Andrew Wiggins

Northwest Notes: Donovan, Wiggins, Jazz, Nuggets

The NBA implemented a new coach’s challenge for the 2019/20 season, giving head coaches an opportunity to challenge one questionable call per game that requires officials to pause the contest and review a designated play.

The challenge has mostly received poor feedback from the league’s head coaches, who cite that it bogs down what’s already become a slower last few minutes of the game. Among the coaches who believe the challenge should be changed, despite several contesting it should be removed altogether, is Thunder coach Billy Donovan.

“The thing with the challenge, which to me would be a little bit better, would be if you challenge and you’re successful, you keep your challenge,” Donovan said, as relayed by Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman. “Because what ends up happening is you don’t know when to use it. There’s no time to use it because you can look back the next day and go through every play and say, ‘Okay that should have been a time that I used the challenge. But I used it over here.’ You can’t tell.”

Roughly half of the coach’s challenges have come in the fourth quarter to date, showing teams’ tendencies to hold onto the challenge for when they need it most. Donovan’s idea likely won’t sit well with the portion of NBA viewers who wish the game was sped up in the final minutes.

Here are some other notes from the Northwest Division tonight:

  • Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins remains committed to staying aggressive and attacking the basket this season, Chris Hine of the Star Tribune writes. Wiggins has averaged a career-best 24.9 points on 45% shooting through 17 games. He’s seen his numbers slightly regress in the past couple of weeks, but that won’t deter the 24-year-old from continuing to do what he does best. “I feel like that’s how it goes,” Wiggins said. “I just haven’t been hitting. It’s not just shots. It’s layups. It’s stuff around the rim. I’m right there to drop it in, and they’re just going in and out. I’m just going to keep doing the same thing and I know it’s going to drop.”
  • Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune examines the easier December schedule for the Jazz, pondering whether the franchise will be able to take advantage of their upcoming games. Utah is just 13-10 through 23 games, good for the sixth-best record in the Western Conference.
  • The Nuggets’ success in recent seasons has hinged on players’ ability to sacrifice, Sean Keeler of the Denver Post writes. Denver has a roster loaded with offensive talent, making it imperative that everyone shares the ball and remains patient when it comes to scoring. “It’s definitely unique,” said Jerami Grant, who’s in his first season with the team. “We’ve definitely got a deep team. We’ve got a lot of players that would play a lot more minutes with other teams. But I think everybody who’s come here is willing to sacrifice to be one of the best teams in the league.”

Front Office Approach Contributing To Andrew Wiggins’ Success

Andrew Wiggins has failed to live up to the expectations of a No. 1 pick but Gersson Rosas didn’t see that in him when he took over the Timberwolves‘ team president role. Rosas saw the 6’8″ wing as a distressed asset and someone he could help to improve.

“I’m a player development guy at heart,” Rosas told Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated. “I love these kind of projects.”

Rosas was with the Rockets as James Harden bloomed into the superstar that he is today. Harden’s ascension didn’t happen overnight and the executive knew patience would be key with getting the most out of Wiggins. Stability would be another factor. Minnesota had shuffled through head coaches for much of the forward’s time with the club but with Ryan Saunders came familiarity. Saunders has been with the franchise in lower coaching roles since Wiggins came into the league and two have a strong relationship.

The front office wanted Wiggins to work on his three-point shot this summer and according to Mannix, he spent more of the offseason in Minnesota this past summer than he has in any other year to accomplish that goal. He constantly reminds himself to take the three if it’s available, which is just part of the game plan of taking better shots overall.

The results? Wiggins, who turns 25 in February, is averaging career-highs in a bevy of categories with points (25.3), assists (3.3), player efficiency rating (20.1) and true shooting percentage (.550) among the stats that reflect his improvement.

“Anytime you have better play, more efficient play as you grow your usage, that’s something that’s pretty interesting,” Rosas said. “That’s him doing the work, the system helping him out and everything trending in a very, very positive way. It’s a commitment to competing, working and buying into what’s we’re doing that’s going to work for him. It’s going to work for our team.”

Community Shootaround: The Future of Andrew Wiggins

Andrew Wiggins, The Artist Formerly Known As “Maple Jordan”, has been playing out of his mind for the Timberwolves thus far in 2019/20. His shot profile has modernized as he has prioritized three-pointers over inefficient long two-pointers. His passing has enjoyed a remarkable early turnaround. The team, too, has outperformed early prognostications. The Wolves currently sit 7-5, good for the seventh seed in a brutal West.

Wiggins famously signed a five-year, $147.7MM contract with the Timberwolves in 2017. The level of the deal and his middling play after inking it apparently contributed to Jimmy Butler‘s trade demands early in the 2018/19 season.

The 6’7″ swingman out of Kansas has shown flashes of his potential in seasons past. Those flashes were so few and far between that Minnesota struggled to move his expensive contract this past offseason, albeit not for lack of trying.

Despite being in the midst of his sixth NBA season, Wiggins is just 24 years old. There could be time for him to permanently break the bad habits that seem to have curbed his growth. It remains an open question as to whether or not second-year coach Ryan Saunders will be able to keep Wiggins on his current upward trajectory.

And how high will that trajectory take Wiggins, exactly? Is Wiggins becoming the legitimate long-term cornerstone that the Wolves have long needed him to be, a great wing compliment to established All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns? Can Wiggins sustain this performance consistently enough to finally become an All-Star? At the very least, is Wiggins’ contract still an albatross or could he finally net Minnesota positive trade value if the team did eventually want to move him?

I have my doubts about Wiggins’ All-NBA potential, but one or two career All-Star appearances feel well within reach if he can maintain his excellent play of late.

What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below.

Western Notes: Russell, Wiggins, Gasol, Mann

New Warriors guard D’Angelo Russell is soaking up as much knowledge as possible from Stephen Curry, with the duo expected to form one of the league’s most elite backcourts this season as Klay Thompson continues to rehab from a torn ACL, Mark Medina of USA Today writes.

“I’m doing a lot of spectating,” Russell said, according to Medina. “I’m just seeing what I can learn from him from a distance. Then, I can come up with the correct questions and the correct demeanor on what I’m trying to learn versus nagging him about stuff.”

Russell, an NBA All-Star last season in his own right, has continued to expand his game and improve since being drafted second overall by the Lakers in 2015.

Russell was acquired by the Warriors in a sign-and-trade involving Kevin Durant this offseason, coming off a campaign in which he averaged 21.1 points, seven assists and 1.2 steals in 81 games. That campaign would land him a four-year deal in excess of $117MM.

“He’s always asking the right questions. He’s eager to learn and grow,” Curry said. “It’s nice to see a guy get paid in the summer and is still hungry to get better.”

Here are some other notes from the Western Conference tonight:

  • A happier version of Andrew Wiggins could lead to a different player for the Timberwolves this season, Chris Hine of the Star Tribune writes. “I would say I’m enjoying it more than I did last year,” Wiggins said. “Last year it was kind of on the rough side. But the joy has always been there. I’ve never been on the court not wanting to play.”
  • Blazers center Pau Gasol (left foot rehab) won’t be ready to play in the team’s season opener, according to Joe Freeman of The Oregonian (Twitter link). Portland will kick off the season by hosting Denver on Wednesday night.
  • Clippers rookie Terance Mann has continued to evolve as a point guard, Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times writes. “It’s like a dream come true to learn from a guy like him [Doc Rivers], helping me with this point guard position,” Mann said. “So it’s a lot of fun.”

Western Notes: Miller, Howard, Warriors, Wiggins

The Pelicans will have a tough time replacing Darius Miller‘s skill set from the current list of replacements on the roster, as William Guillory of The Athletic details. Miller suffered a ruptured right Achilles tendon and is expected to miss the season.

Miller provides defensive length and the ability to guard either forward spot while spacing the floor offensively, Guillory notes. The Pelicans might give Josh Hart and E’Twaun Moore more minutes at the wing spot but their options at backup power forward are newcomer Nicolo Melli and Kenrich Williams, who is limited as a shooter and defender against quicker forwards.

The contract that Miller signed this offseason — two years and $14.25MM with the second year non-guaranteed — becomes a less attractive trade piece for the Pelicans, Guillory adds.

We have more from around the Western Conference:

  • Dwight Howard will be a role player with the Lakers for the first time in his career if everything goes as planned. New coach Frank Vogel spoke of his plans for the veteran player, who signed with Los Angeles after passing through waivers, to Spectrum SportNet (hat tip to the Sporting News). “He’s going to serve a different role,” Vogel said. “It’s going to be more of a role-player type of role, as opposed to being the lead. He understands that. He’s excited about playing that type of role on this team and what we can accomplish as a group.”
  • Ryan Atkinson has been named GM of the Warriors’ G League affiliate in Santa Cruz, according to a team press release. Atkinson, 34, had been the G League team’s assistant GM for the last three seasons. Previous GM Kent Lacob has been named the Warriors’ director of team development.
  • The Timberwolves haven’t come close to trading Andrew Wiggins, mainly because they never received an offer that was worth serious consideration, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic reports. The Timberwolves are hoping he can come closer to realizing his potential, which would also boost his trade value. Getting Wiggins to make a bigger impact at both ends of the floor is also the best way for the team to become more of a factor in the Western Conference.

Wolves Notes: Wiggins, Rosas, Covington, Teauge

Andrew Wiggins was a popular topic of conversation as new Timberwolves president Gersson Rosas made the rounds Thursday at the Minnesota State Fair, relays Chris Hine of the Star Tribune. Most of the questions concerned the uneven production that Wiggins has provided since signing a five-year max extension in 2017. Wiggins posted an 18.1/4.8/2.5 line last season, but shot a career worst 41.2% from the field and 33.9% from 3-point range.

Rosas understands fans’ frustrations, but pointed out that Wiggins has dealt with frequent coaching changes since coming to Minnesota in 2014. Still, Rosas wants to see more production from one of the cornerstones of the franchise.

“Andrew in particular with his talent and physical abilities, the potential he’s shows, we’ve got to get that on a more consistent basis,” Rosas said. “He’s focused on it as well. In order for us to have the success we want to have, he’s got to be a main contributor. He understands that, we understand that.”

There’s more out of Minnesota:

  • The Wolves already have 15 players with guaranteed contracts, but they may be willing to add more before training camp starts, Rosas said in the same story. That means they could be stuck with dead money if they can’t work out a trade before rosters have to be finalized, but Rosas is willing to take that chance. “If we have to eat a contract, we’ll eat a contract,” he said. “But we want to create depth, competitiveness in camp and sometimes you end up eating or trading a contract you need to. At the end of the day you want to emphasize competition and a guy beats another guy out, we have the flexibility to do that.”
  • Robert Covington and Jeff Teague, who both had their seasons cut short by injuries last year, are expected to be ready for training camp with no restrictions, Hine adds. Covington dealt with a bone bruise in his right knee that limited him to 22 games after he arrived in a November trade with the Sixers. He had an arthoscopic procedure performed on the knee in April. Teague was limited to 42 games because of fragments in his left ankle and had a debridement procedure after the season ended.
  • Two offseason projections give the Wolves a good chance to bounce back from a disappointing season. FiveThirtyEight expects a 42-40 record with a 45% chance to make the playoffs, while ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus projects them for 39.5 wins and a 32% shot at the postseason.

D’Angelo Russell Has T-Wolves Atop Wish List

Marc Stein of The New York Times is reporting that Nets’ restricted free agent point guard D’Angelo Russell has the Timberwolves at the top of his free-agent wish list. Stein adds that while the Lakers still have undeniable interest in Russell, Minnesota is increasingly confident they can make the necessary salary-cap moves to land the 23-year-old All-Star.

The T-Wolves are expected to meet with Russell in Los Angeles this evening at the beginning of free agency. The meeting will reportedly feature new president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas, head coach Ryan Saunders, and Russell’s good friend, Minnesota big man Karl-Anthony Towns.

The Wolves currently project to be an over-the-cap team, but the Nets have already indicated that they’d be willing to entertain a sign-and-trade arrangement that would enable Russell to reach a destination of his choosing. The most likely salary-matching pieces, however, are Andrew Wiggins and Jeff Teague, both of whom the Nets have no interest in whatsoever. As such, Minnesota would likely need to throw in some other assets to make the deal worthwhile to Brooklyn.

Minnesota could also attempt to trade some combination of Wiggins, Teague, Gorgui Dieng, and Robert Covington to open up cap space, but it’s unclear at this point what teams, if any, are interested in acquiring one or more of those players.

Timberwolves To Meet With D’Angelo Russell

The Timberwolves will meet with restricted free agent point guard D’Angelo Russell at the start of free agency, reports Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

According to Haynes, the meeting will take place in Los Angeles and is expected to feature president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas, head coach Ryan Saunders, and franchise player Karl-Anthony Towns.

Minnesota has been repeatedly linked to Russell, a good friend of Towns, who is “really high” on adding the All-Star guard, per Haynes. However, the club’s cap situation makes the path to a deal tricky. Currently, the Wolves project to be an over-the-cap team, while Russell is expected to command a contract worth upwards of his maximum ($27.25MM) or at least something in that neighborhood.

The Nets, who have been strongly linked to Kyrie Irving, could theoretically agree to sign-and-trade Russell to Minnesota, but Brooklyn reportedly has no interest in taking on Andrew Wiggins or Jeff Teague, who would be the Wolves’ most realistic salary-matching pieces.

Even if the Wolves were able to trade Wiggins into another team’s cap room and renounced the rest of their free agents, they could only generate about $20MM in cap room, which likely wouldn’t be enough for Russell, who established himself in 2018/19 as one of the NBA’s most promising young guards.

A sign-and-trade, then, looks like the most viable path for the Wolves to acquire Russell, but at least one other team would have to get involved if the Nets are uninterested in taking on salary. It sounds like a long shot, but it’s worth noting that Rosas came from Houston’s front office, where he worked under Daryl Morey. Morey is no stranger to getting creative with the cap himself, and is currently trying to pursue an equally convoluted sign-and-trade for Jimmy Butler.

For what it’s worth, ESPN’s Zach Lowe wrote on Friday that one executive predicted to him that the Wolves would succeed in dealing Wiggins at some point and would get “net-neutral value” for him.

Lowe’s Latest: Walker, Brogdon, Mavs, Rubio, Butler

The Celtics might be the frontrunner for Kemba Walker‘s services but devoting most of their cap space to the All-Star point guard would leave them without any proven frontcourt players and limited ways to acquire them, ESPN’s Zach Lowe writes in an in-depth look at free agency. The addition of Walker would force coach Brad Stevens to use either Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum or Gordon Hayward at power forward, Lowe notes. Walker also ran more pick-and-rolls with the Hornets than Kyrie Irving did with the Celtics, yet Irving was sometimes accused of being a ball hog, Lowe adds.

Here are some other interesting tidbits from Lowe’s column:

  • Bucks restricted free agent Malcolm Brogdon will lose a suitor if the Celtics ink Walker. The Suns, Bulls, Mavericks and Pacers could potentially extend Brogdon an offer sheet but some teams are concerned about his foot issues.
  • The Mavericks are not looking to sign any high-level free agents.
  • The Pacers are looking to make a run at point guard Ricky Rubio. They are also likely to let power forward Thaddeus Young walk and go with a frontcourt of Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner. Indiana rejected trade offers for Turner at the draft.
  • The Heat could get involved in the Jimmy Butler sweepstakes via a sign-and-trade.
  • The Nets have no interest in doing a sign-and-trade with the Timberwolves involving restricted free agent D’Angelo Russell if it means taking back Jeff Teague or Andrew Wiggins.

Free Agent Rumors: Kanter, Favors, Horford, Wolves

The Trail Blazers, Lakers, and Celtics are expected to be among the teams to show interest in Enes Kanter when free agency opens, league sources tell Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link).

Portland doesn’t have Bird rights on Kanter, and Boston and L.A. may end up using most or all of their cap room on impact players, so it’s possible that none of those three teams will have the resources to make a strong bid for Kanter. We’ll see if the taxpayer mid-level exception (Trail Blazers) or room exception (Lakers, Celtics) is enough to sign him.

Here are more free agent rumors from around the NBA:

  • Jazz big man Derrick Favors remains under contract in Utah, but because his situation remains in flux due to his non-guaranteed contract, he’ll be permitted to take calls from interested teams during the free agent period, agent Wallace Prather tells Shams Charania of The Athletic. If the Jazz decide not to guarantee Favors’ $17.65MM salary for 2019/20, he’d be waived by July 6 and could join a new club.
  • Reporters around the NBA are still trying to pin down the mystery team that appears to be on track to sign Al Horford to a lucrative four-year contract. Marc Stein of The New York Times thought it might be the Pelicans, but says he has been “strongly advised” that that’s not the case (Twitter link). Meanwhile, Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (Twitter link) doesn’t believe the Mavericks are seriously in the mix for Horford, despite reports that suggested otherwise.
  • According to Darren Wolfson of SKOR North (by way of Dan Feldman of NBC Sports), the Timberwolves reached out to the Nets to see whether Brooklyn might be interested in Andrew Wiggins in a potential sign-and-trade for RFA-to-be D’Angelo Russell. Predictably, the Nets had no interest in taking on Wiggins’ contract, per Wolfson.
  • The Kings haven’t closed the door on a reunion with Kosta Koufos, who will be an unrestricted free agent this Sunday, and the veteran center feels the same way, writes James Ham of NBC Sports California. Both sides figure to let the market dictate their next moves, Ham adds.