Tag: Kevin Martin

Minnesota Timberwolves v Toronto Raptors

Ricky Rubio on Timberwolves: ‘I have to go pull this team in the playoffs’


Kevin Garnett is the Timberwolves’ most-accomplished player.

Andre Miller is their oldest player.

Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns are their most-important players.

But on any team, leadership naturally falls to the starting point guard and highest-paid player. Ricky Rubio, who fills both titles in Minnesota, is embracing that role.

Rubio, via Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated:

“We know we’re young and we’re building,” Rubio told SI.com in a phone interview. “At the same time, I think we’re ready to win games. Last season we only won 16 games but it didn’t feel like we were a losing team at all. We were just lacking some things. Me personally, I have to go pull this team in the playoffs. I know it’s a big challenge, but I think we have the right assets, the right weapons to get it. I know we’re in the West side, it’s really tough, but I think we can make it happen. I have big expectations for next season.”

I don’t think it’s completely outlandish to suggest the Timberwolves could make the playoffs. They’re loaded with talent at every position:

  • Point guard: Rubio, Miller, Tyus Jones
  • Shooting guard: Kevin Martin, Zach LaVine
  • Small forward: Andrew Wiggins, Shabazz Muhammad, Nemanja Bjelica
  • Power forward: Kevin Garnett, Gorgui Dieng, Adreian Payne, Anthony Bennett
  • Center: Karl-Anthony Towns, Nikola Pekovic

That is one heck of the depth chart.

But there are three major reasons Minnesota won’t make the playoffs:

1. Youth. As talented as those players are, many of them are still very young. They’ll probably need more time to develop and learn how to do the little things necessary to win.

2. Fit. Too many Timberwolves prefer to operate in the same areas of the court. They just don’t have enough floor spacers.

3.  Western Conference. It’s darn good.

Rubio could help, though. He’s reaching the age where he should take the next step. And a nifty passer, he could mitigate Minnesota’s spacing issues. He’ll have no shortage of talented players to throw passes. He’s the crux.

The Timberwolves probably won’t reach the postseason, but if they do, it very well could be because Rubio pulled them there.

Timberwolves coach Flip Sauders returns to Twitter to say he loves three pointers

Flip Saunders

The last time Timberwolves coach and GM Flip Saunders was on Twitter, he was setting the record straight that Kevin Love had in no way told him he was opting out or wanted to be traded. Six months later, Love was traded.

Now Saunders is back on Twitter after a long hiatus to again set the record straight.

Saunders doesn’t like the idea that he is considered a dinosaur, an old-school guy who doesn’t have an obsession with getting clean three-point looks like everyone else in the NBA.

Unlike the Love situation, I fully believe Saunders here. Look at what he told Zach Lowe of Grantland in a recent interview.

Do we need to make 3s? No question. I think Andrew will become an adequate 3-point shooter. The bottom line is, you have what you have. If your best players aren’t 3-point shooters, you can’t just make them 3-point shooters. We need to build around them and get some other players who can stretch the floor…

The reason teams don’t post up is that nobody can do it anymore. Teams would like to do it. The post-up is conducive to small ball. If a guy can score down there, the defense has to trap, and you can get open 3s. And that’s what we’re all trying to get — open 3s.

Saunders is also a realist. He may want to shoot threes, but he also sees his roster (the one he built) and knows these are not the Warriors. He’s going to often have the ball in the hands of Ricky Rubio (25.5 percent from three last season) and Andrew Wiggins (31 percent), followed by Zach LaVine (34.1 percent) and sometimes rookie Tyus Jones (25 percent at Summer League). He doesn’t have stretch bigs with Kevin Garnett (14 percent last season), Karl-Anthony Towns, Nikola Pekovic and Gorgui Dieng. There are a couple good three-point shooters on the roster in Shabazz Muhammad (who Saunders will use as a stretch four at times) and Kevin Martin (if he can stay healthy), but this team needs guys who can space the floor.

All of that could lead to spacing issues for the Timberwolves next season.

But don’t confuse that with a guy who doesn’t want to shoot the three. Saunders took to Twitter to clear that part up.

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


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.

Report: Timberwolves sign Euroleague star Nemanja Bjelica to three-year, $11.7 million contract

Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul- CSKA Moscow: Turkish Airlines Euroleague

Nemanja Bjelica has been a sleeper for five years.

Now, after a little negotiating, the Timberwolves will see just what the No. 35 pick in the 2010 draft can do. They are bringing him over to the USA.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Euroleague star forward Nemanja Bjelica has agreed to a three-year, $11.7 million deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

The Timberwolves are paying an additional $625,000 – the most allowable contribution – for his buyout clause in Europe, sources said.

Bjelica fits in with the NBA trend of big men who are versatile — he can play inside or out, at the three or the four, plus take on some ball handling responsibilities. He shot 37 percent from three last season, and he pulled down more than eight rebounds a game as well for Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahce Ulker.

Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, Gorgui Dieng, Shabazz Muhammad, Zach LaVine, Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Martin, Adreian Payne, Anthony Bennett – and now Bjelica. The Timberwolves are stockpiling a lot of talent.

It’s unclear how ready the youngest of that group is to compete, and though Bjelica is already 27, he also must adjust to the NBA. The fit of those players is unclear, too. And he Western Conference is not the least bit forgiving.

But talent is the place to start, and Minnesota is doing just fine there.

How Billy Donovan differs from every other college-to-NBA coach in last 20 years


Billy Donovan is unlike any other coach making the college-to-NBA jump in the last 20 years.

The Thunder, who hired Donovan yesterday (and will pay him handsomely), certainly hope so. That’s because, aside from Brad Stevens, the rest have failed.

But Donovan has already proven his uniqueness – by getting himself hired by a good team.

Here are the 10 NCAA-to-NBA coaches in the last 20 years with their NBA team’s wins the season before their arrival (normalized to an 82-game schedule):


Tim Floyd took over the threepeating Bulls – minus Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman. Obviously, Floyd did not inherit a team that at all resembled what the chart indicates.

Stevens, the only other coach besides Floyd and Donovan to take over a winner, also didn’t have the players his predecessor did. Before hiring Stevens, the Celtics – who were barely a winning team at 41-40 – traded their two best players (Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Nets).

Donovan, of course, isn’t getting a dismantled roster. Quite the opposite.

The Thunder’s 45-37 record masks their true ability. Many key players – most notably Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka – missed significant time last season due to injury. If those three are healthy as expected, Donovan has a championship contender on his hands.

He also has a team unlike any of his college-to-pro peers.

Here are the three win-share leaders on each coach’s new NBA team. Because we don’t know how the 2015-16 Thunder will perform, I use the average for Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka the last three years.


Ibaka is running neck-and-neck with Kevin Martin for the third-best player in this group. Durant and Westbrook soar well above everyone else.

Of course, Donovan will be held to a higher standard because of his roster, but it’s often difficult to parse where the contributions of coaches end and players begin. It’s not Floyd’s fault he had to rely on Dickey Simpkins, Toni Kukoc and Kornel David. But it sure made it more likely the Bulls would fire him.

NBA coaches from college usually lose. NBA coaches with good players usually win.

It will be up to Donovan to show which of those factors is more important.