Wolves Summer League Recap

Zach LaVine was a highlight reel for the Wolves in Vegas (NBAE, Getty Images)

Zach LaVine was a highlight reel for the Wolves in Vegas (NBAE, Getty Images)

The Minnesota Timberwolves finished the Las Vegas Summer League with a 2-4 record. After losing their first three games, the Wolves were the last seed at the start of tournament play only to pull off an ‘upset’ by defeating the Phoenix Suns in the first round. The Sacramento Kings knocked the Wolves out of the tournament the next day – and wound up with the league championship. The Wolves finished their stay in Las Vegas with a victory over the Pelicans last Friday.

What did we learn in Las Vegas? How did our Pups perform, particularly those that are more likely to be on the opening night roster? Let’s take a look back at #WolvesInVegas with a ranking of the top performers on the squad and what implications said performance may have on the Wolves this forthcoming season.

Gorgui Dieng

He didn’t lead the team in scoring, but Gorgui was the most impressive performer on the Wolves roster in Las Vegas. He averaged 11.5 points and 10.2 rebounds in the six games, all of which he started in. Worth noting the Dieng started at both Center and the Power Forward position, perhaps the early signs of giving him minutes next to Nikola Pekovic this coming season. I fully expect Dieng to play a big role with the Timberwolves in the 2014/15 season as he looks miles ahead of where he was in last year’s Summer League.

Zach LaVine

The 1st round selection was a highlight reel in Las Vegas – from his pregame dunks to daily, in-game highlight or two. He was consistent across the six games, scoring in double digits in each and finishing the tournament averaging 15.7PPG to go with 4.3RPG and 2.8APG. His shot selection was a little questionable at times, but I think we will see that all season long. First, because he is probably going to have the green light from Flip and second, because Ricky Rubio is going to be a great sidekick for LaVine.

Most importantly, to me at least, LaVine has said all the right things since draft night. His initial reaction may (or may not) have been a mistake, but he is certainly ready to make the most out of his opportunity to play in the NBA and for the Timberwolves. Finally, LaVine showed flashes of ability to play PG, so the Wolves have that in the back pocket for the coming season.

Going back to the highlight reel for a second, this dunk sealed the deal for the Wolves in their victory over the Suns and is just a very small sample of the hops LaVine possesses. LaVine threw down the gauntlet for next season’s dunk contest during All-Star Weekend, saying, “I’m definitely going to be in the dunk contest, know that. I haven’t lost a dunk contest for a long time … So I have some dunks in my package.”

Alexey Shved

Shved only played in two games during the Wolves’ time in Las Vegas, but I thought he was the third best player on the floor for the club. He averaged 15PPG, 3.0RPG, 2.5APG, & 1.0SPG. Alexey was active, and playing within himself the vast majority of the time. That said, he only shot 39% from the field and was 1-8 from 3PT range. If Alexey is going to be a role player for the Wolves, he needs to be more efficient in the scoring department.

Kyrylo Fesenko

When the Wolves announced the roster for Las Vegas I didn’t foresee anyone not named above or Shabazz Muhammad, making the opening night roster. Fesenko changed that perception. Assuming the Wolves trade Kevin Love and don’t get back additional big men beyond Anthony Bennett, there is going to be a need for a big body to play behind Pekovic and Dieng. Fesenko might be able to fill that end of the bench, six fouls when you need them role.

Kyrylo averaged 8.4PPG and 5.2RPG in his five appearances. Despite not playing many minutes, when he teamed up with Dieng on the floor, there were close-to-dominant minutes on the floor for the Pups.

Shabazz Muhammad

Muhammad led the Wolves in scoring at 16.2PPG. However, he shot just 37% from the field (26-70) and was 25-34 from the FT line (74%). Muhammad averaged 5.8RPG, but only 0.6APG. You see how this is going? For every good, there is a bad. I fully expected Shabazz to lead the team in scoring, but I was hoping to see a much more efficient product on the floor.

I have no idea where this is going with Shabazz, but I will say that if the Wolves pick up Andrew Wiggins and another wing in a trade, I don’t expect the Wolves to do much more than pick up Muhammad’s option years and either find a trading partner or let him walk.

Glenn Robinson III

Somewhat similar to Shabazz, I was expecting a decent showing from Robinson and I’m left feeling a little bit underwhelmed. He looked a step slow out there a number of times and was inefficient from the field (15-39, 39%) and from the FT line (12-19, 63%). Essentially, everything I mentioned in our draft recap holds to form right now. It is likely going to take a few seasons for Robinson to show signs of being a solid, regular contributor in the NBA. Whether or not that comes with the Timberwolves is TBD.

Brady Heslip & Matt Janning

Heslip and Janning had a handful of nice moments between the two of them during the tournament. Both showed the potential to hit the jumper and could catch on with another team looking for that as a specialty at the end of their bench. I don’t see any scenario that makes sense for them on the Wolves roster, given the number of guaranteed contracts the team already has on the books.

What were your overall impressions on the Wolves in Las Vegas? Nothing really surprised me per se, there were items that I am happy about (Dieng and LaVine) and some that I want to see a better performance by (Muhammad).

Recap: Wolves Defeat Pelicans in Summer League Finale

Zach LaVine said all the right things and played admirably in Las Vegas Summer League (Timberwolves.com)

Zach LaVine said all the right things and played admirably in Las Vegas Summer League (Timberwolves.com)

The Timberwolves finished up their stay in Las Vegas on Friday night, taking on the New Orleans Pelicans. There have been a few up and downs for the Wolves this week and it feels like the product on the floor has taken somewhat of a backseat to the continuing rumors of whether or not Kevin Love will be traded and to which team is the latest to sweeten their offer. That’s a little unfortunate given … you know … live basketball and evaluating young, potential talent for the team.

Our Pups opened up with the following starting lineup: Zach LaVine, Brady Heslip, Matt Janning, Glenn Robinson III, and Gorgui Dieng. Said group got off to a slow start, with the Pelicans jumping out to an 18-8 advantage and forcing Sam Mitchell – tonight’s head coach for the Wolves – to burn a timeout. Further proof of the slow start: [Read more...]

Timberwolves Drop Out of the Las Vegas Summer League Tourney, Fall to Kings

One of these two isn’t likely to be in a Wolves uniform much longer (Brace Hemmelgarn – USA TODAY Sports)

One of these two isn’t likely to be in a Wolves uniform much longer (Brace Hemmelgarn – USA TODAY Sports)

(Note from John: While this is under my name, Lindsey Young carried the load on this recap.  Due to some computer issues, I filled in the blanks for Lindsey.  You can thank her for this recap!)

On Thursday afternoon, the Timberwolves faced the Kings in the Wolves’ first game of the 2014 NBA Summer League tournament. Coming in as the #24 seed, the Wolves were definitely the underdogs against the #8 seed Sacramento. The Wolves put up a valiant effort, but in the end they fell short in the   final score. Shabazz Muhammad led Minnesota with 24 points, while Gorgui Dieng had an impressive 15 points and 12 rebounds.

Minnesota’s starting lineup featured the following: Zach LaVine, Kyrylo Fesenko, Dieng, Shabazz and Brady Heslip. The game opened on a missed alley-oop by Ben McLemore followed by a nice dish by Muhammad to LaVine for the bucket. McLemore redeemed himself on the following play, though, hitting a long three. [Read more...]

Recap: Las Vegas Summer League – Wizards 67, Wolves 61

 

“Zach, you’re like this big bear man!” – Shabazz “Double Down” Muhammad

“Zach, you’re like this big bear man!” – Shabazz “Double Down” Muhammad

The Timberwolves and Wizards took to the floor a few minutes late in the last Las Vegas Summer League game of the evening on Sunday. Despite the late start, both teams looked to have cobwebs from the Vegas Strip, as both struggled to put together any type of consistency in their offensive scheme and flow. The teams equally split 44 turnovers on the evening, while also combining for 53 personal fouls (Wizards 27, Wolves 26).

The Pups opened up with the same starting five from Saturday’s kick-off game: Alexey Shved, Zach LaVine, Shabazz Muhammad, Glenn Robinson III, and Gorgui Dieng. Similar to what Wolves’ fans became accustomed to seeing this past regular season, once you got beyond the team’s starting five, things got quite murky on the floor. After a relatively strong start from both teams in the 1st quarter, the Wizards held a 26-21 lead going into the 2nd and that is where things began to fall apart. The Wolves only scored 28 points in the 2nd and 3rd quarters combined and trailed the Wizards 57-49 after three. (The teams were tied at 35 going into halftime.) [Read more...]

Glenn Robinson III Shows Strong Potential for Wolves

(photo credit: lockerdome.com)

(photo credit: lockerdome.com)Am

Among the seven rookies slated as part of the Timberwolves’ summer league roster is second-round draft pick Glenn Robinson III. The forward’s physicality was raved about prior to the Draft, and although only in his first week of practice, he looks to make a big impact with the Minnesota squad. Robinson III does have some areas to improve upon technicality-wise, but his athleticism and energy are exactly what head coach Flip Saunders aimed at.

“They add a lot of excitement to our team,” Saunders said of Robinson III and first-round pick Zach Lavine. “They’re going to become fan favorites. They’re our two highest-jumping guys right now — I do know that. We want to take that athleticism and turn them into basketball players … and with our team they’ll have good success.”

Robinson III started all 76 games of his two-year stint with the University of Michigan. During that time, he averaged 12 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. At the end of his sophomore year, Robinson III had totaled 912 career points. The forward is no stranger to pressure, as he  helped U-M to its first outright Big Ten regular-season title in 28 years. 

Now, at just 20 years old, Robinson III is taking in the NBA experience. He posted the following on Twitter Monday:

GRIIITweet

Timberwolves web editor Dane Mizutani gave a recap of the first offseason practice, saying it was far from “a casual offseason workout.”

“I’ve always believed that basketball is a game of reaction,” Saunders said. “We have to simulate pressure and demands of what’s going to happen in a game in a practice. We try to make it as difficult as we can to try and make it as close to a game time setting as possible.”

Practice ended with a scrimmage between the summer league starters and the summer league reserves, and Mizutani reported that the competition level was high. In the end it was the startersRobinson III, Lavine, Alexey Shved, Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammedwho took the game.

“It’s a whole different level … and this is definitely the most competitive and amped-up practice [I’ve been a part of] physically and mentally,” Robinson III said. “It’ll take a little adjustment to get to but I thought we all did fine.”

The newbies will have the next two weeks or so to find their groove and become accustomed to Saunders’ coaching style. They will play with and take passes from more seasoned bench players, and now is their chance to prepare before they start practicing with starting point guard Ricky Rubio. Robinson III said he has spent a considerable amount of time viewing tape of Rubio’s technique and highlights, and he is looking forward to playing alongside him when preseason starts up in October.

There’s no guarantee that either Lavine or Robinson III will start, as the Wolves also carry veterans Chase Budinger and Corey Brewer who each have considerable experience running the floor with Rubio. However, it’s clear that Saunders has a long-term plan in mind for this year’s draft picks—and it involves regular-game minutes. 

According to the Star Tribune‘s Jerry Zgoda, Robinson III “believes both he and LaVine can help the Wolves ‘speed the tempo up a little bit’ with the Rubio running the show with the ball in his hands.”

Come October, it will be interesting to see how this new-look squad operates under Saunders’ return.

Wolves NBA Summer League Preview 2014

Our Pups will be participating in the Las Vegas edition of the NBA's Summer League again this season. (Photo: NBA.com)

Our Pups will be participating in the Las Vegas edition of the NBA’s Summer League again this season. (Photo: NBA.com)

(UPDATED 7/6 for final roster announcement)

The Minnesota Timberwolves will return to Las Vegas for their NBA Summer League action. Summer League play officially kicks off in Orlando from 7/5 – 7/11, which then runs right into the start of the action in Las Vegas. The Vegas league runs from 7/11 – 7/21 later this month.

Similar to last year’s Vegas league, each team will play three games and then be seeded accordingly based on their record for tournament style play. All of the action can be seen on NBA Digital and/or the NBA Summer League app. [Read more...]

Timberwolves Draft Recap 2014

Zach LaVine may or may not have reacted well to being drafted by the Timberwolves.  You can decide for yourselves.  (ESPN)

Zach LaVine may or may not have reacted well to being drafted by the Timberwolves. You can decide for yourselves. (ESPN)

Setting the stage:

I set expectations pretty low for Thursday night and still found myself disappointed with this franchise on yet another NBA Draft evening. Going into the draft we had heard a few rumors that Kevin Love was going to remain on the club beyond Thursday night and that there may have been a promise from the Wolves Front Office to another Bill Duffy client, Zach LaVine. I found neither of these rumors to be a positive for the franchise, yet, here we are post-draft and both have come to fruition.

Here are a few thoughts on the Timberwolves’ selections: [Read more...]