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Crabbe On Trade To Wolves: 'It's A Match Made In Heaven'
Last week, the Timberwolves announced they were trading Jeff Teague and Treveon Graham to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for shooting guard Allen Crabbe. Four days later, Crabbe could be found shooting corner 3s with the rest of the Wolves’ crew after Monday’s shootaround at Mayo Clinic Square.
It’s been a quick turnaround for Crabbe but based on the seven times he used the word “excited” in his first media scrum with Minnesota, it seems as though he’s handling the transition as well as possible.
On Monday, Crabbe told members of the media he was “taken aback” by the trade last week.
“I didn’t hear anything leading up to this,” Crabbe said. “I was actually in the middle of practice, and they pulled me to the side and told me I just got traded. It definitely was a shock to me, but I mean, it’s not my first time being traded.”
Crabbe was traded to Atlanta on July 6, 2019, after spending just under two years with the Brooklyn Nets. Before his time in Brooklyn, he played with the Portland Trail Blazers for the first four years of his career. He played with Shabazz Napier, Jake Layman and Noah Vonleh and worked with coaches David Vanterpool and Pablo Prigioni before being traded to Atlanta, and his experience playing in the Nets’ and Trail Blazers’ systems supports the sentiment that he’ll be a strong fit with the Wolves.
“Some teams that I played on like Brooklyn and Portland, they had very similar sets to what they run over here,” Crabbe said. “I got in yesterday, got a little workout in with Pablo and tried to just get some of the concepts down on the offensive side. At the end of the day, it’s basketball. We all go out there and do the same thing, run our sets, execute the game plan, and I feel like I put myself in a good situation.”
Since being traded to Minnesota, Crabbe’s shooting has been his most-talked-about skill. The seven-year player is a 38.9% 3-point shooter. Karl-Anthony Towns is the only Wolves player with a better career average from behind the arc (39.4%). When asked about how his shooting will benefit the Wolves, Crabbe was all smiles.
“Shooting is what I do,” Crabbe said. “Wherever I go, I feel like that’s a threat on any team. The game has changed a lot, and shooting is at the top of that. I’m just excited. Some of the things I can find myself being effective in and helping the team out any way that I can. It’s a new situation, and I’m excited.
“It’s a match made in heaven. (The Wolves) like to shoot 3s, I love to shoot 3s, so I can’t ask for anything better than that.”
Wolves head coach Ryan Saunders also spoke optimistically about Crabbe’s fit with the Wolves after Monday’s shootaround.
“I think (Crabbe) definitely brings a shooting element,” Saunders said. “He brings a veteran presence, too. (He’s) just a guy who knows where to be within the offense, spacing-wise. I think that can really help a young group.”
Crabbe met with some of his new teammates and went over concepts with coaches on Sunday, but Monday was his first practice with the team. Yet, Saunders believes he’s picked things up quickly and “hasn’t missed a beat.”
Minnesota’s President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas also touched on Crabbe’s advantage of having played in similar systems as the Wolves’ but noted that he hasn’t played with some of the Wolves’ key guys such as Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Crabbe isn’t too worried about complimenting the play of the Wolves’ top offensive threats.
“(Towns) is going to draw a lot of attention, Andrew is going to draw a lot of attention,” Crabbe said. “When defenses want to help and send an extra guy at them, they spread the ball out and I can get open looks and knock it down. It’s very key to have players of their caliber.”
On the flip side, he believes he’ll allow Towns and Wiggins to receive more one-on-one opportunities once defenses become hesitant to send help with Crabbe open on the perimeter.
“I think I can help spread the floor,” Crabbe said. “Shooting is what I do, so I’m just looking forward to contributing to the team.”
Crabbe is expected to make his debut with the Wolves when they host the Denver Nuggets on Monday night, but Rosas was straightforward with how deep the Wolves are at the shooting guard position right now. This season, Wiggins, Jarrett Culver and Josh Okogie have all gotten regular minutes as the Wolves’ 2 guards. Crabbe’s history shows he’s shot the ball better than all three of them throughout his career, but he’ll have to earn his opportunities just like anyone else on the team.
“(Saunders’) mantra and my philosophy are the same: you have to earn those opportunities,” Rosas said. “To be fair to the guys who’ve been here working hard, there’s competition. It’s my job to bring in as much talent as possible so guys can compete, but that’s the kind of system you want to have. (Crabbe will) be given every opportunity. He’s got the right and the ability to fit into what we want to play, so Coach will give him a shot, but competition is good for us at that position.”
Is the addition of Crabbe just the beginning of moves the Wolves will make before the trade deadline?
“Every day in and out we’re going to continue to look for opportunities to build the foundation for this organization from a talent base,” Rosas said. “We like our guys, and every day we’re getting better in terms of the development of our players. It’s tough. We want more wins than losses just like everybody, but the reality is we’re excited about the work that we’re doing. To see Andrew have his first triple-double, to see Jarrett and the success he’s had, our guys are growing and developing. As much as we can invest and develop internally through player development, that’s a big priority. But anyway that we can improve this ball club, we’re going to look to aggressively make sure that those things happen.”
Monday night’s game will be Towns’ third game back since missing 15 straight games due to a knee injury and illness. Towns only scored 12 points in Saturday’s loss to the Raptors, but Saunders said his star center looks good in his eyes and that he’s done a lot of things to keep himself in shape. Nonetheless, he expects to see Towns get back into a better rhythm once he faces off with Denver’s All-Star center Nikola Jokic.
As Kyle Ratke mentioned in Monday’s scouting report, Towns averaged 29 points, 9.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists in the Wolves three games against the Nuggets last season.
Saunders was also asked how he anticipates Jamal Murray’s (ankle) absence will impact how the Nuggets play at Target Center. The Wolves’ head coach expects the Nuggets may run less pick-and-roll action in the middle of the floor without Murray but that they’ll be supported by players like Monte Morris, Will Barton, and of course Jokic, who’ve effectively run Denver’s offense this season.
“(Denver has) won games with guys being out,” Saunders said. “They have a number of guys who’ve been able to step in, so we’ll have a tough matchup.”