Karl-Anthony Towns

Northwest Notes: Simons, Gupta, Towns, Krejci

No rookie scale extension is expected for Anfernee Simons before today’s deadline, according to Jason Quick of The Athletic (Twitter link), who says the Trail Blazers want to see more from the fourth-year guard before committing to him beyond the 2021/22 season. The club believes Simons can be more consistent and productive under new head coach Chauncey Billups, Quick adds.

Simons hit 42.6% of his three-pointers last season for the Trail Blazers, but played a fairly modest role off the bench, with 7.8 PPG and 2.2 RPG in 64 games (17.3 MPG). He’ll be eligible for restricted free agency in 2022.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Chris Hine of The Star Tribune takes an in-depth look at the philosophy new Timberwolves head of basketball operations Sachin Gupta is bringing to the role. Despite not having any assurances that he’ll keep the job long-term, Gupta insists he doesn’t feel pressure to impress ownership by making a major move. “I couldn’t ask for anything better,” he said. “I don’t view it as like, ‘Oh I’ve got this for a time. I’ve got to try and prove myself and I’ve got to make a splash quickly and try to save the job.'”
  • Speaking to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic, Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns compared staying in Minnesota to sticking with the Dominican Republic national team rather than reclassifying to play for Team USA. “I like taking the hard route. I like going the more rewarding route,” Towns said. “I love being with the Dominican Republic national team. There’s a lot of things they haven’t done, and I’m able to possibly change that. The challenge is what I’ve always strived for.”
  • Thunder guard Vit Krejci, who had been dealing with visa issues, has been cleared to practice and play with the team, head coach Mark Daigneault said this weekend (Twitter link via Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman). Krejci is expected to spend a good chunk of time this season with the Oklahoma City Blue in the G League.

Super-Max Candidates To Watch In 2021/22

The Designated Veteran extension, as we explain our glossary entry on the subject, is a relatively new addition to the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. It allows players with seven, eight, or nine years of NBA service, who would normally be eligible for a maximum starting salary of 30% of the cap, to qualify for a “super-max” contract that starts at 35% of the cap, a level normally reserved players with 10+ years of experience.

A player who has seven or eight years of NBA service with one or two years left on his contract becomes eligible for a Designated Veteran extension if he meets the required performance criteria and hasn’t been traded since his first four years in the league. A Designated Veteran contract can also be signed by a player who is technically a free agent if he has eight or nine years of service and meets the required criteria.

The performance criteria is as follows (only one of the following must be true):

  • The player was named to an All-NBA team and/or was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in the most recent season, or in two of the last three seasons.
  • The player was named the NBA MVP in any of the three most recent seasons.

As Bobby Marks of ESPN writes, Nuggets center Nikola Jokic met the super-max performance criteria this past season when he won his first MVP award. However, since he still has only six years of NBA experience under his belt, he can’t actually sign a super-max contract with Denver until the 2022 offseason. At that point, he could tack on five years and a projected $253MM+ to the one year left on his current deal.

For the time being, Jokic is the best bet to receive a Designated Veteran extension a year from now, but there are other players who could join him. Here’s a look at some super-max candidates to watch during the 2021/22 season:

Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves)

Towns has one All-NBA season under his belt already, having made the Third Team in 2018. Towns played in all 82 regular season games that year and Minnesota made the postseason for the only time during his six-year career.

Towns might not need the Wolves to get back to the postseason in order to earn a spot on the 2021/22 All-NBA team, but he’ll need to stay healthier than he has the last couple years — he has appeared in just 85 games since the start of the 2019/20 campaign, missing 51. If he plays 70+ games this season and puts up the same sort of numbers he has in the three years since his last All-NBA season (25.0 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 3.9 APG, and 1.4 BPG on .506/.399/.834 shooting), he’ll have a great case.

Should he make an All-NBA team in 2022, Towns would be eligible for a four-year super-max extension that goes into effect in 2024/25. We’re too far out to accurately project the value of such a deal, but if the salary cap increases to, say, $130MM by that point, a four-year super-max extension for Towns would be worth nearly $204MM.

Devin Booker (Suns)

Booker’s current contract with the Suns looks essentially identical to Towns’ deal with the Timberwolves, since both players signed five-year, maximum-salary contracts at the same time. As such, Booker is in a similar situation — if he makes an All-NBA team in 2022, he could sign a four-year, super-max extension that would begin in 2024/25 and could be worth in excess of $200MM.

Unlike Towns, Booker hasn’t been an All-NBA player before, but he has a realistic shot. When the Suns posted the NBA’s best record in 2020/21, it was Chris Paul – rather than Booker – who earned All-NBA Second Team honors for both his performance and the impact his arrival had on a young Phoenix team.

But if the Suns are in contention for a top seed in the West again this season, it could be Booker’s turn to receive serious All-NBA consideration. He’s a safe bet to lead the team in scoring and he’s entering his age-25 season, whereas Paul – at age 36 – may see his numbers start to fall off a little going forward.

If Booker does become eligible for a super-max, it will be interesting to see whether the Suns are prepared to offer it to him, given the recent reports on team ownership’s reluctance to commit max money to Deandre Ayton.

Zach LaVine (Bulls)

Unlike Towns or Booker, LaVine will be a free agent during the 2022 offseason. He was an extension candidate this offeason, but once the Bulls used their potential cap room on roster upgrades rather than a renegotiation of LaVine’s 2021/22 salary, the odds of him signing a long-term extension plummeted.

Since LaVine is earning a relatively modest $19.5MM salary in 2021/22, his max extension without a renegotiation would only be worth in the neighborhood of $106MM over four years — and a renegotiation is only possible with cap room.

That means LaVine will almost certainly reach free agency in 2022. That takes an extension off the table, he could still qualify for the super-max as a free agent if he makes an All-NBA team this season.

Earning an All-NBA spot may be a longer shot for LaVine than for Towns or Booker. Not many centers will put up better numbers than Towns, and Booker’s role as the top scorer for a potential title contender will automatically put him in the conversation. LaVine is coming off a monster year, in which he established a new career high in PPG (27.4) and earned his first All-Star berth, but he has a reputation as a subpar defender and the Bulls haven’t made the playoffs during his four years with the franchise.

If LaVine maintains his impressive offensive numbers and shows improvements on defense while the new-look Bulls force their way into the playoff mix, an All-NBA nod becomes a more realistic possibility. In that scenario, LaVine would be eligible for a five-year super-max contract worth a projected $241.6MM. Whether Chicago would be comfortable putting that type of offer on the table is another story altogether.

The rookie scale extension recipients

Trae Young (Hawks), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Thunder), and Michael Porter Jr. (Nuggets) all signed five-year, maximum-salary rookie scale extensions this offseason that project to start at 25% of the 2022/23 cap, for a five-year value of $172.5MM.

However, all three players also received Rose Rule language in their deals. This is another form of the super-max — unlike the Designated Veteran contracts, which start at 35% of the cap instead of 30%, a player who meets the Rose Rule criteria gets a starting salary worth 30% of the cap rather than 25%.

The performance criteria for a Rose Rule salary increase are essentially the exact same as for a Designated Veteran bump, but must be achieved by the end of the player’s four-year rookie contract. That means Young, Gilgeous-Alexander, and Porter would have to make the All-NBA team in 2022 in order to increase the value of their respective extensions to $207MM over five years — an All-NBA berth in 2023 or 2024 would be too late.

Of the three players, Young might be the best bet to make an All-NBA team this season. Like Booker, he’s the go-to offensive option on a team coming off a deep playoff run. He should rank among the NBA’s leaders in both points and assists. If he improves upon last season’s .438/.343/.886 shooting numbers and Atlanta has another strong season, he’ll have a solid case.

Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, the other young star to get a maximum-salary rookie scale extension this summer, already qualified for the bump to 30% of the cap by making the All-NBA team in his second and third NBA seasons. His five-year deal will be worth a projected $207MM no matter how he performs in 2021/22.

The rest

While there are other veteran players who could technically qualify for the super-max this season, none are particularly compelling candidates. Mavericks big man Kristaps Porzingis and Pacers center Myles Turner are perhaps the most intriguing, especially since Turner could be a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year contender. But I have a hard time imagining either player receiving a super-max offer even in the unlikely event that they qualify for one.

Among players on rookie scale contracts, Suns center Deandre Ayton is the other candidate to monitor. Ayton is reportedly seeking Rose Rule language in a maximum-salary extension with Phoenix, but the two sides are at an impasse in their negotiations.

I’d be a little surprised if Ayton becomes an All-NBA player this season, but there are so few star centers around the league that it’s not out of the question, especially if he takes on a larger offensive role going forward. If Ayton and the Suns don’t agree to an extension this month and he earns an All-NBA nod in 2022, he’d be eligible for a 30% max (five years, $207MM) with Phoenix as a restricted free agent next summer.

Timberwolves Notes: Towns, New Owners, Vaccines

The strain of having multiple family members die from COVID-19 and then losing 50 pounds after he contracted the virus led Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns to experience a panic attack during a game, he tells Michael Pina of Sports Illustrated.

It happened in February in Cleveland after he was cleared to rejoin the team. Towns describes the feeling of being overwhelmed by anxiety while on the bench and texting a message to his agent that read, “I can’t be out here anymore. I can’t do this.” Towns went to the locker room where he was sweating and feeling tightness in his chest. He thought about going to the hotel or even back to Minnesota, but decided to stay in the arena until the game was over.

The heartache from losing loved ones, particularly his mother, had become too much for Towns to bear in a public setting. His father encouraged him to take time away from the game for his mental health, but Towns opted to continue playing because he didn’t want to disappoint anyone, though he was often unhappy with the results.

“I just really didn’t think I could play the game of basketball the way I want to represent myself in the NBA,” Towns said. “I didn’t want to represent myself in a bad way. There’d be a lot of times we’d play a game. Game’s over. And I’m not even in there. I’m doing my own thing. I’m in the bathroom looking at myself, wondering if this is the man that I really think I am.”

He eventually found some degree of solace through regular conversations with head coach Chris Finch, and benefited by getting away from the game during the offseason. Towns is now ready to return to basketball and hopes to establish himself as one of the league’s best centers.

There’s more from Minnesota:

  • Although Towns is frustrated by years of losing, that hasn’t shaken his commitment to the Wolves, Pina adds in the same story. A source close to Towns tells Pina that the surprising dismissal of president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas last week didn’t affect Towns’ desire for a contract extension. He can become eligible for a supermax deal by making an All-NBA team this season. “My chips are all on the table,” Towns said. “So it’s up to the Wolves, you know? If they give me the chance to stay there I fa’ sho would take it. The ball is in their court.”
  • Meeting today with the media, new co-owners Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore repeated their pledge to keep the team in Minnesota, according to Chris Hine and Chris Miller of The Star Tribune“We have no plans to move,” Rodriguez said. “Our plan is to be right here.”
  • New president of basketball operations Sachin Gupta said the team is fully vaccinated except for two players who are in the process of getting their shots, tweets Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.

Timberwolves Notes: Rosas, Gupta, Finch, Simmons, Towns

The impending ownership change played a role in the surprising dismissal of Gersson Rosas as the Timberwolves‘ president of basketball operations, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.

Minority partners Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez, who will eventually take over for Glen Taylor, are doing a full investigation into the franchise and discovered “disenchantment” among front office employees, sources tell Krawczynski. Considering the team’s poor record with Rosas in charge, Lore and Rodriguez determined that he would eventually need to be replaced, and that decision was sped up with the discovery that Rosas was having a “consensual intimate relationship” with another member of the organization.

Sachin Gupta, who was chosen to replace Rosas, has strong relationships with the new ownership group and will be given a chance to win the job on a more permanent basis, according to Krawczynski’s sources. He has full power to make decisions on trades and other personnel moves, but will be watched closely to make sure the owners are happy with the direction of the franchise. The Wolves are seeking stability and don’t appear to be searching outside the organization for someone else to take over.

Gupta is a strong supporter of coach Chris Finch, whose job will be safe despite the loss of Rosas, who hired him in February. Finch has “nearly universal approval” throughout the organization, along with the trust of the players. However, he may need a successful season to keep his job if a new lead executive is eventually hired.

There’s more from Minnesota:

  • The front office shakeup won’t affect the Wolves’ chances of trading for Ben Simmons, Krawczynski adds in the same piece. Gupta was involved in the team’s negotiations with Philadelphia, according to sources, and like Rosas, he worked with Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey in Houston. Minnesota’s main obstacles to landing Simmons are a lack of assets that appeal to Philadelphia and the difficulty of finding a third team to facilitate a deal.
  • Acquiring Simmons may be the only way to keep Karl-Anthony Towns in Minnesota for the long term, suggests Michael Rand of The Star-Tribune. The Wolves seem likely to miss the playoffs again with their current roster, which increases the chances that Towns will ask for a trade next summer when he will have just two years left on his contract.
  • The bad decisions made by Rosas show the importance of finding the right person to run the team, states John Hollinger of The Athletic. Hollinger notes that the Wolves have a history of front office failure, which is why they have just one playoff appearance over the past 17 years.

Timberwolves Notes: Bolmaro, Prince, Vanderbilt, McLaughlin, Towns

Timberwolves rookie guard Leandro Bolmaro plays fearlessly, head coach Chris Finch told Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and other media members this week. The 23rd pick in the draft, Bolmaro is expected to sign his rookie contract shortly.

“We love that about him. He competes, he’s bouncy, he just knows how to play basketball,” Finch said. “He moves well off the ball, fits in around all of the pieces we already have.”

We have more on the Timberwolves:

  • Forward Taurean Prince, acquired in the Ricky Rubio deal with Cleveland, believes he’ll play all three frontcourt positions at some point this season, Hine adds in the same story. “The ball moves around and like coach said it gives a lot of opportunity to everybody,” Prince said. “Those are the best systems because everyone likes to play off each other and it maximizes everyone’s potential as well.”
  • Jarred Vanderbilt officially signed his new three-year, $13.8MM contract on Wednesday. According to Keith Smith of Spotrac (Twitter link), the first-year salary is $4.05MM and he’ll get $4.374MM in 2022/23. Vanderbilt’s 2023/24 salary of $4.698MM is partially guaranteed at $300K. The contract also includes $162K in likely bonuses and $405K in unlikely bonuses, Smith adds.
  • Jordan McLaughlin also inked his new three-year, $6.5MM deal this week. The first-year salary will be $2MM, Smith tweets. In 2022/23, he’ll receive $2.16MM. His 2023/24 salary of $2.32MM is non-guaranteed. The contract includes $100K in unlikely bonuses in all three seasons.
  • A refocused Karl-Anthony Towns is one of the reasons for optimism in Minnesota, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic writes. The past two seasons for the team’s top big man have been marred by injuries and personal tragedy. He’s been working on his game diligently this summer, which bodes well for his continued development. Anthony Edwards’ encore after a powerful finish to his rookie campaign, plus the ability of Finch to have a full off-season to prepare the team for the upcoming season, should also entice fans. Krawczynski delves into a number of topics in the mailbag, including the possibility of Malik Beasley or D’Angelo Russell taking a sixth-man role.

Western Notes: Hyland, Porter Jr., Towns, Russell, Toliver

Rookie Bones Hyland averaged 19.7 PPG across four games in Las Vegas and his Nuggets summer league coach believes he can play right away for the NBA club, Mike Singer of the Denver Post writes. “His skill set is undeniable,” Charles Klask said. “… I think there’s always room for players like him that have great feel for the game. They find a way to get on the floor because they can do so many different things, and as long as he can bring it on both ends, night in and night out, I think he can be part of our rotation, for sure.” Hyland was drafted with the No. 26 pick.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • There shouldn’t be any serious concern about the Nuggets’ ability to reach a rookie scale extension agreement with Michael Porter Jr., Singer opines in a mailbag piece. Singer’s sources say there shouldn’t be too much read into the lack of news regarding negotiations, since the club has until the start of the season to extend Porter. His agent, Mark Bartelstein, had a number of other clients to focus on during free agency, Singer adds.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell are determined to do what it takes this offseason to turn the Timberwolves’ fortunes around, coach Chris Finch told The Athletic’s Britt Robson. “There is a deep and genuine motivation by Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell to have their best offseason ever. And that’s really where it begins and ends, because if your best players aren’t all-in and ready, then you are not going to go very far,” Finch said. “They’ve seen their contemporaries having success. Devin Booker’s in the Finals. Nikola Jokic wins MVP. These are guys who they feel they are every bit as good as, if not better than — or at one point have been better than — in the league.”
  • The Mavericks are hiring Kristi Toliver as an assistant coach, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets. Dallas had been seeking a female assistant for Jason Kidd‘s staff. Toliver, who remains an active player in the WNBA, spent two seasons in the Wizards’ organization.

Northwest Notes: Hammon, Billups, McCollum, Wolves’ Offseason

Trail Blazers owner Jody Allen is pushing for Spurs assistant Becky Hammon while president of basketball operations Neil Olshey prefers Clippers assistant Chauncey Billups to be the team’s next head coach, Marc Stein of the New York Times hears. The team is conducting second interviews with both candidates with Mike D’Antoni reportedly also in the running.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • There’s a strong possibility CJ McCollum will be traded this offseason, Jason Quick of The Athletic opines. Dealing McCollum is the most logical way for the Blazers to improve, or at least shake up their roster. Olshey seems more open to breaking up his star backcourt, which has posted a 15-30 record in the playoffs. However, with three big years left on McCollum’s contract, it’s tough to know what the Blazers could get in return.
  • There were a number of reasons why the Timberwolves didn’t tank, most notably to find out how D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns would mesh down the stretch, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. They also wanted to establish a culture of expectations for their youngest players. Minnesota had to convey its pick at No. 7 to Golden State after failing to move into the top three in the lottery.
  • Without a first-rounder, the Timberwolves will look to free agency and the trade market to shore up their roster, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. They’re particularly intent on upgrading the power forward spot to become a better rebounding team.

Towns Says He’d Like To Spend NBA Career “With One Team”

Teams around the NBA are constantly monitoring superstars on lottery teams in case they become disgruntled and request a change of scenery. One player whose situation has drawn some attention in that regard is Karl-Anthony Towns, whose Timberwolves have made the postseason just once since he was drafted in 2015.

However, speaking to reporters this week, Towns said that he’d like to follow in the footsteps of players like Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan, who spent their entire NBA careers with a single franchise.

“I hope to have a career like Kobe, with one team,” Towns said, per Shahbaz Khan of of Timberwolves.com. “Like Tim and Kobe, where it’s one team and try to bring as many championships as possible.”

Towns, who averaged 24.8 points and 10.6 rebounds per game in 50 contests (33.8 MPG) in 2020/21, acknowledged that there have been plenty of “rocky” patches during his six years in Minnesota, both on and off the court. However, he gave no indication that he’d like to move on from the team that selected him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft.

“I just really am happy that I’m able to still be here playing for this amazing city and state and be able to stay here and affect change in the community,” Towns said. “I’m just so happy that I’ve been given a chance to play here in Minnesota all these years.”

Towns still has three guaranteed years on his maximum-salary deal beyond 2020/21. As such, president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas still has some time to work on building a team capable of contending before the 25-year-old has to make a decision on his next contract. However, with the Wolves set to lose their first-round pick either in 2021 (top-three protected) or 2022 (unprotected), Rosas will have to get creative as he considers possible avenues to upgrade the roster.

Timberwolves Notes: Vanterpool, Gates, Edwards, Towns, McDaniels

Timberwolves associate head coach David Vanterpool as well as assistant Bryan Gates won’t return to Chris Finch’s staff next season, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets. Vanterpool and Gates were holdovers from Ryan Saunders‘ staff. Numerous players around the league openly questioned Minnesota’s decision to hire Finch away from the Raptors’ staff, instead of promoting minority candidate Vanterpool when Saunders was let go.

We have more on the Timberwolves:

  • Anthony Edwards could be “scary” good after a strong rookie season, president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas said this week, per Dave Campbell of The Associated Press. “He doesn’t know how good he is and, scary enough for us, we don’t know how good he is,” Rosas said. “You’re talking about a 19-year-old who’s late to the sport. It’s not always pretty, not always efficient, but the signs of greatness are there.”
  • Edwards expects the team to participate in the postseason next year, Kent Youngblood of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. “I’m ready to go to the playoffs,” he said. “I know this is my first year, but I just see how happy teams [are], knowing they’re going to play more basketball. So I want that feeling next year.”
  • Karl-Anthony Towns wants to make a point that he’s not concerned about sharing the spotlight with Edwards, according to Chris Hine of the Star Tribune. “He’s showed exactly why he’s the No. 1 pick and why he’s the Rookie of the Year,” Towns said. “So we’ve got to put our egos to the side at all times. We cannot let that get between us. We cannot let that be a story of amazing talents coming together and not making it work.”
  • The Wolves’ front office made a prudent choice with Jaden McDaniels at the No. 28 overall pick, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic notes. McDaniels started regularly in the final 27 games of the season and showed great promise as a 3-and-D wing. Having productive players on low-cost contracts is necessary to keep the team’s core intact while still avoiding the luxury tax, Krawczynski adds.

Northwest Notes: Horford, Muscala, Towns, Vanderbilt, Nuggets

The rebuilding Thunder shut down big men Al Horford and Mike Muscala in the second half of the 2020/21 season, with neither veteran playing a single minute after the March trade deadline. Muscala is now facing unrestricted free agency, while Horford has two years left on his contract, including a partial guarantee in the second year.

Asked today about their respective futures, neither player sounded certain he’d be back in Oklahoma City in ’21/22, but Muscala said he’d “love to be here” going forward, as Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman tweets. Meanwhile, an offseason trade to a team closer to contention seems like a realistic next step for Horford, and he didn’t rule out that possibility.

I’m sure that I’ll be talking with the team and we’ll figure out what’s best,” Horford said, per Mussatto (Twitter link).

Here are a few more notes from around the Northwest:

  • Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns told reporters today that he won’t require offseason surgery on the wrist he dislocated at the start of the season, tweets Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.
  • In a story for The Athletic, Krawczynski takes a deep dive into the long, winding path that Jarred Vanderbilt took to become an NBA regular for the first time this season. The Timberwolves forward, who had logged 120 total minutes in two NBA seasons entering 2020/21, started 30 of the 64 games he played this year, averaging 5.4 PPG and 5.8 RPG on 60.6% shooting in 17.8 minutes per contest.
  • The Nuggets are increasing the capacity of Ball Arena for the playoffs from 4,050 fans (22.1% capacity) to a maximum attendance of 7,750 (42.3%), according to The Denver Post. Denver is one of a handful of teams expecting more fans at postseason games, as coronavirus-related gathering limits begin to loosen in states across the nations.