Jordan Bell

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Karl-Anthony Towns on Timberwolves: “It’s fine. Keep sleeping on us.”

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The bottom half of the Western Conference is going to a tight race going into late March and April. Good teams — San Antonio, Dallas, Sacramento, New Orleans — could all be battling for one, maybe a couple of playoff spots (especially if an expected playoff team falls back to the pack).

Karl-Anthony Towns says don’t leave Minnesota out of that mix.

Towns believes that nationally fans and the media are sleeping on the Timberwolves — which is true — and he told Marc Spears of The Undefeated that would be a mistake.

“Everyone always sleeps on people in Minnesota because they don’t hear our name a lot,” Towns, who was named a 2019 NBA Western Conference All-Star, told The Undefeated. “That’s fine. That’s cool. We are going to come from the underground and just find ourselves in the playoffs if we continue to do what we’re doing. …

“It’s fine. Keep sleeping on us.”

The Timberwolves made the playoffs two seasons ago, Jimmy Butler‘s first with the team. Last season, after Butler torpedoed the squad in training camp with a public and messy trade demand, Minnesota never recovered (and Tom Thibodeau lost his job).

If Minnesota is going to make the playoffs Towns is going to have to take a step forward, being more of a facilitator on offense (coach Ryan Saunders needs to get him high-post touches) and more consistent on defense. But that is just the start. Robert Covington, Minnesota’s second-best player, has to lead an improved defense. Andrew Wiggins has to do more than get empty-calorie points (18.1 per game last season), and he’s got to be more efficient.  Josh Okogie needs to take a step forward and rookie Jarrett Culver must contribute. Jeff Teague, Gorgui Dieng, and Jordan Bell all need to fill their roles.

Which is a lot of things that need go right, leading to a lot of that sleeping on the Timberwolves.

It’s up to Towns and company to prove us all wrong.

Jarrett Culver enlivens Timberwolves’ otherwise-quiet offseason

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NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

The Timberwolves are the only team with two max-salary players under age 29. Heck, they’re the only team with two max-salary players under age 25.

But Minnesota isn’t set.

Far from it.

Though Karl-Anthony Towns (23) is already a star and sometimes looks like a budding superstar, Andrew Wiggins (24) has stagnated on his max extension. Add expensive contracts for Jeff Teague and Gorgui Dieng, and the Timberwolves have limited cap flexibility. With veterans too good to allow deep tanking, Minnesota also has limited means to upgrade through the draft.

New Timberwolves president Gersson Rosas was likely always bound to limit his impact this summer. Minnesota faced few clear pressing decisions. Any big moves would start the clock toward Rosas getting evaluated on his prestigious job. In one of his main decisions, Rosas retained head coach Ryan Saunders, an ownership favorite.

Yet, in this environment, Rosas still found a simple way to add a potential long-term difference maker.

The Timberwolves entered the draft with the No. 11 pick – right after a near-consensus top 10 would’ve been off the board. They left the draft with No. 6 pick Jarrett Culver.

All it took to trade up with the Suns was Dario Saric, who would’ve helped Minnesota this season but probably not enough to achieve meaningful success. He’ll become a free agent next summer and is in line for a raise the Timberwolves might not wanted to give.

Culver is not a lock to flourish in the NBA. But Minnesota had no business adding a prospect with so much potential. This was a coup.

Otherwise, the Timberwolves remained predictably quiet, tinkering on the fringe of the rotation. They added Jake Layman (three years, $11,283,255) in a sign-and-trade with the Trail Blazers. They took Shabazz Napier and Treveon Graham off the hands of the hard-capped Warriors, getting cash for their trouble. They signed Noah Vonleh (one year, $2 million) and Jordan Bell (one year, minimum). They claimed Tyrone Wallace off waivers.

With their own free agents getting bigger offers, Minnesota didn’t match Tyus Jones‘ offer sheet with the Grizzlies (three years, $26,451,429) and watched Derrick Rose walk to the Pistons (two years, $15 million). For where the Timberwolves are, the far-cheaper Napier should handle backup point guard just fine.

Minnesota is methodically gaining flexibility. Teague’s contract expires next summer, Dieng’s the summer after that. The big question is how to handle Wiggins, but that will wait.

With Towns locked in the next five years, Rosas has plenty of runway before he must take off. Nabbing Culver was a heck of a way to accelerate from the gate.

Offseason grade: B-

Jordan Bell reportedly agrees to one-year deal with Timberwolves

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Jordan Bell brought a lot of athleticism off the bench for the Warriors. He also brought enough young player mistakes to frustrate coach Steve Kerr, this was a team thinking title after all. Bell’s minutes were up and down in Golden State.

They should be more consistent in Minnesota, where he is headed according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

This is a one-year, $1.6 million deal for the former Long Beach Poly Jackrabbit and Oregon Duck.

At that price, this is a good pickup by the Timberwolves.

Bell can be undersized at 6’9″ as a big in the paint, but his strength and athleticism let him hang if the team is willing to play small and fast. Bell does not space the floor as a shooter but get him in space and playing downhill and he can make plays.

The bulk of Minnesota’s center minutes go to Karl-Anthony Towns, with Gorgui Dieng behind him. This could allow Ryan Saunders to play KAT and Dieng together a little with Bell soaking up the minutes behind him. Bell just wants steady minutes to show what he can do, and those minutes are available in Minnesota.

Report: Cavaliers paid Pistons record $5 million for No. 30 pick (Kevin Porter Jr.)

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In 2017, the Warriors paid the Bulls a record $3.5 million for the No. 38 pick and rights to Jordan Bell.

The Cavaliers just shattered that mark to get No. 30 pick Kevin Porter Jr. from the Pistons – while also sending Detroit four second-round picks!

Tim Bontemps of ESPN:

James Edwards of The Athletic:

This is a major advantage Cavs owner Dan Gilbert provides. He’s willing to spend, and his team is better for it.

I rated Porter No. 11 on my board. Though the USC guard has attitude concerns that probably dropped him so low, Porter brings star potential with his combination of shiftiness and power.

Is he worth $5 million and four second-rounders? I have no problem spending someone else’s money. That’s easy. I’d also surrender the draft picks – especially because Gilbert can buy more to replenish the cupboard.

For the Pistons, who’d just gotten the No. 30 pick from the Bucks, this was probably a difficult trade to reject. But unless Detroit would’ve done the deal for only the draft picks, Pistons owner Tom Gores put his finances ahead of his team’s success.

Gilbert’s Cavaliers did the opposite.

Kevon Looney re-aggravates collar bone injury, out for Game 5

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The injuries — or, in this case, re-injuries — are piling up for the Warriors.

First Kevin Durant had to leave the game with a lower leg injury, just 12 minutes into his return after a month of missed games with a strained calf.

In the second half, Kevon Looney was clearly in pain with his collar bone area injury. Now he is done for the game as well.

Looney was a critical part of the Warriors front line rotation. His absence means more DeMarcus Cousins — who was strong on offense and the glass, but was picked on defensively — and even some Jordan Bell. Those are big steps down for the Warriors on the court.

And it showed as Toronto came back.