Was Trade a Blessing in Disguise for Wiggins?
Having to deal with trade rumors and actually being dealt prior to playing his first NBA game had to be frustrating for Andrew Wiggins, but it may have been a blessing in disguise for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
Rather than joining a Cleveland Cavaliers team that is in win-now mode and being forced to defer to superstars like LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, Wiggins will be the face of a young Minnesota Timberwolves franchise that will give him every opportunity to succeed and reach his full potential. He won’t just be a role player in Minnesota, he’ll be a focal point right away and, if all goes as planned, he’ll eventually be their star. Wiggins will get more touches and minutes in Minnesota, which will give him a chance to show what he can do at the NBA level and compete for the Rookie of the Year award. He’ll also have far less attention on him as he develops in Minnesota, versus playing for a Cavaliers team that will be under the microscope.
Wiggins, who has been working out with his new teammates at Minnesota’s practice facility, seems to realize that being traded to the Timberwolves could actually be better for him in the long run.
“I think it’s a great situation whenever I think about it,” Wiggins told reporters, according to KSTP. “It gives me more freedom. I’m surrounded by young guys that have the same intentions and determinations as me – to really win and get better every day.”
Privately, Wiggins has told people in his inner circle the same thing. In fact, Wiggins told his college head coach Bill Self that he was hoping for a trade to Minnesota when the rumors started surfacing.
“When all this trade stuff started, I talked to Andrew and Andrew told me, ‘I hope I get traded,’ Self told The Associated Press last month. “And I’m like, ‘No you don’t.’ And he said, ‘Coach, I do. It’s better for me, knowing my personality and what I need to do, to go somewhere where I’m forced to be something as opposed to going in there where they’re going to be patient with me and I’m going to be a piece.’”
Wiggins joins a promising young core that also includes Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine, Shabazz Muhammad, Anthony Bennett, Gorgui Dieng and Glenn Robinson III among others. However, the team also has veterans like Thaddeus Young, Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer and Mo Williams, who can help the young players improve as well as keep the team competitive in the short-term.
Even though he’s surrounded by other young players with a lot of potential, there’s no question that Wiggins will face the highest expectations. The 19-year-old has been characterized as one of the best young players to enter the NBA in years – someone who is supposed to be poised for superstardom. That’s why the Timberwolves were willing to deal one of the best players in the league – Kevin Love – to acquire him, even though he hasn’t stepped foot on an NBA court yet.
While this pressure would faze some players, Wiggins has grown accustomed to it since he has been dealing with this kind of hype since he was a kid. As a 14-year-old, a mixtape of his highlight plays dubbed him one of the best young players in the nation and got millions of views. Then, he became the No. 1 ranked high school player, so all eyes were on him and he became a household name (just like LeBron James did in high school). At Kansas, he faced ridiculously high expectations as well. Wiggins knows that greatness is expected from him, and he’s used to it by now.
“I don’t really feel like it’s too much pressure right now,” Wiggins said. “I’ve been through being the number one player in high school and in college, all that stuff. So, pressure to me has really died down; I don’t feel it as much as I used to.”
While working out with his new teammates, Wiggins and his peers have been going over head coach Flip Saunders’ playbook and learning his system. Veterans like Martin and Brewer have also been working out and helping the young guys become familiar with the offense. Wiggins is excited to start the season, and he believes that he’ll be able to thrive in Saunders’ system.
“I’m liking it,” Wiggins said of Minnesota’s offense. “They kind of broke it down to me before. All the plays are really coming together. This is my first couple days learning the plays on-court, you know? It kind of fits my playing style. I’m just trying to learn it.”
LaVine, who was selected 12 picks after Wiggins by Minnesota, can’t wait to get on the court with his fellow lottery pick. Wiggins and LaVine trained together in California prior to the draft and got to know one another out there. Together, they form an incredibly athletic one-two punch for the Timberwolves, and they could be a great tandem down the road if they’re both able to reach their full potential.
“Me and Andrew have been close since the pre-draft [process],” LaVine said. “We did pre-draft [training] together in Santa Barbara so I’ve known Drew for awhile and it’s good to have him on the team.”
Wiggins had to experience the business side of the NBA earlier than most players and he learned firsthand that anyone can be dealt, but he shouldn’t have to worry about that happening again for quite some time. It’s hard to imagine the Wolves parting ways with Wiggins anytime soon, since they’re hoping he eventually replaces Love as their star player and face of the franchise.
NBA talent evaluators have been watching Wiggins for years and imagining what kind of player he’d be in the league. The Timberwolves can’t wait to find out, and they are ecstatic that he’ll be donning their jersey in his NBA debut. After some early drama, Wiggins seems to be thrilled with his situation as well.
Celtics’ Green Trying to Improve Consistency
Last season, there were times where Boston Celtics forward Jeff Green looked like a star player. For example, take his 39-point game against the New Orleans Pelicans on March 16, in which he was 12-of-23 from the field. However, there were also times where he completely disappeared. Case in point, his 5-point game the following night, March 17, against the Dallas Mavericks in which he was 2-of-12 from the field. This inconsistency from Green drove Celtics fans crazy.
Green followed up far too many impressive games with single-digit outings, which isn’t acceptable from a team’s focal point. The 28-year-old veterans knows this and he has spent this offseason trying to improve his all-around game and, most importantly, his consistency.
“I’ve been working on everything basically,” Green said, according to The Boston Globe. “There’s not one thing I didn’t work on. Just coming into camp in good shape, new focus, and a lot of people say it’s a different vibe they feel from me now and I just have to transfer it on the court, continue to get better as a player, and find a way to stay consistent. I think that’s been my biggest fall throughout my career, so I’ve just got to find a way to do that.”
Even though Green did have issues with consistency last season, he did post a career-high 16.9 points per game. He’s hoping to build on that success in the 2014-15 campaign, and he’s entering the season with confidence and a lot of optimism.
“I think it’s a new confidence that I have as far as my game and I think that just comes with a different approach,” Green said. “I’m very excited. We have a young team but I think we have a team that’s willing to do whatever it takes to win. A lot of people don’t have us in the playoffs but our goal is to get better each game and just try to improve to put ourselves in a great position to be in the playoffs.”
As one of the veterans on a young team, Green understands that he needs to step up and lead. He wants to be a stronger presence in the locker room this season.
“I am one of the leaders,” Green said. “I have to take that role. It’s not an individual thing to lead this team. We have Rajon [Rondo] and Gerald [Wallace]. We’ve just got to have each other’s back.”
Last season, Rondo played in just 30 games for the Celtics. Green believes that getting him back will really help the Celtics, since Rondo is one of the best point guards in the NBA when he’s healthy.
“It’s going to be big,” Green said of Rondo’s return, according to CSNNE. “He’s the guy that gets us into sets. He’s the guy as you see throughout his career, finds players and puts them in the best spot to succeed. With him being 100 percent healthy, it’ll make our team that much better.”
Last season, the Celtics won just 25 games. In addition to getting Rondo back at full strength, additions like Marcus Smart, James Young, Evan Turner and Tyler Zeller should help Boston improve. If Green can play at a high level every night, instead of just some nights, that will make the Celtics significantly better as well.
NBA PM: Hornets Rookies May Become Key Contributors
Some key injuries may force Charlotte’s rookies into becoming effective role players earlier than expected, writes James Blancarte.
As the NBA finally gets underway tomorrow evening, the 2017 rookie draft class will get their first taste of regular season action. Teams reliant on young rookie talent might produce an exciting brand of basketball but that rarely translates into a winning formula. Having rookies play a key role for a team hoping to make the playoffs can be a risky endeavor.
Out West, the Los Angeles Lakers are relying on both Lonzo Ball as well as Kyle Kuzma, who may have worked his way into the rotation with his surprising preseason play. However, the Lakers are, at this point, not realistic contenders in the competitive Western Conference. In the East, the Philadelphia 76ers have more realistic playoff hopes. The team is relying on this year’s top overall draft pick, Markelle Fultz, and 2016’s top pick, Ben Simmons, for meaningful production. Although Simmons has been in the league for over a year, he is still classified as a rookie for this season since he didn’t play last season.
The Charlotte Hornets are looking to return to the playoffs after narrowly missing the cut this past season. The team will likely feature not one, but two true rookies as a part of their regular rotation. Like the Lakers, the Hornets feature a highly touted rookie with the talent and poise to contribute right away in Malik Monk. The team also features Dwayne Bacon, a rookie that has flashed scoring potential as well as maturity — key attributes that will allow him to quickly contribute to the team.
Both players will be given the opportunity to contribute as a result of the unfortunate and untimely injury to forward Nicolas Batum. Batum tore a ligament in his left elbow in an October 4 preseason game against the Detroit Pistons. Initial speculation was that the injury would require surgery. However, it was announced on October 10 that surgery would not be necessary, and that he is projected to return in six to eight weeks. Assuming that there are no setbacks in Batum’s recovery, the Hornets will be looking to replace his perimeter scoring, playmaking abilities and perimeter defense. Enter Monk and Bacon.
Monk and Bacon have both shown the ability to score the ball, which is not exactly a common trait in Hornets rookies. Bacon, the 40th pick in the 2017 NBA draft, has made it a point to look for his shot from the outside, averaging 7.8 three-point shots per game while knocking down 33.3 percent of his attempts. As Bacon gains more experience, he presumably will learn how to get cleaner looks at the basket within the flow of the team’s offense. Doing so should help him increase his shooting percentage from beyond the arc, which would turn him into an even more effective contributor for Charlotte.
Bacon spoke to reporters after a recent preseason game against the Boston Celtics. Bacon was placed in the starting lineup and went 4-4 from three-point range in 34 minutes of action.
When asked what are some of the things he wanted to work on, Bacon focused on one end of the court in particular.
“Definitely defense. I’m trying to perfect the defensive side, I want to be one of the best two-way players to ever play the game,” Bacon stated. “I feel like I got the offensive side so just keep getting better on defense, I’ll be fine.”
Lack of consistency and defense are key factors that prevent many rookies from playing and being successful on winning teams right away. Based on Bacon’s size (6-foot-6, 221 pounds with a long wingspan) and physicality, he has the physical tools necessary to play passable defense. Combine that with his ability to score (he led the team in scoring in three of its five preseason games) and the unfortunate injury to Batum, it’s apparent that Bacon will get an opportunity to make the rotation and contribute.
Reliable two-way players on the wing are crucially important, but are not always readily available and are even less common on cheap contracts. The Los Angeles Clippers went through the entire Chris Paul/Blake Griffin era swapping small forwards on a nearly annual basis, struggling to find this kind of contribution from the wing. With little cap flexibility, the Clippers were unable to acquire a forward that could effectively and consistently play both end of the court, which caused issues over the years. As a second round pick, Bacon is set to make $815,615 in his first year. If Bacon is able to contribute at even a league average level, that will be a major boost for the shorthanded Hornets. Bacon is smart to focus on improving as a defender as Steve Clifford is a defensive-minded coach who will leave talented players on the bench if they aren’t making a positive impact on the defensive end of the court.
In fact, Clifford offered some strong simultaneous praise and criticism of Monk when it came to his scoring and defense.
“He can score, he can score, he can score [speaking of Monk],” Clifford stated. “I think his defense will come because he’s willing, he’s a good guy. I think that being a good player is very important to him.”
It’s apparent in Clifford’s comment that he values scoring, but that defense is also extremely important and essential to any player that wants to be a “good player.”
“He knows and understands that the way he has played in the past [in college], he can’t play in this league if he wants to be a good player,” Clifford said about Monk. “The big thing is, I told him, when people say, ‘he’s a talented offensive player’ that is a lot different than somebody saying, ‘he’s a talented NBA player.’”
Point guard Michael Carter-Williams also suffered an injury (bone bruise in his left knee), which received less attention than Batum’s injury. While Carter-Williams is not the same caliber of player as Batum, the Hornets are alarmingly thing at backup point guard. Without Carter-Williams, the team was going to lean on Batum to act as a playmaker more than he has in the past, which would have, at least in part, addressed the lack of an established backup point guard. But with Batum sidelined, Coach Clifford has given Monk time at the point guard position. If Monk proves capable of playing both guard positions and playing alongside Walker, that could go a long way towards mitigating the loss of Batum and Carter-Williams. It’s not reasonable to expect Monk (or Bacon) to produce as consistently as a seasoned veteran, but having them contribute at a league average level would constitute a big win for a Charlotte team with serious playoff aspirations.
Teams Refuse To Back Down To Stacked Warriors
Golden State got better over the summer, but that didn’t stop others from trying to stop them from repeating as champions
Opening week is finally upon us.
Appropriately enough, the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics will kick off the 2017-18 NBA season tomorrow night, as will the defending champion Golden State Warriors when they host the improved Houston Rockets.
The clear-cut favorites to win the league title are the ones who have done so two out of the past three years, and rightfully so. Warriors general manager Bob Myers has done a masterful job of assembling a juggernaut. They’ve kept their insanely talented core intact and—aside from Ian Clark and Matt Barnes—haven’t lost any of their key bench pieces to free agency.
In fact, Golden State has added to that dangerous second unit. Jordan Bell was bought from the Chicago Bulls and will bring another Draymond Green-esque impact almost immediately. Nick Young and Omri Casspi were brought in to fill the void of backup wings, which is an improvement at the position anyway. With the same roster as last year and better reserves to give the starters a breather, there’s no reason Steve Kerr and company can’t repeat if they stay healthy.
Knowing what the Warriors are capable of and how well they are set up to truly be a dynasty, there are some league executives out there who are hesitant to make significant moves that could potentially flop against such a powerhouse.
ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported back in middle June that select teams don’t want to risk a big play because of it. What that basically translates into is: We’re throwing in the white towel until that ball club disbands.
But luckily for fans and for parity’s sake, there was a handful of general managers that refused to take that path. Just looking down the list in the Western Conference, there were organizations that swung for the fences this summer.
The aforementioned Rockets are one of them.Daryl Morey pieced together multiple trades to allow him to land Chris Paul to play next to James Harden and form a dynamic backcourt tandem. Houston also signed a pair of veteran two-way players in Luc Mbah a Moute and P.J. Tucker to provide depth and defense.
What about the Oklahoma City Thunder? Just when we thought Russell Westbrook’s MVP season was enough to maybe build off, the unthinkable happened. Sam Presti unloaded Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to Indiana after just one season with the team to add All-Star forward Paul George, who is in a contract year.
That blockbuster move was followed up with another two months later, as Presti decided to deal fan favorite Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott to the Knicks in exchange for Carmelo Anthony. The creation of a Westbrook-George-Anthony big three forms an elite trio that is determined to prove championship worthiness.
Top tier Eastern Conference counterparts did their due diligence as well. The Cavaliers and Celtics are essentially rivals and became trade partners in an attempt to re-tool their respective rosters, in addition to gaining important pieces outside of that.
Boston inked Gordon Hayward to a maximum contract to create a bolstered starting unit alongside Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, and Al Horford until madness happened.
Firstly, Bradley got moved in a swap with the Detroit Pistons for Marcus Morris to address the hole at power forward. After that—with reports of Kyrie Irving’s unhappiness in Cleveland swirling around the basketball universe—Celtics general manager Danny Ainge acted immediately and swung a deal for the All-Star point guard in exchange for his All-Star point guard, a vital member of his team in Jae Crowder and the coveted Brooklyn Nets first-round pick.
It’s almost a brand new squad, but Brad Stevens has a versatile group to work with to try and finally dethrone the conference champions of the last three years.
As for the East’s cream of the crop, the Cavaliers moves are well known because wherever LeBron James goes the spotlight follows. Thomas and Crowder were huge gets for first-time general manager Koby Altman, especially after the outside growing doubt in the franchise’s front office. The rookie executive was also instrumental in signing Derrick Rose, Jeff Green, and Dwyane Wade to veteran minimum contracts.
Rose and Green have plenty of motivation because their critics think they’re washed up, meaning Tyronn Lue won’t have to give them a reason to play their hearts out. Wade simply made the decision to come to Cleveland because he can play with his best friend and potentially add to his collection of championship rings.
Ante Zizic, Cedi Osman, and Jose Calderon are also now a part of the roster that all-of-a-sudden is now deep at almost every position. It’s a new flavor for a team that may have only one year left to compete for a title with James’ pending free agency next summer.
Those four teams feel great about their chances to get in the way of the Warriors. It doesn’t stop there though. The West in general loaded up.
The Minnesota Timberwolves executed the first big move of the year when they traded for Jimmy Butler. The Denver Nuggets signed Paul Millsap to provide leadership and a veteran voice in a young locker room full of talent. The San Antonio Spurs lost Jonathan Simmons but brought in a very capable Rudy Gay under-the-radar as Kawhi Leonard’s backup.
Nobody expected the league to completely fold and hand Golden State another championship, but it was surprising (and relieving) to see so many teams have the fortitude to pull off the moves that they did. There was definitely risk involved for some of them, however, one thing is for certain.
The Warriors will not have a cakewalk to the NBA Finals. They will have to go through a rigorous set of teams in the West throughout the regular season and the playoffs.
If any team is up to the task, it’s Golden State. But we’ll see how it plays out starting about 24 hours from now.
See you at tip-off.
NBA League Pass Debuts for 2017-18 Season
NBA League Pass has launched for the 2017-18 season. Basketball Insiders has the details.
The NBA and Turner Sports have launched NBA League Pass for the 2017-18 season, with several new features and pricing options available. NBA League Pass, a subscription-based service, will be available to users across 19 different platforms, from television and broadband to tablets, mobile and a plethora of connected devices.
In addition, an important note: As of Monday, NBA League Pass subscribers who have already purchased their access through a TV provider (Comcast, DirecTV, Dish, etc.) are now able to link their account to the NBA’s streaming service at no additional charge. The link to do this can be found here.
Basketball Insiders has you covered with a breakdown of all the new details immediately available. We will also be bringing you a detailed breakdown of certain important technological areas later in the week.
New or improved features of NBA League Pass include:
- Improved video quality for streaming League Pass content developed by iStreamPlanet, a high-level video streaming entity working in partnership with NBA Digital. Included among these improvements are faster delivery time for live feeds, reducing notable lag time present in previous versions. More detail on these video quality improvements will be featured in our breakdown later this week.
- A new premium package that includes continuous in-arena coverage, even during commercials. This allows fans to view team huddles, live entertainment and other venue features that make them feel closer to the experience.
- A season-long virtual reality subscription package via NBA Digital and NextVR, available to all premium and traditional NBA League Pass subscribers (also available to international subscribers and single-game purchasers beginning in week two of the NBA season). Access will be available across Samsung Gear VR, Google Daydream and Windows Mixed Reality.
- Coverage of pre-game warmups and other in-arena events.
- Spanish-language video coverage for select games, as well as Spanish-language audio continuing for select games.
- NBA Mobile view will contain a zoomed-in, tighter shot of game action that’s optimized for mobile devices.
Pricing for NBA League Pass has not changed for traditional access, and will remain at $199.99 for the full season. New monthly-based subscriptions are now also available, both for the full package and for individual teams. Full pricing will be as follows:
- Traditional NBA League Pass (full league): $199.99
- Premium NBA League Pass: $249.99
- NBA Team Pass: $119.99
- Single Game Pass: $6.99
- Virtual Reality package: $49.99
- Premium monthly subscription: $39.99
- Traditional League Pass monthly subscription: $28.99
- NBA Team Pass monthly subscription: $17.99
As previously reported by Basketball Insiders, upgrades are also expected on the TV side of NBA League Pass, particularly through Comcast, which has had the largest share of customer issues for this product in recent years. While only a single nightly HD channel was available via Comcast XFINITY League Pass previously, sources tell Basketball Insiders that all games will be available in HD through Comcast’s Beta channel package by the end of November (or earlier).
This Beta package does have limitations, however, including users’ inability to record, pause or rewind games. The package that was available in previous season will continue to be available until (and after) the Beta package is active, and subscribers will get access to both for no additional charge.
Check back with Basketball Insiders later in the week for a full rundown of the technological improvements being made to NBA League Pass.