Minnesota Timberwolves

Western Notes: Jackson, Harden, Muhammad, Wolves, Clippers Arena

Rumors of the Suns trading promising rookie Josh Jackson for Kyrie Irving should be put to rest, writes Greg Moore of AZCentral.com. Moore writes that Jackson and Devin Booker each create a sense of “awe and wonder,” making anyone who watches them dream of the future.

The Arizona-based scribe argues that the manner in which coach Earl Watson talks about Jackson comes off much more as genuine optimism for the future than big talk to boost trade value.

“I love Josh Jackson,” Watson said Monday. “Something about him is just uncommon.” Devin Booker, meanwhile, “always had that edge.” “(Those) two together are going to be great young guys who can push other guys to become better because they’re so inner competitive,” Watson said.

Watson joked in response to being asked about a rumor that Jackson had grown two inches since being drafted:  But “if he did, we love it, and even if he didn’t … let’s build the legend. Yeah, he grew. Absolutely. He’s like 7 feet now … anyone coming up against him should be intimidated by his constant growth vertically, in height, and ability to play above the rim.”

In a recent interview, Jackson addressed the trade talk, saying, “I think if that was going to happen, it would have happened by now.” However, he also said: “I’m going to make the best of whatever situation that I’m presented with. If I’m traded to China, whatever, I’m going to come out, and I’m going to be happy and just try to make the best of it.”

Here are more notes from the Western Conference:

  • James Harden is more fit and fired up than ever, writes Sam Amick of USA Today.  “I know how exciting this season is (going to be, and) I know how important it is, so I’m going to take full advantage of it. I have a lot of charity (events), a lot of things going on, but when I’m in that gym that’s kind of my getaway. That’s kind of when I’m locked in,” Harden said. The Rockets‘ 2017 postseason ended with concerns over Harden’s fatigue and stamina.
  • Shabazz Muhammad may have to settle for a short-term “prove-it” deal for next season, writes Michael Rand of The Star Tribune. Heading into the offseason, coach Tom Thibodeau used the word “optimistic” when discussing re-signing Muhammad. However, in July, the wing’s rights were renounced. On Wednesday, Timberwolves signee Jamal Crawford tweeted Muhammad, “c’mon back home.”
  • The mayor of Inglewood and the four other council members unanimously approved a revised agreement with a Clippers-controlled company to shrink the four-block area where an arena could be built so homes and a church aren’t displaced, reports Nathan Fenno of The Los Angeles Times. More than a dozen citizens had raised concerns about the potential arena before the vote took place.

Northwest Notes: Westbrook, George, Hood, Murray

Russell Westbrook and Paul George will be teammates for the first time in the NBA this upcoming season after George was traded to the Thunder earlier this offseason. Just like any other superstar duo in NBA history, it will take time for both players to get acclimated to each other on and off the court. The duo got a head start after having their first workout together on Monday at a UCLA gym with four Oklahoma City teammates, ESPN’s Royce Young writes.

Young noted that Monday’s workout was the second organized by Westbrook this summer but George was unable to attend the first one due to a pre-planned vacation. Monday’s acclimation was the first of many steps for the reigning MVP and George to become comfortable; George addressed the importance of establishing a chemistry with his new teammates during his introductory press conference.

“Right now, it’s taking it as it comes,” George said (via ESPN). “We have a fresh start, and a chance to do something special is really the first thing that comes to mind. I’m not looking past 2017-18, we haven’t accomplished nothing yet. When it comes to that, when I get there, we’ll address that, but right now me and [Westbrook] have something to build now, and we’ll see where it takes us. It could be something that’s special that we build and want to continue on building.”

Read up on other news around the Northwest Division:

Wolves Interested In Shabazz Muhammad Reunion

The Wolves renounced the rights to Shabazz Muhammad earlier this summer, something that allowed the UCLA product to become an unrestricted free agent. He hasn’t yet found a home and with the market settling, Minnesota would like to bring him back, according to Darren Wolfson of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

The team only has the ability to offer him a minimum salary slot after making several additions this offseason. Minnesota exhausted its cap space by signing Taj Gibson and Jeff Teague and it used its mid-level exception to ink Jamal Crawford. Taking a minimum salary agreement would be disappointing for the young swingman, as he was certainly expecting better offers. He’s one of the best remaining wings remaining on the market, as I recently outlined.

Muhammad drew interest from several teams toward the beginning of free agency. The Hawks, Nets, Bucks, and Knicks all eyed the 24-year-old in July, though it’s unclear if any of those teams still have an interest in him now.

Contract Details For Marcus Georges-Hunt

  • Recently signed Timberwolves guard Marcus Georges-Hunt has the same contract as if he were claimed off of waivers, Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News tweets. Georges-Hunt was waived by the Magic on July 31. It’s a possibility that he sticks on the roster through to the regular season.

And-Ones: Offseason Winners, Losers

There were no shortage of teams that made big moves in an effort to improve this offseason but the squad that improved its standing the most is Tom Thibodeau‘s Timberwolves, an ESPN report says.

The worldwide leader in sports put the Wolves well ahead of the second-place Sixers who edged out the Nuggets. Also on ESPN’s list were the Bucks, Thunder and Lakers.

It’s hard to disagree with the fact that the Timberwolves took the top honors, the impact that Jimmy Butler will have is almost indisputable.

The Sixers and Nuggets, too, will welcome big names to their lineup, Philly’s of course coming via the past two drafts and Denver’s in the form of free agent Paul Millsap.

There’s more from around the NBA:

  • Turmoil in the locker room could cost the Cavaliers big time, an ESPN report states. The Cavs are considered the team most likely to be adversely affected by off-court moves and issues in 2017/18, ahead of the Knicks, Pelicans, Clippers, Bulls and Rockets.
  • A number of stars will suit up for new squads this season but the biggest addition of the offseason has been Houston’s landmark acquisition of Chris Paul. An ESPN report breaks down why the Rockets fared so well this offseason.
  • An ESPN report suggests that the Hornets‘ decision to acquire Dwight Howard may not bear fruit. Due to concerns about his fit in the modern era, he’s the most likely candidate to be the least effective individual to have changed addresses this summer.

Timberwolves Sign Marcus Georges-Hunt

AUGUST 11: Georges-Hunt’s deal with the Timberwolves has now been finalized, according to the NBA’s official transactions log.

AUGUST 8: A little over a week after being waived by the Magic, Marcus Georges-Hunt has found a new NBA home. According to Shams Charania of The Vertical (via Twitter), Georges-Hunt and the Timberwolves have agreed to a contract. Exact terms of the deal aren’t yet known, but it will be a minimum salary pact.

Georges-Hunt, 23, joined the Celtics for training camp a year ago after going undrafted out of Georgia Tech, but didn’t earn a regular season roster spot with Boston. The 6’5″ shooting guard spent most of the 2016/17 season with the Maine Red Claws, averaging 15.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG, and 4.4 APG, and being named to the All NBA D-League Third Team.

Georges-Hunt’s performance earned him another NBA shot — he signed a deal with the Magic in April and appeared in five games for the team down the stretch last season. That contract included a second year, but Georges-Hunt’s minimum salary for 2017/18 was non-guaranteed until the fall, so Orlando waived him last week.

The Timberwolves currently have 11 players on guaranteed NBA contracts. In addition to reaching a deal with Georges-Hunt, the club also recently agreed to terms with Melo Trimble, which will bring the roster count to 13, not counting Anthony Brown, who has a two-way contract. For now, it looks like both Georges-Hunt and Trimble should have a good shot to earn a spot on the regular season squad, but that may hinge on the other moves Minnesota makes to fill out its roster.

Timberwolves Continue To Eye Established Veterans

The Timberwolves still intend to add three more established veterans to their roster on minimum salary deals, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press (Twitter link). The report comes in the wake of the club’s agreement with Marcus Georges-Hunt, which Krawczynski classifies as a training camp deal.

As we noted when we discussed Georges-Hunt’s new contract agreement earlier today, the Wolves are only carrying 11 guaranteed contracts on their roster at the moment. Georges-Hunt and Melo Trimble have reached deals with Minnesota, but those contracts are expected to be partially guaranteed or non-guaranteed.

Teams can carry up to 20 players in the offseason and up to 15 in the regular season, so the Wolves appear to have four regular season roster spots available, though recent reports have indicated that the club only intends to add three more veterans. That could leave the 15th roster spot up for grabs if a player like Georges-Hunt or Trimble impresses the team in camp. For the most part though, Tom Thibodeau wants to continue filling out his roster with vets after last year’s young squad underperformed.

Reports last month suggested that the Timberwolves would like to add two more wings and a point guard to their roster. If that’s still the case, free agents like Ty Lawson, Aaron Brooks, Deron Williams, and Jason Terry could be in play for the guard spot. Notable wings still on the market include Tony Allen, Anthony Morrow, Mike Dunleavy, Alan Anderson, and former Wolves Brandon Rush, Gerald Green, and Shabazz Muhammad.

Of course, there’s also the possibility of a trade, especially since the Wolves have been frequently linked to Kyrie Irving. However, a deal for Irving appears to be a long shot, and there have been no other recent trade rumors involving Minnesota.

Wiggins Can Get Max If He’s Loyal To Wolves

Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor wants assurances from Andrew Wiggins that he’s committed to the franchise and determined to improve his game before giving the high-scoring forward a max extension, according to Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press.

Taylor wants to receive those pledges in a face-to-face meeting with Wiggins, who averaged 23.6 PPG last season.

Wiggins is still working on his rookie contract and the exact amount of an extension is tied to the 2018/19 salary cap. Based on projections, a five-year, max extension for Wiggins would net him slightly under $148MM, as Luke Adams of Hoops Rumors recently detailed.

Wiggins’ name has popped up in trade rumors regarding Cavaliers disgruntled point guard Kyrie Irving but Taylor insists he won’t give up Wiggins in the team’s efforts to land the All-Star floor leader. The addition of All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler in a blockbuster deal with the Bulls this summer has made the Timberwolves a popular pick as the most improved team next season.

Wiggins can certainly find areas for improvement beyond his scoring average. His 35.6% shooting from long range last season was the best of his 3-year career but far from elite. He could also become a better rebounder (4.0 RPG last season), free throw shooter (76%) and defender, both man-to-man and in takeaways (1.0 SPG).

If Wiggins is maxed out, the Timberwolves will have five players on the current roster making at least $14MM for the 2018/19 season.

Poll: Northwest Division Winner

The Jazz made the leap last season, winning 51 games while taking home the Northwest Division crown. After an offseason of change, a repeat is far from certain. Utah lost Gordon Hayward in free agency, something that should knock them down in the standings. Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com projects the Jazz to take home under 45 wins next season.

Pelton predicts that the Wolves will win the division after they brought in 3-time All-Star Jimmy Butler this offseason. Minnesota added several other pieces in free agency, including Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson. Pelton has the Thunder placing second in the division with his model predicting OKC takes home 49.5 wins.

The statistician has the Nuggets finishing third in the division with Utah and Portland behind them. The mathematical model gives Denver 47.2 wins which puts them third in the division and seventh in the conference. Adding a proven veteran like Paul Millsap will certainly increase a team’s chances of making the postseason, something that the franchise hasn’t done in each of the last four seasons. The addition of Millsap, along with the progression of the team’s young nucleus, should also give the team a chance to steal the division’s crown and land a top-4 seed in the Western Conference.

What do you think? Which team will win out in what should be a tight race for the Northwest Division crown? Weigh in below with your vote and jump into the comment section to share your thoughts.

Northwest Notes: KAT, Westbrook, Rubio, Jazz

The Timberwolves‘ moves this offseason have drastically improved the team and put the organization in a position to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2004. The acquisition of Jimmy Butler and the free agency signing of Jeff Teague fusing with the current core of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns poses a serious threat to the Western Conference.

Towns spoke to Sean Deveney of The Sporting News to clarify his recent comments in which he referred to the Timberwolves as a budding dynasty. The former Rookie of the Year cited the Warriors, Spurs, and Cavaliers as real dynasties but maintained confidence in winning with Minnesota’s upgraded roster.

“For me, what everyone needs to know is that we’ve made great moves,” Towns said. “We made great moves to make ourselves better. I have been very fortunate to be with such a great franchise and the organization is going to do so well from here on out. I think we are building a team that has a great sense of what it wants to be, and also adding players who ooze greatness and ooze winning, it’s just something that is contagious.”

The team’s quest for improvement has been noticed by other stars, most prominently disgruntled Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving, who reportedly listed Minnesota as one of his four preferred destinations if he was traded. Playing in the same conference with the defending champion Warriors and perennial powerhouse Spurs will be difficult but a young, athletic, and hungry Minnesota squad could see a drastic improvement in 2017/18.

Below are additional notes around the Northwest Division:

  • Reigning NBA MVP Russell Westbrook recently visited Oklahoma City but he is not in the Thunder‘s home city to sign an extension, Brett Dawson of the Oklahoman writes. Westbrook, a Los Angeles native, primarily spends his summers in California but is known to visit OKC periodically during the offseason, Dawson adds.
  • Newest Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio no longer has to worry about trade talk after the deal that brought him Minnesota to Utah. After years of rumors involving Rubio, the six-year NBA veteran tells Ryan McDonald of The Deseret News that he was happy to be dealt to “an organization that really believed in me.”
  • After the losses of Gordon Hayward and George Hill, the Jazz may have an issue with spacing and three-point shooting next season, Benjamin Nehic of The Desert News writes. Utah’s spacing with its current roster is projected to dip and with less effective outside shooters, the team may have to adopt a new primary scoring method.
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