Andrew Wiggins

Wolves Notes: Prince, Bjelica, Olympics, Mitchell

The Wolves’ Tayshaun Prince surprised even himself by playing 78 games and averaging 19 minutes a night, relays Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. The 36-year-old says he feels good and has no plans to retire. The only question for Prince, who is headed toward free agency, is whether to come back to Minnesota or try to sign with a contender. “It’s all up in the air,” he said. “I really can’t speculate. I would love to see some of the things they do here and what opportunities would present themselves. Definitely it’s a possibility to come back, but it’s a crazy business.”

There’s more out of Minnesota:

  • Nemanja Bjelica‘s rookie season wasn’t what he expected, but he ended it with a flourish, Zgoda writes in the same story. The Wolves reached agreement with the draft-and-stash player last summer and watched as Bjelica struggled though his first NBA season, averaging 5.1 points and 3.5 rebounds in 60 games. However, he raised his scoring average to 12.5 points per night and shot 68% over the final four games. “At the end of the day, I’m happy to be here,” Bjelica said. “I belong in this league. I compete with the best players. Of course, I have some up and downs. This is normal. I’m just happy because I finish season in good way, like positive.” Bjelica, 27, has two years and $8MM left on the contract he signed in July.
  • Wolves management is asking players to do more of their offseason workouts in Minnesota, Zgoda continues in the same piece, but the Olympics could get in the way. Possible Wolves Olympians include Ricky Rubio with Spain, Bjelica with Serbia, Gorgui Dieng with Senegal and Andrew Wiggins with Canada.
  • Former coach Sam Mitchell deserved the chance to build on the work he did with the young core in Minnesota, contends Sid Hartman of The Star Tribune. Mitchell, who was dismissed after the season’s final game Wednesday, took over the team on an interim basis in September after Flip Saunders encountered health problems that proved fatal. Continuity is important to a young team, Hartman argues, and there will be an adjustment process even if the Wolves are able to hire an experienced coach like Tom Thibodeau, Scott Brooks or Jeff Van Gundy, who have drawn mention as candidates. They will also expect a higher salary and more control over personnel decisions than Mitchell would have, Hartman notes.

Northwest Notes: Miller, Harkless, Wiggins

Nuggets coach Michael Malone gushed about Mike Miller this week, and the team would like to re-sign him when he again becomes a free agent this summer, writes Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. Malone is willing to have him back even as an assistant coach, but Miller believes he can continue to play. The 36-year-old who’s in his 16th NBA season isn’t sure whether he’ll re-sign with Denver and said he’d like to play more minutes than the career-low 7.8 he’s seen this season, an unlikely proposition if he returns to the Nuggets, according to Dempsey. Still, Miller said he’s in a “good situation” in Denver and added that he’s learned a lot from Malone. “I just can’t speak enough about his work ethic, his example that he sets every day,” Malone said. “Even [Thursday]. This was practice No. 118. Even [Thursday], three games to go, Mike Miller is in here, working hard, setting the example. I don’t think you can have enough guys like that. The fact that he has two world championships, sixth man of the year, rookie of the year. … I’d love to have Mike back. I think he’s been a tremendous help for me, the staff and all of our players. I hope he’s a Nugget for a while.”

See more from the Northwest Division:

  • An early February injury to Noah Vonleh was the catalyst for the return of Maurice Harkless to the Blazers rotation, and now Harkless is thriving as a starter, notes Jason Quick of Comcast Sportsnet Northwest. It’s fortuitous not just for Portland’s playoff push but for the bank account of the Relativity Sports client who’s eligible for restricted free agency this summer.
  • Timberwolves coach Sam Mitchell acknowledges that he coaches Andrew Wiggins with more subtle instruction because of the 21-year-old’s mellow demeanor, but GM Milt Newton is confident the former No. 1 overall pick will become an elite player based on his performances against superstars, as Rob Mahoney of SI.com chronicles. The extension window for Wiggins opens in 2017, but, as Mahoney notes, it’s unclear whether Mitchell or Newton will still be in their jobs this time next year.
  • The Nuggets will likely look this summer for a stretch four or sizable wing player who can play both forward positions with strong 3-point shooting and defense, but a healthy Wilson Chandler is liable to fit that bill, writes Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post. Bontemps nonetheless suggests that Chandler also makes for an intriguing trade chip. Chandler is under contract for at least the next two years but missed all of this season because of hip surgery.

And-Ones: Cavs, Wiggins, Nets

The Cavs will add veteran assistant Mike Longabardi to new head coach Tyronn Lue‘s staff, Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com reports. Lue and Longabardi spent four seasons together on Doc Rivers‘ staff in Boston, as Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic notes (on Twitter). Longabardi is expected to take over the defensive specialist role that Lue held, Windhorst adds. The Suns fired Longabardi, who is known as a defensive specialist, from his role as assistant coach in late December.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Andrew Wiggins has not spoke candidly about his feelings regarding the Cavs, the team that shipped him to the Wolves as part of the deal for Kevin Love, and instead has preferred to let his play speak for itself, Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune writes. Wiggins has performed particularly well against the Cavs, as Youngblood points out.
  • One of the top assistants in the league, like Sean Sweeney of the Bucks, would be a sensible fit for the Nets‘ coaching vacancy because it would be wise for Brooklyn to avoid the long term implications of a flashy hire, Ben Dowsett of Basketball Insiders argues.
  • Center Salah Mejri, who was recently coming off the bench in the D-League, found himself starting for the Mavs in place of the injured Zaza Pachulia and is making the most out of his opportunity, Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News relays.
  • Arinze Onuaku, who was with the Wolves at the end of last season, will be signing with the D-League, international journalist David Pick reports (on Twitter). Israeli powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv released Onuaku, Pick adds.

Cavs Notes: Cunningham, Harris, LeBron, Love

The Cavaliers thought when the regular season began that they’d waive Jared Cunningham by Thursday, the final day they could release him without paying his full-season salary, but they made up their minds weeks ago to retain him, a source told Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal. Still, the recent injury to Joe Harris posed an issue, Lloyd writes. The team would still like to somehow open a roster spot in advance of the trade deadline to provide flexibility for the post-deadline buyout market, Lloyd adds, suggesting that trading Harris, as the team has tried to do for weeks, is the only viable way of accomplishing that. The Cavs dodged a bullet today when Mo Williams said that he won’t require surgery on a partially torn ligament in his right thumb and that he’ll play through the injury as it heals over the next six weeks, tweets Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. See more on the Cavs:

  • LeBron James didn’t mention Andrew Wiggins in his summer 2014 Sports Illustrated essay announcing the four-time MVP’s return to Cleveland because he simply wasn’t familiar with him, James recently told Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports. Many speculated that the omission was a signal that James wanted the Cavs to trade Wiggins for Kevin Love, a move the team ultimately made. “I didn’t know the kid, really,” James said of Wiggins. “I knew Dion [Waiters]. I knew Kyrie [Irving]. I knew Tristan [Thompson]. I knew all the guys that I was playing with before. I didn’t know the kid, so it wasn’t no big issue to me.” 
  • Wiggins isn’t bitter, telling Lee in the same piece that the trade “put me in a better place.”
  • The max contract that Kevin Love signed this summer “gave me that little extra edge and push” to recover from the shoulder injury he suffered in the playoffs, Love said to Lee. The power forward’s primary desire in free agency was to remain in a winning situation, as he explained to James. “When I talked to him this summer and when he went over what he wanted, what he needed, the most important thing that came out of it was, ‘I just want to win. And I want to win at a high level because I went through too many losing seasons in Minnesota,’” James said to Lee. “And I said, ‘If that’s the case, we can figure out all that other stuff. If you want to win, we can figure out all that other stuff.’ And he’s been unbelievable from that point on.”

Wolves Exercise Options On Five Players

4:00pm: The Wolves have officially announced that they have picked up the options on the five players (Twitter link).

WEDNESDAY, 3:20pm: The Wolves have indeed picked up the options, as Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports hears (Twitter link), though the team has yet to make an official announcement.

SUNDAY, 1:26pm: The Wolves plan to exercise options on Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Shabazz Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng and Adreian Payne early this week, Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press reports (on Twitter).

The moves are largely expected and do not come as a surprise, as Krawczynski tweets. All the options are for the 2016/17 season and the deadline is November 2nd.

All five players are young and each have high ceilings. They each are also affordable. Wiggins’ option is for $6,006,600, LaVine’s is $$2,240,880, Muhammad’s is $3,046,299, Dieng’s is $2,348,783  and Payne’s is $2,022,240.

The options for Wiggins, LaVine and Payne are for the third years of their respective rookie scale contracts and the options for Muhammad and Dieng are for the fourth. We regarded Wiggins’ option as a slam dunk, Dieng’s option as highly likely and the other three as generally expected.

Cavs Notes: Love, Draft, Dellavedova

Team officials around the league are split on whether Draymond Green or Kevin Love is the better player, and no one on the Warriors would trade Green for Love straight-up these days, Grantland’s Zach Lowe writes. That represents a dramatic shift from the beginning of the season, but Cavs GM David Griffin, whose team had been discussing Love trades with the Timberwolves two years prior to last August’s trade, is adamant that the Cavs want to keep Love, according to Lowe. There’s more on Love, who likewise continues to insist that he wants to stay in Cleveland, amid the latest on the Cavs:

  • Cleveland’s willingness to have given up Andrew Wiggins for Love in the first place was tied to the choice LeBron James made to return to Cleveland, Griffin admitted in his interview with Lowe. “You have a finite window when you’re dealing with a player that’s 30,” Griffin said, citing James’ age. “The organization had wanted Kevin for a while, but we paid the price we paid entirely because of LeBron’s presence.”
  • Lowe nonetheless suggests that the Cavs could have kept Wiggins and acquired Thaddeus Young from the Sixers instead of Love, sending salary filler to Philadelphia along with the same first-round pick that ended up going to Sixers in the three-team Love trade.
  • The Cavs had workouts scheduled Monday with Arizona power forward Brandon Ashley, Michigan State guard Travis Trice, Wisconsin-Green Bay point guard Keifer Sykes, Louisville swingman Wayne Blackshear and Stanford small forward Anthony Brown, sources told Michael Scotto of SheridanHoops (Twitter link).
  • Matthew Dellavedova is proving former Cavs GM Chris Grant wise as he makes an outsized impact in the Finals at the tail end of the two-year minimum-salary deal Grant signed him to in 2013, as Chris Mannix of SI.com examines. Dellavedova is set for restricted free agency this summer.

Ricky Rubio’s Camp Pushing For Trade?

2:28pm: Rubio’s camp isn’t making any such push in the wake of this season, Wolfson clarifies (on Twitter). Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune nonetheless believes that Fegan has probably wanted a Rubio trade for a while and probably negotiated the extension with the knowledge that other teams would be willing to take on the revised terms of Rubio’s contract in a swap (Twitter links).

1:24pm: Ricky Rubio‘s camp has been pushing for a trade for some time, as Chad Ford of ESPN.com writes in his weekly chat with readers. However, the push isn’t as strong as it was before the point guard signed a four-year, $55MM extension this past fall, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities (Twitter link). That deal triggered the Poison Pill Provision, which would make it difficult for any trade to meet the salary-matching requirements between the time the sides signed the extension and the end of June this year.

The Wolves are in the midst of a rebuilding project, having compiled the league’s worst record, though the presence of Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine, who made Minnesota the only franchise with two All-Rookie Team selections this year, together with Rubio, signal a brighter future. Still, it’s not entirely clear if the team’s chances of winning are the reason why Rubio’s people have apparently wanted a swap.

Minnesota and the Dan Fegan client closed a large gap in extension negotiations between Rubio’s apparent initial ask of the max and Minnesota’s original four-year, $44MM figure. The Kings asked the Wolves about the idea of trading for Rubio prior to the extension, as Wolfson reported months ago, but it’s not clear just how strong the trade market for the former No. 5 overall pick would be at this point, after yet another injury-shortened season. Rubio played in only 22 games and shot 25.5% from behind the three-point line this season, both career lows. He missed 25 games in each of his first two NBA seasons before playing all 82 in 2013/14.

Wiggins, Mirotic, Noel Lead All-Rookie Teams

Andrew Wiggins was a unanimous All-Rookie First-Team selection, the league announced as it revealed the media voting results for the honors. Nikola Mirotic was the second-leading vote-getter, followed by Nerlens Noel, Elfrid Payton and Jordan Clarkson, all of whom comprise the first team. Marcus Smart, Zach LaVine, Bojan Bogdanovic, Jusuf Nurkic and Langston Galloway make up the second team.

Wiggins far outpaced all other contenders for Rookie of the Year honors after averaging 16.9 points in 36.2 minutes per game this season for the Timberwolves, who acquired the 2014 No. 1 overall pick in the Kevin Love trade. Minnesota, which finished with the league’s worst record this season and has a 25% chance to win the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft, is the only team to place two players on the All-Rookie teams, with LaVine on the second team despite having garnered 22 first-team votes. Every member of the second team received at least three first-team votes.

Payton, the 10th overall selection, is the only first-round pick from 2014 to appear on the first team. Mirotic was a draft-and-stash selection from 2011, Noel was the sixth overall pick in 2013 but qualified as a rookie this season because he sat out all of 2013/14 with injury, and Clarkson was the 46th pick last year, having gone overlooked through all of the first round and half of the second.

Galloway made the second team despite having gone undrafted and not having made his debut until January 7th, after he had signed a 10-day contract with the Knicks. New York followed up with another 10-day deal and finally a multiyear pact for the surprisingly effective point guard.

Northwest Notes: Wiggins, Budinger, Lopez

The Timberwolves “hit a home run” when they made the Kevin Love/Andrew Wiggins trade, GM Milt Newton told Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press, and Wiggins, the newly crowned Rookie of The Year, seems enamored with the Wolves franchise.

“I hope I’m here forever,” Wiggins told Krawczynski. “I hope. It would be nice.”

That would conflict with reports of whispers that he’d love to play for his hometown Raptors someday. That won’t be his decision for quite sometime, anyway, and Newton and coach/executive Flip Saunders made it seem as though Wiggins will get his wish to stay in Minnesota for years to come, as Krawczynski details. Here’s more from the Northwest:

  • Krawczynski expects the Timberwolves to trade Chase Budinger at some point this summer (Twitter link). Budinger is opting in to his $5MM salary for next season, but the Wolves reportedly sought to honor his trade request before the deadline.
  • Robin Lopez suggested that he’d prefer to re-sign with the Trail Blazers but didn’t make it seem as though he was confident in any particular outcome as his free agency looms, The Oregonian’s Joe Freeman relays in a slideshow. “Nothing’s 100% certain,” Lopez said. “Obviously, so far, I’ve loved my time here in Portland. I would love to come back. I’m very open to coming back. But it’s hard to say 100%. You just don’t know what’s going to happen. I think that’s something to put off until a little later.”
  • Blazers GM Neil Olshey plans to stay in touch with all of the team’s free agents between now and July 1st and believes he’ll have a strong idea of what each of them wants to do once other teams can begin contacting them then, as he told reporters Thursday and as The Oregonian’s Sean Meagher transcribes. Olshey nonetheless noted that he has contingency plans for each of them in case they sign elsewhere, as Meagher relays. The GM also expressed his belief in growth from within the roster and pledged no shortage of activity at the draft, Meagher notes.
  • Thunder GM Sam Presti and new coach Billy Donovan aren’t quite as close as many reports have indicated, according to Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman. Presti met Donovan on a scouting trip years ago and they’ve chatted on occasion since then, but the GM has admired the coach largely from afar, as Slater details.

Andrew Wiggins Wins Rookie Of The Year

Andrew Wiggins has won this year’s Rookie of the Year award, receiving 110 of the 130 first-place votes, the NBA announced. It’s no surprise to see the No. 1 overall pick from last year’s draft come away with the honor, especially since Jabari Parker, the second overall pick, suffered a season-ending ACL tear in December and Joel Embiid missed all of 2014/15 after breaking his foot over the summer. Nikola Mirotic finished a distant second, garnering 14 first-place votes. Nerlens Noel and fourth-place finisher Elfrid Payton were the only others to receive first-place votes.

The Cavs originally drafted and signed Wiggins before dealing him to the Timberwolves in August as part of the Kevin Love trade. The small forward who spent one year in college at Kansas had an expansive role on a rebuilding Minnesota squad this year, taking 13.9 shots per game and averaging 16.9 points and 4.6 rebounds in 36.2 minutes a night.

Wiggins racked up 604 points in the voting system in which first-place votes are worth five points, second-place votes tally three points, and third-place votes are one point. Mirotic was well back, with 335 points. Only seven rookies garnered any votes at all. Wiggins, Payton, fifth-place finisher Marcus Smart and Jusuf Nurkic, who finished sixth, were the only first-round picks from 2014 among those seven. Noel sat out last season after having gone sixth overall in 2013, and Mirotic is a draft-and-stash selection from 2011. Jordan Clarkson, the seventh-place finisher, was the 46th overall pick last year. To see the selections from each media member who voted, click here.

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