Tag: Nikola Pekovic

Glen Taylor

Timberwolves owner says he expects Kevin Love to be in Minnesota training camp


The standoff continues. Minnesota wants a lot back in trading Kevin Love, other teams are balking at the price of throwing in an Andrew Wiggins or Klay Thompson type player.

If you think Minnesota is about to cave, well, you should see what Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor said in an interview on NBATV during the team’s Summer League game Wednesday (as transcribed by the Pioneer Press).

“My preference is that Kevin will come to (training) camp — and I’m sure he will — and play with the team,” Taylor said.

That would be a circus.

Minnesota is taking a page out of the Denver playbook when Carmelo Anthony was trying to force a trade to a preferred destination — wait until somebody caves. Look at it this way: the bad offers are still going to be there in February at the trade deadline, there’s no reason to rush and take one of those, wait for a good offer.

I’ll add this scenario: If I were the Warriors or Cavaliers and looking at giving up major assets like Thompson or Wiggins, I would only do that if Love opted in to the last year of his deal. Not sign an extension, but opt-in for one year so my team would have some security that this would not be a Dwight Howard/Lakers situation. Love could then be a free agent in 2016 (when the salary cap jumps with the new national television deal and a max player such as himself would make more money). At Summer League in Las Vegas there is a mixed buzz about whether Love would be willing to do that, but I would not take anybody’s word that they will re-sign, I would want the extra year guaranteed. If Love insists on becoming a free agent in the summer of 2015 the offers Minnesota gets will be smaller.

For Minnesota, with Love on the team the Timberwolves are a borderline playoff team even in the deep West. They will need Ricky Rubio to play like it’s a contract year, and they need Love and Nikola Pekovic and the rest to stay healthy. But this is a potentially good team.

“I think our team is just on the border (of making the playoffs),” Taylor said. “We lost too many close games last year, and having Kevin Love there as, right now, the heart of our team … I would like to have Kevin back and play under Flip (Saunders) and see how the coaches will utilize him with the other players.”

Taylor may hold out hope of a Portland/LaMarcus Aldridge situation where the team gets hot, wins and he changes his mind about wanting out. Although, in this case it seems too late for that.

Gorgui Dieng is making leaps in Summer League, Timberwolves want that to translate to winter games

Minnesota Timberwolves V Phoenix Suns

LAS VEGAS — Summer League can be a great measuring stick.

A year ago Gorgui Dieng looked a little confused by the speed and style of the NBA/Summer League game. He was thinking and not just playing, and with that he looked like a lost rookie.

A year later he is owning it — Dieng had 13 points and 19 rebounds in Minnesota’s win over the Suns Wednesday.

“I feel more comfortable but I’ll let you guys judge,” Dieng said after the game.

It doesn’t take much of a judge to see the leap he has made.

It all started in the regular season. Minnesota’s Rick Adelman isn’t a fan of giving rookies a lot of run (especially when coaching to rack up wins and keep his job), but when Nikola Pekovic went down he had no choice and Dieng got some burn — and looked good. After the All-Star break last year he averaged 8.9 points (with a .569 true shooting percentage) and 8.4 rebounds a game. Plus, he blocked better than a shot a game. He moved himself into the Rookie of the Year conversation.

You can really see the leap he’s made both in confidence and feel for the game in his second Summer League.

You can see it on the glass where he put a body on his man then used his athleticism and strength to pull down 37 percent of his team’s rebounds Wednesday. You can see it in his footwork. You can see it in how he finds good spacing on offense and is willing to cut hard off the ball. He moves very well on defense and knows how to use his athleticism to his advantage to protect the rim. He sets a good screen (well, when the guard lets him, this is Summer League) and has a nice couple first steps on the roll.

He also showed off a Duncan-esque mid-range bank shot, hitting the only one he took.

“I’ve been working a lot on that this summer,” Dieng said. “I’m always looking out for something to improve my game and I think something like that added to my game will really help me.”

He’s just fun to watch play.

“He’s going to be a work in progress but every day he gets better,” said David Adelman, who coached the Timberwolves at Summer League. “We’re trying to teach him a lot of little nuances, just playing off the ball, scoring on the block, things like that. …

“The main thing with him is keeping his ear on things and letting him know he’s got to run front rim to front rim every time down the court. He’s got to be the first big down the court, with his athleticism and how he moves his feet, that should be the thing. And just playing off the ball, like if a big guy like (Kyrylo) Fesenko has the ball on the block he should be up at the free throw line where he can see him. Just kind of playing in a tandem.”

His teammates like playing with him.

“You just throw it up to him and he’ll get it,” Zach LaVine, who ran the Minnesota offense for much of the game Wednesday, said of Deing. “He’ll battle you, his teammate for a rebound.”

Dieng is saying exactly what you want a player to say, spouting the cliches of working one day at a time, just trying to get better. But he means it; the coaches love the way he listens and absorbs information.

“What (the coaches and I) discussed is that in the summer is the time the players got better, so I’ve been in the gym working with them a lot,” Dieng said. “Just learning the game overall. They cannot tell you what to do exactly, but you’ve got to have a good feeling for yourself, to learn the game.”

He’s learning. And it shows.

Mychal Thompson on son Klay’s possible trade: “I’m going to have to talk him down off the ledge”

Los Angeles Lakers v Golden State Warriors

If you’re looking for a reliable source for the rumors that a Kevin Love trade to the Golden State Warriors is moving along, how about the father of one Klay Thompson, the main piece that would be heading back to Minnesota?

Klay’s father Mychal Thompson — the former No. 1 overall pick, the former member of the Showtime Lakers, and currently a Lakers broadcaster and sports talk radio host in L.A. — made it sound like the deal is very close, as reported by Monte Poole at CSNBayArea.com.

“My source knows what’s going on up there (in Oakland),” Thompson said Thursday morning on the air of ESPN LA 710. “And since this guy told me that this is really close to happening, it just kind of depressed me.”

It also depressed Klay. There had been talk about Love coming to the Bay Area but at first the Warriors were reticent to part with Thompson. That has changed.

“It’s disappointing, because Klay and I have been talking about this all summer and the possibility of this happening, as far as him and Kevin being together on the same team – along with Steph Curry,” Mychal Thompson said. “And he was really looking forward to that. He thought that if you added Love to the Splash Brothers, with (Andrew) Bogut and (Andre) Iguodala, they had a chance . . . to get to the West finals next year.

“If this happens, I’m going to have to talk him down off the ledge.”

I would feel the same way if I were Thompson.

But it is the right move for Golden State. The bottom line is this: Thompson’s skill set is easier to replicate than Love’s.

The alleged deal would look something like Thompson and David Lee for Love and some combination of Kevin Martin, backup point guard J.J. Berea and Minnesota’s No. 1 pick (13th overall) in next week’s NBA draft. I think sending all of those West is too high a price for Minnesota. This is a fluid situation and other players such as Draymond Green could end up in the mix. I’d give up Martin (Thompson replaces him) and either Barea or the pick, but not both.

That trade is a win for the Warriors. Martin isn’t as good as Thompson but he’s a solid replacement and good three point shooter. With Love and Stephen Curry Golden State would have the instant best pick-and-pop combo in the NBA, plus it keeps its defensive core of Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut in place. The Warriors become contenders in the West.

Expect that if Minnesota does this it’s the first of a series of moves to rebuild. They may like and try to keep Thompson, but Lee will not be in the long-term plans (Lee and Nikola Pekovic make a terrible defensive front line).

It’s not yet a done deal and I wouldn’t expect Minnesota to pull the trigger until draft day. But talks are progressing.

Extra Pass: Gorgui Dieng’s breakthrough opens options for Minnesota Timberwolves

Kevin Love, Samuel Dalembert

Gorgui Dieng, as the story goes, protested leaving a Louisville game his freshman year after fouling out because he didn’t realized offensive fouls counted toward the limit.

That was forgivable, considering Dieng was so raw. He had lived in Senegal two years prior, and he was ineligible even to practice for weeks leading up to his first Louisville season.

His transition to understanding NBA fouling didn’t go much more smoothly. Until the Minnesota Timberwolves’ 20th game, Dieng had more fouls than points for the season.

That was a bit more problematic.

Minnesota drafted Dieng No. 21 overall last June, making him the oldest pick in the first round at age 23. *Even though Dieng left Louisville after his junior season, it’d been four years since anyone that old had been drafted so high (Tyler Hansbrough, No. 13 by the Pacers in 2009).

*Colton Iverson, whom the Pacers drafted No. 53 and then traded to the Celtics, was the only older player drafted in 2013. Boston didn’t sign him.

In other words, Dieng lacked the untapped potential of his draft-classmates. For Minnesota to justify his selection, Dieng needed to produce immediately.

Well, he didn’t. Far from it. For most of the season, Dieng frequently received DNP-CDs, playing just a few minutes when Rick Adelman summoned him off the bench.

But after Nikola Pekovic suffered an ankle injury March 14 against the Bobcats, Dieng started six games at center. He had double-doubles in his first three games, including 22 points and 21 rebounds against the Rockets. Even after going to the bench for the Timberwolves’ last two games, Dieng has sustained his breakthrough.

  • First 42 games: 1.7 points, 2.3 points, 0.3 steals and 0.6 blocks per game
  • Last 8 games: 11.9 points, 13.0 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks per game

Eight games isn’t necessarily a large enough sample to evaluate a player. But the only other players to hit those point-rebound-steal-blocks marks in an eight-game span this season: Andre Drummond, Dwight Howard, DeMarcus Cousins, Joakim Noah, DeAndre Jordan, LaMarcus Aldridge and Anthony Davis. To say the least, those are all NBA-caliber starters.

So where does that leave Dieng?

He’s active under the basket, sealing defenders and using his good hands to get the ball in prime position. Given space to elevate, he does so quickly for high-percentage looks around the basket. If opponents force him to delay his shot, he becomes much more defendable as his post moves lack counters other than than repeated pump fakes.

Dieng doesn’t have much of an expanded offensive game – 91 percent of his makes have been assisted or putbacks (using data from MySynergySports) – but the Timberwolves are increasingly running pick-and-rolls with him, and he’s comfortable with hook shots inside and short face-up jumpers.

He can weave his way through crowds for tip-ins, again taking advantage of his ability to elevate quickly. He’ll make opponents pay for not boxing out.

The same ability to punish opponents’ mistakes exists on the other side of the ball, too. Don’t throw a lazy pass or take a careless dribble near Dieng, who possesses a 7-foot-3.5 wingspan.

He’s really rounding into form for a first-year player, even one who is already 24. In this shallow rookie crop, Dieng could even make the All-Rookie second team with a strong close to the season.

Does Minnesota, which is 36-36 and has already faded out of the playoff race, regret not giving Dieng an expanded role sooner? Maybe, but he gave little indication prior that he was ready.

The bigger question: What do the Timberwolves do now?

They must consider trading the 28-year-old Pekovic, who will have four years and $47.9 million left on his contract. He’s 17.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per game this season, a career year. He should still hold value around the league, and Minnesota could use whatever he fetches in a trade plus the possible salary savings to upgrade its roster. Then, Dieng could start regularly.

Or the Timberwolves could trade Dieng, though it’s not easy to trade players on rookie contracts. Few teams are willing to part with their own rookies, i.e., the players who have similar values and matching contracts.

How to handle Kevin Love does – and should – take priority for the Timberwolves. But, suddenly, they have options at center.

It’s difficult to imagine Love re-signing with the Timberwolves unless they make the playoffs next season. And while the Western Conference is likely to revert to the remain and not remain historically strong, the road won’t be easy.

Minnesota could use upgrades over Corey Brewer at small forward, Kevin Martin at shooting guard and/or Ricky Rubio at point guard. In isolation, each of those three is fine, but collectively, the trio is hardly infallible.

Dieng has already shown he deserves starting consideration next season. In their final 10 games, the Timberwolves must get a better grasp of Dieng’s value and how they can best use him this summer.

Keeping Love, if that’s what Minnesota is committed to doing, won’t be an easy lock to pick. If a key exists, it might just be Dieng.

Reports: Timberwolves not willing to talk Kevin Love trade. Yet.

Denver Nuggets v Minnesota Timberwolves

Minnesota is now paying the price for David Kahn’s biggest mistake as general manager — refusing to give Kevin Love the full five-year max salary extension. (He was saving it for Ricky Rubio, the guy he drafted.)

What Love ended up with was a four year deal — but he pushed for and got on the ability to opt out after three years. The summer of 2015.

You’d be hard pressed to find anyone around the league who thinks Love stays in Minnesota after 2015 (even if the team has a big turnaround many still think he bolts). Sorry Timberwolves fans.

Yet Minnesota is not yet talking trade with anyone, they are pushing away requests, reports both Marc Stein at ESPN and Zach Lowe at Grantland. Stein summed it up this way:

The suggestion is already in circulation that the Lakers will attempt to use their forthcoming high lottery pick in June to assemble the sort of trade package that finally convinces the Wolves to part with Love and end the uncertainty that hangs over this franchise even before the 25-year-old enters the final year of his contract. Yet there is just as much defiance emanating from ‘Sota, as we speak, about the Wolves’ ability to keep Love in town.

You continue to hear that Wolves owner Glen Taylor remains determined to try to convince Love to stick around and will keep resisting trade offers until, as one insider puts it, he “has no choice.”

To be honest, you can’t blame Taylor or Minnesota for this, as Lowe points out.

A market like Minnesota just isn’t going to attract a top-10 player in free agency unless it already has one heading up a very appealing roster. Those are the most precious commodities in the sport, and Minnesota has one. Surrendering that kind of talent is so painful for a non-glamour team. You never know when or if you’ll ever get one again. Minnesota already knows this, of course; Kevin Garnett won a ring in Boston, and the Wolves haven’t made the playoffs without him.

Even if you move your big star early in a trade, you are in for years of rebuilding — look at Utah in the wake of the Deron Williams (who they moved early). Minnesota knows what’s ahead so they are reluctant to throw in the towel. It’s very understandable.

The hope in Minnesota is to have a team good enough that Love will not leave $30 million guaranteed on the table (mostly in a fifth year the Timberwolves can offer that no other team can). He’s getting national ads like Taco Bell, he can stay and thrive.

Minnesota has tried to do this, it just hasn’t worked out so well. The Timberwolves are a better team than their record indicates — they have the 12th best point differential per 100 possessions in the league (+1.9), which sandwiches them between Dallas and Memphis, ahead of Chicago. The Timberwolves should be fighting for a playoff spot in the West, not playing out the string.

However, the Timberwolves struggle at the end of games and as Lowe notes that’s not a one-year trend, it’s been going on for years. It’s part of the makeup of the players on the roster around Love. It’s not going to change dramatically next year without a roster shakeup (and that would be difficult to pull off).

Love is an elite talent, a franchise cornerstone guy, but you have to surround him with specific kinds of players. You need a rim protecting big — Nikola Pekovic is big but not a great defender in the paint. You need shooters who can space the floor — Ricky Rubio is not that. Even players that seemed like good fits in Minnesota like Chase Budinger have not panned out.

Love is likely moving on an other teams are jockeying for a shot at him. Because of UCLA/LA connections the Lakers are considered the front runner — if they make a trade it would be with their lottery pick from this season and… future picks I guess. They don’t have much else anyone wants on that roster. The Knicks would be interested too but the only asset of interest there is Tim Hardaway Jr. and then some picks that would be years away.

But right now Minnesota isn’t entertaining those or any offers. They want to keep Love. And in the end they may fight to the end to keep him and let him walk rather than take pennies on the dollar back.