Gorgui Dieng

Extension Rumors: Len, Goodwin, Wolves, Gobert

A pair of standout players – C.J. McCollum and Giannis Antetokounmpo – have already signed rookie-scale contract extensions this offseason, but there are many more players who are eligible for those deals as they enter the final year of their respective rookie contracts. A few of those situations were addressed during media day on Monday, so let’s dive in and round up the highlights…

  • Suns GM Ryan McDonough said on Monday that the club has not yet engaged in extension discussions with Alex Len or Archie Goodwin, according to Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic. “We want to see how it goes in training camp and preseason and then we’ll revisit it as a staff probably the last week or last 10 days of October,” McDonough said. “With players as young as those two guys are, obviously there’s some projection involved too. It’s not just what they are now but what they’re going to become over the next four or five years.”
  • While there were no updates from the Timberwolves on Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities tweets that the team hasn’t had “meaningful talks” with either player yet. Wolfson expects both players to reach restricted free agency next summer.
  • As Aaron Falk of The Salt Lake Tribune details, Rudy Gobert isn’t worried about his contract situation with the Jazz, suggesting on Monday that the season is “more important.” However, the young center suggested that he’s very much open to the idea of an extension. “Everybody knows I want to be here,” he said.

Wolves Notes: Garnett, Pekovic, Extensions, Butler

With training camp set to get underway on Tuesday, the Timberwolves still don’t have a definitive answer on whether or not Kevin Garnett will be back for one more season. As Kent Youngblood of The Star Tribune details, Wolves president of basketball operations and head coach Tom Thibodeau said owner Glen Taylor will be involved in that decision.

“Glen and Kevin and his representatives are in discussions,” Thibodeau said. “We’ll keep that private for now, and we’ll see how it unfolds. But, obviously, what Kevin has meant to our league, the organization, he’s earned the right to have those discussions with Glen.”

While the Wolves wait to see whether Garnett will play out his contract or call it a career, let’s round up a few more items out of Minnesota, via Youngblood…

  • Veteran center Nikola Pekovic, who continues to recover from an Achilles issue, is not expected to be ready for training camp, says Thibodeau. “We wanted to get him here, try to give him an opportunity get in shape and get treatment,” Thibodeau said. “We were hopeful he would respond well. There have been some good days, but there have been a lot of setbacks as well. It’s something we’ll monitor going forward.” The Wolves head coach didn’t sound like he’s expecting much from Pekovic going forward, tweets Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune.
  • According to Thibodeau, Minnesota hasn’t talked much to Gorgui Dieng or Shabazz Muhammad about possible rookie-scale contract extensions. However, that could happen before the October 31 deadline, writes Youngblood.
  • The Wolves brought in free agent swingman Rasual Butler “for a couple days,” according to Thibodeau, who says the team will “make a final decision in the next day or so” on whether to add the veteran to its camp roster.

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.

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.

Flip Saunders On Wiggins, Muhammad, Dieng

Flip Saunders, the Timberwolves’ president of basketball operations and coach, sat down for an interview with Britt Robson of MinnPost.com to discuss the state of the team and the progress of some of its younger players this season. The entire interview is worth a read, and here are some of the highlights…

On the development of rookie Andrew Wiggins:

When we made the [Kevin Love] trade, there is no question that we switched somewhat, although we thought if we kept Ricky [Rubio] together with those guys we could be a blended team [of veterans and young players]. So based on where we were, and where everyone thought Wiggins was — coming out of college in Kansas people thought he was inconsistent and that you didn’t know what you were going to get out of him — I think over the last month or six weeks we are way ahead of where I thought we would be. Andrew wants to be good and will accept criticism. He has gotten to the point now where he knows when he is making a mistake. That is the difference between him and Zach LaVine at times. Zach still doesn’t know at times that he is making a mistake when he makes mistakes.

On which kind of role he envisions for Wiggins in the future:

We want him to be like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Scottie Pippen. Because they are all two-way players. A lot of those guys were their team’s best offensive player but also their team’s best defensive player. And their tenacity, the team goes through it. Wiggins is in a much more difficult situation than what Kevin Garnett had here [as a younger player]. Because Garnett had some vets that were going to be there for awhile and really locked in and we just don’t have the same type of guys. So we never asked KG to carry us offensively [early in his career]. We have had to ask that of Wiggins. My biggest thing, the one thing KG could always do, he could always create shots at the end of games — that’s tough when you are a power forward. Wiggins will be able to create shots for himself or for somebody else and be able to do that off the bounce.”

On what other players have been bright spots this season:

Shabazz Muhammad. There is no question that Muhammad — Wig probably misses him a little bit now, because with those two guys in there you are always creating some type of mismatch. There will have to be a smaller guy on one of them. But if you look at where Muhammad was at a year ago compared to where he is now, he is one of the top five guys [in the league] in terms of most-improved player. Then there is the development of Gorgui Dieng. He has proven he is a solid guy and one of the top young big players in the league. And Zach [LaVine] is a lot better now than he was the first week of the season and through training camp.”

On if the team would seek to bolster its guard positions:

I’ll put it this way: If we can get backcourt help that is someone we feel could be in a long-term situation with us, we would do that.

Western Notes: Nash, Wolves, Harris

Steve Nash has been away from the Lakers since being ruled out for the rest of the season, but the veteran finally paid the team a brief visit, Arash Markazi of ESPN.com writes. Nash greeted the team at the airport as they prepared to board a flight to Chicago, Markazi notes. “It was great to see him, first of all, and for all the players to see him,” coach Byron Scott said. “It was a great gesture on his part to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. He still has to deal with the fact that his career might be over. That’s still something he’s wrestling with. I’m still inviting him to come around here for practice and to join in and just be a part of the team and part the coaching staff. That’s something that he has to deal with and when he wants to and he feels he’s able to do that, whatever time that might be, he’ll be welcome with open arms.”

Here’s more out of the West:

  •  The improved play this season of Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad is making the 2013 trade of Trey Burke to Utah look like a great deal for the Wolves, Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune writes.
  • Former Lakers guard Manny Harris has inked a deal to play in Turkey with Eskisehir Basket, the team announced via Twitter (translation by Emiliano Carchia of Sportando). Harris was with Los Angeles on a pair of 10-day contracts during the 2013/14 campaign, and he spent parts of 2010/11 and 2011/12 with Cleveland.
  • With the Nuggets‘ season all but lost, it is now up to GM Tim Connelly to try and rebuild the franchise through trades, Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post opines. If the Nuggets want to tank for a chance at a higher draft pick, then Ty Lawson is the obvious player to trade, Kiszla notes. After Lawson, there isn’t another player on the roster who can consistently direct Denver’s already unreliable offense, and the result of dealing him could be a top five draft pick, Kiszla adds.

Wolves To Exercise Options On Three For 2015/16

OCTOBER 19TH, 2:10pm: The Wolves confirmed the exercising of the options via Twitter.

OCTOBER 16TH: The Wolves are set to pick up their 2015/16 rookie scale team options on Anthony Bennett. Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad, as Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities hears (Twitter link). Bennett’s option will add more than $5.8MM to the team’s books for that season, while Muhammad will make in excess of $2MM and Dieng will be due nearly $1.5MM, as seen on our Rookie Scale Team Option Tracker. Minnesota has until October 31st to make the decisions official.

Bennett, the No. 1 overall pick from 2013, came to the team in the Kevin Love trade after a thoroughly disappointing rookie campaign. He went 0 for 15 from the floor over his first four games, and the 6’8″ forward wound up shooting just 35.6% in 12.8 minutes per game across 52 appearances last season. Still, he holds promise, as does Muhammad, the 2012 McDonald’s All-American MVP who was the 14th pick in that same 2013 draft. Muhammad saw just 7.8 MPG in 37 contests for Minnesota, which sent him on D-League assignment during the season. Dieng was the lowest pick among the three, at No. 21, but he probably had the best rookie campaign, grabbing 5.0 rebounds per night in 13.6 MPG over 60 games.

The options on all three would bring the team’s commitments to more than $36.4MM for 2015/16, but there are several decisions that stand to make that figure go up. The team is reportedly willing to shell out at least $48MM over four years in an extension for Ricky Rubio, while player options for Thaddeus Young, Chase Budinger and Corey Brewer total nearly $20MM put together.

Bulls, Cavs Angling For Love, Nuggets In Mix

4:57pm: A source who spoke to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times disputes that the Bulls are once more pushing to trade for Love.

4:08pm: The general belief is that the Wolves asked for Joakim Noah when they held preliminary talks about Love with the Bulls prior to the draft last month, according to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. Presumably, Chicago rebuffed Minnesota on that point.

3:40pm: Dieng’s name hasn’t come up in talks with Cleveland, and neither has Martin’s, reports Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press. Krawczynski cautions that Martin’s name was indeed a part of talks with the Warriors earlier in the offseason (Twitter links).

2:44pm: Gorgui Dieng‘s name has also come up in talks between the Cavs and Wolves, sources tell Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio (Twitter link).

2:11pm: Cleveland’s search for non-guaranteed contracts are in fact in an effort to sweeten their offer for Love, Wojnarowski writes in a full story, as they would provide cap relief for Minnesota once waived. The Cavs are also dangling future first-round picks in search of an experienced center, sources tell Wojnarowski, though it’s unclear if that, too, is related to Love. Wojnarowski is among the reporters contending that the Cavs are willing to put Wiggins in the deal, a point of frequent debate.

The Nuggets also remain in play for Love, according to Wojnarowski, and their package is Minnesota’s favorite outside of Cleveland’s and Golden State’s, if the Warriors were to relent and offer Klay Thompson. Denver reportedly offered multiple packages in June, but it’s unclear what the Nuggets have on the table now. The Wolves are insisting that teams take on J.J. Barea as part of any Love trade, and possibly Kevin Martin, too, Wojnarowski adds.

1:15pm: The Wolves also like Bulls rookie Doug McDermott, but their priority remains acquiring Wiggins if possible, Wolfson tweets.

12:57pm: The Bulls are indeed making another push to get involved in the Love sweepstakes, report Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com. The general belief is that the Wolves would seek Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler and other assets from Chicago, according to Stein and Windhorst. The Bulls and Warriors were seemingly Love’s top two destinations when he made a push to be traded in May, but Chicago put any pursuit of him on the backburner while it chased Carmelo Anthony.

Still, the Cavs remain in the lead for Love and are increasingly optimistic that they can find a package that will work for the Wolves, Stein and Windhorst write. Their offer would center around Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a first-round pick, Stein and Windhorst hear, echoing a report last week from fellow ESPN scribe Chris Broussard and perhaps signaling a renewed willingness from Cleveland to part with Wiggins.

11:09am: The notion of including Andrew Wiggins in a trade for Kevin Love appears to be a matter the Cavs have tabled for now, but Cleveland remains in daily contact with the Wolves, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities. The Wolves are ready to pull off a deal, but the Cavs are reticent to trade future first-round picks, as Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times hears (Twitter link). Minnesota is interested in the protected 2015 first-round picks the Cavs have coming from the Heat and Grizzlies, according to Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com (Twitter links).

The Bulls could find themselves in position to acquire Love, especially given the presence of Nikola Mirotic on the roster, if the Cavs won’t give up the picks the Wolves want, sources also tell Woelfel (Twitter link). As Mirotic was finalizing his buyout from Real Madrid of Spain, he reportedly wanted the Bulls to assure him that he wouldn’t be traded, though it’s unclear if Chicago ever addressed that issue.

The Cavs are on the prowl for non-guaranteed contracts that they can flip and use as trade ballast in subsequent deals, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports (on Twitter). Cleveland remains under the cap, so it isn’t subject to a two-month waiting period that would prevent it from immediately aggregating salary it received via trade in another swap. It appears as though the Cavs are going after these contracts at least in part to help build their portfolio for a Love trade, though that’s just my speculation.

Michael Carter-Williams Leads All-Rookie Team

Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams headlines the NBA’s All-Rookie First Team, which also features Victor Oladipo, Trey Burke, Mason Plumlee and Tim Hardaway Jr. The Second Team is composed of Kelly Olynyk, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Gorgui Dieng, Cody Zeller and Steven Adams. Carter-Williams was a unanimous first-team selection among the media members who voted for the award. Had Kevin Calabro of ESPN Radio not left Oladipo off his ballot entirely, the Magic guard would have been a unanimous first-teamer, too.

Still, the first team is made up of the only five players who received first-place votes for Rookie of the Year. Ben McLemore was the player with the most All-Rookie votes not to make either the first or the second team, and 29 players received at least one vote for one of the teams. That includes 2013 No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett, who drew a single second-team vote.

Only three of the top 10 picks from the 2013 draft appear on either All-Rookie Team. Still, all 10 players selected to the team were first-round picks, with Hardaway, the 24th overall selection, the last to come off the board on draft night a year ago.

Western Notes: Lakers, Faried, Corbin, Wolves

It is certainly no surprise that, after we rounded up the Lakers’ exit interviews earlier tonight, there is already more buzz coming out of Los Angeles. This is the Lakers, after all. Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports is reporting that Pau Gasol would consider reuniting with former coach Phil Jackson, now running things with the Knicks. Citing a source, Spears hears that the interest is mutual.

Meanwhile, Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report mentions both Van Gundys, Stan and Jeff, as names that stand out to him should the Lakers part ways with Mike D’Antoni. Within the same story, Ding breaks down the team’s draft lottery odds as well as maps out the complicated status of their draft picks beyond this season. Here is what else is going on in the Western Conference:

  • Earlier this month it was Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly that had some kind words to say about Kenneth Faried. On Thursday, it was Brian Shaw’s turn. As Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post writes, the head coach wants and expects to have Faried in a Nuggets uniform next season. Faried was frequently mentioned in trade rumors this season.
  • The fate of Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin will hang in the balance just a little longer, according to Steve Luhm of the Salt Lake Tribune, who writes that the team will take a “decompression period” before making a decision on whether or not to bring the coach back. Luhm reports that a decision could come down as soon as this weekend.
  • With Rick Adelman’s departure imminent, the Wolves head coaching wish list includes Tom Izzo, Fred Hoiberg and Stan Van Gundy, reports Spears in his final power rankings column.
  • It’s a small silver lining in an otherwise ugly season in Minnesota, but ESPN’s Marc Stein tweets that the Wolves can take solace in the fact that they refused to deal rookie Gorgui Dieng at the trade deadline before they knew what they had (Twitter links). The Louisville product was a bright spot in Minnesota down the stretch and figures to be a key contributor in his second season.

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