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Some Thoughts On Free Agency And Summer League

by Kyle Ratke, Digital Content Manager

Digital Content Manager

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Greetings and happy “It’s The Middle Of July, Where Did The World Did Summer Go?!” Week.

Before we get to the core of the column, let’s kick it off discussing Minnesota’s two free-agent signings.

First, there was point guard Derrick Rose. The Wolves first signed Rose late last season and he appeared in nine regular-season games for the team, averaging 5.8 points and 1.2 assists per game. He showed his true value in the postseason, though, averaging 14.2 points and 2.6 assists in 23.8 minutes per game against the Rockets.

We know that the MVP Derrick Rose is gone. Injuries took that away from him, but he’s still only 29 and he can still be an impactful player on both sides of the court. He proved that down the stretch last season.

Rose and the Wolves got a deal done early when free agency opened and it sounded like both sides were on the same page throughout the whole process, which was a pretty short one.

“(It’s) something we talked about right from the beginning,” Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said from Summer League in Las Vegas. “We knew how important he was. For Derrick, the way he finished up the season, he was a great fit for us and the big thing is going to be his health. This is the first offseason he hasn’t had to do any rehab stuff, so he’s already into basketball.”

And then there’s Anthony Tolliver.

This will actually be Tolliver’s second stint with Minnesota. He was with the team from 2010 to 2012. You may remember Tolliver’s decision that might have been overshadowed by someone else’s decision.

Tolliver is a spot-up 3-point shooter who can play both sides of the court. He’s one of the more well-respected players in the league.

“I think for the guys who have been around, you guys know him,” Thibodeau said. “He’s a great pro and everywhere he goes, whether you’re talking to guys that he’s played with, the coaches he’s played for, the general managers, ownership, everyone has great respect for him. He’s the ultimate pro, very unselfish.”

I had season tickets during Tolliver’s first stint with the team and he’s a fun-loving dude. Those teams won a combined 43 games over those two seasons and I remember he always seemed like he had a smile on his face.

This is a player who isn’t afraid to do the little things. He drew 18 charges last season, a mark that ranked eighth in the NBA. That’s pretty remarkable considering he played just 22.2 minutes per game. To put that in perspective, Karl-Anthony Towns played 35.6 minutes per game and forced 17 charges, leading all Wolves players.

Both of these players will help the Wolves in 2018-19. They might not be the splashiest moves, but for a team that already had its core, we knew the splashy move probably wasn’t there. And as we’ve seen time and again, the splashy move isn’t always the best move.

Let’s get into it.

3 THOUGHTS

Rose AND Jones, Not Rose OR Jones

Rose is listed primarily as a point guard, and so is Tyus Jones. So, who will have to step down?

Well, probably neither.

We saw when the Wolves had Jones and Kris Dunn, Thibs wasn’t afraid to play both of them together. Without Jamal Crawford, I’d expect the Wolves to play Jones and Rose to play alongside each other in the second unit with Rose guarding the team’s shooting guard and Jones guarding the smaller guard.

Defensively is really the only spot where the point guard and shooting guard position matters for these two. Both of these players can handle the ball, and offensively, Jones could act more as a shooting guard considering he’s a better shooter than Rose.

I think Jones is going to have a big season, and I think we can expect more of what Rose showed the Wolves in the playoffs last season. Don’t think of this as “one or the other” with these two guys just because they play the same position.

Tolliver Has Always Been A 3-Point Shooter

With a lot of power forwards over the last few seasons, we’ve seen them add the 3-point shot into their game. That hasn’t really been the case with Tolliver. He’s been fine with shooting 3-pointers throughout his entire career. That’s been his bread and butter. In his rookie season with San Antonio back in 2008-09, he attempted 2.2 3-pointers in 10.9 minutes per game. The league average for 3-point attempts in a game was 18.1 per game.

Last season, Tolliver attempted 4.6 3-pointers in 22.2 minutes per game. Of course, times have changed. Teams are averaging 29 3-pointers per game.

With the number of 3-point shots in the NBA going up, Wolves fans should be excited that Tolliver made a career-high 43.6 percent of his threes last season, a mark that ranked seventh in the NBA.

It’s not the sexiest of moves in what’s been a wild offseason, but the Wolves definitely upgraded their second unit by adding Tolliver.

Winner Of The Offseason?

Champions aren’t made in the offseason.

Champions are made in the weight room!!!!

Okay, I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s the only thing I remember from eighth-grade football.

We can look at the Lakers as winners for landing LeBron James, but the rest of that roster has some giant question marks on it (of course whenever you land the one of the best players of all-time that’s a win, unless you’re the Wizards in 2001).

The Warriors signed DeMarcus Cousins, but how healthy will he be? Achilles injuries are the devil, especially in basketball. There’s no guarantee that he’ll be even 60 percent of the player he was.

I tend to lean towards the teams that draft well and maybe don’t make a huge splash in free agency, although in today’s NBA, free agency is more and more of a factor than it has ever been before. But I liked what the Mavericks did, making a draft-day trade to acquire Luka Doncic while signing DeAndre Jordan to a reported one-year deal. And this might be the homer approach, but don’t sleep on the Wolves and Josh Okogie and Keita Bates-Diop. These two guys were better than I expected in Summer League and I expected them to be solid. Okogie’s defense and Bates-Diop’s touch from deep is something I think can translate to the NBA in their rookie seasons.

Pronouncing winners and losers in July is hard and while it’s fun to speculate, it doesn’t mean a whole lot.

Last year, the winners of the offseason were the Celtics. And they turned out to be winners, but it had nothing to do with trading for Kyrie Irving or signing Gordon Hayward.

Sports Illustrated named the Warriors winners for signing Nick Young and Omri Casspi. Young didn’t play an important role on the team in the playoffs, and Casspi wasn’t even on the team in the playoffs.

Things aren’t always what they seem.

Remember the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles ‘Dream Team’ that finished 8-8? Or how about the Dolphins who combined for 22 wins in three seasons after winning the 2015 offseason by signing Ndamukong Suh?

Sports are fun because we don’t know what’s going to happen. And even if the predicted outcome is the end result, it’s not always the way we envisioned it.

CALL THE FIRE DEPARTMENT!

After watching Summer League for the last week, here are five players who I’ve decided will succeed at the next level. No Timberwolves included considering you know how highly I think of Okogie and Bates-Diop already.

  • Kevin Knox, New York Knicks – Remember when we starting seeing Karl-Anthony Towns do things in the NBA that we never saw him do at Kentucky? Same thing with Devin Booker. We never saw Towns shooting and Booker never played off the pick and roll. I think we’re seeing it now with Knox. I didn’t necessarily love the Knicks picking him with the ninth-overall pick, but New York might have found a future face of the franchise to pair alongside Kristaps Porzingis. This is a guy who has averaged 23.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in Summer League and is making plays that only pros make. New coach Dave Fizdale has the same reaction as all of us.
  • Jonathan Isaac, Orlando Magic – We though Mo Bamba was going to be the guy to watch in Summer League. While he’s been fun, and he’s proven he’s more than a theoretical shooter, Isaac has been the revelation for Magic fans. Last year’s No. 6 pick barely played in his rookie season due to injury, but he looks bigger in Summer League and the dude is so freaking long. With him and Bamba on the floor at the same time, and Aaron Gordon, this is a team that can cover the entire court. I still have no idea who will play point guard for Orlando, but this athletic movement Orlando has is an intriguing one. Isaac has averaged 14.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.7 blocks in Summer League.
  • Grayson Allen , Utah Jazz – Allen has only played in two Summer League games, but he’s already done plenty of the stuff that made you love him (or hate him) at Duke. And there’s no in-between with him. You either love his intensity and sometimes controversial play, or you hate it. I’m a fan. I think of him as a Marcus Smart type, with more talent on offense and less on defense. He’s going to fit in perfectly with the Jazz and there’s an 85 percent change he gets in an in-game fight this season.
  • Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks – I know that Young has shown plenty of struggle in Summer League. He’s shooting just 38 percent from the field. That’s not ideal for a guy who prides his game on shooting. We knew that he was going to be too small for the NBA, but he’s been even too small for Summer League at times. With that said, I think he’ll figure it out. That probably won’t be in his rookie season unless he loads up on Twinkies and Creatine, but as he adds muscle to his frame, he already has the tools to be a good player at the next level. He made some passes as Summer League that are pro-level passes. I still don’t love the trade Atlanta made to acquire Young, but it’s not fair to overreact to four Summer League games. If you thought Young was going to be a solid pro heading into the draft, stick to your guns. We see all the clips of Young missing because that’s how the internet works, but don’t forget about games like this.
  • Wendell Carter Jr., Chicago Bulls – I wrote that I think Carter Jr. would have a better pro career than Marvin Bagley back on June 13. In fact, I bet fellow writer Julian Andrews a 2029 lunch on it. (Julian, Manny’s Steakhouse sound good?) I wrote seconds ago that you shouldn’t overreact to a few Summer League games but I’m taking that back now. Carter Jr. is averaging 16.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.8 blocks while shooting 63 percent from the field in Las Vegas. He’s been one of the top-five players over the last week. Bagley played in just one Vegas Summer League game, but in three games in Sacramento’s Summer League, he averaged just 8.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game while shooting 9-for-29 from the field. We thought that Carter Jr. would be the project and Bagley would be the Day 1 impact player. How things have changed.

High 5

This was in the first game of Summer League and it’s something that we’ve seen throughout the last week with Okogie. Okogie is averaging 11 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.3 steals through four Summer League games. The 2.3 steals per game seems low if you’ve been watching these games. It honestly feels like 5.3. Every few minutes it feels like Okogie is breaking up a play or disrupting a pass. It’s hard to figure out what translates from Summer League to the pro game, but his defensive intensity and effort is something that most likely will.

I love watching this kid play. I honestly haven’t seen someone with this defensive intensity and just overall smarts at his age before. Going into the offseason, the Wolves needed bench depth at wing and someone who could guard multiple positions. With Okogie, along with Keita Bates-Diop, it appears early on the Wolves front office did pretty well in the draft.

There are going to be bumps, but so far, this has been pretty fun.

It was so awesome to see Zach LaVine get some long-term security over the week. Whether it would have been in Chicago or Sacramento, I would have been happy for him. And I think I speak for a lot of people who have worked with him over the years.

Sure, LaVine has some strides to make – especially defensively, but this is a fun-loving player who gives it his all.

I started working at the Wolves full-time during Zach’s rookie season and he was one of the nicest guys around.

In our first encounter, I asked him if he was a big Adam Levine (lead singer of Maroon 5). I don’t know if I was trying to be funny, but that turned out to be a stupid question to ask someone I literally met just seconds earlier. Zach looked at me like I was the dumbest human ever (which is not far off) and told me he never heard of him. He told me his favorite artist was Chief Keef. I had never heard of Chief Keef and at 24 years old (Zach was 19), I had never felt so old.

After he won his first dunk contest, he huddled around our content crew before his media availability – I believe it was myself, Erik Nelson, Noah Ferche and Aaron Seehusen, along with the Associated Press’ Jon Krawczynski. With tears in his eyes (and a lot of sweat dripping on us), he told Noah and Erik to put their cameras down and that we were going to have a ‘real moment.’ He gave us all hugs and told us thanks for being there since “day one.” Of course, we hadn’t been there since day one. We had just met him about six months prior, but this was a kid who was 19 and was seeing some of his wildest dreams come true.

Don’t change, Zach. Keep putting in work.

This move has been reported, but not yet official. Assuming it is official, it’s a dagger in the hearts of basketball fans everywhere.

I love the idea of a player playing his whole career with one team. And with Parker being 36 years old, it feels weird that we’re going to see him play on another team for just his final few seasons.

Things aren’t the same as they once were – in the league and in San Antonio. That’s just something we’re going to have to expect. The days of David Robinson, Tim Duncan, John Stockton and Dirk Nowitzki are probably over.

There is some familiarity in Charlotte, though. Head coach James Borrego has spent the last three seasons as an assistant coach with the Spurs.

And I don’t mean to say that Parker can’t contribute. He averaged 7.7 points and 3.5 assists last season in 19.5 minutes per game. He can be a good rotational point guard in Charlotte’s system. But I think he could have done the same in San Antonio’s system.

Props for Maya being just the second female on the cover of SLAM Magazine. But how in the world is she only the second female on the cover? The last was Chamique Holdsclaw in 1998. There have been 188 covers since. It’s worth celebrating Maya for sure but seems weird it’s taken this long to get another women’s basketball on the cover. We can celebrate Moore for being just the second female on the cover, but SLAM most definitely should not.

First off, the Twins are having a disappointing season. There are good teams and bad teams in baseball. This is something we know. But then there are bad teams that are fun to watch. Minnesota is 40-48, 8.5 games back from first place in the AL Central and they are not particularly fun to watch unless Jose Berrios is on the mound or Eddie Rosario is at the plate.

Berrios is the Twins first All-Star, which means they don’t need any more. Each team is guaranteed one. That doesn’t mean the Twins don’t deserve another one.

Rosario ended up in the Final Vote but lost to Jean Segura.

I think the All-Star system in baseball is broken. Each team should not get an All-Star just to get one. That seems very elementary, although I’ll say I think the hosting All-Star team should get at least one All-Star. That makes sense.

In 1999, Ron Coomer made the All-Star Game. In 1999, Coomer finished the season hitting .263 with 16 homeruns and 65 RBIs. I love Coom and he was a great personality, but he shouldn’t have been an All-Star.

Hopefully the MLB addresses this. I don’t want to go the whole “NOT EVERYONE GETS A PARTICIPATION AWARD!” rant, but it feels silly for someone to be in the All-Star game just because they’re the best option on the team without any other viable candidates.

SO LONG

That’s all for the week. The Wolves wrap up Summer League play on Friday night.

Before you know it, the season will be there.

As always, thanks for reading. Enjoy your weekend.