2014 NBA Draft Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves

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Picks: 13, 40, 44, 53

Needs: To maximize Kevin Love’s value. More than anything else, that’s Flip Saunders’ top task. That might mean trading Love, or it might mean drafting the player who convinces Love to stay in Minnesota beyond next season. Certainly, keeping Love long-term is the Timberwolves’ ideal outcome, which is why they might pursue the latter path.

Trade possibilities: Obviously, Love trades are at the forefront of the discussion. By trading him draft night, Minnesota can get picks immediately and get a one-year head start on rebuilding. But by keeping him, the Timberwolves preserve the possibility, no matter how unlikely, of their best-case result – Love having a change of heart and staying.

I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Timberwolves sell a second rounder or two. Does Saunders, a longtime coach who many believe became Minnesota’s president just to become coach, really have a firm grasp on the late second round?

Predictions: The Timberwolves don’t trade Love. They draft Gary Harris or Adreian Payne, both of whom played at Michigan State for Tom Izzo, Saunders’ old buddy. Minnesota has a solid starting lineup, and either of those two would add nice bench depth.

Bonus prediction: It won’t be enough to convince Love to stay.

Lonzo Ball finishes one-handed alley-oop on Willie Cauley-Stein (video)

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So much attention is paid to Lonzo Ball‘s father, jumper and passes. Those are the major storylines for the Lakers rookie.

But he has such a diverse skill set, and this is absolutely part of it. Ball is a savvy off-ball cutter in the halfcourt with the athleticism to get above the rim and finish alley-oops.

But finish them over 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein, who was tracking the play (though slightly late)? That’s an eye-opener, even in the Kings’ 113-102 win.

Marc Gasol makes 3/4-court shot just after buzzer (video)

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When Marc Gasol‘s 3/4-court attempt went through the net, it seemed to barely matter the ball left his hands just after the first-quarter buzzer. After all, the Grizzlies led the Mavericks by 15, anyway.

Turns out, Memphis really needed that basket.

Watch Knicks string together 28-0 run against Raptors

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Toronto has been the second best team in the East this young season. Not that anyone is really convinced they will be called that by the time we get to the playoffs (or even the All-Star break, or even Christmas), but for the first 16-18 games of the season their new move-the-ball offense had them at 11-5 and looking solid.

Wednesday night the Knicks dismantled the Raptors.

Especially in the third quarter when the Knicks went on a 28-0 run to blow the doors off the Raptors (video above). The Knicks dominated the third 41-10, when Toronto shot just 1-of-16 from the floor.

New York is gaining confidence with each win this season, they are a fun team to watch that is starting to find an identity (now that a certain three-sided shaped one is not being forced upon them). Kristaps Porzingis is a monster, and while the Knicks overpaid the market for Tim Hardaway Jr. he has lived up to his contract this season. With rookie point guard Frank Ntilikina showing some nice defense and playmaking skills as a rookie (although he is undoubtedly still a work in progress), you can see a path to a strong future unfolding. There are real reasons for hope in New York. Someone just keep James Dolan distracted and away from the basketball operations side of the building.

Devin Booker forces OT with deep turnaround buzzer-beating 3-pointer, but Bucks beat Suns (video)

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I’m not sure who benefited from Devin Booker‘s buzzer-beating, overtime-forcing 3-pointer. The Suns still lost to the Bucks, 113-107. The extra five minutes featured more of the same relatively bad basketball we’d seen between Phoenix (bad) and Milwaukee (shorthanded) through 48 minutes.

But darn if this shot wasn’t really cool and clutch.