Timberwolves Rumors

Wolves Following Nuggets' Blueprint?

  • Likening Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell to Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer suggests the Timberwolves are in position to follow the roster-building blueprint established by the Nuggets. However, Tjarks acknowledges that the Wolves need to start adding more two-way players and would benefit tremendously from finding their own version of Paul Millsap.
  • The Timberwolvesdilemma with the No. 1 pick is exacerbated by the fact that most of this year’s top prospects aren’t elite shooters or defenders, which are the two kinds of players Minnesota would most like to add. Passing along comments from president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas, Chris Hine of The Star Tribune examines how the Wolves will assess which prospects are capable of improving their outside shooting.

Wolves’ Rosas Acknowledges No Obvious Choice At No. 1

As we’ve heard for months, the general perception of the 2020 draft class is that it’s relatively deep, but lacks a clear-cut star prospect at the top. Speaking today to reporters, including Eric Woodyard of ESPN, Timberwolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas, who controls the No. 1 pick, admitted that analysis is “fair.”

“There’s no guy that has separated himself from the pack from public or external view,” Rosas said. “But I’m very confident that as we go through this process, the talent will rise to the top and we’ll be confident about identifying one guy as the best guy, the best talented player with the most upside and most ability for our organization.”

As Woodyard writes, Rosas said today that he and the Timberwolves feel good about the talent at the top of this draft class. However, it’s worth noting that many executives around the NBA believe Minnesota would prefer to trade down or out of that No. 1 overall pick rather than keep it. It remains to be seen whether the Wolves will get an offer that they feel represents fair value for this year’s top pick, but Rosas acknowledged that the club is exploring all its options.

“For us, we typically study the draft from No. 1 to whatever number we feel like is a draftable player,” Rosas said. “And we’ll evaluate those guys for trade scenarios, trade back, trade out, for undrafted free-agent opportunities, for minor league opportunities, so we really beat up the draft board as much as can all the way up until the draft.”

Assuming the Wolves do hang onto the top pick, guards LaMelo Ball and Anthony Edwards are viewed as their most likely selections, despite the fact that neither player projects to improve the club’s already-shaky defense.

Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report wrote today that most executives and scouts believe Ball would have the edge over Edwards if Minnesota remains at No. 1. Wasserman added that the Wolves are also high on Obi Toppin, though it’s not clear if the team would take the Dayton forward first overall or if he’d only be an option in a trade-down scenario.

Lakers Had Largest Financial Loss From Hiatus

All 30 NBA teams suffered financially from the shutdown, but the Lakers were impacted more than anyone, writes Bill Shea of The Athletic. Figures released by Team Marketing Report, a Chicago-based sports business intelligence firm, show the league lost $694MM from the cancellation of 258 regular-season games.

The Lakers missed out on revenue from 10 home games, tied for the most in the league, which cost the franchise an estimated $52.7MM. Rounding out the top five were the Knicks at $45MM, the Warriors at $42.5MM, the Rockets at $35MM and the Celtics at $31.5MM. Teams losing the least tended to be in smaller markets, led by the Grizzlies at $10.4MM, the Hornets and Timberwolves at $11.7MM each and the Cavaliers and Suns at $11.8MM each.

TMR arrived at the figures by using a weighted formula that considers Fan Cost Index, premium vs. regular ticket prices and attendance. The Fan Cost Index estimates how much it costs a family of four to attend a game. The NBA average for this season is $430, up about $9 from a year ago. Golden State created the most income from fans this year at $6MM per game, with the Lakers just behind at $5.6MM and the Knicks at $5.2MM. The Hornets were last, generating just $1.1MM per home game.

Although the NBA brings in $2.6 billion annually through its national television deals and billions more in corporate advertising, the league still depends heavily on fans coming to games. Commissioner Adam Silver has estimated that attendance is responsible for about 40% of revenue, which is why TMR owner and publisher Chris Hartweg believes teams will aggressively offer promotions to bring the public back when it becomes safe to fill arenas again.

“Something that jumps out as we’ve gone through these gross game day fan revenue exercises is that fan attendance is still critical to teams, even with billion-dollar media deals to cushion the blow,” Hartweg said. “If you take the NBA numbers and project across a full 41-home game season, the average NBA team hit becomes more than $110 million each. Leaguewide, we’re talking $3.3 billion. Our MLB projection was $173 million per team or $5.5 billion total for their 81 lost games.

“Those dollars are a huge incentive for teams and venues to make their facilities as safe as possible for fans to return as soon as possible. And in fans’ favor, we anticipate teams creating very fan-centric deals and offerings to welcome fans back.”

Draft Notes: Pro Days, No. 1 Pick, Williams, Quickley

The NBA’s new pre-draft rules aren’t popular with several teams, according to Jonathan Givony of ESPN, who states that at least half the league is considering not having executives attend workouts and may have just a “minimal presence” at pro days.

Givony says many front offices don’t believe it’s worth making a trip to watch a prospect work out by himself, and some of the teams are located in states that require a mandatory two-week quarantine for travelers. There’s also concern that an executive might contract COVID-19 and not be available on draft night. Also, some teams are reluctant to give away any secrets by providing the league with a list of the 10 players they would most like to scout.

The league office has received requests to alter its new rules, Givony adds, but complications will remain even if that happens. He notes that agents will have difficulty scheduling more than three or four teams each day for a workout, an in-person interview and then a 30-minute medical exam. Teams with high lottery picks are expected to be most active in trying to attend those sessions.

There’s more draft news to pass along:

  • Givony talked to several teams that confirm Minnesota has been involved in trade talks regarding the No. 1 pick. Agents who represent players that are expected to be taken early say Timberwolves general manager Gersson Rosas has been “noncommittal” about what he plans to do and seems open to moving down. Givony adds that LaMelo Ball and Anthony Edwards are still the most likely candidates for the top pick, but the team’s uncertain ownership status may play a role in its draft plans.
  • In the same story, ESPN’s Mike Schmitz identifies Patrick Williams of Florida State as the player making the biggest jump on draft boards. The 19-year-old handles the ball well for his 6’8″ size and could wind up being selected in the top 10. Schmitz also sees potential in Washington’s Jaden McDaniels, while Givony names Kansas center Udoka Azubuike as a possible sleeper.
  • Kentucky guard Immanuel Quickley has met twice with the Knicks, Pistons and Thunder and has held one meeting with several other teams, including the Nets and Celtics, tweets Adam Zagoria of Forbes.

Timberwolves Notes: Saunders, Draft, Martin, Garnett

It has been nearly two months since the Timberwolves won the draft lottery, but no clear favorite has emerged for the No. 1 pick, coach Ryan Saunders tells Sid Hartman of The Star Tribune. The most commonly mentioned names are Georgia guard Anthony Edwards, Memphis center James Wiseman, Dayton power forward Obi Toppin and point guard LaMelo Ball, who most recently played in Australia.

“A lot of players are interesting to me, a lot of them,” Saunders said. “Like I said, we’re open. This draft has a number of very talented players and we’re a group that is very open-minded.”

Minnesota holds not only the top pick, but also Nos. 17 and 33. There’s a lot of evaluation to be done before the November 18 draft, but Saunders said it has been slowed by coronavirus-related restrictions that placed a ban on in-person workouts.

“Can’t do any of that. It has been a lot of Zoom meetings and interviews and then just evaluating,” Saunders said. “We do a lot of work, and we have a number of people in this organization, (assistant general manager) Gianluca Pascucci, he does a lot of work with our draft. These guys are putting together a great plan and a great step-by-step process to what we’ll do.”

There’s more from Minnesota:

  • As one of eight teams not invited to Orlando, the Wolves didn’t get the benefit of seeing how their roster would come together after a pair of significant trades at the February deadline, Hartman adds in the same story. Saunders said an offseason priority will be finding players who fit comfortably with D’Angelo Russell, who played just 12 games for Minnesota after being acquired from Golden State, and Karl-Anthony Towns“That was one of the things that was so disappointing about not playing late in the season because we felt we were going to be able to do more things with some of the other guys that we acquired around (Towns),” Saunders said.
  • After landing a two-way contract with the Wolves last season, Kelan Martin is working to expand his game, writes Ben Stinar of Forbes. Martin was a star at Butler, but had to play overseas and go through the G League to get an NBA opportunity.
  • Kevin Garnett was in Minneapolis this week, but refused to comment on a potential sale of the Timberwolves, according to Chris Hine of The Star-Tribune. In July, Garnett expressed an interest in purchasing the team as part of a group of investors.

Joseph Blair, Sergi Olivia Leave Sixers

Sixers assistant coach Joseph Blair has departed Philadelphia in favor of a position on Ryan Saunders‘ staff with the Timberwolves, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link).

Blair was previously an assistant coach with the Rockets’ G League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, from 2015-18 before being promoted to head coach for the 2018/19 season. Blair guided that squad to a G League title. He served on Brett Brown‘s staff with the Sixers for Brown’s final season in 2019/20.

Pompey also reports that Sergi Olivia, the vice president of strategy for the Sixers, is leaving Philadelphia’s front office to join Quin Snyder as an assistant coach on the Jazz bench. Olivia has worked for Philadelphia’s front office in some capacity since 2014. Pompey indicated that Olivia played a key role in the club’s analytics-predicated decision making.

Blair and Olivia are not the first Sixers personnel to move on from Philadelphia this season. Assistant coach Kevin Young also recently departed the Sixers for an opportunity with Monty Williams and the Suns.

The Sixers recently signed head coach Doc Rivers to a five-year contract in the hopes that he could guide All-Stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid to a title. Rivers is in the process of fleshing out his own staff. Early today, it was announced that former Kings and Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger would be joining the 76ers as an assistant.

Northwest Notes: Thunder, Jazz, Nuggets, Wolves

The Thunder are one of the few teams still searching for a new head coach. Last month, Billy Donovan and Oklahoma City surprisingly parted ways after he reportedly rejected a two-year contract offer from the Thunder.

With Donovan having moved onto Chicago, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman explores the idea of Lakers assistant coach Phil Handy as a potential head-coaching candidate for the Thunder. Mussatto notes that the 49-year-old Handy has a championship pedigree, having gone to the NBA Finals six times. He also looked at Handy’s journey, which includes playing professional basketball and getting his start as a player development coach in 2011.

Along with Handy, Mussatto profiled Spurs assistant Will Hardy as a head coaching option for the Thunder.

Here’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune takes a look at who the Jazz might select with the 23rd overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. As Walden writes, Utah vice president Dennis Lindsey said last month that the team will be looking for a player who brings defensive intensity. Isaiah Stewart, Jaden McDaniels, Josh Green, and Tyrell Terry are just some of the prospects who may be options for the Jazz at No. 23.
  • In her latest mailbag, Kendra Andrews of The Athletic discusses what the Nuggets might do in free agency. Andrews was asked frequently about Jerami Grant, who played a pivotal role in Denver’s playoff run, an said that re-signing Grant is a top priority for the Nuggets. He could command a deal in the four-year, $64M range.
  • Chris Kine of The Star Tribune examines the next steps for the Timberwolves with the offseason finally here. As things stand, Minnesota has the first overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, which could both the team a good player and fill a need. However, president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas suggested it’s not realistic to address a need in the draft. “Needs have to be addressed in free agency and trades,” Rosas said. “With draft guys it’s a development process. You want it to be right away, but the reality is it’s a two, three, four-year process.” Rosas reiterated that Minnesota is establishing its culture. Meanwhile, Kine argues that the Timberwolves do not have time on their side with both Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell looking to win.

Community Shootaround: Western Conference Odds For 2020/21

After winning the NBA Finals in 2020, the Lakers are currently listed by sportsbooks as the odds-on frontrunners to do so again in 2021.

Over at BetOnline.ag, oddsmakers have listed the Lakers as +275 favorites to come out of the Western Conference in 2020/21. That means if you place a $100 bet on the Lakers and they win the West next season, you’ll win $275.

While the Lakers are the current favorites, BetOnline.ag places two other Western Conference teams in roughly the same tier. The Clippers (+375) have the second-best odds to win the conference, while the Warriors (+400) have the third-best odds.

Golden State’s placement is an interesting one. We can safely assume that the Warriors will be much improved in 2020/21 with a healthy Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson back in their lineup, and they have the resources necessary to make further roster upgrades. Still, the club is coming off a dismal 15-50 season that saw them finish in last place in the NBA. Winning the West in 2021 would represent a historic turnaround.

The rest of the odds to win the West next year are as follows, per BetOnline.ag:

  • Nuggets: +1200
  • Rockets: +1200
  • Mavericks: +1400
  • Trail Blazers: +1800
  • Jazz: +2500
  • Pelicans: +2500
  • Suns: +3300
  • Thunder: +4000
  • Grizzlies: +5000
  • Kings: +12500
  • Spurs: +12500
  • Timberwolves: +12500

As we acknowledged on Tuesday when we asked you for your thoughts on the Eastern Conference odds for 2020/21, it’s way too early to confidently predict next year’s conference champions. Rosters will undergo significant changes in the coming months in the draft and free agency, and on the trade market.

Still, the anticipated offseason directions for certain teams is baked into BetOnline’s odds. The Thunder would certainly be higher on the above list if the possibility of a rebuild wasn’t hanging over the franchise.

So, with the caveat that plenty could change in the coming months to alter the outlook of the West for the 2020/21 season, we want to get your thoughts on the early projections from oddsmakers.

Should the Lakers be considered the favorites to come out of the West again in 2021? Are the Warriors or another team being overvalued? Are there other clubs being undervalued? Which team do you like to come out of the West next season? And which club do you view as the best value pick based on the odds listed above?

Head to the comment section below to weigh in with your early forecast for the Western Conference in 2020/21!

Execs Believe Wolves Prefer To Trade No. 1 Pick

Executives around the NBA believe the Timberwolves would prefer to trade the No. 1 pick, moving down from – or entirely out of – that spot in order to bring in a win-now player, says Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer in his latest mock draft.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard that Minnesota is open to trading the top pick. In fact, trade rumors have swirled around the No. 1 selection since the team won the draft lottery in August. However, O’Connor’s assertion that the Timberwolves would be targeting a “win-now” player to complement Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell provides a hint of what sort of deal they’ll be seeking if and when they shop that first overall pick.

The Wolves don’t project to have cap room this offseason and don’t have any useful trade exceptions available, so they won’t be able to trade the pick straight up for a veteran player (or for a veteran and another pick). However, James Johnson‘s expiring $16MM contract could be used as a trade chip to match salaries if necessary.

With no clear-cut top prospect in this year’s draft class, the Timberwolves won’t have an easy decision if they keep the No. 1 pick. As Sam Vecenie of The Athletic observed earlier this week, LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, and James Wiseman are widely viewed as this year’s highest-upside prospects and are the top contenders for the No. 1 pick, but none of them are ideal fits for Minnesota’s roster.

The Wolves could badly use a strong two-way player who would help make up for Russell’s and Towns’ defensive shortcomings. Ball and Edwards aren’t strong defenders, so they don’t really fit that bill. Wiseman has more upside on that side of the ball, but might have a hard time playing alongside Towns, as Vecenie writes.

Since the league as a whole isn’t overly enthusiastic about this year’s top prospects, it will be a challenge for Minnesota to find a favorable trade involving the No. 1 pick, per Vecenie. Still, The Athletic’s draft guru feels as if a deal might be in the Wolves’ best interests even if the return is “a bit more muted” than it would’ve been for the first overall pick in another draft.

President of basketball operations Gersson Rosas has turned over nearly the entire Timberwolves roster since assuming control of the front office in 2019, so he won’t be hesitant to make a splash if he gets an offer he likes. The NBA’s transaction moratorium remains in place for the time being, but with five more weeks until draft day, Rosas has plenty of time to see what’s out there.

Draft Notes: Wolves, Wiseman, Warriors, Bane

Although there may not be a future superstar in the 2020 draft class, it’s viewed as a relatively deep group, with potential role players available in round two, writes Sam Vecenie of The Athletic. However, due to the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Vecenie’s sources expect teams to try to get more second-rounders to sign two-way contracts or to play for a year or two overseas.

As Vecenie notes, this could create an interesting dilemma for teams and players in the second round. Last year, prospects like Terence Davis and Luguentz Dort likely would’ve been drafted if they’d been willing to sign two-way deals, but opted to bet on themselves and ended up in good situations (and with more favorable contracts) as undrafted free agents. Vecenie wonders if more prospects will look to follow a similar path and play hardball with teams in 2020.

Here’s more on the draft:

  • Within his latest mock draft, Vecenie says that the Timberwolves are doing due diligence on all of the top prospects in the draft, including players like James Wiseman who wouldn’t necessarily be great fits.
  • Speaking of Wiseman, Vecenie writes that there’s been some “real enthusiasm” among evaluators about the big man’s play in workouts and in runs with other draft prospects. A number of executives view Wiseman as one of the safest picks in the draft, since his size, length, and athleticism should translate to the NBA, Vecenie adds.
  • Addressing the constant rumors coming out of Golden State about the Warriors‘ alleged draft preferences, Vecenie says he thinks the club is trying to mask its true intentions for that No. 2 overall pick in order to retain as much trade value if possible. If rival teams don’t know which player the Warriors actually want at No. 2, it could give Golden State more leverage to make a deal.
  • Sources around the NBA have told Vecenie they’d be surprised if TCU’s Desmond Bane falls out of the first round, since so many teams drafting in the 20s could use a sharpshooting wing. Bane is currently the No. 41 prospect on ESPN’s big board.
  • According to Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Twitter link), teams picking near the top of the draft were pushing hardest for in-person visits for prospects, and not everyone is thrilled about the concessions made by the NBA. Some executives have concerns about safety and last-minute scheduling, says Givony.