By: Dan Slaubaugh
The Minnesota Timberwolves community is extremely fortunate to have a large collection of dedicated, knowledgeable Wolves writers who cover the team year in and year out. Here at OTP, we are giving fans an opportunity to find out more about these talented individuals.
Throughout the upcoming months, we will feature 17 members of writers/analysts/insiders around the web through a series of Q&A sessions as part of our "Wolves Media Profile" series. Each individual's profile feature will have it's own spin to the Q&A to keep things fresh.
July 27 - Darren Wolfson (KSTP)
July 29 - Lucas Seehafer (Canis Hoopus)
July 30 - David Naylor (Canis Hoopus)
August 2 - Tim Parochka (On The Prowl)
August 4 - Zach More (On The Prowl)
August 6 - Kyle Ratke (Timberwolves.com)
August 9 - Drew Mahowald (On The Prowl)
August 11 - William Bohl (A Wolf Among Wolves)
August 13 - John Meyer (Canis Hoopus)
August 15 - Alex Berg (On The Prowl)
August 17 - Sherief Elabbady (The Timber Rebuilder)
August 19 - Zach Bennett (Cold Omaha)
August 21 - Derek James (1500 ESPN)
August 23 - Andy Grimsrud (Punch-Drunk Wolves)
August 25 - Steve McPherson (1500 ESPN)
August 27 - Tim Faklis (A Wolf Among Wolves)
August 29 - Jon Krawzcynski (Associated Press)
As the "dead months" of the NBA offseason approach, be sure to check out our series to pass the time and learn more about the talented media members that cover your favorite team!
By: Drew Mahowald
Alright, fine, I'll confess -- when Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor hired Tom Thibodeau and Scott Layden to lead the front office, I was a bit scared.
And, really, I still am scared.
A year ago, Flip Saunders was still the man in Minnesota. He was on fire, too, having acquired Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and Karl-Anthony Towns in a matter of two seasons to join Ricky Rubio on Minnesota's young roster. Saunders, even without considering his ties to Minnesota and the Timberwolves, just gave fans a reason for hope, and a reason to be confident in the future.
After Saunders' tragic death, Sam Mitchell and Milt Newton each did their part in carrying on Flip's vision for a season. However, Taylor decided to go a different direction before the upcoming 2016-17 season.
Taylor decided to go with a front office duo made up of one guy with no executive experience whatsoever, and another guy with a very questionable resume other than the words "San Antonio Spurs".
Don't get me wrong, I have absolute faith in Thibodeau as a head coach. He was arguably the greatest coach on the market and given that he specializes in constructing elite defensive units, was also probably the best fit for the Wolves. Nothing about Thibodeau as a head coach scares me.
But you're kidding yourself if you didn't have at least a little bit of doubt about Thibodeau as a front office executive. I mean, the guy's first gig is toying with a roster that might be the best combination of youth and talent in the NBA. On top of that, the former Bulls head coach just seems like a wild card -- he definitely tries to carry the water on the golf course when he is 250 yards away. Given Minnesota's history with executives (I'm talking about YOU, David Kahn), of course I'm afraid of the scary potential on this team being wasted.
And Layden, hoofta. Sure, he spent time with the Spurs and that has undoubtedly helped him improve at his job. That organization is second to none in the NBA, and maybe all of sports. However, Layden's track record prior to his time in San Antonio leaves a lot to be desired.
With all of that said and despite the fact that I just spent the first few hundred words of this thing explaining why I'm concerned, the Thibodeau-Layden duo is slowly earning my trust with the acquisitions they have made this offseason. In addition to drafting two-time Big East Player of the Year Kris Dunn, Minnesota has also signed role-playing veterans Cole Aldrich, Brandon Rush and Jordan Hill.
While I was admittedly skeptical of the Dunn selection right away, after watching some Summer League action I can understand why Thibodeau (especially) and Layden loved him. Ultra-competitive, gritty, defensive-minded and athletic are all traits Thibs looks for, and they all embody Dunn. Additionally, Dunn appears to have the versatility to play point guard or shooting guard and defend either position with that alien-like 6'9" wingspan.
During free agency, the front office duo maintained a pretty "Layden" back (pun totally intended) approach. Understanding that Minnesota still isn't an extremely attractive free agent destination and that the team will need to make sure it can retain potential superstars Towns and Wiggins in a few seasons, the duo sat back and waited for inexpensive yet reliable role players in Aldrich, Rush and Hill to become available.
Moreover, all three deals were pretty cheap. Aldrich signed for $22 million over three years, which is much cheaper than worse big man Timofey Mosgov's four-year, $64 million deal. Rush signed just a one-year deal for $3.5 million while Hill received just $8 million over two years. For perspective, the Wolves will pay Aldrich, Rush and Hill less this season than the Lakers will pay Mosgov.
I was almost 100 percent sure Thibodeau's desire to win now would end up risking the future in some way, whether it be overpaying for a free agent or trading a large package for a superstar. Heck, both of those almost happened when the Wolves reportedly showed interest in Joakim Noah (thank GOD that didn't happen) and a trade for Jimmy Butler.
To this point, Thibodeau and Layden have carried out Saunders' plan by carefully building the foundation for a championship team and hope among the fan base. Whether they continue to utilize this philosophy is yet to be seen, but one thing is for sure.
So far, so good.
By: Dan Slaubaugh
After a three-month hiatus, Wolves basketball has finally returned. The competition, of course, is watered down to overseas stars, undrafted prospects, and highly-prized new rookies. But there are still storylines to be had, and things to watched for amongst the teams competing in Las Vegas.
The Minnesota Timberwolves feature three players -- fifth overall pick Kris Dunn, Tyus Jones and Adreian Payne -- on their Summer League roster that in all likelihood will be on the 2016/17 roster come opening night. With that, there is still one roster spot up for grabs heading into the regular season. The Wolves could go several routes in filling that final roster spot whether its through trade, free agency, or even perhaps bringing in a Summer League standout.
It's not likely, but if head coach Tom Thibodeau and general manager Scott Layden fail to fill out the roster in the next few months, they could turn to a Wolves D-League standout who played ridiculously well in Vegas -- whoever that may be.
In the meantime, Dunn, Jones and Payne will be the guys to keep an eye. Here's a breakdown of some things you can watch for concerning their development as players.
Can Kris Dunn play with Ricky Rubio? The question has loomed over the Timberwolves after Dunn was drafted. Hopefully, assistant coach Ryan Saunders (who will coach the Summer League squad) will have Jones and Dunn share the backcourt a few times to test how Dunn plays off the ball and could then cooperate with Rubio. Dunn already possesses some encouraging traits that lead many to believe he could play the two-guard, including his ability as a slasher and his ability to get open off screens.
However, Dunn is the type of player who will shine brightest with the ball in his hands -- as most point guards are. But the Providence product's elite physical abilities allow him to get to the rim with great efficiency and fluency. During Summer League on the offensive side of the ball, Dunn should look to limit his turnovers and abuse the less-athletic guards that may try to defend him.
Defensively, prepare to watch Dunn harass opposing Summer League point guards. His alien-like 6'9" wingspan and strong defensive IQ will allow him to pin opposing offenses in bad situations not just during Summer League, but also during the NBA regular season.
Jones showed glimpses of what he can become last season, especially down the stretch. On the offensive side, limiting turnovers, orchestrating an offense and adequate three-point shooting are what will allow Jones will make it in the NBA. Because of his size, his ceiling is probably filling a backup point guard, and it's difficult to see how the former Blue Devil will have any role on the team next season if Rubio and Dunn stay healthy.
If Jones wants to exhibit development and growth as a player in these next few weeks, he'll need to exhibit all the qualities it takes to effectively run a unit. Getting guys open, finding the open man, being a leader, hitting shots and limiting turnovers. The team will need that from a Summer League veteran in Jones and if he can flash those skills, it will indicate development.
This will be Payne's third consecutive Summer League appearance and unfortunately for him, a third consecutive appearance probably means you haven't made it very far in the NBA.
A year ago, he probably had the best Summer League stint on the roster, averaging 14.2 points and 8.4 rebounds in 30.8 minutes. He was active, aggressive and decisive on both ends. However, he has yet to demonstrate those skills in the regular season.
"Payne is probably running out of chances, despite having an intriguing profile. Players who are this big and athletic that can shoot from deep are relatively rare, but Payne hasn’t been able to consistently demonstrate his skills or a solid basketball IQ. He needs a strong summer as much as anyone."
Payne's ceiling could very well be simply a Summer League star -- but let's hope not.
The rest of the group
Reiterating above, if Thibodeau and Layden fail to fill out the roster in the next few months, they could take a look at someone who shined in the D-League. With that, there are a handful of intriguing players that could shine in Vegas. And if they do, there is a great chance they will receive at the least an invite to training camp.
For analysis of the potential breakout players, you can read Zach Harper's excellent piece of the full Summer League roster or CrunchTime Blog's breakdowns of two guys they are intrigued by in Coty Clarke and Keith Benson.
Schedule for the Wolves 1st round of games
Friday, July 8, 7:30pm, Thomas & Mack Center: vs. Denver (ESPN)
Sunday, July 10, 5:00pm, Cox Pavilion: vs. Toronto: vs. Toronto
Monday, July 11, 7:30pm, Thomas & Mack Center: vs. Cleveland
When the 1st round of games conclude, the Wolves will then play a minimum of two more games in a tournament format to be decided by the first round's results.
Last season's Wolves finished 1-4 in Las Vegas. Hopefully they can put on a better showing this year and make some noise in the tournament round.
Thanks for reading. Enjoy the games. Go Wolves.
By: Alex Berg
After last week’s draft, I wrote about how I hope Kris Dunn’s presence will not remove Ricky Rubio from the Minnesota Timberwolves roster. At the risk of sounding redundant, I’m going to make a stronger case for keeping Rubio. Last week, I focused more on Dunn and how he can coexist with Rubio. This is more about Rubio.
As one of the bigger “Rubiobos” you will find, I was struggling to endorse drafting Kris Dunn with the fifth overall pick. I realized Dunn was probably the best player available and he offers athleticism at the point guard position that might be needed to eventually contend with teams like Golden State, Oklahoma City and Portland. I love what I think he will bring to the table on the defensive end. Especially under new head coach and defensive guru Tom Thibodeau. Despite the bonuses of adding Dunn to the young core the Wolves have, I was still hesitant to be excited about the pick because of the possible handwriting on the wall that may suggest Rubio’s time in Minnesota may be limited. As I said last week, I am in full support of the Dunn pick IF the Wovles were genuine in saying they think Rubio and Dunn can coexist. Having flexibility at the point guard position, having two point guards at an affordable price and how this can open up things for the rest of the Wolves offseason actually has me excited about this pick.
First, and perhaps most importantly, it is not illegal to have multiple point guards on a NBA roster. The Timberwolves, of all teams, should know this by now, as they spent most of the 2015-16 season without a second ball-handler and because of that, they got destroyed with Rubio off the floor. Tyus Jones impressed me late last season, but if Thibodeau and company wants to go into the 2016-17 season without committing minutes to the second-year point guard, I can certainly understand and support that.
If the ultimate goal is being able to compete with the best of Western conference, having two capable point guards is going to be a necessity. Especially if teams like Golden State continues to play “smallball” late in games. A “small” lineup of Rubio, Dunn, Zach Lavine, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns just might be able to stack up against any other small lineup in the league, both offensively and defensively.
At first, I thought I would maybe consider moving Rubio only if the return would be a knockdown three-point shooter, but now I think I would need that plus help elsewhere. The reason? Rubio’s contract is about to become one of the better bargains in the NBA. With the new TV money coming into play this summer and the inflated salary caps teams will have to work with, contract numbers are going to start looking outrageous. Rubio is under contract for the next three seasons and will make $13.4 million this upcoming season. If that seems like a large number to you, just wait about ten days. Free agents are about to get paid like never before and any serviceable player signed to a multi-year deal is about to become a very valuable asset.
I will stress that the money figures should be ignored for the most part this summer, instead look to the percentage of his team’s salary cap a player is earning. Last season, Rubio made about 19.1 percent of the Wolves salary cap. This season, that number will drop to around 14.2 percent of the team’s spending limit. That’s a big difference. 14.2 percent of the 2015-16 cap is $9.98 million. Anyone in their right mind would have happily paid Rubio that price for what he did last season. On the other end, 19.1 percent of this year’s cap will be a little over $18 million. So, if you’re like me and believe Rubio played to at least his contract value last season, you would gladly accept the near $5 million discount on Rubio for next season.
Lastly, the Wolves -- like every other NBA team -- will have a ton of money to spend this summer. While I would be hesitant to shell out big money over three years or more, I would be more than willing to pay (or overpay even) to get veterans to fill the biggest needs on the team. With the Wolves young core all under cheap contracts for the next two seasons and with the point guard position under control, the Wolves can focus on a small handful of players to peruse next week. Below is, in my mind, an ideal potential minutes rotation next season.
PG: Rubio (32) / Dunn (16)
SG: Lavine (34) / Dunn (10) / Wiggins (4)
SF: Wiggins (30) / Muhammad (18)
PF: Dieng (14) / FA? (24) Garnett/Bjelica (14)
C: Towns (34) Dieng (14)
According to basketball reference, the Wolves are about $34 million (not including Dunn’s rookie contract) under the projected $94 million salary cap for next season. My ideal offseason would start with pursuing Pau Gasol at around $35-40 million over two seasons. I don’t know if that would be overpaying or not, frankly I don’t really care. The Wolves don’t need that money until Wiggins and LaVine have to be paid. They could then use the remaining $8-10 million to sign a shooter to come off the bench. Having so many minutes already occupied by Rubio, LaVine and Dunn can allow the Wolves to pursue good players in free agency while being flexible with with a guy like Shabazz Muhammad. Going into next season with Jones, Adreian Payne and Nikola Pekovic as reserves and not guys with expected minutes would be ideal for Minnesota. Trading Rubio for pennies on the dollar and having to pay anything close to Rubio-level money for a downgrade point guard would compromise a lot of that flexibility.
Rubio may not be the long-term answer at point guard. Hell, Dunn might not be either. But for the short-term, the combination looks pretty good.