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All-NBA Talk And NBA Finals Predictions

by Kyle Ratke, Digital Content Manager

Digital Content Manager

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Happy Tuesday from Minneapolis, the place that all-of-the-sudden is warmer than the center of a volcano.

(Update: It’s now raining a whole lot and I don’t understand how weather works.)

But after a 20-inch snowstorm six weeks ago, we can’t complain, right?

WRONG! We can complain because it’s a free country and I don’t like having back sweat after walking 18 feet to go get my mail. I also don’t like scraping my windshield of ice, which is why I drive with my head out of the window a lot in the winter.

You are getting TWO columns this week. Technically, this is last Friday’s column but with the long holiday weekend, we decided to push it to today.

The big news over the last week for the Wolves was Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns making the All-NBA Third Team. That news was announced Thursday afternoon.

Butler also made the All-Defensive Second Team, which was announced Wednesday.

For a team that has had minimal success throughout the years, it’s noteworthy to have two players make this team. The two also made the All-Star team back in February and led the Wolves to their first playoff appearance since (you’ve heard this before . . .) 2003-04. I hate reminding you of that stat, but it doesn’t make sense to ignore the fact that the Timberwolves haven’t been very good at basketball for a long stretch, especially now they are pretty good at basketball again.

The last time a Wolves player made an All-NBA team was in 2013-14 when Kevin Love made it on the Second Team. The last time the Wolves had an All-Defensive player was 2006-07 when that Kevin Garnett guy made it. The last time the Wolves had two All-NBA players was 2003-04 when Garnett made the first team and Sam Cassell made the second team.

For each player, this is an honor that means different things.

For Butler, it’s more of the same. It’s the second-straight season Butler made it on the All-NBA Third Team and the fourth time in the last five seasons he was named to the All-Defensive Second Team. The fact that Butler made these teams while playing just 59 games shows the impact that Butler truly had on the team when he was on the court. With Butler, the Wolves were 37-22 (62.7 winning percentage). Without him, they were just 10-13 (43.4 percent).

For Towns, who somehow wasn’t named to a team last season after averaging 25 points and 12 rebounds last season, it’s his first honor. But that’s how it goes. In 2016-17, Towns had better individual numbers, but the Wolves won just 31 games and missed the playoffs. A season later, his numbers were down a bit, but the Wolves won 16 more games. Winners land on these lists.

At 22, he’s one of the top-three centers in the league. In 2017-18, we saw him lead the league in double-doubles while shooting 42.1 percent from the 3-point line, a mark that ranked 14th in the league, sandwiched between Steph Curry and J.J. Redick – two of the best 3-point shooters the game has ever seen. This isn’t an honor that means a lot to everyone, but Towns is a basketball historian and this stuff matters to him.

And in shameless plug news, we wrote about both players and their impact on the Wolves this season in our Roster Review series. You can read Butler’s here, and KAT’s here.

Congrats to Butler and Towns. Here’s to more of the same in 2018-19.

3 THOUGHTS

Biggest All-NBA Surprise


Most people would have probably predicted Victor Oladipo coming off the bench before being named to an All-NBA Team after being traded from the Thunder to the Pacers this offseason, but here we are. Oladipo was named to the All-NBA Third Team, the same team as Paul George, the player he was traded for last season.

Life is funny sometimes. Sometimes it’s also not. Like if you’re a Thunder fan, you are probably not laughing.

There’s a pretty good chance that we’re going to move forward calling that trade the “Victor Oladipo Trade” instead of the “Paul George Trade,” especially with how well Indiana performed compared to expectations, which was quite the opposite of how George’s Thunder did. Again, given the expectations.

In his first season with the Pacers, Oladipo averaged career-highs of 23.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists and a league-leading 2.4 steals. He also shot 47.7 percent from the field and 37.1 percent from the 3-point line.

George’s numbers? 21.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.0 steals while shooting 43 percent from the field and 40.1 percent from the 3-point line.

Pretty similar . . . It’s maybe not fair to compare stats, but when you add in the fact that the Pacers also got Domantas Sabonis in the deal and the uncertainty surrounding Oklahoma City, this trade is a major W for Indiana.  

What a wild ride it’s been for Oladipo. He was drafted second overall in the 2013 Draft by Orlando. For his first season, Orlando played him at point guard (a position that Oladipo is not). Two years later, Orlando shipped him off to Oklahoma City for Serge Ibaka (even though the Magic already had 1,288 big men on the roster). In one season in OKC, Oladipo played fine, shooting a then career-high 44.2 percent from the field and 36.1 percent from the 3-point line. It was clear, though, that Oladipo never felt comfortable playing alongside Russell Westbrook, something we’ve seen other players deal with as well.

At 26, Oladipo is still very young and hasn’t even hit the prime of his career. Buy Oladipo stock if you can.

What’s Next For Boston?

The Celtics lost in heartbreaking fashion to the Cavaliers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. But let’s be honest, for this team to get that far is remarkable. No Kyrie Irving. No Gordon Hayward. With even one of those stars, this team is in the Finals.

There aren’t many teams in better position for 2018-19. You get Irving and Hayward and combine those two with the core of Al Horford, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum and wowzas. Probably the favorites in the East in 2018-19 prior to free agency.

While you never cheer for injuries because that’s a horrible thing to do as a human, the injuries to Irving and Hayward helped develop Brown and Tatum immensely and that’s only going to pay off for Boston in the future.

What’s Next For Houston?

The Rockets pushed Golden State all the way to the brink of Game 7 before falling (in the third quarter again) in the Western Conference Finals.

A few things here:

  • If Chris Paul plays do the Rockets probably win Game 6 or Game 7? Yes. But if the Warriors have Andre Iguodala, then we’re having a much different conversation. I understand Eric Gordon's "if we had Chris Paul . . ." comments came in the heat of the battle, but that’s how sports work. Plus, the Rockets knew when they traded for Paul that they were taking a risk on a somewhat injury-prone player. He got hurt. My friend once made a comment in our fantasy football league that if his opponent’s running back didn’t score three touchdowns, he would have won. Well, that player did score three touchdowns and you did not win. That’s how I feel about this.

  • The Rockets are built strictly to beat the Warriors. And they were a win away from going to the Finals. I think they would have won it all, too, had they gotten there. That’s got to be such a disheartening feeling. One win away from knowing you’re probably the heavy favorites in the Finals.

  • ·         Live by the three, die by the three. Houston is a great 3-point shooting team, but they shot 7-for-44 (15.9 percent), including missing some absolute wide-open shots. Watching them missed 27 3-pointers IN A ROW. That is one of the most painful things I’ve seen as a sports fan, and I’ve watched a handful of Minnesota Vikings games through the years.

CALL THE FIRE DEPARTMENT!


This is supposed to be for hot takes, but honestly, this isn’t exactly a great time for hot takes around the NBA. We are still a few weeks away from the NBA Draft. And apart from the Finals, there’s not a whole lot to talk about.

I’ll use this spot to do a little NBA Finals prediction. This take is more of the consensus than anything else, so don’t expect any sort of Stephen A. Smith business here.

While it might be boring that we’re seeing the Cavaliers vs. Warriors Volume 4. But it’s also pretty historical and something your kids, assuming they are basketball fans, will ask you about in 2031.

And then you consider that LeBron James is appearing in his EIGHTH STRAIGHT NBA FINALS which is just a ridiculous thing. Think about everything that’s changed in eight years. What were you doing eight years ago? I was sleeping on a couch with Pizza Roll crumbs on my shirt after a long night of playing Halo. Times were rough for 20-year-old Kyle who believe it or not, was very single.

James is one of the best three players (don’t fight me, please) ever. But this is the worst supporting cast he’s probably had since his first Finals with the Cavaliers all the way back in 2006-07. That team was swept by the Spurs.

While the Warriors looked chaotic at times against the Rockets, the Rockets are a better team than the Cavaliers, plus the Warriors will have homecourt advantage in this series.

Give me the Warriors in 5, or what we call in the business, a gentleman’s sweep.

HIGH 5

This is our Web Editorial Associate, Julian Andrews. He’s building his own desk to join all of the folks in our digital content room. Julian is awesome and is probably going to be famous one day. You should read his Lynx column from Tuesday. It’s really good.

We don’t thank our Vets enough. Thank you to all who have served!

The Lynx have won four titles in seven years. That seems pretty good, no?

Ummm, yep! Jason Bateman is sneakily one of the best actors in Hollywood. I haven’t watched an episode yet, but I’m looking forward to digging in. Probably right after I write this. The money is in the banana stand!

This is classic Zach Harper. And why we love him so much.

SO LONG

With another column coming in three days, I don’t have much for a closer here. This is more John Rocker than Mariano Rivera, so my apologies.

I’ll talk to you on Friday morning.

As always, thanks for reading.