- Michael Rand of the Star Tribune wonders if the impending sale of the Timberwolves to ex-MLB All-Star Alex Rodriguez and entrepreneur Marc Lore could put the pressure on GM Gersson Rosas to expedite a winning culture. Minnesota has made one playoff appearance since its Western Conference Finals berth in 2004.
It’s been nearly two months since we checked in on the status of 2021’s traded first-round picks, and there have been plenty of shifts in the NBA standings since then. Those changes have an impact on where in the draft certain traded picks will land, as well as whether or not some protected picks will change hands at all.
With just over a month left in the 2020/21 regular season, it’s worth revisiting the traded first-round picks for 2021. With the help of our reverse standings tool, here’s our latest look at which of those traded picks are most and least likely to change hands, and which ones are still up in the air:
Picks that will definitely change hands:
- Knicks acquiring Mavericks‘ pick (unprotected).
- Rockets acquiring Bucks‘ pick (top-nine protected swap).
The only unprotected traded pick for the 2021 draft, the Mavs’ selection currently projects to be the No. 21 overall pick. That would be a reasonably good outcome for the Knicks, but there’s even more upside here — since Dallas is currently the No. 7 seed in the West, a win in the play-in tournament may be necessary to secure a playoff spot.
The NBA has yet to clarify exactly how draft positioning will be affected by the play-in results, but presumably if the Mavs don’t clinch a postseason berth in the play-in, that pick would move into the lottery.
Meanwhile, the Rockets will acquire the Bucks’ pick, currently projected to land at No. 24 overall, in a swap for their own second-rounder (No. 32, for now).
Picks that definitely won’t change hands:
- Grizzlies acquiring Jazz‘s pick (1-7 and 15-30 protection).
- Pelicans acquiring Lakers‘ pick (8-30 protection).
- Rockets acquiring Pistons‘ pick (top-16 protected).
The Jazz are definitely making the postseason and the Pistons definitely aren’t, so their picks (currently projected to be No. 30 and No. 4, respectively) won’t change hands.
The Grizzlies should at least be able to count on getting Utah’s first-rounder in 2022, when it will become top-six protected. It may be a while before the Rockets get a pick from Detroit though — that first-rounder remains heavily protected in 2022 (top-16), 2023 (top-18), and 2024 (top-18) before those protections start to loosen a little.
As for the Lakers‘ pick, it isn’t technically a lock yet — there’s theoretically a scenario in which L.A. misses the playoffs and then moves into the top four in the lottery, sending its pick to the Pelicans. But that’s an extreme long shot. The Lakers’ pick is at No. 23 for now.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Knicks have the ability to swap their own 2021 first-rounder for the Clippers‘ pick. At the moment though, New York’s pick would be No. 15 and L.A.’s would be No. 26, so that won’t happen.
Still up in the air:
- Warriors acquiring Timberwolves‘ pick (top-three protected).
- Magic acquiring Bulls‘ pick (top-four protected).
- Thunder acquiring Warriors‘ pick (top-20 protected).
That Timberwolves pick will be a fascinating one to watch in the lottery. If Minnesota finishes with a bottom-three record, there will be a 40.1% chance it remains in the top three.
The Warriors will actually be rooting for the Wolves to finish with the NBA’s worst record, since in that scenario, there’s a 59.9% chance the pick lands at No. 4 or No. 5. If the Wolves instead have the third-worst record, the pick would be just as likely to land in the top three, but could slip as far as No. 6 or No. 7.
The Magic will have a good chance of landing the Bulls‘ pick, which currently projects to be the No. 10 overall selection. If Chicago remains in that spot, there would only be about a 14% chance of the pick moving up into the top four.
Golden State’s own pick, which currently projects to be No. 13, is unlikely to be sent to the Thunder unless the Warriors get hot late in the season. Assuming the Warriors’ first-rounder is protected, Oklahoma City would instead receive Minnesota’s second-round pick (currently No. 31).
Latest on the Rockets/Thunder/Heat/Blazers/Nets situation:
As a reminder, this series of trades and pick swaps is too convoluted to fit cleanly into any of the above sections. Here’s a breakdown of how it works:
- The Thunder will have the right to swap either their own first-round pick or the Heat’s first-round pick for the Rockets‘ first-round pick, but only if Houston’s pick doesn’t fall in the top four. In other words, if Houston gets a top-four pick, the Rockets will keep their own first-rounder; if not, the Thunder will get the two most favorable picks of their own, the Heat’s, and the Rockets’, and Houston will get the least favorable.
- Once the first step is complete, the Rockets will be left with at least one first-round pick, and almost certainly two, since they’re also owed the Trail Blazers‘ first-rounder (top-14 protected). They would then have the right to swap either of those picks for the Nets‘ first-rounder (unprotected).
As of today, the Rockets have the second-worst record in the league, giving them a 52.1% chance of having their pick land in its top-four protected range on lottery night. In that scenario, Houston would keep its first-rounder (tentatively No. 2) and would get the Trail Blazers’ pick at No. 22. The Thunder would keep their own pick (No. 6, pending lottery results) and receive the Heat’s first-rounder (No. 17), while the Nets would hang onto their own selection (No. 27).
On the other hand, if the Rockets’ pick falls outside of the top four, the Thunder would acquire it along with their own first-rounder, while Houston would get Miami’s pick at No. 17.
No matter how the rest of the season plays out, it’s safe to assume that lottery night on June 22 will have massive implications for the Timberwolves, Warriors, Rockets, and Thunder, and potentially for the Magic and Bulls as well.
While the Pistons, Cavaliers, and a handful of other lottery teams will also be invested in the results that night, the outcome won’t be quite as all-or-nothing for those clubs.
APRIL 13: Monday’s Timberwolves/Nets game has been rescheduled for Tuesday afternoon, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). It will be played at 3:00pm central time without any fans in attendance, sources tell Malika Andrews of ESPN (Twitter link).
APRIL 12: The NBA is postponing the Timberwolves/Nets game that had been scheduled to take place in Minnesota on Monday night, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter links). The NBA has formally confirmed the postponement.
Wojnarowski and Malika Andrews of ESPN first reported (via Twitter) that there were ongoing conversations about a postponement of Monday’s game due to unrest in Minneapolis in the wake of a police shooting. A 20-year-old Black man, Daunte Wright, was fatally shot during a traffic stop on Sunday.
The MLB contest between the Red Sox and Twins that was scheduled to be played on Monday afternoon in Minnesota was also postponed.
While it won’t take place tonight, there’s still a chance that the Wolves/Nets game could be played on Tuesday, sources tell Wojnarowski (Twitter link).
With just over a month left in the regular season, there won’t be a ton of opportunities to make up postponed games, and every win or loss is important for a Brooklyn team currently tied for first in the Eastern Conference. Minnesota’s final record will also be important for draft lottery reasons — the team is a half-game “ahead” of Houston for the top spot in the lottery standings.
Any agreement to sell the Timberwolves will include a provision that the team must be kept in Minnesota, owner Glen Taylor tells Chris Hine of The Star Tribune.
News broke Saturday night that Taylor was in the late stages of a deal to sell the team to former MLB star Alex Rodriguez and billionaire investor Marc Lore. The Minnesota Lynx of the WNBA would also be included, according to Hine.
“They will keep the team here, yes. We will put it in the agreement,” Taylor said. “At this point we have a letter of intent, but when we make up the contract we’ll put that in there. That’s no problem. That won’t be a problem.”
Hine checked with legal experts last summer who said it might be difficult to enforce contract provisions that the team can’t be moved. The franchise has a lease for use of the Target Center with the city of Minneapolis that runs through 2035 and includes a $50MM penalty for leaving early.
However, the potential new owners haven’t indicated that they plan to take the Wolves anywhere else. Taylor said they bonded quickly during a meeting this week at his home in Naples, Florida, and signed a letter of intent Saturday afternoon that gives Rodriguez and Lore exclusive negotiating rights for 30 days.
“Just in the last week or so did I make contact with these guys,” Taylor said. “They had indicated they had some interest in being involved in the ownership. I had not known them personally, so contacted them, talked to them on the phone, did all that, really liked how it went.”
Taylor said they agreed on “everything” once negotiations began, including his vision of mentoring a new ownership group for two seasons before the transfer becomes complete. Under the reported agreement, Rodriguez and Lore will become partial owners before taking over completely in 2023.
“When I met them and talked to them and just in the conversation what they were after — they’re bright people, very bright people, very competitive,” Taylor said. “I could see them challenging me which I liked to have. … They said, ‘We got to learn about basketball. We’d like you to stay around and help us run it for a while.’ Then we’ll switch over. Those meet all of my goals.”
Rodriguez and Lore will be in Minneapolis on Monday to meet with Timberwolves and Lynx employees, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News. Taylor told Wolfson he met with four other groups that were interested in buying the team, but Rodriguez and Lore made the best impression.
Taylor has put the team on the market before without finding a buyer, leading to questions about how serious he was in his desire to sell. A group led by Arron Afflalo was interested, and Kevin Garnett was reportedly preparing a bid for the team last summer. However, Taylor said he never heard from Garnett or any group that was affiliated with him.
Taylor has owned the team since 1994, when he bought it to prevent a move to New Orleans. As he nears his 80th birthday, he wants to be sure the franchise will be in good hands.
“It gives me peace of mind,” Taylor said. “At my age, going ahead, if something happens to me, I know what’s going to happen to the Timberwolves. It’s all kind of set. I don’t have to worry about that. I don’t have to have my family worry about it. In the next couple years, if everything goes as I hope, I still can participate. So it gives me the best of both worlds.”
Former baseball star Alex Rodriguez and billionaire Marc Lore are finalizing a deal to purchase the Timberwolves, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Under the agreement, current owner Glen Taylor will retain control of the franchise for two more seasons before it shifts to Rodriguez and Lore in 2023.
“We look forward to entering this phase of the process with Glen Taylor,” Rodriguez and Lore said in a prepared statement. “Our respect for him and the legacy he has built lays an amazing foundation for what is to come. We are excited by the prospect of getting to know the Timberwolves organization.” (Twitter link)
Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic first noted the interest from the potential buyers (Twitter link).
Rodriguez and Lore signed a letter of intent today that provides a 30-day exclusive negotiating window to finalize the purchase, Krawczynski writes in a full story.
Sources tell The Athletic that Rodriguez and Lore would become limited partners — each with an even stake — in the current ownership group for the next two and a half years before Taylor steps aside. Taylor, who will turn 80 later this month, has owned the team for 27 years and has been looking for someone to take it over.
According to Krawczynski, negotiations have already produced agreement on several key elements of the sale, include a $1.5 billion valuation for the franchise. Rodriguez and Lore met with Taylor this week at his Naples, Fla., home and made significant progress in negotiations.
If a purchase agreement is reached, the new owners would need approval from the NBA’s Board of Governors before a sale can be finalized.
Taylor, who purchased the team for $88MM in 1994, has placed it on the market several times, Krawcyznski adds, but hasn’t found an offer he was willing to accept. He was insistent on keeping it in Minnesota and wanted to find purchasers who would agree to become short-term partners so he could mentor them before they fully took over.
Since retiring from baseball in 2016, Rodriguez has become an entrepreneur and media star, Krawczynski notes. His investments include fitness gyms, coconut water, e-sports, Fanatics and a digital delivery service called goPuff. Lore began his fortune with Quidsi, which sold to Amazon for $545MM in 2021. and later founded Jet.com, which Walmart bought for $3.3 billion in 2016.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell made his long-awaited return to the floor in a 116-106 win against the Kings on Monday night after missing 26 games due to a left knee surgery. It marked just the sixth contest in which Russell appeared alongside his friend Karl-Anthony Towns for Minnesota.
Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic writes that Russell’s return has to encourage Timberwolves fans, as it perhaps can be seen as a preview of the interplay that could lift the club out of the depths next season.
“As long as we continue to work, work the way we want it, we can do something special,” Towns said of himself and his Timberwolves teammate. “We just got to work. Obviously, first, we got to be healthy enough to stay on the court with each other.”
- The Timberwolves have announced (via Twitter) that Minnesota’s players and staff have received their COVID-19 vaccines.
Beasley played 29 minutes against Memphis on Friday, then missed Minnesota’s game against Philadelphia on Saturday for what was initially described as a minor hamstring injury. The injury turned out to be much more severe after an MRI was conducted, according to a team press release. He’ll be re-evaluated in three weeks, the release adds.
Beasley is averaging 19.6 PPG, 4.4 RPG and 2.4 APG while making 39.9% of his 3-point attempts. He re-signed with Minnesota on a four-year, $60MM contract in November as a restricted free agent.
With Minnesota wrapping up its schedule on May 16, it sounds like Beasley’s season could be over.
Russell last played on February 8, when he lasted just six minutes against the Mavericks before leaving with what was described as left leg soreness. He also missed a game due to right quad soreness.
Russell is averaging 19.3 PPG and 5.1 APG this season. After being drafted by the Lakers with the No. 2 pick in 2015, Russell was shipped to the Nets in the summer of 2017. He became an All-Star for Brooklyn in 2019 but wound up with the Warriors on a four-year, $117MM maximum contract sign-and-trade that summer.
Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns have only played five games together since the trade. Russell’s return gives Minnesota a chance to evaluate how Russell, Towns, and top pick Anthony Edwards blend together.
Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns acknowledged that the time to chase stats is over, re-affirming that his only focus is helping Minnesota win in a turbulent season, Dane Moore of Blue Wire Podcasts tweets.
Towns recently put forth a 30-point, 16-rebound performance in a loss to the Grizzlies on Friday, following it up with a 39-point, 14-rebound outing in a loss to the Sixers on Saturday. The Timberwolves are just 12-38 and have dealt with significant injuries and COVID-19 issues throughout the season.
“I’ve had the time to mess up and I guess you could say ‘chase stats.’ That s–t is over,” Towns said. “I’ve proved myself in this league. I truly believe that. I don’t have to prove myself anymore. But now what I have to prove is: can I win? I think that’s the next step.
“I have to do whatever it takes. I look at the stat sheet, ‘Oh, it’s great, it’s wonderful, 30 and 16’. But we lost. I don’t give a s–t then. At the end of the day, the word on me is still gonna be the word. There’s only one way to change the narrative, and that’s to go beat the narrative.”
Here are some other notes from the Western Conference:
- Trail Blazers guard Norman Powell is adjusting quickly in Portland, Casey Holdahl of NBA.com writes. Powell was recently traded to Portland from Toronto and has proven to be effective in his limited time, scoring 15 points in the team’s win over the Thunder on Saturday. “I feel good, I feel like the transition has been really easy,” Powell said. “The coaches, the guys have made it real easy to fit in. I feel like the more time I spend with them, the more practices we get in, the more games, I’ll start to feel better with the chemistry, the flow of the game, the play-calling and rotations on defense. I’m liking it so far.”
- Warriors forward Eric Paschall will miss at least two weeks after undergoing an MRI on Saturday that revealed a left hip flexor strain, the team announced (Twitter link). Paschall, 24, is averaging 9.5 points, 3.2 rebounds and 17.3 minutes per game this season.
- The Thunder have released medical updates on Josh Hall and Isaiah Roby, announcing that both players sustained concussions in the team’s game against Portland. They’ll now join second-year player Luguentz Dort in the league’s concussion protocol.
- The Timberwolves haven’t set a timetable for D’Angelo Russell to return from knee surgery, but there are indications it might happen this week, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Russell underwent an arthroscopic procedure in mid-February and was projected to miss four to six weeks. Minnesota may need him to replace Malik Beasley, who strained a hamstring Friday night. “It’s more minor than it is significant,” coach Chris Finch said, “but these things are tricky with hamstrings.”