Kurt Helin

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With Nikola Pekovic still hurt, Flip Saunders says Karl-Anthony Towns could start. Or Gorgui Dieng.

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Minnesota is going to be a fascinating team to watch this season, just because coach Flip Saunders has a lot of options with his rotation. He has said he plans to start Kevin Garnett at the four, then when he rests they can go with Gorgui Dieng or small with Shabazz Muhammad.

Then at the five there’s a solid scoring big in Nikola Pekovic who was an anchor up front until he got injured, and now there’s No. 1 pick Karl-Anthony Towns who needs time at that spot.

Zach Lowe at Grantland asked the million dollar question: So Flip, does Towns get the start?

Well, Pek is still hurt. And we have another guy who isn’t bad in Gorgui Dieng.

First off, no coach is going to answer that question in August, unless the question is “do you still plan to start LeBron James?” If a coach can create competition in camp to push guys, he’s going to do just that.

But as mentioned above, Saunders has options. He can start KG and Towns, and then go small off the bench with Dieng and Muhammad. Then he can mix and match early in the season to see what pairings work and in what situation. As the last couple NBA Finals champs have shown us, versatility matters.

There is one other Timberwolves question that influences all of this: Do they have enough shooting to give these bigs space to work? Opponents will be more than happy to let Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, and maybe even Kevin Martin (he’s got to prove he’s healthy) to beat you from the perimeter, or especially from three. The Timberwolves are not exactly loaded with shooters.

Minnesota is going to be a fascinating team to watch next season, for a few reasons.

Michael Jordan (and a kid) beat Jimmy Butler in shooting contest (VIDEO)

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I’m not sure Michael Jordan beats Jimmy Butler in a game of one-on-one (although I would pay to see that), but in a shooting contest with some youth campers, I’ll put my money on guy with the statue in front of United Center.

I’d pay more money to be in that kid’s shoes and part of the shooting contest.

Why were Butler and Jordan working a camp together? Because Butler joined the Jordan Brand this year. So they will be hanging out more.

And if you don’t think Jordan is going to bring this up every time they get together, you don’t know Jordan.

la cabra. @mjflightschool

A photo posted by Jimmy Butler (@jimmybutler) on

Evan Turner dishes, Bradley Beal throws it down in Africa exhibition (VIDEO)

Atlanta Hawks v Washington Wizards - Game Six
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The NBA played its first ever game in Africa Saturday and the players put on a show — it felt like an All-Star style exhibition, with little defense and lots of room for guys to show off their skills.

Giannis Antetokounmpo did try to play a little defense, tracking down Evan Turner to look for the block on the fast break, only to see Turner make a sweet dish to the trailing Bradley Beal. And Beal knew how to finish.

Still, the biggest highlight of the game was getting to see Hakeem Olajuwon doing the “dream shake” and Dikembe Mutombo playing again in the game.

Mavericks officially sign Summer League standout, No. 21 pick Justin Anderson

Dallas Mavericks v Los Angeles Lakers
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Justin Anderson never really found his groove in three years at Virginia, at least not like was expected out of high school where he was one of the top recruits in his class.

Then he certainly found it at Summer League in Las Vegas last month — he averaged 17.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.2 steals and hit 38.5 percent from three.

Anderson and the Mavericks agreed to the standard rookie contract deal with Anderson on Saturday, the team announced. He is guaranteed $2.5 million over the next two years, with team options for years three and four.

Anderson could see a little time on the court as a rookie, especially early in the Dallas season as Wesley Matthews tries to get his groove back following Achilles surgery. It was just Summer League, but Anderson looked like a guy who could give a team spot minutes right away as a rookie.

Jahlil Okafor: “Rookie of the Year is one of the goals I set for myself”

Utah Jazz Summer League
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Jahlil Okafor looked in Las Vegas like a guy who could be in the mix for Rookie of the Year — he has an NBA body that he knows how to use to create a little space to operate, and when he does he has an array of moves to score. In Las Vegas he averaged 18.5 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, he shot 43.8 percent, and while he’s still a rookie who is going to have a steep learning curve, you can see the potential.

He wants to win Rookie of the Year, he told Dei Lynam of CSNPhilly.com during the Sixers annual Beach Bash event (video above).

“For myself, before the season I just need to make sure I’m prepared. I don’t know what to expect, I’ve never played in the NBA, but Rookie of the Year is one of my goals I’ve set for myself, my personal achievements. As for the team, I want to get better. We’re a rebuilding team right now, but (we should) go out there every day and compete.”

After seeing guys in Summer League and thinking about touches and opportunities they will get in the season, I would say Okafor and Denver’s Emmanuel Mudiay should be the preseason favorites for the award, with Karl-Anthony Towns and Stanley Johnson lurking in the background. That said, they’re  rookies, which makes them inconsistent and this award very difficult to predict preseason.

What we do know: Okafor is having fun with the fans and making friends in Philly already.