When Tom Thibodeau engineered the trade forJimmy Butler last summer, one of the big questions was how that would impact Andrew Wiggins. Butler and Wiggins play the same position and have a similar style of game, it’s just that Butler is basically better at every aspect of it. Wiggins has seen his shot attempts (and points per game) go down this season, and with that efficiency has dropped (he’s had the ball in his hands less, and been asked to spot up more). The transition with the Timberwolves has not always been smooth, but the team is winning and on its way to breaking a 13-year playoff drought.
Winning does not always cure all ills, which brings us to this report out of Minnesota.
Whoa. @DWolfsonKSTP just said on @1500ESPN that Wiggins has “whispered to teammates” that he’s unhappy being a third option behind Butler and Towns.
Is he frustrated? Who could blame him? He is a No. 1 overall pick that the Timberwolves traded for, a guy who they keep telling is going to be one of the cornerstones of the franchise, then they go out and trade for a guy who plays the same position and style? Can’t blame him for being frustrated.
Wiggins has seen his spot-up attempts go way up this season as he has to work off the ball more, he’s getting fewer post-ups and other touches he likes. Some guys can embrace this change and put their needs aside for the betterment of the team, finding other ways to contribute (Chris Bosh is the poster child for this). Others struggle to different degrees with it. Wiggins has had a few struggles, likely is frustrated, but this shouldn’t be blown up into some real problem in Minnesota until Wiggins starts trying to push back against the system or push his way out the door.
DeMarcus Cousins’ first bucket as a Warrior is a monster jam
Cousins started for the Warriors Friday night after missing almost a full year with a torn Achilles, and on the Warriors first possession they fed him the rock in the post. Cousins faced up on Marcin Gortat, drove baseline with a nice first step, but got caught under the basket and couldn’t power it up through the Clipper big, getting his shot blocked.
It was a side pick-and-roll where Gortat had to cut off Durant’s drive, but Danilo Gallinari didn’t tag into the middle to cut off Cousins’ roll (or, made the business decision not to). The result was an impressive first bucket for DeMarcus as a Warrior.
Cousins’ first shift was three minutes long. He’s on a minutes restriction for a while.
D’Angelo Russell drops 40 on Magic including shot that put Nets up for good
D'Angelo Russell is playing like a guy in a contract year. And that’s just fine with Brooklyn.
Russell tied his career best with 40 points Friday night against the Magic, including hitting the shot that put the Nets up for good on the night with 27 seconds remaining. Russell was 16-of-25 shooting, including 8-of-12 from three, and he was an analytics dream — Russell took all but one of his shots either in the paint or from three.
The Nets — now 24-23 on the season and the sixth seed in the East — came from 21 back to get the win and that included their guards hitting the big shots at the end.
With the Nets extending Dinwiddie during the season, it’s unlikely Russell returns to Brooklyn next season, but a number of teams are interested in him as a free agent (restricted, the Nets can match if the offer is low).
Report: Isaiah Thomas could return to Nuggets right before All-Star break
The Denver Nuggets have shown off their depth this season. Three starters — Will Barton, Gary Harris, and Paul Millsap — have missed a chunk of time and yet until a few days ago the Nuggets were the top seed in the West, and they are still a clear second.
And all of that without Isaiah Thomas, their biggest name reserve. He has been recovering from hip surgery last March.
Thomas has been gathering momentum in his rehabilitation process from hip surgery in March, and there’s hope among Thomas and the Nuggets organization he could return as soon as a Feb. 11-13 homestand against Miami and Sacramento, sources said.
There’s strong confidence that he will return no later than the first game after the All Star break on Feb. 22 in Dallas, league sources said….
The final hurdle for Thomas remains playing full 5-on-5 scrimmages. He is expected to start that process soon.
Thomas was playing well and playing through pain in Boston, becoming a fan favorite and pulling that team into the postseason, before his hip injury caught up with him. He tried to recover without surgery playing for the Cavaliers and Lakers last season, but that never really worked like he hoped. He had the surgery and signed a one-year deal with the Nuggets.
Thomas could provide a playmaking guard off the bench, although Monte Morris has filled that role for the Nuggets so well he gets mentioned as a most improved player candidate. Coach Mike Malone will need to finesse the minutes to get both of them touches and involved. How much Thomas can help the Nuggets in the playoffs depends on how he recovers (he has always been a defensive liability because of his size, which factors in as well).
If Thomas can show he would have value as a bench player he will have teams calling next July about a much bigger contract. He has motivation, and he’s popular around the league — people want to see him succeed. But is he fully healthy and does he still have the lateral explosiveness that made him so hard to stop on drives to the rim? We should find out the final couple months of the season.