 15, 2019, 5:18 pmD'Angelo RussellPG, Golden State Warriors
Bob Myers says that the Warriors did not sign D'Angelo Russell just to trade him.
Saying otherwise would surely draw the ire of the league and players association, so Myers' hands are sort of tied here. It's already been reported that the Warriors will try and move Russell when Klay Thompson returns, and that makes plenty of sense. That uncertainty is something to keep in the back of your mind when fantasy drafts open, but Russell is still going to come off draft boards in the middle rounds with a great opportunity in front of him while Thompson is out.
Source: Nick Friedell on Twitter
July 15, 2019, 5:14 pmChristian WoodPF, New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans have waived Christian Wood, per Shams Charania.
Wood was a dominant force in Summer League last season and that carried over into the G-League, where he averaged 29 points, 14 boards and two blocks. He burst onto the scene with some big games for the Pelicans late in the season, ending up with 16.9 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, 0.9 steals and 0.8 threes in 23.6 minutes per night across eight contests with New Orleans. Unfortunately for him, the Pels added Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, Derrick Favors and Jaxson Hayes to the frontcourt mix. Wood will be a name to watch in deep leagues on the chances that he lands in a favorable situation.
Source: Shams Charania on Twitter
July 15, 2019, 5:09 pmMiye OniPG, Utah Jazz
The Jazz have officially signed rookie Miye Oni to a contract.
Oni was the 58th overall pick in the draft and figures to spend most of his year in the G-League, though he did have a few strong moments in Summer League, averaging 8.2 points, 2.8 assists and 2.0 rebounds in 25.4 mpg. The Ivy League Player of the Year is only a target in deep dynasty formats.
Source: Utah Jazz
July 15, 2019, 5:07 pmJosh OkogieSG, Minnesota Timberwolves
Josh Okogie (left ankle/shin contusion) is not facing a serious injury, though there's a chance that he sits out Monday's Summer League title game.
Okogie had played well throughout the summer schedule but sat out Sunday's semifinal game. The Wolves already have a good idea of what they have in him and there's no need to push him into action. Okogie is a deep-league source of cash counters but he could be worth a pickup depending on the validity of the rumors about Robert Covington's trade availability.
Source: Darren Wolfson on Twitter