76ers – trust the roster

The Process is over. Four sub 30 win seasons have been replaced by consecutive conference semifinal appearances. The Philadelphia 76ers have a different set of problems to worry about now. Minimum contracts and lottery picks have been replaced by max contacts and superstars. After adding Al Horford and subtracting Jimmy Butler, its time for the rubber to hit the road.

The Sixers had one of the more intriguing off-seasons this summer. In a move that no one saw coming, Al Horford signed with them on a four year $109 million deal. Jimmy Butler’s sign and trade to Miami was equally shocking. But in a positive for Philly they returned Josh Richardson in this deal. This means they now have an elite defensive starting five.

Though they lost JJ Redick and Butler’s shot creation, their starting five is better equipped for the playoffs. Josh Richardson is a bulldog on the perimeter, and is a better shooter from three than Butler. Horford is one of the best passing bigs in the league, he also shot 38% from three in Boston. Horford will form an elite defensive frontcourt with Embiid. Bringing back Tobias Harris on a five year $180 million contract was also key for the Sixers. Their only elite shooter on the perimeter, he can have he ball in his hands more with Richardson and Horford comfortable playing off it.

Bench upgrades

The bench upgrades have been encouraging for the 76ers. Fan favorite TJ McConnell has sadly left for Indiana. He was replaced by Raul Neto from the Utah Jazz. Not only is Neto making half what McConnell is this season, he is also a better defender and three point shooter. Jonathan Simmons and Amir Johnson barely played last season, and have been replaced by Matisse Thybulle and Kyle O’Quinn. Thybulle is an exciting rookie out of Washington while O’Quinn is a younger version of Johnson that can still play rotation minutes. Zhaire Smith is returning after a serious injury, and 22 year old shooter Furkan Korkmaz re-signed in July for two years. These young players along with last years second round pick Jonah Bolden will be relied on for bench depth.

Ben Simmons

Ben Simmons is the piece that can take the 76ers over the top. A transcendent talent at 6’10, he can pass, score and defend. Simmons just inked a five year $170 million that will kick in next summer. This is a designated veteran extension, so his contract can increase by making an All-NBA team next season.

The elephant in the room is his jump-shot. Simmons inability to hit any shot away from the rim is a major concern. As he doesn’t have a strong floater game and is only shooting free throws at 60% he limits his teams ceiling in the playoffs. An NBA executive said that Simmons didn’t want to change his hand placement on the ball. This might not seem like a big deal, but if you are in the bottom 5% of free throw shooters at your position then form changes should be made. Simmons may start the season shooting from mid range and taking the odd three with the clock winding down. This would be a massive win in terms of getting game reps in. 76ers management will no doubt be having these conversations in the hope that he can develop a three point shot.

Play Style

Defensively the 76ers will want to jack up the intensity this year. Last year they had plenty of defensive pieces but didn’t play the lock-down defense the group was capable of. With the additions of Horford and Richardson they should be able to improve on last year’s 15th ranked defense. Management have already made it clear they will have one of Embiid or Horford on the court at all times.

Offensively they should run a lot more pick and pop or pick and roll this coming season. In an ideal world they would frequently run both. It could either be Horford popping out for three or looking for Embiid on dives to the rim. Simmons is a great cutter, Horford will find him or shooters Richardson and Harris. Harris is now free to run pick and roll with Embiid, this could produce devastating results.

Which ever way you look at it, the 76ers have more depth and flexibility across the roster. If they are healthy they are a contender in the eastern conference. Going one step further, if any of their starters take a jump this year, they could be championship contenders. Now the process is over, its time to trust the roster and the young pieces it has in it.

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Atlanta Hawks rebuild

Curtis Compton – Atlanta journal

The Atlanta Hawks are a must watch on NBA league pass next season. With an intriguing and exciting young core, the Hawks are back on the NBA map. With Trae Young as the franchise cornerstone they could contend in the eastern conference sooner rather than later.

Two seasons ago Hawks management decided it was time to blow it up. All the vets that were part of the previous regime walked or were traded and they started building through the Draft. Ex Golden State Warriors assistant general manager Travis Schlenk was hired to build the team from the ground up.

Building through the draft

John Collins was the first piece in the door, a steal with the 19th pick. Collins, out of Wake Forest, averaged 19.5 points and 9.8 rebounds on 56% shooting last year. His combination with Trae Young in the pick and roll will be the Hawks bread and butter for years to come. Not only is Collins a prime lob threat every night, his pick and pop game is also developing. Collins shot a respectable 34.8% from three in the last season.

Come the 2018 draft, Schlenk put his nuts on the line by taking Luka Doncic and then immediately trading him to the Dallas Mavericks for Trae Young and a first round pick. Though this move was criticized at the time, he shouldn’t be judged on it straight away. Young had an exceptional rookie year and after the All-Star break posted some mind boggling numbers.

Young’s passing ability is his real strength, but if his shooting comes on he could be an offensive powerhouse in the league.

For the second year in a row Schlenk got value in the draft. This time the 19th pick netted the Hawks Kevin Huerter. Huerter provided the best on off rating for the team last year at + 6.6 while he showed impressive offensive skills across the board. Huerter showed off a stepback, off the dribble scoring and secondary play making. His three point efficiency was third only to Collin Sexton and Landry Shamet in his rookie class.

2019 draft

Fast forward to this year and Schlenk made serious moves on draft night. Having the 8th and 10th picks coming into draft night, Schlenk made a series of moves that eventually netted them De’Andre Hunter, Bruno Fernando and Cam Reddish. They didn’t give up future assets to move up in the draft. While they used their cap space creatively to take on bad contracts from around the league, and gain extra assets. On top of their own future picks they also own a Brooklyn Nets first in 2020 and an OKC first in 2022.

De’Andre Hunter projects as a multi positional defender in the NBA. If Young is the offensive lynch-pin then Hunter is the leader of the defense. With a massive 7’2 wingspan, quick feet and a stout body that is NBA ready, Hunter could potentially guard four positions in the league. His 42.8% from three point range last year also bodes well for a three and d ceiling.

Style of play

It would be harsh to reflect negatively on the Hawks 29 – 53 record last year. 22 different players donned a uniform in the season, of which only five had more than five years experience in the league. This young crop ended the season with the leagues 12th best offense while also leading the league in pace. Their run and gun style led to being top five in attempts at the rim and from three point land. Coach Lloyd Pierce deserves credit for defining a play style early on. Though the defense needs work, they want to play fast and have the personnel to do it.

Only two years ago the reset button was pushed. In this time the front office have a built of stable of young athletes with other assets to join them. Trae Young and De’Andre Hunter represent the future of this league when it comes to multi dimensional athletes. With a potential 83 million in cap space next year, this team can swing for the fences in free agency or continue to build through the draft. Either way they are setup for the future. Travis Schlenk, take a bow!

New look Warriors

The Golden State Warriors face an uncertain next 12 months. After reaching five consecutive NBA finals in which they won three, they retooled the roster in preparation for the 2020 season. While the All-Star core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green remains intact, Kevon Looney is the only other surviving member of their championship core.

The four games to two finals loss to Kawhi Leonard’s Raptors will still be raw in the minds of both players and fans. Before Thompson went down with a devastating ACL tear, it seemed like the Warriors were going to take the series to seven games and potentially win another title. The injuries suffered by Thompson and Kevin Durant may have ended the Warriors dynasty prematurely. But while the All-NBA talents of Curry, Draymond and Green remain, the Warriors will continue to be dangerous.

D’Angelo Russell

Many shocking moves were made during the first few days of Free Agency, none more so than D’Angelo Russell’s move to the Warriors. After Kevin Durant left, the Warriors were over the cap looking like there was no way to improve the team. By executing a sign and trade with the Nets it meant they got something back for Durant, while signing an All-Star and one of the best young guards in the game. Russell took a massive step forward last season for the Nets. Posting a career best stat line of 21 points, four rebounds and seven assists, Russell dragged the Nets back to the playoffs. His three point and mid range shooting were both improved, while his impressive handle and ball control opened up his passing game. With Thompson’s injury and the need to manage Curry’s minutes, Russell will be free to run amok with Draymond on offense.

Other signings

Though they had to say goodbye to key pieces Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala, this created space to enable them to stay competitive. Kevon Looney was a key resigning in this regard. At the bargain price of five million they brought back a guy with championship experience who can play on both ends. He will be a key part of the team moving forward. Being over the salary cap now means they have only been able to bring in players on minimum contracts.

Arguably the best center available at this price was Willie Cauley-Stein. An athletic rim running big, Willie is the energy piece the Warriors need. Playing for his next contract, he will provide great value on the minimum salary. Glenn Robinson III was also signed at the minimum. Robinson is an interesting prospect, still only 26. Coming off serious injuries the last few years, Robinson is an ex dunk contest winner who shot 39% from three point land for the Indiana Pacers. In real need of someone to play the three, Robinson if fit could have a breakout season for the Warriors.

There is one other intriguing signing who may have flown under the radar this summer. The Warriors traded two second round pick and cash to the New Orleans Pelicans to get 18 year old Alen Smailagic. The youngest ever G-league player at 17 last year, Smailagic has a unique blend of size and skill. At 6’10 he can shoot, put the ball on the floor and defend. With the Warriors star core all around the age of 30, young prospects like Smailagic are key to the future of the franchise.

Though this Warriors team may not contend for a championship this year, while they have four All-NBA talents they will continue to be a threat. If Klay Thompson returns and they are in the postseason, don’t be surprised to see another playoff run. There is no substitute for championship experience!

Jarrett Culver – Timberwolves Rookie

Last week on Draft night, the Minnesota Timberwolves traded Dario Saric and the 11th pick to move up to the 6th pick. In doing so they selected Jarrett Culver, a second year player out of Texas Tech.

By trading Saric and going all in on Culver, the Timberwolves organisation were committing to filling their roster with long athletic wings. With Andrew Wiggins, Robert Covington and Josh Okogie on the roster, new POBO Gersson Rosas wanted to make a splash by adding another young wing.

Culver is a 6’5 multi position player with a 6’9 wing span. He has an athletic body and although he is only 194 pounds he can fill out his frame well with NBA strength and conditioning. He has a well rounded game for the NBA and is a highly rated two way prospect.

Offense

Shot creation for himself and others is a big part of Culver’s game. He can get his shot off from anywhere inside the arc, even in late clock situations. Comfortable shooting off the catch or the dribble, he likes going to his left and hitting mid range jumpers. He needs to take less shots early in the clock though and not settle for deep contested jumpers. Moving well off the ball, he makes hard cuts with purpose. If he cant get the ball himself he tries to screen or set pin downs for teammates.

Though his 3 point efficiency dropped off this year from 38% to 30% he has a nice stroke with a high release. He has a wide range of moves at the rim, and tries to absorb contact when finishing. Culver got to the line on average 5.5 times a game. Like his three point shooting, he needs to work on his free throw shooting. He only shot 70% from the line. His dribble has improved and he has a nice crossover, but if he is going to play the two guard he will need to work on more dribble combos to get past elite defenders. With his long fluid strides if he works on his dribble this will open up the rest of his game. .

Passing

His passing game is improving and he projects as a strong secondary playmaker in the NBA. Averaging 3.7 assists per game in his second season at Texas Tech, Culver showed good court vision and patience to find bigs with dump off passes, or shooters on the weak-side with drive and kick plays. As he is a strong rebounder he can initiate offense by pushing in transition also. He needs to temper some of his aggression when play-making though, as he sometimes dribbles into trouble and loses the ball. As he was the primary play-maker on Texas Tech he took on all the scoring and play-making duties. In the NBA he wont be required to do either of these things. He can focus on making the right plays when the ball comes his way.

Defense

He has the ability to guard multiple positions in the NBA, and if he can get stronger he has All-Defense upside. Culver plays hard on both ends, and makes smart decisions on defense. His help instincts are good, and he isn’t caught gambling too often. Moving well laterally, he jumps passing lanes to get steals at a high rate. Though he wont be the biggest guy on the wing in the NBA, he is quick and has a great body for defense. He should be able to make an impact on this end with his strong instincts. Culver is an excellent defensive rebounder and can rise above bigger guys with his long arms.

Summary

Culver may end up starting from day one in Minnesota. If this is the case, he will need to learn quickly on a team that is in win now mode. Luckily he will be playing next to defensive dynamo Covington. If he can use smart shot selection and play sound defense he can start his career well for the Timberwolves. His ceiling will be a player like Covington or Jeremy Lamb. As Culver has come in younger than these guys he will want to make an impact right away. If he is willing to work hard on his game then he can have a long career in the league.

NBA Draft – Minnesota Timberwolves

Yesterdays NBA Draft wound up one of the wildest weeks in recent NBA memory. The Toronto Raptors were crowned NBA champions, Klay Thompson blew his ACL and then Anthony Davis was traded to the Lakers. After this wild six days, the Draft didn’t disappoint yesterday.

NBA Draft

With a tonne of moves being made prior to and on Draft day, the Timberwolves decided to get in on the action and make their own big trade. Trading Dario Saric with number 11 they moved up to number 6 and selected Jarrett Culver out of Texas Tech. This came as a shock to many, as Saric’s fit next to Karl-Anthony Towns seemed to be a strong one. This is all in the past now though. Jarrett Culver and Jaylen Nowell who was selected with the 43rd pick are now part of the Wolves young core.

Though this leave Keita Bates-Diop as the only true power forward on the roster, this shouldn’t be a concern for Wolves fans. Gorgui Dieng played some of the best basketball of his career next to Karl-Anthony Towns in the front court. While Robert Covington has played almost a third of his career minutes at the four.

Jarrett Culver

Culver is an intriguing prospect for the Wolves. A second year player out of Texas Tech, he was recently named the big twelve player of the year. Culver stands almost 6’6 and has a 6’10 wing span. Though he doesnt have a massive frame, he has an athletic body that will benefit from NBA conditioning.

From his first year to his second year at Texas Tech, Culver improved across the board statistically.

Though his three point shot regressed from 38% to 30%, his improvement across the board in all other categories bodes well for the Timberwolves. Culver’s potential as a two way player and secondary playmaker should have Timberwolves fans excited. A strong passer at his position, Culver can shoot and finish strongly at the rim. He is a great rebounder and a multi positional defender. Though his shot still needs some work, he projects as an excellent three and D prospect if he can continue to improve.

Jarrett Culver

Jaylen Nowell

Combo guard Jaylen Nowell was selected with the 43rd pick as a second year player out of Washington. Nowell was the Pac-12 player of the year for the Huskies and stands 6’4 with a 6’5 wing span. He has a solid body for his age and weighs in at 202 pounds. Nowell is an explosive scoring point guard, who also has two way potential. An excellent defender in college, Nowell shot an impressive 44% from three this year also. Like his new teammate Culver, Nowell has improved his game from year one to year two. He increased his impact statistically across the board while improving his shooting percentages also.

Jaylen Nowell

In Nowell and Culver the Wolves have two strong pieces for the future. By adding scoring and defense, new POBO Gersson Rosas is shoring up a defense that has performed terribly for years. Wolves fan can be happy with the NBA Draft this year.

Ja Morant – Draft Profile

Photo credit, Maddie Meyer – Getty Images

Ja Morant is a nineteen year old Point Guard and second year player out of Murray State. Morant is mocked on almost all Draft boards at number two, being selected by the Memphis Grizzlies. He has drawn comparisons to Russell Westbrook and Steve Francis with his speed and athletic play.

Morant has exploded in the last 24 months after only being lightly recruited when he left High School. In his first year at Murray State, Morant averaged 12 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists. In his second year Morant had one of the great point guard years of recent times, averaging 24 points 5 rebounds and 10 assists.

At 6’3 and 190 pounds Morant will be one of the lighter point guards in the NBA. His 6’7 wing span means he has a high ceiling defensively though. NBA conditioning will be important for Morant, he will need to get stronger to match up defensively against bigger players. He may be the most athletic player in this Draft. He is a great leaper and athletically will only get better with NBA coaching and strength training.

Scouting

The first thing you notice when watching video of Morant is his handle. He has the best handle in this Draft class, when he makes the NBA he may be one of the best ball handlers in the league. His repertoire of dribbles moves are elite. With a quick first step and the ability to change speed and direction with his crossover, he is a nightmare to guard in the open court.

Passing

In the open court he pushes with purpose and uses his speed to make opportunities for others or himself. As a passer Morant has strong court vision, he can pass of either hand and has good accuracy on these passes. He can also pass out of double teams, whether hes getting trapped in a pick and roll or attracting extra attention on drives to the rim. While he could become an elite floor general in the NBA, Morant needs to balance the amount of great reads with the bad reads he makes. He sometimes make wild turnovers in the half court, being it an alley-oop pass or throwing over a cutter’s head. With potential NBA teammates having better anticipation and reactions, Morant will have more room for error. But NBA coaches wont put up with wild turnovers in the half court.

Offense

Offensively Morant has a well balanced game. He is an excellent finisher at the rim and uses superior body control to finish around opponents. His elite quickness and change of pace means he can get to the rim at will. This aggression was rewarded with 8.2 trips to the foul line per game this season. His slight body meant he sometimes went for more complex finishes around the rim rather than finishing through contact. If he packs on some extra muscle he has the tools to get multiple and-ones in game situations. He can finish with his right hand but prefers the left, he will need to work on his right to be elite at the next level.

As a shooter he has all the skills to be a great shot creator, he makes a lot of space for himself with speed and dribble moves. Though Morant is a confident shooter, his shooting form may be of concern for potential teams. He releases from his head and with the elbow sticking out. These mechanics mean he struggles to get his shot off when shooting off the dribble. Shooting 36.3% from three this season may be an outlier, but if he were to improve his mechanics he could be an above average shooter in the league.

Defense

Morant is an excellent man defender, with his long arms he can steal or tip the ball away from his opponent. He also blocks some shots with his leaping ability. He can move his feet well in either direction and has good instincts when defending one on one.

On the other hand, his off ball defense needs some work. Defending one on one he has good instincts, but he can get stuck ball watching when playing off the ball. He sometimes forgets to box out, and he often gets caught out of position. His elite quickness meant a lot of his gambles paid off, but at the next level he cant rely just on athleticism. Morant got a lot of rebounds by using his superior leaping ability rather than great technique. As he carried such a massive offensive load he can be forgiven for some of these mistakes. Though NBA coaching may iron a lot of these habits out, if he wants to be the engine of an NBA offense he will need to be a passable team defender.

Summary

Morant is the consensus number two pick in what is considered a weak Draft. Though he had an excellent year at Murray State he didnt come up against many elite teams at NCAA level. He will need to be tested at the highest level to see how much of his game translates well. With elite athleticism and speed he has the potential to be a perennial All-Star. If he works on his shooting and defense he could have a long career as a starter on a playoff team.

If the Grizzlies pick Ja Morant at number two they are getting a key cog to rebuild around. He will be an excellent fit next to Jaren Jackson Jr, these two could provide the core to put the Grizzlies back in playoff contention.

Warriors – Raptors Game One points

The Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors squared up in Game one of the NBA finals in Toronto yesterday. Led by Pascal Siakam’s 32 points, the Raptors comfortably put the Warriors away 118 – 109. Kevin Durant was cleared not fit to play, while DeMarcus Cousins was cleared for his first game since injuring his thigh in the first round of the Playoffs.

Draymond Green couldn’t guard Pascal Siakam

This Game was Siakam’s coming out party in this Playoffs. Though he had massive games in all three previous playoff rounds, his 32 points was a Playoff career high. The Warriors geared their defense towards shutting down Kawhi Leonard. By putting Draymond Green on Siakam, Coach Steve Kerr thought Green could help off of Siakam and shut Kawhi down. Siakam saw this as an opportunity to take it right to Green though. Siakam’s size advantage coupled with his ball handling and crafty post moves meant he was able to score on Green a massive seven times out of ten. Though Green is a great man defender he struggled to body up Siakam, and as he had picked up early fouls this made the job on Siakam even harder.

Marc Gasol’s game is a perfect for the Raptors

When Marc Gasol was traded to the Toronto Raptors at the trade deadline, Masai Ujiri knew he was getting an elite defender who could stretch the floor with shooting and passing ability. Gasol has surpassed expectations this postseason with his defensive savvy and timely scoring. On the Memphis Grizzlies he had almost double the usage he has now for Toronto. Not bothered by having less touches, he has been excellent at setting screens and passing out of the low post. He was a +8 in yesterdays game, his best rating since game five of the 76ers series.

In yesterdays game he defended all the way out to the perimeter when needed. He also hit two three pointers and had a game best 107 defensive rating when he was on the floor. The Warriors smaller lineups may struggle to defend him down low as they don’t have the massive rim presence that previous Raptors opponents had.

Fred VanVleet has improved as the Playoffs have gone on

After shooting a measly 12% in the series against the 76ers on only two points a game, Fred VanVleet bounced back to the tune of 47% shooting against the Bucks. Yesterday he was five of eight from the field and was a team high +11. His quickness and use of off ball screens mean he is a threat from anywhere on the court. While his catch and shoot game is also strong, his shooting came on in the last series when he was able to shoot three pointers from Kawhi Leonard drives. Not known as an elite defender, yesterday when guarding Stephen Curry he limited him to only one of six shooting. This is an added bonus for the Raptors if VanVleet can continue to limit Curry.

Value Free Agents 2019 – Thaddeus Young

Age – 30

Previous Salary – $13,764,045

Indiana Pacers – they have his bird rights

2018/19 season – twelve points, six rebounds, two assists.

Thaddeus Young is a premium role player in the NBA. At 30 years old he has just come off one of the best seasons in his career. An elite defender at the power forward position, Young played defense at an ALL-NBA level this season. Whether defending out to the perimeter on smaller players or in help defense off the ball, Young has multiple high level skills on the less glamorous end of the floor.

Offensively he has a well rounded game with a strong package at the rim, and then a hook and jump shot within ten feet. In his three years with the Pacers he has shot 34.6% from three. Though this isn’t elite he only takes two shots a game, and shooting around league average means he has to be guarded out there. Young knows his game so well, his shot profile shows he takes 90% of his shots from three point range or between the rim and ten feet. He scored on 51% of his hook shots this year, strong efficiency on almost two attempts a game.

On the defensive end, Young averages 1.5 steals a game. Andre Drummond is the only big man outside of Young to average more than 1.5 steals a game. This ranks him in the 96th percentile for his position also, per Cleaning the Glass. His decision making on defense is also excellent, he only fouls on 3% of possessions. In the below clip Young is protecting the rim and sees the mismatch with Al Horford being guarded by Tyreke Evans. He calls Evans away as he sees Jayson Tatum wants to throw the entry pass to Horford. Using his long arms he anticipates the entry pass then gets in front of Horford, poking the ball away and recovering it.

http://3ball.io/plays?evtt=5&p2id=201152&playId=0041800131_541

His anticipation, especially when defending or helping on pick and roll defense is exceptional. His help instincts arent matched by many bigs in the league. His long arms enable him to poke the ball away and he can cover multiple spots on the floor. In this clip he is guarding Lebron James on the perimeter, he bodies Lebron up and sends him left. Lebron gives the ball up to George Hill in the corner, when Hill drives baseline Young stunts to him and then anticipates the pass back to an open Lebron. He then jumps back to the post and steals the ball.

Young may end up back on the Pacers without taking any free agency meetings with other teams. But prospective teams should look to throw him an offer still. He has only missed 34 games in the past seven seasons and is peaking at age thirty. His defensive presence and versatility along with a well rounded and unselfish offensive game makes him a perfect complementary piece on a playoff contender. In the past regular season Young had the same amount of win shares as Russell Westbrook and Tobias Harris. He may not have the hype around him in free agency that Harris has, but he would provide similar total value.

A four year deal worth fifty million would represent Young’s value nicely. Though it remains to be seen if this is on the Pacers or another team, he will again provide value beyond the box score to whichever team he ends up on.

Bargain Basement Free Agents 2019 – Part two

In Part one, we focused on five free agents that teams over the cap could pick up cheaply and get value out of next season. Here’s the link to that article if you missed out.

https://steviecozens.com/2019/05/21/bargain-basement-free-agents-2019-part-one/

Seth Curry

Age – 28

Shooting Guard

Unrestricted Free Agent

2018/19 season – eight points, one rebound, one assist.

Seth Curry has come off an excellent year for the Portland Trail Blazers. Signed to a one year deal after missing all of last year due to injury, he played in the recently completed Conference Finals. Shooting an impressive 45% from three in the regular season, this ranked him in the 96th percentile for shooting guards. Though he only stands 6’2 he is a pesky defender who plays hard. He struggles against bigger players but his offense is strong enough to keep him on the court. Curry is also a career 50% shooter on corner threes.

While he isn’t a top level passer, he can hold his own in the pick and roll. He can also play some minutes at back up point guard if need be. In the Blazers series loss to the Warriors, Seth was very effective with an overall net rating of only -2. After a strong year at age 28, he looks to be past his injury issues. Three point shooting has good value in the market, so this may mean a deal of around the four – six million range. A three year deal in this range would represent strong value to potential suitors.

Cory Joseph

Age – 27

Combo Guard

Unrestricted Free Agent – Indiana Pacers have his early bid rights

2018/19 Season – six points, two rebounds, two assists

Cory Joseph had an up and down year for the Indiana Pacers. Struggling with his offense, his inconsistent shooting gave him the lowest field goal percentage since his rookie year. On the less glamorous end of the court he played the best defense of his career. Registering career highs in rebounds, assists and steals he helped Indiana to another Playoff appearance. They were a better team with him on the court, as evidenced by his +5.0 on / off rating. He also had a career high in offensive fouls drawn at 24, this was second only to Thaddeus Young on the Pacers team.

Per Cleaning the Glass he ranked in the 87th percentile for Combo Guards when it came to Steals this season. If prospective teams see his bad shooting year as a one off, then he can be a good acquisition as a backup guard. He wont drop 30 or 40 points a game but he matches up well against smaller guards and is a strong help defender. Its likely he will be in the 4 – 7 million range this season, At 27 a three to four year deal may suit both him and potential teams.

Wayne Ellington

Age – 31

Shooting Guard

Unrestricted Free Agent

2018/19 Season – ten points, two rebounds, one assist, one steal

Wayne Ellington finished the season on the Detroit Pistons, after first being traded by the Miami Heat and then waived by the Phoenix Suns. One of the most consistent three point shooters in the league, Ellington struggled to get playing time for the Heat due to fit and injury issues. He was back to his best when he hit the floor for the Pistons though. His on / off rating showing they were +5.0 points a game when he was on the floor. A career 38% shooter from three point range, he also hoisted at least 6.4 attempts a game the last three seasons.

High volume floor spacing is at a premium in the NBA these days, and as Ellington can hold his own on defense he will continue to get paydays in this league. He can defend without fouling and as a help defender he also jumps passing lanes to get steals. Paid 6.2 million the last two years on the Heat, he can expect a similar pay day this summer. He may get a two or three year deal at less money if he wants a bit more job security. With the wing class being weak this summer, maybe his price goes a little higher if a few teams want him

Joakim Noah

Age – 34

Center

Unrestricted Free Agent

2018/19 season – seven points, five rebounds and two assists

Joakim Noah is an intriguing entry on the list of Free Agents this summer. After securing a buyout from a nightmare situation in New York, he reappeared the Memphis Grizzlies. He seemed re-energized on a Grizzlies team that made multiple trades throughout his tenure. They were an average +5.7 points better per game in the 42 games he was on the floor. He finished at the rim at a career high of 62%, while throwing down 42 dunks as well. His foul drawing and rebounding were also close to career highs, showing the effort he was putting in on a tanking team.

While it may be a different story on a winning team, Noah is a former defensive player of the year who has strong playoff experience. If his injury and drug issues are behind him, he could be a good addition to a rebuilding or playoff team. Noah will have earned over 140 million when his stretched deal with the Knicks concludes. This will probably mean he would be happy to be on a roster at the veteran minimum.

Where to for the Wolves – Part three

In the last two articles we focused on the free agents that the team could resign or let go, and then the current roster and how they performed over the last year. If you weren’t able to read the first two articles, here’s the link to them!

Part One
https://steviecozens.com/2019/05/05/where-to-for-the-timberwolves-part-one/

Part Two
https://steviecozens.com/2019/05/12/where-to-for-the-timberwolves-part-two/

In Part three we will look at the Draft and then any potential moves the Wolves could make on Draft night or around July 1st. After last nights Lottery, the Timberwolves know where they are picking in the upcoming NBA Draft. Never having a great record when it comes to moving up in the Draft, they settled into the 11th pick and can now focus on workouts with potential draftees.

Trade Jeff Teague

As far as their wing positions go, the Wolves are locked in for the immediate future with the current players on the roster. Even if Andrew Wiggins was to be traded, that would still leave Robert Covington and Josh Okogie as the incumbent starting wings. As Andrew Wiggins probably wont be traded this season at least, their is a logjam on the wings. This may mean that the Wolves look at drafting a scoring guard that can create off the dribble. By trading Jeff Teague and resigning Tyus Jones they can open up guard minutes, they can start Tyus and then take the pressure off the young guard they bring in.

As Jeff Teague’s 19 million salary is expiring this year, they could get off this money by attaching two secound round picks. At worst they could give up next years first rounder. Bar a disastrous season, next years first rounder would be around the late teens in a relatively weak draft. If they need to give this up then it wouldn’t be the worst thing to do as they have no need for Teague anymore.

Draft Needs

Looking ahead to the Draft, the Wolves are in desperate need of three point shooting. Though a full season of Dario Saric and Robert Covington will help with this, they need a prospect who can hit threes at above league average. If they could get to the rim easily as well, this would be an added bonus. Last year the Wolves ranked 26th in three pointers attempted and 15th in shots attempted within three feet of the rim. If new POBO Gersson Rosas decides a guard isn’t the right way to go, then they should look at a defensive minded big to play next to Karl Anthony-Towns. This could mean not bringing back Taj Gibson, and would also give Dario Saric a hurry up in his development. Though Saric is a good fit next to KAT offensively, he has no rim protecting abilities.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker

If its a guard they want, Nickeil Alexander-Walker could fit the bill at number 11 in the Draft. A combo guard out of Virginia Tech, Alexander-Walker stands 6’6 and weighs 205 pounds. He isn’t an amazing athlete but can play on and off ball, while he also has an excellent basketball IQ. While he is quite skinny, he has wide shoulders so will fill out nicely with NBA training and conditioning.

Though he is more comfortable as a team rather than man defender, at 6’6 with a reputed 6’9 wingspan he has all the tools to succeed at the next level. He can use his body to cut off passing lanes, so if he can add some bulk he will be able to defend bigger players due to his length. He took a step as a secondary play maker and showed high IQ to find cutters and shooters.

Though NAW’s shooting mechanics have been questioned in some places, he has a quick release which allows him to shoot threes off the dribble. He is more adept at hitting them off the catch though. In his two years at Virginia Tech, NAW improved inside the arc while also getting to the line more often. He can operate in the pick and roll and he uses crafty finishes at the rim off both hands. Though not that explosive at the rim, he uses his length and smarts to get around shot blockers. His excellent decision making separates him from other prospects. Whether it be making the right read in transition or handling out of the pick and roll. He seems mature off the court and has shown tremendous improvement from one year to the next at Virginia.

Brandon Clarke

If Rosas decides to go for a defensive big man, then Brandon Clarke from Gonzaga may be the ideal fit. A 6’8 big who projects to be an elite defender at the next level, he averaged a mind boggling 4.5 blocks per 40 minutes this season. His defensive instincts are excellent, he has excellent timing on his blocks and tends to make the right decisions.

Though not an excellent defensive rebounder, he grabs his fair share of offensive boards. As a junior in college, his ball handling is advanced for his height and he has above average passing ability. Though his shot is limited he has shown some touch around the rim which may translate to range further out . At only 6’8 his best role may be a small ball center, but this could present match-up issues on defense. Though he is 6’8 he doesn’t have the biggest wingspan, and relies on athleticism for a lot of his blocks. The Timberwolves would still do well to draft Clarke, he would be an instant upgrade for them defensively next to Karl Anthony-Towns.