Therapy this morning starts the celebration. Through the wonders of social media, media leaks and press conference scheduling, we know a little bit ahead of time about just why the Timberwolves have suddenly announced a press conference for 2:30pm this afternoon. At that time, Andrew Wiggins will be introduced as the 2014-15 NBA Rookie of the Year, an award that he has been the frontrunner for since Jabari Parker's injury early in the season, and arguably since the very beginning of the year as the #1 overall pick in the draft. This is a great achievement and a just reward for a season in which he led rookies in many statistical categories; was the only Timberwolf to appear in (and start) all 82 games; finished fifth in the NBA in minutes per game; and dunked all over some people.
The Rookie of the Year award, while not a guarantor of future success, does have a pretty good conversion rate to at least becoming a serviceable NBA player. Of the last fourteen winners of the award, only Emeka Okafor (2005) and Brandon Roy (2007) are no longer in the NBA. Ten of the fourteen players are starters (Mike Miller (2001) and Amar'e Stoudemire (2003) plus Roy and Okafor), and of those ten, eight started a first-round playoff series this year (minus Tyreke Evans (2010) and Kevin Durant (2008)) (also, yes, Michael Carter-Williams started a playoff series this year, which is still kind of mind-numbing to me). There are no guarantees, as with anything in the NBA, but any time a player can join a list with LeBron James, Chris Paul, Durant, Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin, to name a few, it is a special honor.
News and Notes
- Of course, I'm still suspicious that this could be an elaborate troll job to announce Chase Budinger's use of his player option for the 2015-16 season, reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! and several others yesterday. As the ESPN alert I just received on my phone tells me, Chase averaged 9.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game after the All-Star Break, and frequently showed signs of being a real NBA player again. Local media is skeptical as to whether or not Chase will still be with the team come September (to say the least), but I think that Chase showed at the end of the season that, when healthy, he can still be an asset on the court. I also think that both Flip and Chase's agent shouldn't bank on just those last two months of the season being enough to sell another team on him. Keep him around through the start of the season and look for a Brewer-style deal if he plays well.
- In playoff news, Kevin Love had shoulder surgery yesterday and is done for 4-6 months (and therefore the rest of the playoffs), which is a dent to the Cleveland Cavaliers' hopes. It does frame his player option this summer in a fascinating light, should he choose to leave Cleveland and bank on another team dropping max money on him even through the injury. As noted in the linked article from SBN, it seems even more likely than it already did that he'll opt into his guaranteed money for next year now.
- In a playoff game, the Memphis Grizzlies (who I always type as Grizzles, which amuses me every time) finished off the Portland
Walking DeadTrail Blazers 99-91 in Game 5 of their Western Conference series. Lamarcus Aldridge never really looked like himself, missing easy shots with his left hand pretty regularly. The Blazers made a pretty good run at it and kept it close throughout thanks to a big night by CJ McCollum (33 points off the bench), but the Grizzlies did what they do and ground out a win despite making only one (1) three-pointer on the night. Their reward? A tilt with the Golden State wrecking ball.
- In another playoff game, the Atlanta Hawks remembered how to play basketball and held serve at home against the Brooklyn Nets with a 107-97 win in Atlanta. In a thought about free agency this summer, how much is Demarre Carroll going to get paid this summer? He's been probably my favorite player to watch on the Hawks this entire season, and his 24 points paced the Hawks last night. In recent-Wolves-in-the-playoffs news, Thaddeus Young scored only 11 points and had a team-low -25 plus-minus (team-low by a LOT) in the loss. That series shifts back to Brooklyn for Game 6, the Hawks leading 3-2.
- Speaking of Game 6s, the two we get tonight should be tasty. The Milwaukee Bucks have taken two straight games from the Chicago Bulls and now get a Game 6 at home to try and push that series to a decisive Game 7 and a chance at a reverse sweep in the early game. The Bulls could not figure out how to score in Game 5, and that could be a problem. After that, Game 6 in San Antonio should be a doozy. The Los Angeles Clippers, who probably should have won Game 5 but for a (correct) offensive goaltending call in the closing seconds of the eventual 111-107 loss to the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs get a chance to finish the series at home. I'm looking forward to seeing the Clippers in full desperation mode. I think this series shifts back to LA for Game 7, and I think the Bucks win tonight and put the Bulls under serious pressure in a Game 7 in Chicago.
Raise a glass today to Andrew Wiggins at some point, even if it's a glass of water during your work day. Happy Thursday, and remember to celebrate life's victories.