Jaden McDaniels

Wolves Notes: Connelly, Anderson, Edwards, McDaniels

Timberwolves president of basketball operations Tim Connelly reportedly has an opt-out in his contract. Amid an ownership dispute, there has been speculation that the veteran executive may exercise that opt-out clause.

However, he told reporters on Friday that he’s “super excited’ about the team’s future and doesn’t plan to leave Minnesota, writes Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune (subscription required).

I mean, moving [from Denver] wasn’t fun,” Connelly said. “I’ve had a blast here. Feels like we have roots here. It’s pretty special. That’s the goal. It has been a great couple years, and hopefully, we can make it a much longer couple years.”

Connelly said he’d be comfortable no matter which group ultimately gains majority control of the franchise, Zgoda adds. Longtime owner Glen Taylor, who also owns the Star Tribune, is on one side of the dispute, with minority stakeholders Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez on the other. The matter is heading to a three-person arbitration panel.

Ownership is obviously in a unique place right now,” Connelly said. “Whatever happens is kind of a level up. I trust whatever happens will be the right path. We’ve all shared great moments throughout this whole season. There are conversations that we’ve had, and they’ll be ongoing. Now that we’re officially in the offseason, we’ll get a better sense of what we might do.”

The Timberwolves were eliminated from the Western Conference finals after being blown out by Dallas in Game 5 in Minnesota. It was just the second time the Wolves have advanced that far in the postseason, and Connelly believes they’re capable of advancing further in the future, according to Zgoda.

When you’re a home-court team and a final four team, all those teams can win a championship,” Connelly said. “So I don’t know if there is any linear path to that next step. I don’t think there is one singular answer. A lot of it is match-ups and health.”

Connelly praised Karl-Anthony Towns, who had an otherwise solid playoff showing but largely struggled against the Mavs. Minnesota’s top basketball executive also discussed the team’s future payroll, suggesting the Wolves would be willing to be a taxpayer, but not on a repeated basis due to the restrictions of the new CBA.

It’s a big task for ownership,” Connelly said. “It’s a lot, a lot of money. Relative to the impact on our flexibility, I think the jury is still out. It’s not a place you want to be long-term. It gets more and more harsh each year. Dipping your toe in it, it could have relatively limited impact on what we can and cannot do. But we’re learning it like the other 29 teams.”

Here’s more on the Wolves:

  • Veteran forward Kyle Anderson, who has been rotation regular for Minnesota the past two seasons, will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Retaining him will be a real challenge, considering how much money the Wolves have tied up in their other players. While Anderson said he enjoyed his time with the team and wants to return, he acknowledged he might be headed elsewhere this offseason, tweets Dane Moore. “I don’t know where I’ll be… but obviously (I) want to be back here,” Anderson said.
  • Star guard Anthony Edwards, who will be playing for Team USA at the Olympics in Paris this summer, said he plans to do some extra training this offseason to prepare for 2024/25, as Chris Hine of The Star Tribune writes (subscriber link). “I’ve never played this deep into a basketball season,” Edwards said. “So now I know, like, OK, in order for me to be dominant in the third round, and if we get past this and finally go to the finals, I’ve got to train like I’m going to go to the playoffs. So I can’t be missing training days, I can’t take days off, you know what I mean? I’ve got to be ready. So I know what it takes, and I’ll be ready.”
  • Consistently unlocking Jaden McDaniels offensively is an offseason goal for Minnesota, says Patrick Reusse of The Star Tribune (subscriber link). McDaniels’ lucrative rookie scale extension begins next season. He earned a spot on the All-Defensive Second Team this season, but often wasn’t involved enough on offense, Reusse observes.
  • Mark Deeks of HoopsHype provides his offseason preview for the Wolves. In addition to Anderson, veteran point guards Monte Morris and Jordan McLaughlin will also be unrestricted free agents, and so will forward T.J. Warren. Big man Luka Garza will be the club’s lone standard RFA.

Mavericks Notes: Doncic, Irving, Lively, Hardy

After shooting a combined 13-of-39 (33.3%) from the floor on Tuesday, Mavericks stars Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving both accepted the blame for the Game 4 loss, as Tim MacMahon of ESPN writes. While Doncic cited his lack of energy and Irving mentioned his early-game sloppiness, their teammates weren’t willing to let the backcourt duo shoulder the full responsibility for the defeat.

“It’s not on them, it’s on us as a team,” Derrick Jones Jr. said. “We are a unit. We go out there, and we play together, we win together, we lose together. It’s not on one person. I know that they’re the leaders of the team, that head of the snake, but we got their back through thick and through thin.”

The Timberwolves adjusted their defensive assignments on Tuesday, with Anthony Edwards serving as the primary defender on Doncic. Jaden McDaniels guarded Irving, who admitted after the game that the All-Defensive wing represented a new challenge.

“He has a huge impact,” Irving said of McDaniels. “I mean, he is a 6-9 wing defender that I’m seeing now for the first time from the start of the game. So it’s going to be an adjustment, but I love it. I relish in these type opportunities.”

Here’s more out of Dallas:

  • Referring to Dereck Lively as the Mavericks’ third-most important player, Tim Cato of The Athletic says the rookie center’s absence was noticeable in the Game 4 loss. Lively told Marc J. Spears of Andscape (Twitter link) that his neck sprain is a “day to day thing” and that he’s trying not to rush his recovery and return. On FanDuel’s Run it Back show (Twitter video link), Shams Charania of The Athletic said it’s promising that Lively didn’t have to enter the concussion protocol, adding that there’s a chance the big man could be back for Game 5, though that’s far from a certainty.
  • Lively isn’t the only Mavericks youngster giving the team important playoff minutes. Second-year guard Jaden Hardy scored 13 points in just 12 minutes of action in Game 4, making 3-of-4 three-pointers and throwing down a highlight-reel dunk. “It felt great to see some shots go in while I was out there,” Hardy said, per Eddie Sefko of Mavs.com. “I’m just trying to bring energy and bring another element to the team that makes us different and trying to make this championship run.” Hardy is under contract for one more season before becoming eligible for restricted free agency in 2025.
  • The Mavericks still hold a commanding 3-1 lead over Minnesota in the series, so there’s no need to panic yet, writes Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (subscription required). Still, it will be crucial not to let the Timberwolves continue to gain confidence by winning additional games. “This is a great opportunity for us as a young team to go through this,” head coach Jason Kidd said.

Mavs Notes: Luka, Kyrie, Game 1 Takeaways, X-Factors

The Mavericks were victorious in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Tuesday behind 63 combined points from Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving. It marked the first Game 1 win of the postseason for Dallas, which was playing on the road in Minnesota.

We had to work really hard to get this one,” Doncic said, per Eddie Sefko of Mavs.com. “It’s big time. We know how tough it is to play in this place, especially against a team that has so many weapons, so it’s big-time to take this one. But it’s only one. We got three more to go.”

As Sam Amick of The Athletic writes, Irving was scorching hot in the first half, scoring 24 points on 11-of-14 shooting while being hounded by Anthony Edwards. It’s the latest example of Irving’s “basketball renaissance,” according to Amick, who points out that the 31-year-old has become a leader for the Mavericks and a key voice in the ear of Doncic.

At times when he reacted to turnovers (in Game 1), or passes that didn’t convert to baskets for us, I was just reminding him to keep his head up and realize where we are, the magnitude of this,” Irving said of Doncic. “A lot of guys look to him for emotional stability, and emotional strength. We know he’s one of the best scorers of all time… and he’s going out there and not necessarily playing well offensively in the first half.

(But) I know in the second half, he’s gonna be aggressive. We’ve been able to figure out that one-two punch of just playing the point guard role, playing that main scorer’s role and just not lacking in other areas in the basketball game. He can do other things, and I can do other things other than scoring. So when it’s his time to score, it’s my time to play defense and get up in a guy and contest shots and continue to do the little things that get us wins.”

Doncic was sensational closing the game, scoring 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting in the fourth quarter while making key defensive plays. He praised Irving’s first-half effort for keeping Dallas afloat, according to Sefko.

That was big time,” Doncic said of Irving. “We probably would have been down 20 if he hadn’t scored that many points. I appreciate him keeping us in the game.”

Here’s more on the Mavs:

  • The Timberwolves largely chose to stay at home on shooters in Game 1, limiting Dallas to just 6-of-25 (24.0%) from long distance, writes Tim Cato of The Athletic. Minnesota, by contrast, was 18-of-49 (36.7%) from deep. Being minus-36 points from three is typically a recipe for disaster, but the Mavs found success in the paint (62-38) and on the boards (48-40), showing the team’s ability to adapt, Cato notes. “We’re going to take whatever you give us,” head coach Jason Kidd said. “We want to promote 3s, but if you take the 3s away when you have that many points in the paint against the No. 1 team defensively, we’ll take it if that’s what you’re going to give us. I thought the group pivoted nicely by understanding what was available on the floor by (Minnesota) taking away the 3s.”
  • Jon Krawczynski, Zach Harper, Tim Cato and Tobias Bass of The Athletic provide their takeaways from Game 1. Game 2 tips off at 7:30 pm CT on Thursday.
  • ESPN insiders Tim MacMahon, Dave McMenamin and Brian Windhorst list the role players they believe could be the X-factors for the rest of the series. MacMahon chose Mavs forward P.J. Washington, while McMenamin took Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels and Windhorst selected Wolves point guard Mike Conley.

Northwest Notes: Porter Jr., Nuggets, McDaniels, Reid, Ownership Dispute

Michael Porter Jr. pins the blame on himself for the Nuggets‘ second-round loss to Minnesota, according to Bennett Durando of the Denver Post. Porter struggled to make offensive contributions, averaging 10.7 points per game on 37.1% shooting from the field. He scored just 25 points in the last four games of the Western Conference semifinals.

“This was a terrible series,” Porter said. “I felt like I might’ve had one or two good games out of the seven we played. Part of it was the way they were guarding. Part of it was (that) my shot wasn’t falling. It’s just tough because I know if I would have played up to par with how I normally play, we would have won this series. And there’s a lot of things that could have been different as a team, but I know if I had played my part, we would have won the series. And I’ve gotta live with that.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • A lack of quality depth led to the Nuggets’ demise, in the estimation of Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. He notes that only rookies and journeyman veterans were added last offseason to fortify the bench, which took huge hits with the loss of Bruce Brown and Jeff Green. Salary cap issues were a primary reasons for the approach but O’Connor notes that only one bench player logged more than 10 minutes in Game 7, while five players under the age of 25 never shed their warmups.
  • Jaden McDaniels and Naz Reid missed last year’s playoffs due to injury but they played massive roles in the Timberwolves’ ascension to the Western Conference Finals, Chris Hine of The Star Tribune notes. McDaniels scored 44 points in the last two games of the second-round series, while Reid — the league’s Sixth Man of the Year — scored eight of his 11 points in Game 7 during the fourth quarter and blocked two Nikola Jokic shot attempts.
  • Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore made an interesting proposal to Glen Taylor in the ownership dispute engulfing the Timberwolves franchise. The duo proposed last month that the loser of their battle over ownership of the franchise should cover the legal costs of the winner, Eben Novy-Williams of Sportico reports. However, Taylor’s legal team has chosen to continue with the binding arbitration, as laid out in the purchase agreement, where parties are responsible for their own fees. That process is slated to happen in the coming months, Novy-Williams adds.

NBA Announces 2023/24 All-Defensive Teams

The NBA has officially announced its All-Defensive teams for the 2023/24 season (Twitter link).

A total of 99 media members voted on the All-Defensive awards, with players receiving two points for a First Team vote and one point for a Second Team vote. This year’s All-Defensive teams are as follows:

First Team

Second Team

Gobert, who won this season’s Defensive Player of the Year award, was the only unanimous First Team selection, earning all 99 possible First Team votes.

No other players showed up on every ballot, though Wembanyama appeared on 98, receiving 86 First Team nods. Wembanyama is the first rookie in NBA history to claim a spot on an All-Defensive First Team, according to the NBA (Twitter link). Five rookies previously made a Second Team.

All-Defensive voting was positionless for the first time this season, which is why four big men – Gobert, Wembanyama, Adebayo, and Davis – were permitted to be named to the First Team. Jones, a forward, was the only non-center to earn First Team recognition, whereas the Second Team was made up entirely of guards and forwards.

The Timberwolves and Celtics – who ranked first and second, respectively, in regular season defensive rating – were the only teams to have more than one All-Defensive player in 2023/24. McDaniels was a Second Team selection, joining Gobert, while the Celtics’ backcourt duo of White and Holiday also made the Second Team. Both White ($250K) and Holiday ($139,200) earned bonuses as a result of making an All-Defensive team, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link).

The rookie scale extension McDaniels signed last fall actually includes an All-Defensive bonus as well, Marks tweets, but since that contract doesn’t go into effect until this July, the Timberwolves’ perimeter stopper won’t cash in on that $431,035. That incentive is now considered “likely” instead of “unlikely” for next season though, as Marks notes, increasing McDaniels’ cap hit to $23,017,242.

Outside of the top 10, the players who received the most All-Defensive votes were Thunder wing Luguentz Dort (34 points, including six First Team votes), Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (29 points), Thunder center Chet Holmgren (21 points), Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen (20 points), and Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (19 points).

Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (six), Celtics swingman Jaylen Brown (three), and Kings teammates Domantas Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox (one apiece) were the other players who received First Team votes. In total, 34 players earned at least one First Team or Second Team vote.

Players were required to meet the 65-game criteria in order to qualify for All-Defensive honors this season. Knicks forward OG Anunoby, Warriors big man Draymond Green, and Cavaliers big man Evan Mobley – each of whom made an All-Defensive team last spring – were among the standout defenders who didn’t reach that games-played minimum in 2023/24.

Wolves Notes: Towns, Edwards, Gobert, McDaniels, Finch

While Anthony Edwards had been the Timberwolves‘ engine and leading scorer during their 2024 playoff run, it was the team’s other former No. 1 overall pick – Karl-Anthony Towns – who keyed Sunday’s 20-point comeback in Denver and put up the biggest stat line of the night (23 points, 12 rebounds, and a pair of steals).

As Jim Souhan of The Star Tribune writes, Towns has long been “a symbol of Wolves underachievement, fairly or not,” so it’s fitting that his contributions were crucial in getting the team past the defending champions and into the Western Conference finals.

“I couldn’t be more happy and proud of him,” head coach Chris Finch said of Towns after the victory. “Because I think he’s faced a lot of unfair criticism when it comes to the postseason. The more you go through these things, the more at peace you are … KAT was really special, especially in the second half. I think you see how at peace and happy he is.”

“I’ve been here nine years, talked about wanting to win and do something special here for the organization,” Towns said, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. “All of the failures and all the things that materialized and happened, the disappointment that comes with it led to this moment.”

Edwards, meanwhile, put up a solid line of 16 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists, but he made just 6-of-24 shots from the floor. He expressed appreciation after the win that Towns and the other six Wolves players who saw action in Sunday’s Game 7 helped make up for his poor shooting night.

“It was tough, man, because I couldn’t find myself, my rhythm tonight,” Edwards said, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “So, I just had to trust my teammates. … I just had to make the right plays throughout the rest of the game. I did that, and my teammates made shots. Big shoutout to those guys.”

Here’s more on the Wolves, who are headed to the Western Conference finals for just the second time in franchise history:

  • Like Towns, Rudy Gobert has faced criticism over the years for his lack of playoff success, most recently after Game 5 when Nikola Jokic had a 40-point game and made 8-of-9 shots with Gobert as his primary defender. However, as McMenamin writes, Gobert scored eight of his 13 points on Sunday in the fourth quarter, including an improbable turnaround fadeaway with the shot clock running down (video link). He also led a stifling defensive effort that saw Denver score just 37 points on 35.9% shooting in the second half. As Sam Amick of The Athletic points out, the Wolves are +111 in the playoffs with Gobert on the court, which is the best mark of any player on the roster.
  • Jaden McDaniels matched Towns with a team-high 23 points on 7-of-10 shooting in Game 7 and earned major praise from Edwards for the role he has played so far in the postseason. “Jaden McDaniels was the MVP of the last two series,” Edwards told reporters (Twitter video link via Michael Scotto of HoopsHype). McDaniels signed a five-year extension with Minnesota last fall — it will go into effect this July, bumping his salary from $3.9MM to $22.6MM.
  • Edwards also lauded Finch for the role he has played in the Wolves’ success this season and this spring, per Amick. “It starts with our head coach — Coach Finch,” Edwards said. “He comes in every day, comes to work, gets there early. He’s thinking of ways to get me and KAT open looks. He’s thinking of ways to get Mike (Conley) and Rudy open looks. He’s thinking of ways to get Jaden involved. He’s trying to keep Naz (Reid) in it to get him involved. He’s just a great coach. And he don’t sugarcoat anything with anybody. If KAT’s f—in’ up, he’s going to get on KAT. If I’m f—in’ up, he’s going to get on me. If Rudy f—in’ up, he’s going to get on anybody that’s messing up throughout the game, and I think that’s what makes him the best coach in the NBA, to me.”
  • The Timberwolves ownership battle, which is headed to arbitration, has taken a back seat during the team’s playoff run. “Only dysfunctional ownership can break up this team,” one team executive told ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link).

Wolves Notes: Conley, Edwards, Towns, McDaniels

Facing elimination on Thursday, the Timberwolves turned in arguably the most dominant performance of any team this postseason, holding the Nuggets to 70 points on the night and going on separate 20-0, 13-0, and 24-0 runs en route to a 45-point victory. What was the difference for Minnesota? According to Anthony Edwards, the answer was simple, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“We got Mike Conley back,” Edwards said of his backcourt mate, who missed Game 5 due to a right soleus strain. “That was it.”

It’s a little reductive to give Conley full credit for the Wolves’ incredible performance. After all, he was also on the floor for the team’s home losses in Games 3 and 4. But Minnesota’s players and coaches have spoken all season about the outsized impact the veteran point guard – who was the team’s fifth-leading scorer during the season – has on the Wolves.

“Mike means everything for us,” head coach Chris Finch said after Game 6. “Unbelievable next to Anthony in terms of being able to set him up, play off of him, be in his ear all of the time. Smart defender. Just everything you want in an experienced, veteran point guard and just the very fact that Ant doesn’t have to handle it every single time, that alone helps us. … We desperately missed him the other night.”

Here’s more out of Minnesota:

  • As Sam Amick of The Athletic details, several Timberwolves players credited a video the coaching staff showed prior to Game 6 for helping the club regain its swagger and get in the right head space heading into Thursday’s contest. “Normally we have a (film) edit, just with certain offensive possessions This edit was more of a production, one of those that show all the big dunks and highlights and the ball movement and with music behind it,” Conley said. “It was a surprise. We’ll usually see the defensive stuff and offensive stuff, but this time they plugged it up to the big speaker. We normally don’t have anything plugged into the big speakers, just the (film) and coach will be talking over it. But this was more of a change-our-mentality sort of thing.” Edwards told reporters that the team’s “energy shifted” after watching the hype video, while Karl-Anthony Towns said it reminded the Wolves of the “discipline, the execution, (and) the tenacity” that they’d been lacking in their losses.
  • Edwards – who said on Thursday that he wants to be “the best player on both sides of the ball in the NBA,” per McMenamin – was the primary defender on Jamal Murray in Game 6. It was a miserable night for the Nuggets guard, who scored just 10 points on 4-of-18 shooting, though Murray suggested after the loss that a right elbow injury he suffered early in the game was more to blame for his off night. “I put some numbing cream on it just so I didn’t have to feel it every time it extended,” Murray said, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “… We got two days off. I just got to get ready and be able to be better for Sunday. Yeah, (it’s got) to be better for Sunday, man.”
  • Towns scored a playoff-low 10 points on Thursday, but his fingerprints were “all over” Minnesota’s Game 6 win, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic contends. Towns grabbed 13 rebounds, handed out five assists, only turned the ball over once, and – perhaps most crucially – stayed out of foul trouble while defending Nikola Jokic. “I told him today, ‘We’re thankful that you didn’t foul because if you foul we lose,'” Edwards said. “Because you are the best matchup we’ve got for Jokic. Like, you do the best job on him.”
  • After making just 2-of-12 three-pointers and scoring a total of 35 points in the first five games of the series, Jaden McDaniels hit 3-of-5 threes and scored 21 points on Thursday. Chip Scoggins of The Star Tribune takes a closer look at the impact that the Wolves’ “X-factor” had in the victory.

Wolves Notes: Conley, Edwards, Towns, McDaniels, Defense

As Sam Amick of The Athletic details, adding veteran guard Mike Conley at the 2023 trade deadline was one of the best moves the Timberwolves have made in recent years. In addition to being a perfect on-court fit for Minnesota’s playing style, Conley has served as something of a “connector” between Rudy Gobert and his teammates and has been a veteran mentor to rising star Anthony Edwards, writes Amick.

Conley, who had been on an expiring contract this season, is no longer averaging 20-plus points per game like he did earlier in his career, but he continues to play at a high level in his role, averaging 5.9 assists per game and making 44.2% of his three-pointers this season. His ability to remain productive was a factor in his decision to sign a two-year extension with the Wolves earlier this year, he tells Amick.

“Before I signed the extension, it was like, ‘Man, it could be this year, it could be next year, it could be any year,'” Conley said, referring to possible retirement. “But then as I played this year out, I was like, ‘Man, I haven’t slowed down yet, and I just can’t imagine myself leaving when I haven’t hit that bottom yet.’ So I’m just gonna burn these tires off and not put a date on it and see what happens.”

The 36-year-old said he hasn’t thought much about what the next phase of his career will look like once his playing days are over, but he envisions himself being “around this game” even after his retirement. While he’s not sure coaching is in the cards, he mentioned a front office role or a media job as a couple possibilities.

Here’s more out of Minnesota:

  • Chris Hine of The Star Tribune spoke to Edwards’ longtime skills trainer and coach Kierre Jordan about the work the former No. 1 overall pick has put in to become one of the NBA’s most effective postseason scorers, while Mo Dakhil and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic broke down some game film from the first two games of the Denver series to illustrate how we’re witnessing Edwards’ development in real time.
  • Minnesota has received trade inquiries on Karl-Anthony Towns in the past year or two and could have decided to move him last offseason, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN (Insider link), who hears from sources that some of the offers the Wolves got were “decent.” However, the team stuck with its star big man and he has rewarded that trust. Lowe likens Towns’ transformation in Minnesota to the way Aaron Gordon found an ideal role in Denver after being miscast as a ball-handling star in Orlando, noting that Edwards’ ascent has helped put Towns in a better position to succeed.
  • Asked by Malika Andrews of ESPN (Twitter video link) where he ranks himself as an NBA defender, Wolves forward Jaden McDaniels placed himself second, behind only his four-time Defensive Player of the Year teammate. “I think I’m the best defender in the NBA besides Rudy (Gobert),” McDaniels said. “We got the DPOY, so I’ll take the step back. But I feel like I’m up there with Rudy. Just the versatility — I can guard one through four, using my length on smaller guys and even bigger guys.”
  • The ferociousness of Minnesota’s defense evokes some championship teams of the past, per David Aldridge of The Athletic, who compares the Wolves’ suffocating D on Nuggets guard Jamal Murray to the way the “Bad Boy” era Pistons would guard Michael Jordan.

Wolves Notes: Defense, McDaniels, Gobert, Morris, Ownership

While Defensive Player of the Year favorite Rudy Gobert has earned much of the credit for anchoring a Timberwolves defense that ranked No. 1 in the NBA this season, Minnesota turned in an impressive defensive performance without Gobert available on Monday, limiting the Nuggets to just 80 points on 34.9% shooting and forcing 19 turnovers in a Game 2 blowout.

“We’ve had some really, really good defensive efforts this year, but that has to be right up there with the best of them,” Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch said, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN. “On the ball, off the ball, the physicality, the execution of the game plan. … Just really locked in on defense.”

Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns led the offensive attack for the Wolves with 27 points apiece, but it was fellow starter Jaden McDaniels who turned in the game’s best plus-minus mark (+26) despite recording as many fouls as points (5) and making just 2-of-7 shots from the floor. McDaniels’ under-the-radar impact didn’t go unnoticed by his head coach.

“He hasn’t connected in the scoring column, but my God, he’s a +26. The other day he was a +23,” Finch said (Twitter link via Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic). “He didn’t have a bucket. He’s got five points in the series and he’s a +50. It’s not about how you score, it’s about how you help your team win.”

Here’s more on the Wolves, who will take a 2-0 lead over the defending champs back home to Minnesota:

  • Gobert, who missed Game 2 due to the birth of his first child, is expected to return to the lineup for Game 3, says McMenamin. That game won’t be played until Friday, giving the teams three days off this week.
  • Finch lauded his team after Monday’s win for its effort on defense, sharing the ball, and generally playing like a team that fans want to root for, as Chris Hine of The Star Tribune writes. Naz Reid suggested those traits are the result of a culture that has improved in recent years. “When I first got here, [the culture] wasn’t the best, it wasn’t perfect,” Reid said. “But obviously we’re all humans, and over that time we gradually got better. We got more cultured. Time to where we kind of became a unit, a team where we trust each other. We’re selling out for each other.”
  • The Timberwolves still need 10 more victories to win a championship, but they look like the NBA’s best team right now, contends Jim Souhan of The Star Tribune. Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports makes a similar case in a column of his own, writing that Minnesota has made the Nuggets look like anything but champions.
  • Wolves reserve point guard Monte Morris exited Game 2 due to a right index finger sprain, the team announced (via Twitter). It’s unclear whether the injury will force him to miss additional time going forward. Morris has played just 40 total minutes across Minnesota’s six playoff games, so his possible absence wouldn’t have a significant impact on the team’s rotation.
  • As the Wolves continue to dominate on the court, the team’s off-the-court ownership battle between Glen Taylor and the Marc Lore/Alex Rodriguez group is headed to arbitration. Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic spoke to a handful of legal experts to get a sense of what to expect from that process. “I see this as an uphill battle for Taylor,” one sports investment banker told Vorkunov,” but something that might make sense for him to have potential asymmetric upside if he can either prevail or find a way to get a settlement or a higher number.”

Wolves Notes: McDaniels, Gobert, Edwards, Towns

Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels had arguably the best game of his four-year NBA career on Tuesday vs. Phoenix, posting 25 points, eight rebounds, and three assists. The Wolves outscored the Suns by 24 points in the 41 minutes he played and were outscored by 12 points during the seven minutes he was on the bench.

As Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic writes, McDaniels has waited all year to shine on this sort of stage after feeling as if he let down his teammates last spring by punching a wall after the regular season finale, breaking his hand and ending his season. The young forward didn’t realize when he went to hit a canvas awning out of frustration that there was a concrete wall behind it, but still felt embarrassed about the injury — and distraught that he wasn’t available to help his club in the playoffs.

“I was sick just watching them play (vs. Denver in last year’s first round),” McDaniels said. “I just felt like it would have been different if I got hurt playing, trying to battle. Just hurting myself, I felt selfish.”

The incident didn’t dissuade the Timberwolves from investing long-term in McDaniels, who signed a five-year, $131MM rookie scale extension in the fall. But he has still been waiting all year for the opportunity to redeem himself in the postseason — through the first two games against Phoenix, he’s well on his way to delivering on that goal.

“His activity’s been on another level so far in two games,” head coach Chris Finch said of McDaniels.

Here’s more on the Wolves:

  • McDaniels’ strong play in the series vs. Phoenix certainly hasn’t escaped the notice of Suns head coach Frank Vogel, who suggested before Game 2 that his team needs to prepare a plan of attack for the defensive standout. “He’s outstanding,” Vogel said, per Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. “His length, his athleticism, his quickness, his speed. He’s a great defensive player. We have to make sure we attack him the right away.”
  • Despite appearing likely to win his fourth Defensive Player of the Year award this spring, Rudy Gobert was voted in The Athletic’s player poll as the NBA’s most overrated player. No one within the Wolves’ organization feels that way though, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic, who suggests that Gobert’s intensity and attention to detail are key reasons why the club didn’t lose three straight games all season. “There’s a difference between being the reason you win and being the reason you don’t lose,” Finch said. “And Rudy is the reason we don’t lose. He doesn’t let us lose these games. He’s been this way all season. He’s an incredible floor raiser and he just brings it and he knows when the team needs him to do this the most. That’s one of the many reasons he’s so valuable for us.”
  • ESPN’s Tim MacMahon published a similar feature on Gobert this week, exploring why the French center seems to rub so many of his fellow NBA players the wrong way — and why that no longer bothers Gobert.
  • Speaking to Taylor Rooks of TNT Sports (Twitter video link), Anthony Edwards expressed a belief that he and Karl-Anthony Towns are the NBA’s top duo. If the Wolves advance to the second round, they’d likely be on track to square off against another duo that believes it’s the league’s best: Nuggets stars Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic.