Treveon Graham

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Three Things to Know: Brandon Ingram has earned an All-Star nod and max contract

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Brandon Ingram has earned an All-Star nod and max contract. There were legitimate reasons the Pelicans were hesitant to give Brandon Ingram a contract extension last summer.

He was coming off a blood clot issue that, if it returned, would threaten his career. He wasn’t a guy who took or made a lot of threes. He had most of his offensive success in isolation or as a pick-and-roll ball handler, how would he fit in coach Alvin Gentry’s offensive system that required ball movement and catch-and-shoot skills? How would he fit next to Zion Williamson?

Ingram made a leap this season and blew all those questions out of the water (except the Zion one, that starts to get answered next week).

Ingram is averaging 25.8 points per game and is shooting 40.6 percent from three on 6.2 attempts from deep per game. He has dramatically improved his jump shot, fit in brilliantly with Gentry’s system, and become the Pelicans’ best — and go-to — player. Exactly the guy the Lakers envisioned when they drafted him No. 2 out of Duke in 2016.

That peaked on Thursday night when Ingram dropped a career-high 49 on the Utah Jazz and led the Pelicans to a win that snapped Utah’s 10-game win streak.

This leap would not have happened if the Lakers had not traded Ingram, he was never going to be a comfortable fit next to LeBron James (even if Ingram has improved off-the-ball in Gentry’s system).

“[The Lakers] have such a rich history of winning, a lot of pressure goes on the shoulders of those young guys,” said the Clippers’ Lou Williams, who spent half a season as a teammate of then-rookie Ingram. “Different organizations have more of a patience to develop more guys. The Lakers want to win right away. So some of the pressure was deserved because [Ingram and Lonzo Ball] was high picks, and they should be good quality basketball players, but at the same time they’re young guys trying to figure it out.”

Ingram figured it out, but things might have been different, he might not have made this leap if Zion had stayed healthy. The Pelicans offense would have been different with the No. 1 pick (also out of Duke).

Forget the “what ifs” however — Brandon Ingram has made the leap and now the rewards should be flowing. NBA coaches should select him as a reserve for the All-Star Game in Chicago. He’s earned it.

Next summer, Ingram will get a max contract — almost certainly from the Pelicans. While New Orleans has not seen Ingram next to Williamson in a meaningful way (the preseason doesn’t count), it can’t afford to lose the restricted free agent and other teams will undoubtedly be lined up with max offers.

Ingram is about to get PAID. That comes with the respect he’s earned.

Ingram was also at the heart of the wild ending in New Orleans Thursday night. The Pelicans thought they had won the game in regulation on Ingram’s off-balance jumper with 0.2 seconds left.

Utah had just 0.2 left to make a play, which by NBA rule means it had to be a tip. The Pelicans packed the paint, but rookie Jaxson Hayes was called for holding Rudy Gobert as the Utah center attempted to free himself for the desperation tip-in (the Last Two Minute report in this game is going to be fascinating, but because there was a little hold — not enough to get called in this situation, but it was there — expect the report to back the refs).

The holding call was upheld after video review.

That gave Gobert a chance to win it by making two foul shots, but he split them, tied the game, and sent it to overtime. In the extra frame, Gobert fouled out on an Ingram drive (another very questionable call) and behind a final five points from Ingram — plus seven from Derrick Favors — the Pelicans got the home win.

2) We have a trade Hawks/Timberwolves trade… that sets up other trades. If one were to grade this trade as a stand-alone move, The Timberwolves would fail the test.

The first trade of the deadline season sees Minnesota sending Jeff Teague and Treveon Graham to Atlanta, and getting Allen Crabbe in return.

For Atlanta, they get a much needed backup point guard behind Trae Young (it’s a short-term fix, but they told a frustrated Young they would get him help). When Young is running the show and bombing deep threes, the Hawks have a respectable offense. However, when Young sits, the Atlanta offense scores far less than a point per possession (90.7 offensive rating) and those stretches end up costing the team games. Teague is a solid point guard who can organize the Hawks offense and keep things from dropping off a cliff while Young rests.

For Minnesota, this trade only makes sense if it’s seen as the precursor to a second trade (maybe involving Crabbe, who makes $18.5 million this season). It clears out a roster spot, something the Timberwolves needed to do to go big game hunting. They are still interested in Golden State’s D’Angelo Russell (to play with his good friend Karl-Anthony Towns) and but lose some flexibility in how to make that trade happen. Whether they should trade for Russell is another question — Wolves GM Gersson Rosas said he wants a playmaking point guard, not a scoring one, except that’s not Russell — but the Timberwolves are moving to try and make that a reality. It’s hard to judge this trade for the Timberwolves until we see what other shoes drop.

3) Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks remind everyone they are beasts of the East with a win against the Celtics. Boston has joined the long list of teams — pretty much 29 of them — that have no good answer to slow Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The Greek Freak scored 32 points and pulled down 17 rebounds, and that plus Khris Middleton’s 23 was enough for Milwaukee to knock off the Celtics 128-123 on Thursday night. The Bucks have now won five in a row and remain on pace for a 70-win season (even if their GM says they will not chase a record number of wins).

Kemba Walker scored 40 points to lead Boston. The bigger concern for the Celtics is Jaylen Brown, who suffered a sprained right thumb against Detroit and sat this game out, plus he could miss more time.

Report: Timberwolves intensifying pursuit of Warriors’ D’Angelo Russell, not progressing

D'Angelo Russell vs. Timberwolves
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The Timberwolves just traded Jeff Teague and Treveon Graham to the Hawks for Allen Crabbea curious move for Minnesota.

Just what are the Timberwolves doing?

Perhaps still trying to acquire a oft-rumored target, D'Angelo Russell.

Jon Krawczynski and Shams Charania of The Athletic:

New team president Gersson Rosas and the rest of his front office have been actively pursuing deals on a number of fronts to try to remake the roster to better fit their vision for the team moving forward, league sources told The Athletic. That includes intensifying their pursuit of Golden State Warriors guard D’Angelo Russell. Discussions have yielded no traction to this point, league sources said.

Minnesota tried to sign Russell last summer. From the moment he arrived in Golden State in a sign-and-trade for Kevin Durant, Russell has appeared in trade rumors. The assumption was the Warriors were just trying to recoup value for Durant however they could.

Russell is an odd fit with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson when those guards are healthy. But Golden State seemingly isn’t rushing to solve that dilemma.

The Timberwolves would welcome Russell. He’s a good young player and friend of franchise player Karl-Anthony Towns.

The Teague deal slightly trimmed Minnesota’s payroll and opened a roster spot, which are usually useful in facilitating future trades. But unlike Teague, the newly acquired Crabbe can’t be aggregated in another trade. That’s a major obstacle when trying to acquire a max-salaried player like Russell.

How will the Timberwolves send out enough salary to match Russell’s?

Robert Covington is an obvious trade candidate. But the 3-and-D forward could help many teams this season, a lost year for the Warriors. It seems his value would be higher elsewhere, though Golden State could land Covington – who has two additional years on his contract – in preparation for next season.

Minnesota would have to send out much more salary than just Covington’s, though. Towns isn’t going anywhere. Andrew Wiggins and Gorgui Dieng have negative-value contracts – especially for a team already facing the luxury tax like the Warriors.

Though it’s possible to construct a deal without it, Teague’s expiring contract would have been quite useful in trading for Russell.

Just how are is Minnesota intensifying its pursuit of Russell? This report is vague. It sounds more like the Timberwolves are just trying to show they’re actively seeking upgrades.

I’d put much more stock into the part about them not getting anywhere.

Report: Timberwolves trade Jeff Teague to Hawks

Jeff Teague
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The Hawks reportedly told Trae Young they’d get him more help.

It’s coming from Minnesota.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Jeff Teague returns to Atlanta, where he spent his first seven NBA seasons and even became an All-Star. He’ll have a smaller role this time, backing up Young. The Hawks were desperate at back-up point guard, previously relying on Evan Turner playing out of position. Atlanta has been outscored by a whopping -14.1 points per 100 possessions without Young (relative to a -6.2 net rating with Young).

The Hawks (9-32) almost certainly won’t win significantly this season, anyway. But this upgrade could help abate frustration.

The rationale for Minnesota is less clear.

All three players are on expiring contracts. Teague is better than Allen Crabbe. Though his play has been uneven (generously), 26-year-old Treveon Graham has some potential as a 3-and-D wing, a role always in demand.

The Timberwolves save $1,102,980 in salary the rest of this season. They also open a roster spot that could be useful for a future deal.

Minnesota could use more outside shooting, and that’s Crabbe’s specialty. But he must play well enough to join the rotation for that to matter.

Maybe this is a favor to Teague, who’d clearly run his course in Minnesota. Perhaps, he enjoyed Atlanta and wanted to return (thought he entire team – general manager, coach, players – has changed since he left in 2016). He was already coming off the bench for the Timberwolves.

Ultimately, this isn’t a landscape-changing trade. But it’s nice to see more wheeling and dealing after such a long trade hiatus.

It takes double OT, but Timberwolves end 11-game losing streak with win over Kings

Associated Press
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — As he watched Buddy Hield‘s last-second 3-point shot clang off the back of the rim at the end of double overtime, Minnesota’s Andrew Wiggins breathed a sigh of relief that had been nearly a month in the making.

For the first time in December, the Timberwolves won a game.

“All you could do was look and watch,” Wiggins said. “I was looking at the shot and it missed. Thank God.”

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Wiggins scored the first basket of the second overtime and then fed Robert Covington for another score, and Minnesota ended its long losing streak by beating the Sacramento Kings 105-104 on Thursday night.

Minnesota hadn’t won since Nov. 27 before limiting Sacramento to 11 points in the fourth quarter and then outlasting the Kings in two overtimes. The Wolves did it without Karl-Anthony Towns, who missed his fifth straight game with a left knee sprain.

“We did a lot of great things tonight,” Minnesota coach Ryan Saunders said. “Our offense was not pretty tonight but we found ways. That locker room deserves to feel good.”

Wiggins got the Wolves going in the second OT with a short jumper that started a 6-0 run. After Jeff Teague made a floater, Wiggins passed to Robert Covington for a layup.

Gorgui Dieng‘s dunk with 3:11 left put Minnesota up 105-99. Hield scored five straight points for Sacramento to close the gap, but the Wolves held on after Hield missed the potential game-winner.

“Winning in double overtime, winning in regulation, either way I would have took it,” Minnesota’s Treveon Graham said.

Wiggins finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Dieng had 21 points and 15 rebounds, and Covington scored 19 for the Timberwolves.

Richaun Holmes had 20 points and a career-high 18 rebounds for the Kings, who have their own injury concerns.

De'Aaron Fox left two minutes into the first quarter with back spasms. Sacramento’s point guard missed 17 games this season with an ankle injury sustained in practice. Marvin Bagley III limped off the court in the third quarter and was wearing a walking boot on his left foot after the game. Bagley had also recently returned after missing 22 games because of a broken right thumb sustained in the season opener.

“Give Minnesota credit. They knocked down some big shots when they had to and we didn’t,” Kings coach Luke Walton said. “We have to keep scrapping and fighting. We have to be better.”

Both teams turned chances to win in the first overtime into turnovers. In the final 0.5 seconds alone, Teague attempted an inbounds pass but threw the ball out of bounds, and Bogdan Bogdanovic tried a 3-pointer on an inbounds play with 0.2 seconds left but his shot failed to hit the rim.

 

Dorian Finney-Smith slams putback dunk on two Timberwolves (video)

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The Mavericks have the best offensive rating (117.5 on Basketball-Reference) in NBA history.

That’s in part because Dallas is an excellent offensive-rebounding team.

Dorian Finney-Smith took it to the next level in the Mavericks’ win over the Timberwolves yesterday:

Poor Treveon Graham and Jarrett Culver.