The Minnesota Timberwolves NBA Draft Grade …

Karl-Anthony Towns and Tyus Jones join a young, promising Timberwolves franchise that finally looks to be making the right moves.  (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

Karl-Anthony Towns and Tyus Jones join a young, promising Timberwolves franchise that finally looks to be making the right moves. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

 

The draft history of the Minnesota Timberwolves has been, frankly, god awful since its inception.  With the exclusion of less than a handful of B+ or greater picks, the Timberwolves have been a trainwreck on draft night more often than not.  For the first time since the Internet has been commonplace, I am looking at an “A” draft grade for Flip Saunders and the Pups.  I’m still not truly sure I believe it …

For the first time in franchise history, the Wolves held the first pick in the NBA Draft.  “Times, they are a changing” my friends.  With Andrew Wiggins and Ricky Rubio already in the fold, along with the potential of Zach LaVine and veteran leadership of Kevin Garnett, Flip Saunders and crew made the obvious choice (at least to me) to kick off the Draft with the selection of Kentucky Freshman, Karl-Anthony Towns.  

A smooth, two way player that can play in the post, step out of the paint to hit a jumper, and play upper-echelon defense.  The pairing of Towns and Wiggins gives the Wolves a potential one-two punch that could pull this franchise out of the woods. For all intents and purposes, Towns is a good guy – he is well spoken and has nothing on his resume that suggests he will fall under the “knucklehead” category that the Wolves have drafted many times over in the past.

When I heard/read that Flip was in love with Jahlil Okafor several weeks ago, I really wanted to blow a gasket.  When I found out Okafor was represented by agent Bill Duffy, my head was going to explode.  Duffy represents or has represented approximately 356 players that have suited up for the Wolves over the past 25 seasons.  (There is no truth to that number, but it feels like it is in the vicinity.) However, the team worked out both players and must have realized what they could be getting with Towns and ultimately made the right decision.  All Towns has to do now is come to Minnesota, show fans he wants to be here and care.  Oh wait, he is already doing all of that …

The draft history of our Pups also includes a tremendous amount of selling picks for “future assets” and cash.  Those “future assets” typically became cash in a subsequent move.  This time, the Wolves took their two second round picks (#31 and #35) along with a future second round pick, and traded them to the Cleveland Cavaliers for the #24 pick, PG Tyus Jones.

Jones played one season for Duke and was a pivotal player for the Blue Devils in their NCAA Championship run.  He also plays a position the Wolves desperately needed to upgrade, (backup) PG.  The Wolves have a potential star in Ricky Rubio, but I don’t see his ceiling as high as it once was, and there is a chance that Rubio can’t stay healthy … or at the very least, be counted on to play 40 minutes per game.

Jones is a hometown kid that grew up cheering for the Wolves.  He now gets to sit in the locker room with KG, who was playing for the Wolves before Jones (or Towns) were even born.  That’s absolutely crazy to me.

While I would normally berate the organization for trading away second round picks, this is the first time in quite some time, the team used them to move up in the draft and make an immediate improvement.  With so many kids on the roster already, there simply wasn’t going to be room to draft one or two players in the second round and etch out playing time for them.

Overall, the Wolves get an “A” from me for this year’s draft results.  “Is this the real life, or is this just fantasy?”

2015 NBA Mock Draft

This year’s draft has average potential start power, but lots of depth and a number of question marks. Jahlil Okafor, Karl-Anthony Towns, and D’Angelo Russell headline the draft as three of the best freshmen from last year’s NCAA season. Next, Kristaps Porzingis, Mario Hezonja, and Emmanuel Mudiay are international players with huge potential creeping into the top 5 and even possibly the top 3. After those top six, the draft opens up immensely. There are strong wings like Justice Winslow, Stanley Johnson, and Sam Dekker, sharpshooters like Devin Booker and Rashad Vaughn, and too many talented big men to count. In addition, the point guard crop has a very diverse set of strengths and weaknesses, as a lot of them look to be slotted for the back end of the first round. That will be an interesting dynamic to pay attention to, as we saw many playoff teams in need of point guard depth. Finally, we are already hearing a lot of rumors about potential trades and pick swapping at the top, so I am sure the next few days leading up to the draft will be almost as exciting as the draft itself.

 

ROUND 1
  NO. TEAM PLAYER POS SCHOOL YEAR HT / WT
  1. Minnesota Karl-Anthony Towns C Kentucky Fr. 7-0 / 250

Analysis: Minnesota seems to be intent on taking Karl-Anthony Towns. Despite the logjam in the frontcourt for Minnesota, KAT is the best prospect on the board and offers more versatility than Jahlil Okafor. He can score facing the basket, score with his back to the basket, and is great at moving within an offense. It would be a big surprise if Towns was not called first by Minnesota on draft day.

  2. LA Lakers Jahlil Okafor C Duke Fr. 6-11 / 270

Analysis: With Towns off the board, the Lakers receive a very solid consolation prize in Jahlil Okafor. Los Angeles has lacked a big man presence of a true big man since Andrew Bynum, and Okafor looks to be the answer. Despite the fact that the Lakers have been fairly ambiguous about this pick and worked out a number of other top prospects, Okafor should be a no-brainer.

  3. Philadelphia Kristaps Porzingis PF Latvia Intl. 7-1 / 220

Analysis: With how much Kristaps Porzingis’ stock has risen, the Latvian has to be glad he pulled his name out of the 2014 draft and waited one more year. Philadelphia GM Sam Hinkle has already shown interest in Porzingas, as Philadelphia was one of two teams that asked him to keep his name in the hat for last year’s draft. Furthermore, the 76ers need this type of game changer for their organization. After everything that has happened the last three years, Hinkle will swing for the fences on Porzingis and hope that Dario Saric, a 2014 first round pick who stayed in Europe last season, is ready to come over soon to create a formidable front court pairing.

  4. New York D’Angelo Russell PG Ohio State Fr. 6-4 / 195

Analysis: New York will be excited to see Russell fall into their lap. He is the kind of floor general that this team needs. While he is not an exceptional athlete, his game has no glaring weaknesses. Russell is an unselfish player who wants to get better and is someone the Knicks can immediately plug into their starting line up.

  5. Orlando Willie Cauley-Stein C Kentucky Jr. 7-0 / 242

Analysis: Willie Cauley-Stein is a dynamic defender who is capable of playing either the 4 or 5, especially when paired with a offensive-minded guy like Nikola Vucevic. Cauley-Stein makes sense here because the Magic need more of a frontcourt presence to support an already athletic backcourt. This addition might be the one that helps push Orlando over the hump in their transition from a team consistently in the lottery to one that is competing for a playoff spot.

  6. Sacramento Emmanuel Mudiay PG Congo Intl. 6-5 / 190

Analysis: Emmanuel Mudiay was once thought to be the top pick in this year’s draft but after spending the last year playing in China, he has fallen out of the top five. Mudiay is still capable of making a big difference for a team in need of a point guard. While Sacramento has serviceable point guards on its roster, none of the team’s other options can match his star power. Mudiay’s size, athleticism, and potential will make the Kings very happy he slipped to them at 6.

  7. Denver Mario Hezonja SF Croatia Intl. 6-8 / 215

Analysis: The Nuggets could go in a lot of directions at this point and there are safer wing players still on the board, but expect them to take this opportunity to draft a higher-upside player from overseas. Hezonja will bring them tremendous athleticism, size and poise. He will take some time to adjust to the NBA game as his decision-making and maturity are currently considered his greatest weaknesses, but Denver would be a good place for him to develop as the Nuggets are not in a hurry to return to Western conference contention. Hezonja could be a project that pays off in 2-3 years.

  8. Detroit Justise Winslow SG/SF Duke Fr. 6-6 / 222

Analysis: The Pistons will be pleased to see Justice Winslow fall to them at No. 8. Detroit lacks a superior defender on the wing to lock guys down and can also create on offense. With Caron Butler traded, the SF position is wide-open for a guy like Winslow to step in on day one. He is hard worker who made huge strides in one year at Duke.The transition to the pros will also be better for him under another high intensity coach like Stan Van Gundy.

  9. Charlotte Stanley Johnson SG/SF Arizona Fr. 6-6 / 242

Analysis: The Lance Stephenson experiment has come and gone, leaving Charlotte once again with a hole at the shooting guard position. Stanley Johnson is another great athlete and superior defender to plug in next to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and he’ll be able to play off Kemba Walker. At Arizona, Johnson was the kind of guy that filled the stat sheet, but also proved he can be a solid shooter. This pick not only covers a need for the Hornets, but also gives them great value.

  10. Miami Devin Booker SG Kentucky Fr. 6-6 / 205

Analysis: After losing LeBron James in free agency, the misfortune continued for the Miami Heat when the team was hit with a string of injuries. Chris Bosh should return to form and Hassan Whiteside burst onto the scene to strengthen their frontcourt. Unfortunately, contract talks with Dwayne Wade are not going well, so it may be time to draft a shooting guard or swing man to replace him. Devin Booker fits the bill, as he is a bigger guard who can help cure the Heat’s three-point shooting woes. Ideally, Booker will learn from one of the great shooting guards in the game in Wade, before eventually stepping in to replace him.

  11. Indiana Cameron Payne PG Murray St. So. 6-2 / 185

Analysis: Indiana suffered the unfortunate fate of losing its best player, Paul George, for the majority of last season. Hopefully, George will be fully recovered and back to form next year. This Pacers team still has the key pieces to contend now if they want to take another run at the title. But they will need to strengthen their backcourt if they want to truly be considered contenders, and with Winslow, Johnson and Booker coming off the board in the previous three picks, Murray State’s Cameron Payne will be the best player left who fits what the Pacers are looking for. This will work well, as Payne is a dynamic point guard who played at an exceptional level despite facing mid-major opponents most of the time. If he can adjust to the tougher level of competition, he’ll be a great fit for the Pacers.

  12. Utah Myles Turner C Texas Fr. 6-11 / 240

Analysis: Myles Turner has looked great in his pre-draft workouts, moving him up the draft board and bypassing a few similar prospects. Utah could use a big man with his upside to fill in as a back-up to Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors. In his one year at Texas, Turner showed he was versatile playing inside-out, but he will still require some development from the mental aspect of the game. The Jazz liked what they saw in Turner during his workout and the former Longhorn could fill the hole left by Enes Kanter.

  13. Phoenix Frank Kaminsky C Wisconsin Sr. 7-1 / 230

Analysis: Frank Kaminsky is a player who can come in and contribute on the offense right away. This pick might seem odd, as the Suns already have a talented young center in Alex Len, but he’s been hampered at times with injuries. In addition, trading Miles Plumlee left the Suns shorthanded in the frontcourt. Kaminsky would be able to fill this void and his shooting ability makes him ideal for running pick and rolls with guards Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe.

  14. Oklahoma City Kelly Oubre SG/SF Kansas Fr. 6-7 / 205

Analysis: Kelly Oubre is one of the biggest mysteries in the lottery. He came on strong for Kansas last year in conference play and stepped up when teammates went down with injuries. Meanwhile, the Thunder have done very little to bolster their backcourt over the last few years. Hopefully, he won’t be thrust into a big role too quickly with, but a year playing on the same team as Kevin Durant will hopefully help his development and regardless of whether Durant decides to stay or go, Oubre can eventually step in and contribute.

  15. Atlanta Trey Lyles PF Kentucky Fr. 6-10 / 240

Analysis: Trey Lyles took one for the Kentucky team this year by stepping back and allowing others to be primary contributers. He was not able to showcase his full repetoire, but over the last few weeks of workouts, he sparked the interest of several teams who are now considering picking him. With Paul Millsap’s future in question and a lack of frontcourt depth, Lyles is the smart pick especially if he falls all the way to 15. It would not be surprising though to see a team trade up to get him.

  16. Boston Sam Dekker SF Wisconsin Jr. 6-9 / 220

Analysis: In Sam Dekker, Boston would be picking up a well-rounded swing man to bring together their squad. Jae Crowder and Evan Turner both stepped in admirably for the Celtics and helped lead them to the playoffs, but Dekker is a more polished and dynamic scoring threat than both of them, and could be the glue that ties together this team’s solid crop of guards and big men. Despite not having as high of a ceiling as some of the other swing men taken at this point, Dekker is an exceptionally hard worker who will thrive under Brad Stevens’ tutelage.

  17. Milwaukee Bobby Portis PF Arkansas So. 6-11 / 245

Analysis: Milwaukee can go a lot of different directions with this pick as they have a very solid core of young players to build around. Although shooting is one of their biggest weaknesses, bolstering their frontcourt is also high on the team’s offseason priority list. With only a handful of guards left with mid-first round grades, they will try to draft an offensive big man. They’ll go with Portis because he has greater size and a more polished game than many of the other big men available at this pick. So expect the Bucks to address this need if there are no sharpshooting swing men available.

  18. Houston Jerian Grant PG Notre Dame Sr. 6-4 / 200

Analysis: Houston desperately needed a point guard toward the end of last year. Although Harden can do it all in the backcourt, having a guy who can matchup well defensively, hit the open three, and be a floor general when Harden is on the bench, could help them push for the Western Conference championship again. Patrick Beverley’s future is uncertain, so Grant will help to shore up their point guard issues.

  19. Washington Kevon Looney PF UCLA Fr. 6-9 / 222

Analysis: Kevon Looney is another interesting first round prospect. While he had some huge games as a Bruin this past year, there were also times he looked lost in his first year at the college level and his team flew under the radar until March. Regardless, he has an immense amount of athleticism and has shown he’s a versatile stretch-4 type on the offensive side and a solid rebounder. While his decision-making still lags, this pick by Washington will strengthen its frontcourt as Nene and Marcin Gortat continue to age. Looney won’t be under pressure to contribute right away and instead will be allowed to develop and adjust to the NBA.

  20. Toronto Rondae Hollis-Jefferson SF Arizona So. 6-7 / 210

Analysis: Toronto found itself in many high-scoring games last season, finishing fourth in the league in scoring while in the bottom third in points allowed. The Raptors have some dynamic offensive players, but lack a true lock down guy on defense. In two years at Arizona, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson proved he can guard any position on the floor. At the NBA level, he can guard four different positions. His offensive game still has a ways to go, but with his work ethic and athleticism, that facet of his game should come around with time.

  21. Dallas Tyus Jones PG Duke Fr. 6-1 / 185

Analysis: The Dallas Mavericks are in desperate need of a point guard. The Mavericks tried addresing this issue by trading several of their bench contributers for Rajon Rondo but the result was not as positive as expected. Instead, a patchwork group of point guards put together a valiant effort, but this team was carried by Dirk Nowitzki, Chandler Parsons, Monta Ellis, and not much else. Tyus Jones will not be an immediate starter, but he can provide a spark from the bench from day one. He is a high intensity player that loves lowering his shoulder in the paint and making big jumpshots. Jones can definitely help re-invigorate the Mavericks backcourt before their championship window closes.

  22. Chicago Delon Wright PG/SG Utah Sr. 6-5 / 180

Analysis: In Delon Wright, Chicago will find a multi-guard asset who can play alongside Rose and step up as the point guard when the former MVP needs a breather. With Rose’s injury history, filling up the Bull’s backcourt is always a smart move, whether it’s just to let him rest or to fill in for a longer stretch games. Wright is one of the oldest players projected in the first round as he stayed at Utah for four years. In his senior campaign, he led Utah to a Sweet 16 berth before eventually losing to Duke. Wright can contribute in every aspect of the game as he led his team in almost all statistical categories.

  23. Portland Montrezl Harrell PF Louisville Jr. 6-8 / 255

Analysis: It seems like Montrezl Harrell could have come out each of the past two years and been a first round pick, but instead, he has twice gone back to college and improved his game. Louisville did not have its typical regular season success in it’s first season as part of the ACC, so a lot of what he did went unnoticed. But during the NCAA tournament, Harrell’s attitude and intensity were on display and it paid off with a trip to the Elite Eight. The Trail Blazers do not know what the future holds for current big man LaMarcus Aldridge, but adding a high motor guy like Harrell will help them immiediately on both ends of the floor.

  24. Cleveland Justin Anderson SF Virginia Jr. 6-6 / 230

Analysis: After drafting former Virginia Cavalier Joe Harris last year, it would not be surprising if the Cleveland Cavaliers took another this year in Justin Anderson. Most of the questions regarding Cleveland’s offseason will be directed at the Kevin Love situation, but also very important will be the situations with Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith. If Anderson goes to the Cavaliers, one or both of those guys will be expendable. Anderson will be a younger, cheaper version of them, and with lots to prove. It helps that his three-and-D style of play is very conducive to playing alongside LeBron James.

  25. Memphis Rashad Vaughn SG UNLV Fr. 6-5 / 200

Analysis: The Memphis Grizzlies have been near the top of the West for several years now. They need reinforcements at the shooting guard and small forward positions assuming they are able to re-sign their top priority, Marc Gasol. Rashad Vaughn declared after a great freshmen year that was cut short by a knee injury. All signs are the knee is healed and had that injury not occured, he would have been selected even higher in the first round. Regardless, this could be a steal for the Grizzlies, as Vaughn was putting up numbers on par with some of the top freshmen in the country until his injury. More importantly, Vaughn is a pure scorer, which the Grizzlies will need if they want to continue to compete in the West.

  26. San Antonio Guillermo Hernangomez PF/C Spain Intl. 6-11 / 250

Analysis: When was the last time two international players were drafted in the same first round from the same international team? Hernangomez along with his teammate Kristaps Porzingis put together some great wins for CB Sevilla. Hernangomez is not as likely to come straight over to the league, despite being 21 already, but his post skills and defensive presence are already very well developed and he could eventually be a steal for the San Antonio Spurs, who are nearing a changing of the guard.

  27. LA Lakers RJ Hunter SG Georgia St. Jr. 6-6 / 185

Analysis: The Lakers acquired this second first round pick by taking on Jeremy Lin and his salary. They must be very happy they did after missing Kobe Bryant and their first round pick, Julius Randle, all season long. Now that both of those players are back and they have already selected high in the draft, expect them to take a safer pick later in the draft that can fill in as a role player. RJ Hunter’s name was not known by many until he hit his buzzer beater in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, but he has been a big time scorer for Georgia State the last three years. He also played point guard most of the time, so he has the ability to distribute the ball and lead an offense. Hunter would be a great value pick for the Lakers as the first round winds down.

  28. Boston Chris McCullough PF Syracuse Fr. 6-9 / 200

Analysis: McCollough was questioned by many when he decided to come out after a disappointing freshman year that saw him start slow before tearing his ACL. He has the talent to be future NBA player, but given his injury and lack of experience at the college level, it will take some time for him to unlock his potential. The Celtics have loaded up on young talent at the frontcourt positions, so this is an insurance pick that will hopefully pay dividends in the years to come.

  29. Brooklyn Christian Wood PF UNLV So. 6-10 / 215

Analysis: Christian Wood could be the second player from UNLV to be selected in the first round. Wood has a great face-up game and good rebounding skills. He needs to put on weight, but when he does, he could be a great rotational player for a team like the Nets. Brooklyn has a lot of question marks surrounding their frontcourt particularly with Brook Lopez about to hit free agency, but Wood could help steady any changeover that occurs with his elite height, wingspan, and jumping ability.

  30. Golden St. Terry Rozier PG Louisville So. 6-2 / 190

Analysis: Terry Rozier’s competitiveness is on a whole different level. Rozier wants to win and gives his all to achieve it day-in and day-out. Watch any game film of Louisville over the last two years, and he can be seen wreaking havoc with his quickness and grit. Sometimes his intensity leads to him playing out of control, but that can be worked on in the NBA. He would be a perfect fit for the Warriors run-and-gun playing style, looking to reload for another title run.

Karl-Anthony Towns vs. Jahlil Okafor – A Timberwolves’ Quandary

towns and okafor

After being awarded the number 1 overall selection in the 2015 NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves have quite a decision on their hands. With two prized big men at the top of the draft, the Timberwolves will need to ultimately decide who they like more between Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns and Duke’s Jahlil Okafor.

The Candidates

towns

Karl-Anthony Towns

School: Kentucky
Year: Freshman
Age: 19
Born: November 15, 1995
Position: PF/C
Height: 6’11”
Weight: 255
Wingspan: 7’4″
From: Metuchen, NJ

Jahlil Okafor

Jahlil Okafor

School: Duke
Year: Freshman
Age: 19
Born: December 15, 1995
Position: C
Height: 6’11”
Weight: 270
Wingspan: 7’5″
From: Chicago, IL [Read more…]

Finally #1! Joey’s Curse Ends

Wolves Lottery Party

Wolves Lottery Party

It finally happened! After years of being in the mix, the Wolves finally had the ping-pong balls bounce their way. I joined the fans at Target Center to witness the event with the Wolves and Wolves fans. What a night! The entire time, I had one question in mind. It wasn’t Okafor or Towns.

The real question of the night was would the curse of Joey Two-Step continue?

Because the Wolves seem somehow cursed (with the key exception being KG), I was secretly rooting for the #2 spot. Why? Well, #1 is great, but being #2 means you take the best you can and if you pull a Greg Oden, it’s not your fault.

Don’t be confused. #1 is great. #1 is a dream come true. But I was mentally ready for #2.

Instead, the NBA Lottery balls bounced perfectly.
To those who hate tankers, non-congrats to the Sixers who tanked the entire season and were NOT rewarded. Not only did their position not improve, but the other picks that could have gone their way (they could have received LA’s due to Steve Nash and Miami’s picks due to Thaddeus Young), did not. #Karma #DontLoseOnPurpose

To those who think the NBA is rigged and therefore New York or LA would win the lottery, a small-market team won. #SmallWins!

To those worried about the cursed Wolves, it ended! #CurseLifted?

Did the Mayo Center heal the Wolves’ wounds? If they can claim that, there should be a line outside the door for eternity. From now until June 25th, Wolves fans can revel in owning their destiny. No one can take their guy. They choose their own destiny.

PS For more about Joey and a great story about the man who’s been there since day 1, read on about Jeff Munneke and the curse here.

Why “Oilers win draft lottery” Matters to Wolves Fans

Oilers win draft lottery

Not a meaningless article – Oilers win draft lottery

You probably missed the small article a couple Sundays ago. The headline was about who won the NHL lottery, but the third paragraph hit home: “At 20 percent, Buffalo had the best odds to win, followed by Arizona at 13.5″ (Associated Press).

In the NHL, there’s no debate who will be taken number one which is not the same as the NBA where the debate is on between two boys who wore blue last season in college.

Why does this matter? Well, the Wolves ‘earned’ at 25% chance which is better than Buffalo, but Edmonton ‘won’ the lottery after having an 11.5 percent chance to ‘win’ the lottery. In the NFL, ‘Suck for Luck’ works, but we know that’s not true in the NBA or NHL.

Edmonton was 3rd to ‘win’ and if you’re wondering who that is this year…it’s the new-look Sixers. Will their tanking be rewarded? There was talk very early in the NBA season that the Sixers are looking at the next season (even before Christmas). Will they get a present? We shall see, but in hockey, the worst didn’t win. Will that trend continue? I know the Wolves are finally hoping to have their bad luck lately reversed.

Season’s Over – Thunder Rock Timberwolves 138-113

Admit it, this made you laugh too. (Photo credit: William Bennett Barry on WelcomeToLoudCity.com)

Admit it, this made you laugh too. (Photo credit: William Bennett Barry on WelcomeToLoudCity.com)

 

The end of the 2014/15 NBA regular season is now official for the Minnesota Timberwolves, who finish the year with a (largely pathetic) 16-66 record.  As you likely know, the Oklahoma City Thunder entered the game with a chance to make the playoffs as the 8th seed with a victory and a little help down in New Orleans.

There wasn’t much doubt going into the evening with the plethora of injuries the Timberwolves have amounted over the past few weeks and months, along with a strong desire to have the most ping pong balls in the NBA lottery.  The 16 wins on the season equates to the third worst record in the team’s history.  You’ll find a bullet point list of things to consider for the Wolves’ offseason below.

The Thunder … well, they have Russell Westbrook.  Without Kevin Durant, the Thunder have struggled to hold onto a playoff spot and will retool in the offseason.  The Pelicans took care of the Spurs Wednesday night and will take the 8 seed in the Western Conference.

The Pups starting lineup consisted of Zach LaVine, Kevin Martin, Andrew Wiggins, Adreian Payne, and Arinze Onuaku.  Interesting stat/number from this season – Wiggins is only one of ten players to start all 82 games this season.  That number is extraordinarily low and concerning.  “Hello reduced NBA game schedule!”

OKC opened up with Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Dion Waiters, Enes Kanter, and Steven Adams.

The Thunder got off to an 8-0 start and the game was essentially decided at that point, despite several attempts by the Wolves to make it a closer contest.  At the end of the 1st quarter, the Thunder held a 47-29 advantage.  You read that correctly.  Westbrook had 23 points at the end of the first 12 minutes.  Did I mention this game was over when the score was 8-0?

Let’s just run through the score at the end of each quarter:

  • Halftime: Thunder 76 – Wolves 54
  • End of 3rd: Thunder 106 – Wolves 85
  • End of game: Thunder 138 – Wolves 113

Rather than say anything else about the season ending loss, here are a number of thoughts on this franchise as it heads into another playoff-less offseason.  We’ll look to cover some of this in a lot more detail at the appropriate time.

  • I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but I truly believe that Andrew Wiggins isn’t getting enough credit for his rookie season.  His month to month averages improved as the season progressed, he played in all 82 games, and he never hit the rookie wall.  That’s un-freaking-believable!
  • Flip Saunders must get off of the sideline as Head Coach.  Sorry Flip, but you have to get out of the way of your own self.
  • I hope to see Ricky Rubio and Kevin Garnett on the court, fully healthy, next season for this team.  I don’t expect early 2000’s KG by any stretch, but their combined passion for basketball would be glorious.
  • Speaking of Rubio, we are on the border of hitting the dreaded “injury plagued” rumor with him.  If he can’t stay healthy next season, this franchise is in a lot of trouble.  A lot.
  • While Karl-Anthony Towns (or Jahlil Okafor) is heavily preferred, even without either player on next year’s roster, the Wolves need to find a new home for Nikola Pekovic.  That isn’t going to be easy.
  • The Wolves would also be better served to find a new home for Kevin Martin.

That’s it for this season’s game recaps folks.  What are your thoughts on the forthcoming offseason?  Where are, or should, the focus be put on the court, on the sideline, and/or in the front office?  Let us know in the comments below.

 

Tank You Very Much; Wolves Win by Losing

Ricky Rubio, hours after ankle surgery, watches the Wolves on his laptop. (Via Rubio' Twitter handle - @RickyRubio9)

Ricky Rubio, hours after ankle surgery, watches the Wolves on his laptop. (Via Rubio’ Twitter handle – @RickyRubio9)

The Wolves out-tanked the Knicks.

As sad as that might be, it’s a quite impressive feat, really. The Knicks were a team that began their tanking efforts from the very start, and never relented until the very end. GM Phil Jackson and Coach Derek Fisher tried everything: trading away key starters for scraps, resting Carmelo Anthony and Jose Calderon after the All-Star Break, starting players like Alexey Shved, Travis Wear, and Jason Smith, but it was all for naught.

Who do they have to thank for their spoiled efforts? The pesky Minnesota Timberwolves, of course. President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders, along with Coach Flip Saunders, saw the Knicks horrid roster, and decided the Wolves could outdo them in all facets. After early injuries to Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin made any thoughts of playoff aspirations a thing of the past, Flip went all-in. He traded contributors Mo Williams, Corey Brewer, and Thaddeus Young for draft picks and players that had few positive contributions this season, signed no names to 10-day contracts, and, most impressively, kept insisting on starting Zach LaVine at point guard.

It took 81 games to accomplish their goal, but the Wolves are now 1 loss from assuring themselves the worst record in the league, and the guaranteed top-4 pick that comes with it.

Coming into yesterday, the Wolves were tied with the Knicks, and would need a loss, coupled with another miracle win from the Knicks to have a chance at sole possession of best of the worst.

The Wolves held up their end of the bargain, although it took until the 4th quarter for the Pelicans to pull away from Minnesota. Only a few things, from the game are worth mentioning. One of them came from Andrew Wiggins, who nearly started a war with Turkey due to his dunk over Omer Asik.

Wiggins wasn’t done settling diplomatic feuds on the court. In the fourth quarter, he attempted another posterizer, this time over French big man Alexis Ajinca. He ended up missing it by inches, but look where he takes off from!

Yeah, that would’ve been better than his first dunk. Still, it might be the most impressive missed dunk I’ve ever seen.

Even with Wiggins monster dunks, the Wolves fell 100-88. Minnesota actually ended the game with only 6 healthy players, as Justin Hamilton and Chase Budinger picked up injuries during the game. Per league rules, the Wolves are going to need 8 healthy players for the season finale Wednesday, and Flip is looking for eager volunteers to suit up.

So with the Wolves losing, all they would need is a Knicks win. Thankfully, that’s exactly what they got, as the Knicks, with a combined 77 points from retired pirate Langston Galloway, average joe Jason Smith, “not the good” Tim Hardaway, and man-bun connoisseur Lou Amundson, prevailed in a 112-108 victory over a Hawks team resting most of their starters.

Knicks fans, who had been dead set on finishing in last for months, were FURIOUS, and nothing is funnier than angry Knicks fans.

The following images are #NSFW (Not safe for work).

It gets funnier.

For this fans sake, I hope the Knicks lose on Wednesday.

At least the sound of this fan vomiting will be more pleasant than hearing Knicks owner James Dolan try and sing.

Godspeed, Knicks, and tank you very much.

 

Weekly Preview 24 – The End is Nigh

Goodbye

Grab a cold one and witness the somber end of another merciful Timberwolves season (Courtesy of The Eric Andre Show)

Guys, we’ve almost made it. After 23 weeks and 80 games, the finish line is finally in sight. Even though the end to a season is usually cause for a somber moment, few will shed a tear once the Wolves season is completed.

A season that started with cause for optimism slowly devolved into a chase for a high lottery pick. Whether it was Flip’s questionable lineup decisions, a barrage of injuries, or signing a guy simply because he was in close proximity to New York, the Wolves season ludicrous free fall has left them tied with New York in the cellar of the NBA, with 2 games remaining.

Injury Report:

Anthony Bennett – Indigestion, too many BLT’s (Unlikely to return this season)

Nikola Pekovic – Retired to pursue career in ice fishing (Will not return this season)

Kevin Garnett – Banged his head into the stanchion one too many times (Doubtful for Monday)

Gorgui Dieng – Couldn’t risk playing him, we really need to lose these last few games (Questionable for Monday)

Shabazz Muhammad – Inconsolable about the fact he has two z’s in his first name, yet none in his last name. (Will not return this season)

Ricky Rubio – Looks mighty fine in a sport coat (Will not return)

Gary Neal – Who? Oh yeah, that guy! The one who made those threes in the Finals for the Spurs that one time! Why did we trade for him again? (Unlikely to return)

Robbie Hummel – Still thinking long and hard about coming out with that rap album (Questionable for Monday)

Andrew Wiggins – Don’t worry about him, he’s just fine, thank you very much. Not like he’s been run into the ground or anything. (Perfectly fine, will play Monday)

Last Week:  Opponents 448, Wolves 401

An 0-4 week has brought the Wolves current losing streak to an even 10 games, the longest current streak in the league. There were a few occurrences of note, including Martin’s 37 against Sacramento, Wiggins pair of 29 point games, and LaVine’s Twolves rookie record 37 at Oracle Arena, but otherwise it was just business as usual for the worst team in the West.

This play by Wiggins, however, was awesome.

So yeah, this Wiggins kid is pretty fun to watch. Combined with LaVine, Rubio, and a top-5 pick in the draft, The Wolves have a bright future ahead of them. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make the product currently on the floor any more competitive.

The Final 2 Games:

Game 81: Monday, 4/13, 7pm – New Orleans Pelicans vs. Timberpups (TV: None) 

Finally, a winnable game! Ha, you thought I was serious. Well, the Pelicans are tied for the final playoff spot in the West and are going to need a win Monday to stay on top of the Thunder, so you can bet they are going to come out in full force.

Opponent to Watch – Anthony Davis (Alien Overlord)

I, for one, welcome our new supreme leader, and am already sporting a unibrow to mark the occasion. We come in peace, Mr. Davis, please do not hurt us. We will pay heed to of your commands, and will let you score all of the points you wish.

Game 82: Wednesday, 4/15, 7pm – Oklahoma City Westbrook’s vs. Timberpups (TV: FSNorth)

Thankfully, for the Wolves season finale, they face a team with nothing to play for. Wait a second, they’re playing the Thunder? The same Thunder that are tied with the Pelicans and more than likely need a win on Wednesday? Well…

Player to Watch – Russell Westbrook (Superhuman)

Fresh off a matchup with alien overlord Anthony Davis, the Wolves will face the equally terrifying superhuman Russell Westbrook. In the absence of Kevin Durant, Westbrook has had to carry the load for the Thunder, and he does it with a variety of different techniques. He could hit you with his superior strength, speed, athleticism, or all three, if he so chooses. You must not anger Mr. Westbrook, for if you do, he will tear you apart into thousands of tiny little pieces, and you will never hear from him again.

Wrap-Up:

It’s been a long, agonizing season, but there have been a fair share of moments filled with excitement, hope, and optimism. The Wolves final games may be devoid of all of that, as they face 2 teams that are desperately grasping at the chance to attain that final playoff spot out West. The future is bright, but this week, a stampede is approaching Target Center, and the Wolves might be best to just get out of the way.

 

Timberpups Weekly Preview – Week 23

The last road trip of the season is ahead for Flip Saunders and his/our Pups.  (Credit: Richard Sennott, Associated Press)

The last road trip of the season is ahead for Flip Saunders and his/our Pups. (Credit: Richard Sennott, Associated Press)

 

Setting the stage:

The Minnesota Timberwolves are down to the last week and a half of the season.  Unfortunately for the club, the forthcoming week includes a west coast swing and several very hard match-ups.  Will the Wolves surpass 17 wins on the year to not tie the third worst record in franchise history for the season?

It doesn’t look very promising based on the week ahead.  Here is a brief preview for the trip out West:

Game 77: Tuesday, 4/7, 9pm – Timberpups @ Sacramento Kings (TV: FS North)

The Kings have handled the Wolves in both of the prior meetings this season and there is one guy that may have a field day if the Wolves don’t get a healthy body out on the court to start this west coast trip …

Opponent to watch:

DeMarcus Cousins – Remember when the Wolves drafted Wesley Johnson over Cousins?  That wound up being a pretty good decision, no?  Cousins leads the Kings in every major statistical category excluding assists and has a PER over 25 this season.  Headcase or not, he’s “slightly” better at playing the game of basketball vs. Wes Johnson.

Game 78: Wednesday, 4/8, 9pm – Timberpups @ Portland Trailblazers (TV: FS North)

The Blazers will be looking to close out the, somewhat underwhelming, Northwest Division as soon as possible and that could happen against the Wolves (if not sooner).

Opponent to watch:

Damian Lillard – Lillard has been a Wolves’ killer since entering the NBA and I fear for what he may do to Zach LaVine on Wednesday night.

Game 79: Friday, 4/10, 9:30pm – Timberpups @ Los Angeles Lakers (TV: FS North & NBA TV)

The bottom of the barrel of the Western Conference faces off on Friday night in Los Angeles.  The Lakers have won two of three against the Pups this season, with the home team having dropped all three games thus far.

Opponent to watch:

Jordan Clarkson – While it likely won’t have such high implications, this could be a nice test for who deserves a spot on the All-Rookie Second Team between Clarkson and LaVine.  While neither have caught the headlines (minus LaVine’s dunk competition), Clarkson has been rock solid for the Lakers in recent weeks.

Game 80: Saturday, 4/11, 9:30pm – Timberpups @ Golden State Warriors (TV: FS North)

The Wolves close out their four game road trip on a back-to-back against the best team in the NBA.  Let’s leave this one alone and enjoy watching the most entertaining team in the league for the evening.

Opponent to watch:

Stephen Curry – He’s good and I’m going to resist the Jonny Flynn jokes (or am I?).  Curry is throwing up almost 24 points and 8 assists a night for the best team in the NBA.  Let’s wrap this up before I get angry.

Wrap-up:

The last road trip, particularly for a team whose season is over, must be hard enough for any team.  However, the Wolves have dresses approximately 45 players in a uniform this season and are looking towards the future with their #EyesOnTheRise.

 

Magic Dust Over Timberwolves, 97-84

Andrew Wiggins and Elfrid Payton (Getty Images)

Andrew Wiggins and Elfrid Payton (Getty Images)

Ahead of the final west coast road trip of their season, the Minnesota Timberwolves hosted the Orlando Magic in Minneapolis Friday night.  As has been the case over the past few weeks, Flip Saunders was forced to throw out another starting lineup, going with Zach LaVine, Kevin Martin, Andrew Wiggins, Adreian Payne, and Justin Hamilton.  This may not be the exact number, but I count 54,328 different starting lineups this season for the Pups.

An almost equally struggling Magic squad (22-53 coming into Friday night) started with Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris, Nikola Vucevic, and Dewayne Dedmon.  The Magic have underachieved this year and fired Jacque Vaughn last month.  This is their new head coach (James Borrego) …

Put your hands up if you are excited to coach the Orlando Magic!!  (Associated Press)

Put your hands up if you are excited to coach the Orlando Magic!! (Associated Press)

You may notice that I’m stalling in actually writing about Friday night’s game …

The Magic opened the game strong, quickly opening up a double digit lead.  They shot 60% in the opening quarter, compared to the Wolves’ 35%.  The Wolves’ starting backcourt shot a combined 1-7 from the field for 3 points.  Not ideal.  At the end of the 1st quarter, the Magic held a 29-23 lead.

Tobias Harris scored the first 8 points for the Magic in the second quarter, as they reopened a double digit lead in the early minutes of the quarter.  After cutting the Magic lead down to six with just a few minutes to play in the half, the Wolves started getting sloppy (again) with the basketball and managed to give back any traction they made.  At the half, the Magic held a 52-42 advantage.

Halftime highlights:

  • Wolves held a huge advantage at the free throw line, going 14-16 from the line, while the Magic were only 6-10.
  • However, the Wolves were 0-8 from 3PT range.
  • Chase Budinger had a nice half with 9 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block and 1 steal in 17 minutes.

The Magic and Wolves went back and forth throughout the 3rd quarter.  Every time the Wolves made a small run to cut the lead down to six points, the Magic found a way to increase their lead back to 10+ points.  The Wolves cut the lead to four points but the Magic came back yet again and took a 72-65 lead into the final quarter.

After more back and forth, Tobias Harris drilled two three point FG’s from basically the same spot on the floor, pushing the Magic lead to 86-74.  In the end, the Magic walk out of the Target Center with a 97-84 victory over the Timberwolves.

A few notes from the game:

  • The Magic out-rebound the Wolves 53-30 on the night, including a 20-3 advantage on the offensive boards.
  • The teams combined for 39 turnovers.
  • Wiggins led the Wolves with a somewhat quiet 22 points.
  • LaVine finished the game with a box score of 10/5/5, but his performance was significantly worse than those numbers.  Sorry, they were.