Andy G: Let’s quickly get caught up since we last posted.
Wolves Trounce Knicks
On Wednesday, the Wolves blew out the Knicks. Kevin Martin — who we later found out suffered a broken wrist — had it going. He poured in 37 points and couldn’t miss. Mo Williams got his groove back. Shabazz Muhammad started at power forward (!) and had one of his best games ever (17 points & 8 rebounds).
The Knicks looked tired and clueless, allowing Corey Brewer to rip the ball out of their hands and forfeiting three attempts to the red hot Martin. Amar’e Stoudemire looked great on the block against Gorgui — not a great sign for the young center’s development as a post defender — but Gorgui did enough other stuff (5 steals) to contribute to a great plus-minus of +22.
Andrew Wiggins got to guard Carmelo Anthony for a bit — his education continues — and he also heated up for a fun stretch in the 2nd Quarter, scoring his only 12 points of the game.
Spurs Trounce Wolves
Friday’s game — last night — was not so successful.
With a playoff run out of the picture, will Nikola Pekovic play out the rest of the season?
The Timberwolves aren’t making the playoffs. Let’s put that idea behind us.
The Wolves underachieved this year.
It doesn’t matter how many more games they win or lose. Making the playoffs this season was a benchmark – the benchmark –for that nebulous but real concept known as “success.” And this season, the Wolves were unsuccessful.
I’m not going to get into why the Wolves failed. We’ve talked all about the draft picks, free agent signings, the failings of the second unit, Adelman’s rotations, Barea over Rubio, close losses, and everything else, ad nauseum.
Lots of Wolves fans will check out. It’s no secret that interest in the team waxes and wanes with the team’s highs and lows. When the team is winning, fans take interest. When it isn’t, they don’t. This isn’t an indictment of fair-weather fandom. It’s just human.
The real question is whether the Wolves will also check out as a team.
John Wall gets high. Will he win the 2014 Slam-Dunk Contest?
It was announced today that the 2014 Slam Dunk Contest participants will include Paul George, Damian Lillard, John Wall, and defending champion Terrence Ross, according to ESPN. Ben McLemore and Harrison Barnes are mentioned as the two others who are expected to round out the six-man field.
The point of this post isn’t to pontificate about who’s the best dunker. That’s a matter of personal aesthetic preference: The dunk, like other special types of basketball shots, is more an art than a science.
That said, it’s fun to see what each participant has in his arsenal – and then to watch the contest to see if they have anything new up their sleeves.
Without further ado, here’s a video compilation of each participant. Enjoy.
The good: The fit is there. Muhammad has the build of your everyday athletic, break-you-off-dribble wing scorer, but he thrived at UCLA mostly in situations where he didn’t have to dribble — off the catch, running the break, posting up. And on a team like the Timberwolves, with a scorer/rebounder and ball handler as its two cornerstones, it’s those “other” areas where Muhammad will need to do his work.
Despite the lure always present at summer league to isolate everything, Muhammad primarily stuck to that script, floating around the arc and running off screens, and looked right doing so. His rebound numbers in Vegas were ho-hum, but he can be a great wing rebounder with his size, if he puts in the effort. He also shot 41.1 percent from 3, better than his college average (38 percent).
The bad: The production was not there. The 20-year-old (we hope) Muhammad averaged just 8.5 points on 41 percent shooting. Which isn’t awful. But when a player who lives off offense can’t produce, particularly against inferior competition, the deficiencies in the rest of his game become more noticeable. And in Muhammad’s case that’s his ambivalence toward passing (five total assists) and mediocre defense despite the tools to be pretty good.
Bottom line: Muhammad has a lot to work with, and you’re inclined to dismiss some of the disappointment to playing a defined and limited role, but it’s hard to write all that off after a drama-filled freshman season. That age stuff doesn’t matter anymore, but can he be happy with an even smaller role in snowy Minnesota than the one he griped about in Los Angeles?
— Justin Verrier
It’s hard to argue with Verrier’s take. We know the following:
Eds. Note: This mock isn’t necessarily intended to predict what teams will do, but to spell out what WE would do at each pick. Some of that is likely to map onto what teams actually end up doing on Thursday, some isn’t.
Patrick J: I think the Cavs go with the conventional wisdom here. In a draft without a sure-thing superstar, you go with talent and size, especially when there’s a seven footer with potentially upper upper level shotblocking skills and defensive instincts.
Andy G: Can’t disagree, here. It’s not so much that NERLENS is can’t-miss as much as there’s probably not a sure thing anywhere in this draft and it’s pretty easy to see how his game carries over to modern NBA defense, often times built around roaming paint protectors.
Some of McLemore’s intangible qualities — mainly his assertiveness, focus, and competitiveness — have a number of front offices concerned about his future prospects. The Kansas guard also isn’t a great off-the-dribble creator, so a team bereft of playmakers may ask McLemore to shoulder more offensive responsibility than he is ready for, which could irrevocably damage his game and confidence. More than perhaps any potential lottery pick, McLemore needs a stable, winning environment to help mold good habits while also letting him grow into his game at his own pace. In Minnesota, Kevin Love fills the role of first-option scorer while Ricky Rubio plays the part as the primary, off-the-bounce creator. McLemore would only be required to help the Minnesota attack in ways that play to his strengths — attacking in transition and using his sweet stroke to spot up from the outside in the half court. It would be a much easier transition for McLemore, allowing him to perhaps slowly grow his offensive game in a similar fashion to the aforementioned George. And by combining with Rubio, Love, Andrei Kirilenko, and center Nikola Pekovic (if he’s re-signed), playoff appearances would likely follow, aiding McLemore’s development as a winning player.
Andy G:We attended Wolves-Wizards last January. The Wiz were barely beginning to hit their stride (which made the ass-kicking that much more painful — we didn’t totally see it coming, despite Mickael Gelabale being a starter) and in particular their young backcourt duo of John Wall and Bradley Beal looked mighty impressive. The synergy that Ernie Grunfeld envisioned when he drafted Beal (and reportedly turned down a James Harden trade (!)) was coming to fruition before our eyes, even with Randy Wittman at the wheel.
John Wall created shot opportunities. Bradley Beal took advantage of them. In the course of their first season together — largely limited by injuries — the duo thrived. On average they were +3.6 per game, best of commonly-used Wizards player pairings. I think many will predict big improvement from Washington next season, including a playoff berth, in large part because they’ve put together such a talented and balanced backcourt.
I bring this up because the Wolves also have a magnificent playmaker at point guard, a dearth of capable 2’s, and a pair of first rounders in the upcoming draft. Also like Washington, Minnesota has veteran frontcourt talent. Basically, everybody’s waiting for that shooting guard to arrive. Whether it be with the lottery pick (9) or the one received from the Grizzlies (26) it seems likely that a wing player will don a Timberwolves cap on June 27.
We’ve already talked Victor Oladipo and Shabazz Muhammad. ‘Dipo is not Beal. Whether better all-around or worse, there’s a clear difference in style; in tool sets. And Shabazz, well… it’s probably best we lay off that one for a bit. He’s controversial, putting it mildly.
If they end up going lottery wing, that likely leaves Kentavious Caldwell-Pope from Georgia (if they stay at Number 9) or Ben McLemore from Kansas (if they trade up). Both can shoot it.
If the choppy Charlie Bucket photoshopping doesn’t make clear, I’m not devoting much time to this. The draft lottery. It’s tonight. 7:00 on ESPN. Kevin Love will be there, representing the Wolves. I’d guess that Adam Silver or some Ernst & Young executive will announce the results around 7:30.
The reason I’m skimping on the LOTTERY PREVIEW is that it’s almost a foregone conclusion that the Wolves will pick 9th (81.3 percent chance) or 10th (12.2 percent chance). Who knows, maybe that will be a blessing in disguise? The high end of the lottery has not been very kind to Minnesota. The highest pick in team history, Derrick Williams, was chosen 2nd and will probably not be an NBA starter next season, his third in the league. Third overall, the team has selected Christian Laettner and O.J. Mayo. One never played for the Wolves. The other, well, we wish hadn’t. Fourth overall the Wolves have taken Donyell Marshall and Wesley Johnson. Bust, and… major bust.
DraftExpress just posted a bunch of interviews with top prospects who’re possible future Wolves at the NBA combine. Below, Andy and I react to each that was published today. Assuming more are to come–possibly to include Anthony Bennett–we’ll probably hit the wheel on this a second time for comparison’s sake. Full analysis below.
The next Kawhi Leonard is probably not walkin’ through that door. So plan accordingly.
Many Timberwolves fans will expect the team to draft a wing player in the upcoming lottery. It’s the position of need, after all. Flip and Rick should ignore the radio callers and message boards and draft without regard for position.
A couple weeks ago, in anticipation of the NCAA Tournament, we scribbled some preliminary thoughts on NBA Draft prospects. Now that we’re into Sweet 16 territory, and we know a little more about where the Wolves may end up drafting, we thought it about that time to do another quick #lottobound rundown of our current thoughts on potential Wolves prospects we like.
I pass the baton to Andy G to kick this thing off.
Andy G: ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM: Ben McLemore: Disappears too often for my taste, certainly if you’re taking him as high as #1(!) I mean, check out his game log (Insider, sorry). I’d like the Wolves to get him but I wouldn’t expect that we’re getting a Durant or Ray Allen as much as a Jason Richardson.
That said, who is #1? My take is, if we somehow win the lottery I think it’s Nerlens Noel or Anthony Bennett. Gotta get the star power at the top of the draft.
If we don’t win the lotto and take Oladipo, we might be getting a better player than McLemore anyway. Victor O plays Jrue Holiday-style defense and seems to have the shooting mechanics to become a pretty reliable secondary scorer. It’d be incredible to watch a Rubio-Oladipo backcourt terrorize opposing guards defensively.