Karl-Anthony Towns

Towns Delaying Extension Because Of Butler?

Jimmy Butler‘s meeting today with the Timberwolves will determine how much longer he stays in Minnesota, Shams Charania of The Athletic says in a new video (Twitter link). Charania also drops the bombshell that center Karl-Anthony Towns refuses to sign his rookie contract extension until he knows whether Butler will be sticking around.

Problems between Butler and Towns have been reported before, but mostly in behind-the-scenes whispers, usually followed by denials from team officials. Charania’s report is the latest evidence that Towns and Butler appear unable to co-exist over the long term.

“I’m told there won’t be any decision on that until this Jimmy Butler situation resolves itself,” Charania said of Towns’ extension. The 22-year-old center has until until mid-October to accept the five-year, maximum-salary deal.

Charania adds that Wolves management will definitely side with Towns if it comes down to a choice between the two players because Towns’ youth and potential make him too valuable to trade away. He adds that Butler’s relationships with his younger teammates will be among the issues to be discussed at today’s meeting.

Butler reportedly requested the session with coach/executive Tom Thibodeau and GM Scott Layden to clarify his future with the organization. He is expected to opt out of a $19.84MM salary and become a free agent next summer, but there’s a chance that Minnesota will trade him before that happens if the front office determines it’s a situation that cannot be salvaged.

Timberwolves Notes: Nunnally, Patton, Drama

The Timberwolves could potentially use James Nunnally in Jamal Crawford‘s role, Patrick Reusse of The Star Tribune writes. Head coach Tom Thibodeau has developed a fondness for using a three-guard offense off the bench.

In a comprehensive feature, Reusse details Nunnaly’s path to the Timberwolves in 2018. The swingman went undrafted in 2012 and has made several stops around the NBA and abroad since.

Nunnally has proven that he can be potent deep threat while also contributing defensively. If he can come anywhere close to the .554 he shot from beyond the arc in Germany last year, it will be a marked improvement over the .331 that Crawford shot in 2017/18.

There’s more from the Timberwolves today:

  • The Timberwolves have officially ruled Justin Patton out indefinitely. The team issued a press release that said the center will have surgery in the near future.
  • The upcoming season will have massive implications for the Timberwolves’ future, Drew Maresca of Basketball Insiders writes. At present, only one of the three stars in Minnesota’s locker room are signed long-term. Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns can be free agents next summer.
  • Last night we asked readers to tell us what they think will come of this Timberwolves team. Weigh in at our Community Shootaround.

Northwest Notes: Jazz, Towns, Westbrook

The Jazz didn’t make any major headlines over the course of the summer, electing to stand pat on a roster that shocked the NBA world and emerged as a Western Conference contender. Heading into 2018/19, the club is as dangerous as ever, Chris Herring of FiveThirtyEight writes.

Of course the biggest hurdle for the Jazz will be to win ball games despite the fact that opponents won’t take them for granted. Now that the rest of the league is aware of what they’re capable, they’ll have to bring their best game every night out.

Herring wonders if Ricky Rubio will be able to continue to shoot the ball as well as he did in the second half of last season after a career of sub-par percentages. Similarly, he considers just how scary the team can be on the defensive end with a hopefully healthy Rudy Gobert in the lineup for a full season.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The fact that Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns hasn’t signed a five-year max rookie scale extension is “eyebrow raising,” Brian Windhorst of ESPN says (h/t Dan Feldman of NBC Sports). Per Windhorst, there has never been a player that hasn’t signed such an offer.
  • A recent feature on 2018 Hall of Fame inductee Maurice Cheeks paints the retired point guard and former Thunder assistant as a “Russell Westbrook whisperer.” Royce Young of ESPN details the coach’s impact on the early years of Westbrook’s career.
  • It’s never too early to start talking about next year’s free agent crop. Our 2019 NBA free agent rankings are now live. Two of the four most valuable potential acquisitions? Timberwolves stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Jimmy Butler.

Thibodeau Shoots Down Chemistry Concerns

Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau shot down reports regarding chemistry issues and Jimmy Butler‘s desire to leave after next season during an appearance at the Minnesota State Fair, Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. Butler was supposedly unhappy with his younger teammates and looking to pair up with Kyrie Irving when he can enter free agency next summer. Thibodeau said Butler has not voiced any displeasure about his teammates to him.

“I’ve been around a long time, I don’t buy into any of that stuff,” Thibodeau said. “You have to distinguish what’s real and what’s not real. You never heard any of that come from Jimmy’s mouth. It’s always a source close to Jimmy. If Jimmy has something to say to someone, he usually says it directly.”

Thibodeau also said he anticipated that Butler would turn down the team’s extension offer because he could make more in free agency but the franchise is still optimistic on re-signing him.

“We know the position we’re in. We have a lot to offer him. We think this is the best place for him and it’s up to us to show him the reasons why.”

Thibodeau also addressed a number of other topics:

  • He’s also “very optimistic” big man Karl-Anthony Towns will sign a contract extension by the October 15 deadline. “We know how important Karl is to the future of the organization,” Thibodeau said. As we noted in our Extension Candidate series, Towns is likely to sign a max extension.
  • Former Pistons assistant Malik Allen has been added to his coaching staff, replacing Rick Brunson. Allen joined the staff of ex-Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy in 2014. Brunson resigned in May amid allegations of misconduct.
  • Center Justin Patton should be cleared for contact by the start of training camp. The 7-foot Patton, the 16th overall pick in 2017, appeared in just one game last season after undergoing two foot surgeries.

Extension Candidate: Karl-Anthony Towns

Twenty-three players became eligible for rookie scale extensions when the 2018/19 NBA league year began in July. One of those 23, Devin Booker, quickly finalized a new deal with the Suns, leaving 22 other players who could sign rookie scale extensions before the October 15 deadline. In the weeks leading up to that deadline, we’ll be taking a closer look at some of the strongest candidates for new contracts.

Our examination of this year’s candidates for rookie scale extensions begins today with Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns. Let’s dive in…

Why the Timberwolves should give him an extension:

Towns’ case for a new deal is obvious. A former first overall pick, he’s already one of the NBA’s most talented big men, earning his first All-Star and All-NBA nods in 2017/18. He has averaged a double-double in each of his three NBA seasons, recording 21.6 PPG and 11.7 overall over the course of his young NBA career.

Unlike many other NBA bigs, Towns figures to have no problem adapting as the NBA continues to evolve — his .387 career 3PT% (.421 in 2017/18) reflects his ability to score from the outside as well as the inside, so he’s hardly a one-dimensional offensive player. He can also pass the ball effectively (2.4 career APG), and while he’s not an elite rim protector on defense, he’s capable of blocking shots (1.4 career BPG).

On top of all that, Towns has displayed a skill that’s over overlooked and undervalued — durability. He has yet to miss a game since entering the league, playing all 82 contests in three consecutive years.

At age 22, Towns still has plenty of room to develop into a more complete and effective player, a scary possibility for opposing teams to consider. He’d likely be one of the first few players named if NBA general managers were given the ability to lock up any current player for the next decade.

Why the Timberwolves should avoid an extension:

While Towns is already a monster on offense and on the glass, his play on defense leaves something to be desired. Tom Thibodeau brought in Taj Gibson a year ago in order to pair Towns with a tough, defensive-minded veteran in the frontcourt, and the young star may need to be complemented by similar frontcourt partners in the coming years.

Additionally, there may be some concern about how Towns meshes with his fellow stars in Minnesota. Reports of tension have followed around the Timberwolves’ three most important players – Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and Jimmy Butler – and if there’s truth to those rumors, locking up Towns to a long-term deal may help push someone like Butler out of Minnesota.

Read more

Northwest Notes: Schroder, Lillard, Towns, Crowder

In an extended analytical piece, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer takes a look at how the Thunder‘s soon-to-be acquired point guard Dennis Schroder will fit with incumbent starter and All-Star Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City’s backcourt.

Consistently ranked near the bottom of the league in passing metrics, Thunder head coach Billy Donovan has regularly spoke about how he wants better ball movement on offense. But, as Donovan admits, “There’s a balance between [giving the ball to your stars] and then trying to play faster with more ball and player movement.”

Enter Schroder, who can create against a defense with his quickness perhaps better than any other point guard the Thunder have had in recent years outside of Westbrook, including Reggie Jackson.

Only time will tell whether or not Westbrook and Schroder will be able to play together, but if they can, Donovan will be able to install more pace and ball-movement concepts featuring multiple ball handlers running the show, rather than relying on Westbrook alone, which should help the Thunder be less one-dimensional against the better Western Conference teams come playoff time.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • While the Trail Blazers may not have been able to bring in as much talent as they had hoped for during this summer’s free agency period in an effort to improve upon last season, Damian Lillard says that he’s ready and excited for the upcoming season and that he has a “deeper connection” with the city of Portland that goes beyond basketball, per Sean Meagher of The Oregonian.
  • As part of a Wolves’ mailbag, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic opines that although the relationship between Karl-Anthony Towns and the Timberwolves could obviously use some work right now, the opportunity for repair remains, as Towns likely would have cancelled his recent basketball camp in the Twin Cities had he already completely written off Minnesota as a long-term home.
  • After struggling on-court to adjust to a new role and new teammates at the beginning of last season and coping off-court with the death of his mother from cancer, Jae Crowder finally feels at home with the Jazz, writes Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune. “I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t difficult,” Crowder told The Tribune. “It was hard being thrown into the fire. But, from Day One, the locker room and my teammates [in Utah] were great. The coaching staff was great. … It helped build toughness.”

Timberwolves Owner Talks Towns, Wiggins, FAs

Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor confirmed last week that Jimmy Butler turned down the team’s contract extension offer, since he’ll have the ability to earn a much larger payday if he waits another year and signs as a free agent in 2019. In his conversation with Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN, Taylor also discussed several other topics, including a possible rookie scale extension for Karl-Anthony Towns.

According to Taylor, the Wolves have already put a maximum-salary offer on the table for Towns and there shouldn’t be much negotiating required. The club has until mid-October to finalize an extension with the former first overall pick, and Taylor sounds confident it’ll happen before then.

“I’m sure he’s going to sign it. It doesn’t really make that much difference to me when he does it,” Taylor said. “We haven’t put any deadline on it or anything like that. The offer’s out there. … I’m confident that we won’t have any problem with it.”

Here’s more from the Timberwolves’ owner:

  • According to Taylor, the Timberwolves aren’t interested in trading Andrew Wiggins at this point. The Wolves owner stressed that the franchise doesn’t want to “give up” on a player as young as Wiggins, who is still just 23. “A lot of players, it took them three or four years to get better and then they just keep getting better,” Taylor said. “I don’t see why Andrew won’t be one of those people, because he has such natural ability.”
  • The Timberwolves signed Anthony Tolliver because they didn’t want to wait on a decision from Nemanja Bjelica, who was seeking a two-year deal. Bjelica ultimately signed with Philadelphia for less than what Minnesota offered him, according to Taylor.
  • Asked about filling out the rest of the Timberwolves’ roster, Taylor acknowledged that minimum-salary signings are the most likely path for the club. “I got the list of who they’re talking to, and they’re not exactly [big-]name players,” Taylor said of the free agents his front office is targeting. “The names they have right now are a little younger, but they have some experience. [The front office] believes that they have the ability to improve.”
  • Taylor also noted that many of Minnesota’s free agent targets are strong defensively, adding that the team wants to improve its bench’s defensive numbers.
  • The Timberwolves owner downplayed the idea that there’s tension between Jimmy Butler and some of the Wolves’ other stars, suggesting that Butler “just wants to win” and wants to make sure that “people around him play really hard.”

Wolves, Karl-Anthony Towns Discussing Max Extension

The Timberwolves and star center Karl-Anthony Towns have engaged in discussions about a possible maximum-salary rookie scale extension, according to Michael Scotto and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Towns, the first overall pick in the 2015 draft, is extension-eligible for the first time this offseason. He and the Wolves have until the day before the 2018/19 regular season begins to work out a potential deal, though if the two sides are talking about a max contract, negotiations may not need to drag out that long.

[RELATED: Players Eligible For Rookie Scale Extensions In 2018]

Over the course of his first three NBA seasons, Towns has established himself as one of the NBA’s best frontcourt scorers. After averaging 25.1 PPG and 12.3 RPG in 2016/17, Towns’ scoring numbers dipped a little in 2017/18 to 21.3 PPG. However, he was more efficient than ever, setting new career bests in FG% (.545) and 3PT% (.421).

If the Wolves and Towns agree to terms on a max deal, it would be worth 25% of the cap in 2019/20, though the two sides could negotiate an agreement tentatively worth up to 30%. The big man would have to meet certain criteria – likely earning an All-NBA nod – in the 2018/19 season to qualify for that more lucrative extension.

Based on a $109MM projected cap for 2019/20, a max deal for Towns would start at $27.25MM and would be worth approximately $158MM over five years, just like the extension Devin Booker signed with the Suns a few days ago. For the Wolves, it could create some interesting cap decisions going forward.

Andrew Wiggins is already on a long-term, maximum-salary contract and Gorgui Dieng is owed $16MM+ in 2019/20 and $17MM+ in 2020/21. Minnesota would also have to consider a new deal for Jimmy Butler, assuming he wants to stick around when he becomes eligible for free agency next summer. And Jeff Teague has a $19MM player option for ’19/20.

If Teague opts in and both Butler and Towns get max contracts, the Wolves would be on the hook for $122MM+ for those five players next season. Given those increasing roster costs – and repeated whispers of possible tension between the Wolves’ stars – the club may eventually consider moving one or more of its highly-paid players.

If Towns doesn’t sign a rookie scale extension this summer, he’d be eligible for restricted free agency in 2019, at which point Minnesota would be able to match any offer he receives.

Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving Interested In Playing Together?

All-Stars and former USA Basketball teammates Jimmy Butler and Kyrie Irving are interested in figuring out a way to play together, a league source close to the situation tells Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times.

Both Butler and Irving were dealt to new teams in 2017 and thrived in those new homes during the 2017/18 season, so neither player is viewed as a trade candidate for the time being. However, both veterans hold player options for the 2019/20 season, meaning they could opt out and reach free agency at the same time a year from now.

Both Irving and Butler are eligible for contract extensions this summer, but are unlikely to sign them. A June report indicated that Irving won’t consider a new deal this offseason, since it wouldn’t make financial sense for the Celtics point guard to do so. Butler is in a similar boat for the Timberwolves, as he has the ability to make significantly more money if he waits for free agency.

Additionally, a league source tells Cowley that Butler has been “all but fed up with the nonchalant attitude of his younger teammates” in Minnesota. Cowley singles out Karl-Anthony Towns as a player who isn’t on the same page as the veteran forward, hinting that Butler’s end-of-season comments to the Sun-Times could have been aimed at KAT and other young teammates.

Butler said in late April that he doesn’t understand “how or why you all don’t love to get better the way that I do” and that he gets “lost in how everybody is not built the way that I’m built.”

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about unease in Minnesota related to the team’s three stars, Butler, Towns, and Andrew Wiggins. While there’s no indication that the Timberwolves need to take immediate steps to address any tension by moving one of those three players, the frequency of these reports is making it harder to envision them all staying with the franchise long term.

Wolves Notes: Thibodeau, Towns, Aldrich, Patton

Timberwolves head coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau and General Manager Scott Layden hosted a news conference this afternoon to discuss tomorrow’s draft, upcoming free agency, and reports of Karl-Anthony Towns wanting out of Minnesota, reports Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune.

Despite reports of Towns’ unhappiness, Thibodeau says the relationship between the franchise and its star player is all well, telling reporters that everybody is in a good place.

 “Yeah, yeah. He’s doing quite well. And I love KAT. He has had a terrific start to his career… To get to where we are — obviously we’re not ultimately where we want to be, but it was a major step forward — you can’t do it individually. It’s got to be the whole group doing it together. And for the most part, I think we are in a good place.”

Regarding the draft, the Wolves own the No. 20 and No. 48 picks and Thibodeau said anything remains possible as the team tries to address their needs.

“It’s one of the few times through the year you have a chance to improve the club, so all options are open right now. We know there’s a great challenge in front of us. The shooting and the toughness, the defense and building the depth.”

As for free agency, Layden said that the team would concentrate more on the free agent market once July 1 draws closer, but that he knows the type of player Thibodeau looks for.

“We know the type of player we need to be in coach’s system and to succeed here. I think we have a real good understanding of that now. So whether it’d be trade, whether it be through free agency or the draft, we have a clear understanding of what type of players will fit here.”

There’s more out of Minneapolis:

  • In the same story, Zgoda says he expects the team to buy out backup center Cole Aldrich before the new league year begins next weekend. Aldrich is owed nearly $7MM in 2018/19, but only about $2MM is guaranteed, so the Wolves can significantly reduce his cap hit by cutting him. Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News confirms that the salary guarantee deadline for Aldrich is June 30.
  • Another backup center, Justin Patton, whom the Wolves used their first round selection on last year at No. 16, is finally working out after surgery, but Thibodeau says he will miss all summer and likely most of the fall as well, tweets Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.
  • Krawczynski also tweeted that Layden believes the team is fortunate because their need for wings and shooting line up well with what prospects should still be available at No. 20 tomorrow night.
  • In a separate piece for the Star Tribune, Zgoda takes a look at the prospects the Wolves may be targeting with the No. 20 overall selection, including Grayson AllenDonte DiVincenzoKhyri Thomas, and Jacob Evans.