Timberwolves Rumors

Wolves Owner Says Ryan Saunders’ Job Is Safe

The Timberwolves aren’t considering a coaching change despite a frustrating start to the season, owner Glen Taylor tells Charley Walters of The St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Minnesota is last in the Western Conference with a 3-11 record, second only to the Pistons for the worst mark in the league. However, Taylor doesn’t want to assess head coach Ryan Saunders’ performance until the team has more time with Karl-Anthony Towns, who has missed 10 games because of a wrist injury and COVID-19. The Wolves are 1-9 without Towns.

“I haven’t even talked to (president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas) about that — he hasn’t brought it up,” Taylor said of a possible coaching change, “but you’re asking me, and it’s probably hard to tell a guy that you aren’t doing the job when your best guy isn’t playing.”

Taylor admits being disappointed with the way his team has played so far. Minnesota was expecting to be more competitive with Towns and D’Angelo Russell leading the franchise. The addition of top draft pick Anthony Edwards and an offseason deal for Ricky Rubio sparked hopes that the Wolves might be able to contend for at least a play-in spot.

“The team hasn’t done as well as I think anybody anticipated,” Taylor said. “We lost some games we thought we could win. Probably a couple of the young guys are doing better than we anticipated, and that’s good. But overall, you’ve got to win. Karl being out really hurts, because we just have no flow going yet.”

Taylor also commented on the lack of movement on a potential sale of the Wolves and the Lynx of the WNBA. He is reportedly seeking $1.5 billion for both teams.

“I haven’t found anything that for sure says I should move ahead,” Taylor said. “… The other question: Is now a good time to sell when you don’t have fans? And it’s not a good time.”

Rubio: Team Needs Long Talk

Ricky Rubio believes the Timberwolves are playing selfishly, which has led to 11 losses in their last 12 games, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. Rubio, who returned to action Friday after clearing COVID-19 protocols, says the team needs to air out its issues. “It would be good to have a long meeting, but I don’t think we can have more than a 10-minute meeting,” Rubio said. “But we need like a three-hour meeting. After talking, we got to execute the words that we have.”

Nearly Half Of NBA’s Teams Have Open Roster Spots

After the NBA’s transactions wire remained relatively quiet for the first few weeks of the 2020/21 season, teams have begun making moves with a little more frequency as of late.

While one recent transaction – the four-team trade that sent James Harden to Brooklyn – was clearly a higher-impact move than the rest, a number of clubs have made smaller changes to their rosters by waiving players this week. The Raptors and Wizards cut big men Alex Len and Anzejs Pasecniks from their 15-man rosters, while the Sixers opened up a two-way slot by releasing Dakota Mathias.

As a result, there are now 12 teams across the NBA that have at least one open 15-man roster spot. One of those teams – the Trail Blazers – also has an open two-way contract slot, as do two others, leaving just 16 clubs who are carrying the maximum of 17 players.

With so many clubs facing roster shortages recently and the NBA and NBPA discussing the possibility of adding a third two-way slot to rosters for the rest of the season, it’s a little surprising that more teams aren’t making use of all 17 available spots, but it will likely just be a matter of time before those many of those openings get filled.

Here’s the current breakdown of teams with open roster spots:


Teams with an open 15-man roster spot:

  • Brooklyn Nets
    • Note: The Nets have three open roster spots and will need to fill at least two of them within two weeks of completing the Harden trade.
  • Charlotte Hornets
  • Los Angeles Clippers *
  • Los Angeles Lakers *
  • Milwaukee Bucks *
  • Minnesota Timberwolves
  • New Orleans Pelicans
  • Portland Trail Blazers
  • San Antonio Spurs
  • Toronto Raptors
  • Utah Jazz
  • Washington Wizards

Note: An asterisk (*) denotes that the team can’t currently sign a 15th man due to the hard cap.

Teams with an open two-way slot:

  • Philadelphia 76ers
  • Phoenix Suns
  • Portland Trail Blazers

Saunders Deserves More Time

  • Ryan Saunders deserves more time to get the Timberwolves righted, Jim Souhan of The Minneapolis Star Tribune opines. The current roster doesn’t seem capable of competing without a healthy Karl-Anthony Towns and the young coach should be given a chance to show what he can do when Towns returns after testing positive for COVID-19. Towns had a wrist injury earlier in the season and has only appeared in four games.

And-Ones: Franchise Valuations, G League, Two-Way Deals

We’re likely still a few weeks away from Forbes’ publication of its annual NBA franchise valuations, which are typically revealed during the first half of February. However, new sports-business website Sportico has gotten the jump on Forbes in 2021, trying its hand at projecting the values of all 30 NBA teams.

According to Peter J. Schwartz of Sportico, the average NBA franchise is worth nearly $2.4 billion. That projection dipped slightly as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic, since teams around the league have missed out on anticipated revenues as a result of playing without fans. However, the fact that the NBA’s national revenues have remained relatively stable means Sportico’s projected valuations have only dipped about two percent.

In Sportico’s view, the Knicks ($5.42 billion), Warriors ($5.21 billion), and Lakers ($5.14 billion) are far and away the most valuable NBA franchises, followed by the Nets ($3.4 billion) at No. 4. The Pelicans ($1.35 billion), Grizzlies ($1.36 billion), and Timberwolves ($1.43 billion) are at the other end of the spectrum.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • The NBA G League announced in December of 2019 that it would be expanding to Mexico City for 2020/21, but given the circumstances surrounding this season, the Capitanes franchise won’t be debuting now after all. While the league has been quiet about its plans for that Mexico-based franchise, the club is now expected to begin playing in the NBAGL in 2021/22, says Marc Stein of The New York Times.
  • Although most coaches and general managers around the NBA support the idea of giving teams a third two-way contract slot – an idea being discussed by the league and the players’ union – some would have liked to see a different tweak made to the two-way rules, writes Jared Weiss of The Athletic. “We are in support of (the proposal),” a Western Conference GM said. “But (we) might prefer to have current two-ways with unlimited game-day restrictions.” Players on two-way contracts are limited to being active for 50 of 72 games this season.
  • In an interesting article for HoopsHype, Michael Scotto explores the “art of the smokescreen,” speaking to agents and team executives about why they might be motivated to leak information to reporters.

Karl-Anthony Towns Reveals He’s Tested Positive

Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns has tested positive for COVID-19, he revealed on his Twitter account.

His announcement came shortly after the league postponed the GrizzliesTimberwolves game on Friday due to coronavirus issues within Minnesota’s team.

Towns, whose family has been devastated by the virus, said he will “immediately isolate and follow every protocol.”

“I pray every day that this nightmare of a virus will subside and I beg everyone to take it seriously by taking all of the necessary precautions,” Towns said.

Towns lost his mother and several other relatives to the virus. In his statement, he expressed concern for the health of his father and sister.

President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas says it is “heartbreaking” that Towns tested positive, especially with what the Towns family has been through with COVID-19, ESPN’s Malika Andrews tweets.

“It’s a lesson for all of us. Basketball is a microcosm of society right now…this virus is powerful,” Rosas said.

Rosas confirmed two players have tested positive and another is out due to contact tracing, Andrews adds in another tweet.

The Timberwolves previously announced that power forward Juan Hernangomez would isolate for at least 10 days due to health and safety protocols and that point guard Ricky Rubio would miss Friday’s game due to those regulations.

Timberwolves-Grizzlies Game Postponed

The TimberwolvesGrizzlies game, scheduled for Friday evening, has been postponed in accordance with health and safety protocols, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania (Twitter link).

Minnesota is the latest team with COVID-19 issues. The Timberwolves do not have the required eight players available to play the game due to ongoing contact tracing, according to a team press release.

The Timberwolves previously announced that power forward Juan Hernangomez would isolate for at least 10 days due to health and safety protocols and that point guard Ricky Rubio would miss Friday’s game due to those regulations. The postponement suggests that Minnesota’s COVID-19 issues may have worsened.

This mark the 13th postponement in the league this season. The Wizards, Suns, Heat, Celtics, Mavericks and Rockets have been in the same predicament, forcing at least one postponement for those teams.

All of the previous postponements can be found here.

Did Wolves Err In Reacquiring Rubio?

  • Britt Robson of The Athletic feels the Timberwolves made a mistake by bringing Ricky Rubio back to Minnesota during the offseason, since Rubio’s style doesn’t mesh particularly well with D’Angelo Russell‘s. Minnesota has a -22.3 net rating so far this season when the two point guards share the court.

Wolves Expected To Re-Engage With Rockets On P.J. Tucker

Now that the Rockets have moved James Harden, there’s an expectation that the team will be more open to trading P.J. Tucker as well. A report earlier this week indicated that multiple teams are asking about Tucker, and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic says the Timberwolves are among the clubs expected to be in the hunt for the veteran forward.

The Wolves, who reportedly inquired on Tucker during the offseason, have been monitoring his situation in Houston since before the draft and have maintained contact with the Rockets since then, according to Krawczynski.

Minnesota’s president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas worked in Houston’s front office before joining the Wolves in 2019, though it remains to be seen whether his friendly relationship with the Rockets’ top decision-makers will help grease the wheels for a potential deal. As Krawczynski points out, Tucker’s versatility and his $8MM expiring contract will make him a logical trade target for several contenders.

Still, the Wolves look like an especially good fit for Tucker, given their lack of reliable options at the power forward spot. Rosas himself has acknowledged that the team could use an upgrade at the four, as Krawczynski relayed earlier in the week.

“The power forward position is probably one of the areas where we have the most questions right now,” Rosas said. “Part of it is there’s some young guys there and we’re trying to get to a good fit. But I wouldn’t be doing my job if we’re not trying to improve and get better and address our needs.”

Having opted for a Harden package loaded with draft picks and swaps, the Rockets would likely prioritize draft assets again in talks for Tucker and would presumably attempt to land a first-round pick. That may reduce the Wolves’ chances, according to Krawczynski, who points out that Minnesota has already traded away a top-three protected 2021 first-rounder and isn’t in a great position to be selling off more picks for a 35-year-old on an expiring deal.

Even if the Rockets do intend to move Tucker, there’s no rush to do so right away, as the trade deadline isn’t until March 25. While we wait to see which other teams might be in the mix for the former Texas Longhorn, it’s worth noting that the Nuggets weren’t among the teams to inquire as of Wednesday night, per Mike Singer of The Denver Post (Twitter link).

Hernangomez, Rubio Entering COVID-19 Protocols

Timberwolves power forward Juan Hernangomez will isolate for at least 10 days due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, according to Jon Krawcyznski of The Athletic (via Twitter).

Like Hernangomez, Minnesota point guard Ricky Rubio will also miss the Timberwolves’ Friday bout against the Grizzlies as a result of the league’s COVID-19 protocols, the team tweets, though a timeline for Rubio’s absence has not established publicly.

Rubio could have recorded a positive or inconclusive test, or could be quarantining himself as a result of contact-tracing measures. Depending on what happened, the timeline for Rubio’s return could be briefer than Hernangomez’s absence.

In 11 games for Minnesota (including 6 starts), Hernangomez is averaging 6.6 PPG and 5.3 RPG across 20.4 MPG. He is struggling to shoot from the floor thus far this year, connecting on just 39.7% of his field goals. For his second stint with the NBA club that drafted him, Rubio is averaging a career-low 6.3 PPG and 5.4 APG in a reduced role over the team’s first 11 contests.