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.
|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.
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.
Born: November 15, 1995
From: Metuchen, NJ
Born: December 15, 1995
From: Chicago, IL [Read more…]
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.
The Timberwolves announced on Saturday that Power Forward Anthony Bennett will miss at least two weeks with a sprained ankle. The Wolves PR feed rolled out the following within an hour of each message …
Flip tells the media that Anthony Bennett has a sprained ankle and will not travel to Houston. Neither will Shabazz Muhammad (finger).
— Timberwolves PR (@Twolves_PR) February 21, 2015
More on Anthony Bennett: He will be out a minimum of two weeks after tests this morning revealed sprained right ankle. #Twolves
— Timberwolves PR (@Twolves_PR) February 21, 2015
This is yet another setback for Bennett who can’t seem to catch a break this season. With the Pups trading away Thad Young at the deadline and not rushing Kevin Garnett into the lineup (he will make his first appearance on Wednesday night) it seemed like a great week for Bennett to showcase his talents for the staff and fans alike.
Bennett was rolled up on by two Phoenix Suns players in the first quarter of Friday night’s game. He went to the locker room and never returned to the court.
This leaves the Wolves with Adreian Payne at the PF position, along with Gorgui Dieng, who will likely have to slide over to the 4 position on the floor quite a bit Monday night. Of course, Wolves fans will be looking ahead to Wednesday night’s game when KG makes his return to the Target Center in a Wolves uniform.
Additional injury note per the above tweets (in case you glanced over them) – Shabazz Muhammad will not travel with the team to Houston.
Welcome home, KG.
In a swirl of events on the day of the NBA Trade Deadline, the Timberwolves have made it official—Kevin Garnett is coming back to Minnesota.
This morning, I checked my Twitter feed at 5:57 a.m.—because isn’t that what everyone does first thing in the morning—and read several posts about Minnesota negotiating a trade with Brooklyn to bring Garnett back to the team he was drafted by.
Rumors buzzed around the Internet all morning and through the lunch hour, and then, at 1:34 p.m., we got this:
Source: Kevin Garnett agrees to trade, will go home to Minnesota for Thaddeus Young.
— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) February 19, 2015
So, there you have it. For better or worse, The Big Ticket will once again don a Timberwolves jersey. According to sources, Minnesota traded forward Thaddeus Young to Brooklyn in exchange for Garnett. The final decision was ultimately up to KG, because he had a no-trade clause written into his contract with the Nets. In an earlier post, ESPN’s Marc Stein wrote the following:
“Garnett has insisted in recent weeks that he is not in the market for an in-season exit from Brooklyn, largely because he does not wish to displace his family in the middle of the season.”
It seems he made an exception for Flip Saunders and the Wolves, though, as it will offer him a chance to finish out his NBA career with the city he first called home.
Garnett will be returning to play for Saunders, who coached the forward during Minnesota’s only eight playoff appearances (1997-2004). He will also be coached by former teammate Sam Mitchell, whom Garnett has described as “The Great Sam Mitchell” and offers nothing but respect and praise for. Earlier this season, Garnett said the following of the coaching duo:
“It’s refreshing [to see them back together in MN]. I know those are great basketball minds, great basketball IQs, two guys that are really competitive, teaching young guys. I think the league needs more of that […] I thought when the league got rid of a lot of veterans, it took away a lot of dignity and professionalism with it. It’s good to see those guys back.”
KG won an MVP during his final season in Minnesota, after leading the Wolves to the Western Conference Finals. Over his time here, he averaged 20.5 points, 11.4 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. There is no denying the fact that Garnett is aging, though. This season, at 38 years old, the veteran is averaging 6.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. So, was this a poor move for Minnesota?
It is certainly a bummer for Wolves fans to say good-bye to Young, who is only 26 years old and more in the prime of his career. Young is currently averaging 14.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, which looks much more appealing on paper, but he also has an opt-out clause following this season, and this is not the first time Minny has shopped Young around. In addition, the forward puts a $10 million hit against the Timberwolves’ cap space.
A general trend across social media this afternoon is that most fans are beyond excited to see KG back in the Target Center, but that the trade is really a marketing scheme by the Wolves—after all, nostalgia sells tickets.
So is that all this is? Is this just a “two-month victory lap“? The Associated Press’ Jon Krawczynski says “no.”
In a radio interview with KFAN, Krawczynski expressed that there really is a plan here to utilize Garnett for the experienced veteran that he is. After all, No. 21 entered the league as a teenager—just like rookies Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine did this year.
“Flip really does believe that having Garnett here can really set the stage for Wiggins and these young guys,” Krawcynski said. “[He’s an …] investment in the future of the franchise.”
In addition, the Wolves have made it clear that they are interested in signing Garnett to a two-year extension. As Krawcynski pointed out, “KG is aware the Wolves want to do the extension. No doubt that factored into his decision to waive no-trade.”
There’s no guarantee that Garnett will bring any sort of offensive explosion to the floor—although you can bet that the first dish from Rubio to KG for a slam dunk will blow the doors right off the Target Center. One thing people aren’t acknowledging, though, is the defensive energy Garnett still demonstrates. NBC Sports‘ Aaron Gleeman posted the following:
Kevin Garnett plays sparingly and rarely shoots now, but just noticed this: At age 38 he ranks second in the NBA in defensive rebound rate.
— Aaron Gleeman (@AaronGleeman) February 19, 2015
The Wolves defense has not been anything worth raving about in several seasons, and even this statistic about KG brings a little more upside to the deal.
However you look at it, there are a lot of variables in this trade—there are a lot of things difficult to predict. Will Garnett transition well back to Minnesota? Will he improve the Wolves offense? Will he sign an extension, and for how much? But for now, today, one thing is enough for Minnesota Timberwolves fans:
KG is back in the house.
This Valentine’s Day weekend, every Timberwolves fan was treated to a date with their television sets. Unlike an actual date, all fans had to do was sit back and enjoy the show. Nothing else was required.
With All-Star weekend in New York City this season, expectations were high for the players to put on a show. They delivered, and several Timberwolves stole the show – most specifically Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine. It started Friday night with the Rising Stars game.
The appetizer of All-Star weekend. It’s the first event of the weekend (Celebrity game doesn’t count), and usually the least anticipated. However, with an NBA record four Timberwolves on this years rosters, as well as the likes of Victor Oladipo, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Rudy Gobert, and Nerlens Noel, among others, highlight plays were guaranteed.
A new format was introduced for the game, as the rookies and sophomores of the United States took on the World. In total, team World featured players from five continents (sorry South America and Antarctica) and nine different countries. The change in format turned the game into a battle for bragging rights, and a fun one at that.
The game consisted of two 20 minute halves with running clocks, but that didn’t stop both teams from easily reaching triple digits in the scoring column. It was also a sloppy affair, with a combined 51 turnovers and heat checks being put up regularly.
Still, highlights were everywhere, and so were Wolves.The Wolves don’t play on TNT this season, so this was Minnesota’s best opportunity to put on a show on a gigantic stage. As a whole, Minnesota’s four players (Dieng, Bazz, LaVine, Wiggins) all scored in double digits. In total, they accounted for 29% of the games points, 29% of the assists, and 23% of the rebounds. Overall, the Wolves left quite the impression on those watching.
Shabazz and Gorgui made significant contributions in the game, and there were plenty of positives to take away from that. It was the ‘The Bounce Brothers,’ though that ended up stealing the show. Both Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins provided the dazzling plays that make exhibitions fun. LaVine posted 22 points and a couple of dimes.
LaVine’s top play was a nasty transition dunk that put his speed, athleticism, and ball handling on display.
Wiggins, the other ‘Bounce Brother,’ wasn’t bad either. He displayed perfect shooting form and a great sense for the floor, going 8/11 shooting, along with 4 assists and 6 rebounds. With the World winning the game, the Canadiens strong stat line was more than enough for him to take home the MVP trophy. He became just the 2nd Wolf (Wally Szczerbiak, 2001) to be awarded with the Rising Stars MVP.
Overall, the Wolves left quite an impression on those watching, and they weren’t done yet.
LaVine came into the dunk contest as the overwhelming favorite, 46″ vertical and all. He was supposed to put the dunk contest “back on the map.” For a 19 year old rookie, those are massive expectations. He could’ve faltered. Instead, he left the crowd feeling incredulous.
Dunk #1 for LaVine was dubbed “Space Jam Dunk.” When LaVine was introduced, the Space Jam theme began playing. LaVine kept looking back into the tunnel, making sure everything was ready. Seconds later, Quad City came out to center court to rap the end of the song, and LaVine took off his Wolves jersey, choosing instead to don Jordan’s ‘Toon Squad’ jersey. LaVine seemed more worried about making sure Quad City heard their cues than he was about his own dunk.
After taking a moment to measure his dunk, LaVine took flight. Starting from the right wing, LaVine threw a slow an arcing pass that landed just outside the restricted area. With his back turned from the basket, LaVine jumped off both feet before grabbing the ball with his left hand, at which point he went between the legs and throwing down a right handed reverse. The result – a perfect score of 50.
The crowd couldn’t contain themselves. They spent the rest of the night anxiously waiting for LaVine’s turn. All that the Brooklyn crowd wanted for LaVine to continue doing the spectacular. When LaVine dunked, the masses rose to their feet, and each time LaVine’s dunk was finished, spectators were so amazed that they couldn’t control their body.
Among the crowd reactions:
Giannis and his brother had to hold themselves back, while Harden and Westbrook were riding an imaginary rollercoaster.
Baby Wolves, Russ, James Harden & Others React To Zach LaVine Dunk https://t.co/PGI8Op6qPB
— The Cauldron (@TheCauldron) February 15, 2015
One More – Thanasis & Giannis Antetokounmpo React To Zach LaVine's Final Dunk https://t.co/fv8v8Ux5VX
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) February 15, 2015
Hawks point guard Jeff Teague looked like he just took a huge whiff of New York street meat.
LaVine has put Jeff Teague in a permanent state of stinkface. https://t.co/aK2uKKhW3N
— Eric Buenning (@ericbuenning) February 15, 2015
Dr J, one of the greatest dunkers in history, was left speechless.
When you're in a deep K-hole pic.twitter.com/lMZrJb6c7e
— netw3rk (@netw3rk) February 15, 2015
It would’ve taken a miracle for him to lose. LaVine threw down four slams in total, and each was a masterpiece.
The only six seconds worth watching from tonight's contest were LaVine's four dunks: https://t.co/mMlw14ZPjb
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) February 15, 2015
The judges gave him a combined score of 194 out of a possible 200, and LaVine had barely even broken a sweat. The dunk that Andrew Wiggins said made him faint? LaVine decided to save it for later.
LaVine became is the first Timberwolf to win the dunk contest since 1994, when Isaiah Rider won in front of an ecstatic Target Center crowd. LaVine became the 2nd youngest dunk contest winner in history (Kobe Bryant was 18 when he won in 1997). He has firmly cemented himself as the best dunker in the league, and at only 19, he could end up being one of the best dunkers to ever walk the Earth by the time he’s done.
Minnesota has won a mere 11 games this season, yet they have been the talk of the Friday and Saturday of All-Star weekend. In the seasons to come, the rising Wolves will attempt to check Sunday off their All-Star to do list.
Timberwolves trade Mo Williams, Troy Daniels to Hornets for Gary Neal, Second-Round Draft Pick
According to league sources, the Timberwolves have decided to part ways with Mo Williams and Troy Daniels. The Wolves traded the guards to the Hornets in exchange for Gary Neal and a future second-round draft pick.
Adrian Wojnarowski posted the following on Twitter Tuesday morning:
Charlotte has acquired guards Mo Williams and Troy Daniels for Gary Neal and a second-round pick, league sources tell Yahoo Sports.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) February 10, 2015
The move is certainly an effort on the Hornets’ part to make a push at the playoffs. With a 22-29 record, they are currently standing No. 7 in the Eastern Conference standings. Bringing in Williams will help them add depth to the backcourt while point guard Kemba Walker is out with an injury, and his experience will be helpful coming off the bench when Walker returns, as well. Charlotte is also familiar with Daniels, as he spent time with the Hornets training camp last season.
The Wolves are taking a risk with letting Williams go, but they are banking on Ricky Rubio staying healthy after his return to the court. Minnesota’s current season is basically beyond repair after so many injuries to the lineup, so focusing on upcoming seasons is a No. 1 priority. NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman said the following:
“The Timberwolves get a draft pick that could help them in the future, lose a couple players who could hurt their lottery position and – depending on the cash sent out – save a little money. Those are ideal ingredients for teams in Minnesota’s position”
Charlotte acquired Neal from Milwaukee a year ago. Currently in his fifth NBA season, Neal played in 65 games for the Hornets last season, averaging 10.2 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. So far this season, Neal has averaged 9.6 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.9 assists over 43 games. The Timberwolves Twitter account posted the following quote from head coach Flip Saunders following the transaction:
“This was a difficult decision because of what Mo brought to our team and the impact he had on our young guys,” – Flip Saunders
— MN Timberwolves (@MNTimberwolves) February 10, 2015
Williams will certainly be missed as a veteran on the court and positive influence in the locker room.
Both he and Neal have expiring contracts, so the move probably won’t serve as a long-term answer for either team; however, it does have implications for the Wolves’ younger roster. Williams leaving for Charlotte will automatically re-open some minutes for rookie Zach LaVine as he continues to develop as an NBA guard.
Wolves Acquire Adreian Payne from Atlanta Hawks, Trade Future First-Round Pick
Shortly after the news broke of the Charlotte transaction, AP sources shared another move:
AP Source: The Timberwolves are getting Adriean Payne from the Hawks.
— Jon Krawczynski (@APkrawczynski) February 10, 2015
Payne was drafted No. 15 overall in the 2014 NBA Draft, and he should have a lot of upside. That has left to be proven, though, as the Hawks have clearly already given up on their first-round pick. The big man played for Michigan State, where he consistently improved with ever season. As a senior, Payne was selected to the preseason Third Team All-America by CBS Sports. He was named to the Midseason Wooden Award Top 25 Watchlist, and he also earned Big Ten Player of the Week on two occasions.
After missing the beginning of the 2014-15 NBA season with plantar fascitis, though, Payne has spent most of his pro experience at the D-League level. Over four stints in the development league (two with Austin and two with Fort Wayne), Payne averaged 12.6 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.2 blocks in 25.7 minutes.
It’s positive for the Wolves to add another powerful player to the roster, and it’s possible that Payne will develop more into a standout player. Minnesota traded a future first-round pick for the big man, so it’s a costly gamble to take.
It will be interesting to see if Minnesota makes any more moves before the NBA Trade Deadline on Feb. 19.