Andrew Wiggins

Northwest Notes: O’Neale, Covington, Timberwolves

The fourth and final year of Royce O’Neale‘s extension is partially guaranteed, Tony Jones of The Athletic tweets. The Jazz signed the forward to a four-year, $36MM extension on Sunday. O’Neale’s first three years during the extension, which kicks in next season, are fully guaranteed. He’ll receive $8.5MM in 2020/21, $8.8MM in 2021/22 and $9.2MM in 2022/23, according to The Athletic’s John Hollinger, who notes that the partially guarantee on O’Neale’s $9.5MM salary in 2023/24 will be $2.5MM.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • O’Neale’s ability to guard four positions makes the extension a worthwhile investment for the Jazz, Ben Dowsett of opines. O’Neale is the fastest player on the team and also the best rebounder other than the team’s centers, Dowsett continues. The forward might have received offers at or above the four-year, $51MM maximum extension Utah could have offered him if the team had allowed him to enter restricted free agency, Dowsett adds.
  • Robert Covington has heard his name bandied about in trade rumors but the Timberwolves forward is trying to block out the speculation, as he told Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The Rockets were reportedly pursuing Covington, who is signed through the next two seasons, though their interest has apparently waned. “I’m not even focused on that,” Covington said. “My main focus is this team and what I do every day. I’m not going to get caught up in rumors or hype or what not.”
  • Covington, Gorgui Dieng and Andrew Wiggins are some of the players who have exceeded preseason expectations for the Timberwolves, Britt Robson of The Athletic writes while handing out his midseason grades.

Northwest Notes: Wolves, Wiggins, Craig, SGA

A combination of injuries and head coach Ryan Saunders‘ desire to play matchups have resulted in the Timberwolves using 11 different starting lineup combinations this season. While those changes have often been made out of necessity, Jeff Teague believes the lineup juggling has impacted the club’s chemistry, as Chris Hine of The Star Tribune details.

“We haven’t been healthy all year, so it is difficult to try and get a rhythm,” the Timberwolves’ veteran point guard said. “Seems like every four games something happens. It’s part of the NBA. Just try to keep adjusting, keep making things happen. Hopefully we can get all on the same page one of these games.”

Since starting the season with a 10-8 record, the Timberwolves have lost 10 consecutive games and dropped to 13th in the Western Conference, so Saunders may continue tweaking the lineup until the club finds a combination that works.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins and Nuggets forward Torrey Craig have each signed with CAA Basketball for representation, according to Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Journal (Twitter link). Craig had previously been represented by Tony Dutt, while Wiggins had been operating without an agent.
  • Mike Singer of The Denver Post looks into whether the Nuggets should be trying to make a trade, what sort of move would make the most sense for the team, and what obstacles might stand in the way of a potential deal.
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander‘s 32-point performance in Sunday’s win over the Clippers was the latest sign that the Thunder‘s Paul George trade was a blessing in disguise, writes Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman.
  • When Al-Farouq Aminu returned to Portland as a member of the Magic on Friday, Joe Freeman of The Oregonian took the opportunity to talk to the veteran forward about what this season would have looked like if the Trail Blazers had kept most of last season’s roster intact.

Wolves Rumors: Teague, Wiggins, D-Lo, Covington

The Timberwolves made it known throughout the NBA during the offseason that veteran point guard Jeff Teague could be had in a trade, and that’s still the case, league sources tell Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.

Teague, who was signed to a three-year, $57MM deal by former Wolves president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau, is in the final year of that contract, with a $19MM expiring salary. His fit within Minnesota’s offensive system under Ryan Saunders isn’t ideal, as Krawczynski explains, and the club wants to find its point guard of the future.

Here’s more on the Wolves, via Krawczynski:

  • It’s not year clear which direction Minnesota will go at the trade deadline. The club’s new management group, led by Gersson Rosas, is pragmatic and has a long-term plan for success, so the team is unlikely to compromise that plan for a quick fix, writes Krawczynski. On the other hand, the Wolves figure to be aggressive if they identify a player who fits Karl-Anthony Towns‘ timeline and can be part of that long-term plan.
  • There was a leaguewide belief this past summer that Andrew Wiggins could be had in a trade, but the Wolves have been encouraged by the progress he has made this fall, and Saunders and Rosas are both in his corner, says Krawczynski. That doesn’t mean Wiggins is untouchable, but it doesn’t sound like he’s actively being shopped either.
  • The Timberwolves remain interested in D’Angelo Russell after pursuing him in free agency, sources tell Krawczynski.
  • Minnesota isn’t looking to move Robert Covington, but the club recognizes that if it wants to land an impact player, Covington and its future first-round picks are the most attractive assets it could dangle.

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.