Mo Williams helps Timberwolves beat Thunder (Yahoo Sports)

TULSA, OK - OCTOBER 19: Andrew Wiggins #22 of the Minnesota Timberwolves fights for a loose ball against Michael Jenkins #6 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during the NBA game on October 19, 2014 at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Photo By Shane Bevel/NBAE via Getty Images)

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Mo Williams scored 19 points in the Minnesota Timberwolves’ 112-94 exhibition victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday night.


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3 NBA Teams Who Should Pursue Minnesota Timberwolves’ Chase Budinger

Kevin Love may not be the only veteran relocating from Minneapolis for the 2014-15 season.

Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski recently reported that, “The Minnesota Timberwolves are shopping forward Chase Budinger in trade talks, league sources told Yahoo Sports.”

Wojnarowski cites league sources claiming that the Detroit Pistons and Houston Rockets are among the organizations that, “have shown an interest.”

At least one other team has emerged as a possible candidate, according to the Sporting News’ Sean Deveney:

There may well be additional suitors who emerge in the near-term, but all three of these clubs have good reason to be interested in the 26-year-old forward.

Injuries held Budinger to 41 games and a career-low 6.7 points per contest last season, but the 26-year-old still managed to convert on 35 percent of his three-point attempts. That’s an important metric for any team doing its due diligence on the five-year veteran.

For his career, Budinger has averaged 3.4 three-point attempts per game. He’ll grab a few rebounds and serve other glue-guy functions, but he’s principally a spot-up shooter—a committed role player who understands his job.

That’s translated into a career average of nine points per game and three especially productive seasons with the Houston Rockets, who acquired the 44th overall pick in 2009 from the Detroit Pistons.

So it’s only fitting that Detroit is among the teams reportedly investigating Budinger at the moment—one of at least three clubs who should add the Arizona product to the fold.

 

Detroit Pistons

There seem to be legs to this rumor.

“A league source confirmed a Yahoo Sports report about the Pistons having interest in Budinger, a 6-foot-7 forward who appears caught in a numbers game at small forward,” The Detroit NewsVincent Goodwill Jr. recently wrote. “Nothing appears to be imminent, but it looks like the Pistons are at least kicking the tires on Budinger before the season begins.”

Goodwill notes that Detroit will likely be without injured shooting guard Jodie Meeks for at least six weeks into the 2014-15 season. The Pistons also do not have much depth behind small forward Caron Butler, especially if Josh Smith spends most of his time at the 4 spot this season—which he should.

More broadly, this team also needs more shooting. It ranked 29th league-wide with a 51.4 true shooting percentage last season, according to Hollinger Stats. The Pistons also ranked 29th in three-point accuracy (32.1 percent) and 22nd in three-pointers attempted (19.3 per game).

Budinger would fill a very real need, both in terms of the rotation and in terms of the game plan.

More importantly, he and the Pistons make sense together. This is a team looking to turn the corner, one that needs solid veterans to propel a playoff push. The Timberwolves are rebuilding and looking to create playing time for young prospects on the wing such as Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine.

A change of scenery is probably in order, and Detroit may be a mutually beneficial fit.

 

Houston Rockets

Having spent three seasons with the Rockets, you have to believe this is something of a preferred scenario for Budinger.

It doesn’t hurt that Houston is pretty good these days and just happens to have a glaring need at the small forward position. After losing emerging star Chandler Parsons via restricted free agency to the Dallas Mavericks this summer, general manager Daryl Morey quickly snatched up Trevor Ariza to take his place.

That stopped the bleeding and ensures the Rockets an improved perimeter defense in their ongoing pursuit of a championship.

But Ariza will need help on the wing, and it’s worth remembering key bench pieces Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik were lost to trades during the offseason. There’s now a general need for experienced and reliable scoring in the second unit.

Budinger would almost certainly be asked to play an important role from the outset, likely serving as the sixth or seventh man off the bench. It’s a responsibility his health might have denied him a season ago, but things have changed.

“I’ve definitely got my confidence back,” Budinger told reporters this month. “I’m finally feeling great, and because of that my confidence is back.”

The results haven’t been lost on Timberwolves president and new head coach Flip Saunders.

“He’s starting to get his legs under him,” Saunders added. “He hasn’t had a training camp in two years, and the last training camp he had was during the lockout so it was only seven days. This is a whole process for him to get where he wants to get.”

This may be a good time for the Rockets to quietly—and economically—enhance their rotation with a guy just beginning to rediscover his rhythm. With Budinger’s value almost certainly impacted by two injury-marred seasons, Morey might get a much-needed steal here.

 

Portland Trail Blazers

At first glance, the Trail Blazers seem to have everything they need to be a championship contender.

A second glance tells a very different story, particularly if taking a good look at this second unit. Portland’s bench ranked dead last in scoring a season ago with just 23.6 points per contest, according to HoopsStats.com.

And that’s before proven veteran Mo Williams took his sixth-man services to the Timberwolves.

Now head coach Terry Stotts’ depth hinges on the development of untested prospects such as C.J. McCollum, Meyers Leonard, Thomas Robinson and Will Barton. Steve Blake and Dorell Wright will offset that inexperience to some degree, but this is still a pretty thin set of reserves.

Budinger could help change that, teaming with Wright to handle minutes behind starting small forward Nicolas Batum.

Portland’s starting five will almost certainly continue to draw the vast majority of playing time, but a slightly more ensemble approach could do wonders for this roster’s ability to stay fresh amidst deep postseason runs. 

From Budinger’s perspective, the Trail Blazers may be his best chance to win. Despite a four-game sweep at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs in last season’s conference semifinals, this is an emergent force in the Western Conference and likely a step ahead of the weakened Rockets—who lost to Portland in last season’s opening round.

The Trail Blazers would also be an opportunity for Budinger to benefit from an incredibly talented starting lineup—particularly 24-year-old star point guard Damian Lillard. With Lillard, Batum and three-time All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge occupying defenders’ attention, a complementary shooter like Budinger would find his share of open looks and quality touches.

The minutes may be harder to come by in Portland, but there would be no shortage of silver lining.

 

Best Fit?

Budinger has a history with the Rockets, and there may be no team in greater need of veteran depth on the wing—or veteran depth at any position for that matter.

There would be minutes. There would be shots. And there would be just the right amount of responsibility: A potential leadership capacity off the bench and a supporting role alongside superstar anchors James Harden and Dwight Howard.

Harden’s penchant for driving and kicking creates high demand for spot-up perimeter shooting, and floor spacing tends to do wonders for Howard’s ability to operate in the paint.

Houston’s biggest problem may be coming up with the best offer for Budinger, especially if there’s an even remotely active market for his services. Morey doesn’t have many quality young assets at his disposal, at least not the types he’d give away in exchange for Budinger.

It’s also worth noting that the Houston Chronicle‘s Jonathan Feigen recently tweeted that the, “Rockets have zero interest in his contract.”

Maybe it’s posturing. Or maybe it’s a legitimate hurdle. Budinger will make $5 million this season and is guaranteed a player option to make another $5 million in 2015-16—a grand total of $10 million in commitments that may be too rich for Morey’s liking.

But if Minnesota and Houston can find some common ground, they should.

Striking a deal might not alter the league’s balance of power, but it would certainly return Budinger’s career to greener—and familiar—pastures.

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Parker helps Bucks top Timberwolves, 105-98 (Yahoo Sports)

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 17: Jabari Parker #12 of the Milwaukee Bucks shoots against Andrew Wiggins #22 of the Minnesota Timberwolves on October 17, 2014 at U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — Rookie Jabari Parker had 21 points and 11 rebounds, O.J. Mayo scored 19 points and the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 105-98 on Friday night.


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Chase Budinger Trade Rumors: Latest Buzz and Speculation on Timberwolves Forward

The Minnesota Timberwolves are making waves on the trade front for the second time in two months, though this one may not cause the same ripple effect around the NBA.     

According to a report from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, the Timberwolves are fielding offers for Chase Budinger:

The Minnesota Timberwolves are shopping forward Chase Budinger in trade talks, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Among talks with several teams, the Detroit Pistons and Houston Rockets have shown an interest, league sources said.

However, as Wojnarowski also notes, neither the Rockets nor Pistons are hungry to take on Budinger’s contract, which includes a $5 million player option for next season:

Houston is reluctant to take on the $5 million player option Budinger’s deal has in 2015-16, as are the Pistons, sources said. Nevertheless, the Pistons are taking a long look at Budinger and considering the possibility of making a deal. No trade is considered imminent for Budinger. 

Detroit lost shooting guard Jodie Meeks for two months because of a fractured back.

One reason the Timberwolves might be keen to get rid of Budinger, and why few teams will have interest, is because of his injury history. The 26-year-old has appeared in just 64 games since 2012-13, and he missed half of last season due to surgery on his left knee. 

Budinger addressed the topic of his health during the preseason, via the Timberwolves’ official public relations staff on Twitter:

Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press confirmed Budinger’s assessment of his health with this tweet from Minnesota’s training camp:

It’s not a surprise the Rockets would have interest in Budinger, however muted it might be due to his salary. The forward was drafted 44th overall by Detroit in the 2009 NBA draft before being traded to Houston. He spent three seasons with the Rockets and averaged 9.4 points per game. 

Budinger is a valuable bench piece to have if he can stay healthy. He’s shot 35.7 percent from three-point range in his career and shoots 80.6 percent from the free-throw line. Given the amount of time he’s missed since being traded to Minnesota, teams will need to see proof of a resurgence before biting on any deal. 

Fortunately, for Budinger and the Timberwolves, there is still time in the preseason and early in the regular season to show what he’s still capable of doing. If he establishes enough value in that time, then some team is more likely to bite on his salary. 

 

If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter. 


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Part Three: Minnesota Timberwolves season preview: Player projections

This is the final part of the Minnesota Timberwolves season preview, the first was a roster analysis of the team, while the second was a prediction for how the team will finish in the division. For this final part, I will be making my predictions about the lineups the Timberwolves will use and how the players getting minutes will do over the season.
Starting Five Projections:
Ricky Rubio
At point guard, Ricky Rubio will again be the starter, and I think he will get more opportunities to score with Kevin Love gone but will shoot a lower percentage as he changed up his shooting form over the off season. His assists and steals should still be around the same in my opinion, with Rubio also still picking up a solid amount of rebounds for the point guard position.
Prediction: 12 points, nine assists, four rebounds and between two and three steals per game while shooting 36% from the field and shooting 30% from three.
Kevin Martin will be the starting shooting guard, and since he isn’t much of a defender or reboun

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Timberwolves Injury Update: Kevin Martin and Shabazz Muhammad expected to practice sometime this week

The Minnesota Timberwolves have split their first two games of the preseason coming off a 40-42 record last season. At 26th in the league in points allowed last season, the Timberwolves need to improve on their defense to compete in the division and conference. On the injury front, Kevin Martin and Shabazz Muhammad are expected to practice this week, but it’s uncertain whether or not either will play on Friday against the Milwaukee Bucks. TonyTheTiger via Wikimedia CommonsI reported on October 6 that Martin would miss the first preseason game against the Indiana Pacers with an abductor strain. Kent Youngblood, sports writer at StarTribune.com, tweeted the following on Martin and Muhammad.Flip Saunders said he expects both Martin and Shabazz to be able to practice at some point this week, Muhammad as early as Sunday.— Kent Youngblood (@BloodStrib) October 11, 2014Muhammad played 25 minutes in the preseason opener, scoring nine points and grabbing four rebounds in 25 minutes. …

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Minnesota Timberwolves: Ricky Rubio The NBA’s Most Improved Player?

Minnesota Timberwolves: Ricky Rubio The NBA’s Most Improved Player?
By Mike Elworth: Owner and Publisher/Hoopstuff…
As I was writing my NBA Award picks and writing the Most Improved Player section, there was really just two names that I considered, Ricky Rubio and Kenneth Faried. However, I chose Rubio as Faried was already excellent, he just has to get more minutes from the Nuggets, but the Timberwolves point guard will become excellent this season. It was an easy choice, Ricky Rubio is my choice for the NBA’s Most Improved Player this season.
Rubio is one of the better distributors in the NBA and is an incredibly gifted ball-handler and is a wizard with the ball, he is a very strong rebounder and one of the best defensive point guards in the NBA, however this league is about scoring the ball. Rubio’s stat line from his 3rd season was strong, with 9.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 8.6 assists (4th in NBA) and 2.3 steals (3rd in NBA) per game. However his scoring isn’t enough, same with his…

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Timberwolves vs. 76ers: Final Results, Reaction and Analysis

Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 overall pick in this June’s draft, scored 11 points in his home debut on Friday night as the Minnesota Timberwolves took down the Philadelphia 76ers by the score of 116-110 at Target Center.

Wiggins was just a small part of the youth movement that propelled the T-Wolves in the win. Zach LaVine, the 13th overall pick this year, scored 15 points while Anthony Bennett, who was last year’s No. 1 overall selection, added 13 points and eight rebounds of his own.

Mo Williams came off the bench and led all scorers with 19 points while grabbing six rebounds and dishing out seven assists. Minnesota’s starting point guard, Ricky Rubio, had eight points with nine assists in 26 minutes of action.

Henry Sims led the 76ers with 17 points and was one of the seven Philadelphia players to score in double figures. Minnesota had seven double-digit scorers in this contest as well.

The Timberwolves also won the battle on the boards, edging out the 76ers 43-38 in that category and 14-4 in offensive rebounds.

Nikola Pekovic and Gorgui Dieng led that effort with nine rebounds each for Minnesota.

The contest featured two of the three teams involved in the blockbuster deal that sent Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers over the summer.

Wiggins, who was originally selected by the Cavs, was traded to the T-Wolves along with Bennett for Love. Minnesota also got Thaddeus Young from the 76ers in exchange for Alexey Shved and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.

If this T-Wolves win showed anything, it’s that this can be a very entertaining team to watch with all the young talents on the roster. Rubio’s ability to distribute the ball along with the athleticism of Wiggins, LaVine and Bennett can make Minnesota a surprising team in the Western Conference this year if Flip Saunders can find a way to mesh all that together.

Minnesota will take a week of rest before returning to action next Friday against Milwaukee Bucks, while Philadelphia will travel to Syracuse, New York on Tuesday to take on the New York Knicks at the Carrier Dome.

Thanks again for following along to the live blog throughout the game.

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Philadelphia 76ers vs. Minnesota Timberwolves 10/10/14: Video Highlights, Recap

The Minnesota Timberwolves looked to prove they could survive without Kevin Love when they faced the Philadelphia 76ers in a preseason clash Friday night. Led by rookie star Andrew Wiggins, the T-Wolves looked to find success against a young, rebuilding Sixers squad.

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Predicting Zach LaVine’s Impact for Minnesota Timberwolves This Season

The Minnesota TimberwolvesZach LaVine has the potential to be a future All-Star, but what can fans expect from the 19-year-old in his rookie season? 

LaVine was taken with the 13th overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft. His college numbers weren’t amazing, but his athleticism and ability to shoot from long range were enough for the Wolves to take him in the first round.

As a freshman at UCLA, he only averaged 9.4 points and 1.8 assists per game, but he managed to shoot an impressive 37.5 percent from beyond the arc.  

His struggles in college were mostly due to his inability to score in isolation and his inability to run a successful pick-and-roll. Matt Kamalsky of DraftExpress had a similar opinion:

Using 9.7 possessions per-game, he ranks as the lowest usage player in this group, and as the least efficient scorer in both one-on-one and pick and roll situations. On the positive side, LaVine‘s athleticism shows here, as 32.1% of his possessions came in transition, more than any other player, and while he scored an above average 1.148 points per-catch and shoot jump shot, the team drafting him probably won’t be overly concerned with how he looked on paper this past season as focused as they’ll be on putting him in position to reach his lofty potential a few years from now.

LaVine was drafted as a point guard, but due to his size (6’5″) and struggles in the passing game, he may be better suited on the wing. LaVine‘s athleticism and catch-and-shoot ability are prototypical attributes for any successful 2-guard.  

It’s also worth noting that the Timberwolves already have Ricky Rubio, Mo Williams and J.J. Barea as point guards.   

LaVine‘s biggest strength is clearly his athletic ability. This summer, LaVine showcased his elite leaping abilities with a Twitter dunk contest:

Even though LaVine may be an exciting prospect, his game is still way too raw to make an immediate impact. As seen in the infograph below, he was very inefficient in the Las Vegas Summer League (stats courtesy of NBA.com).

MPG FG% 3P% TOV PTS  
32.3 .397 .263 3.33 15.7  

He was able to score over 15 points per game, but his poor shooting percentage and high turnover rate proved his offensive immaturity.  

LaVine also struggled in the Wolves’ first preseason game versus the Indiana Pacers. The rookie shot 2-of-9 from the field and had as many turnovers as he did points: five.  

Fans can expect similar numbers from LaVine during the regular season. With several guards on the roster, it’ll be tough for LaVine to get on the floor.  

According to ESPN, the Timberwolves depth chart has LaVine as the third-string shooting guard. This could be misleading, because players such as Shabazz Muhammad and Corey Brewer have been known to play the 2-guard spot as well.

With the roster presently constructed, it will be hard for LaVine to average over 10 minutes per game.

He also struggles on defense due to his thin frame.  His skinniness allowed players to bulldoze past him and get into the paint with ease. Fortunately, LaVine is only 19 years old, which means he still has plenty of time to bulk up to a more typical NBA weight.  

If he can mature both on offense and defense, he could find a small spot in the Wolves’ rotation. LaVine has all of the potential to be an NBA stud, but right now, he is nothing more than a mere bench player who could occasionally receive spot minutes.

Projected 2014-15 Season Stat Line

MPG FG% 3P% TRB AST TOV PTS
9.5 .380 .310 3.5 0.5 1.0 5.5

 

All stats are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com, unless otherwise noted.

Love the T-Wolves? Follow me on Twitter @SupermanJZ

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