Happy Friday Hoopusters! A little of this and a little of that this morning, as there is plenty to chat about.
We Have A Record Breaker
First of all, a big shout to Rebekkah Brunson, who surpassed Tamika Catchings last night to become the WNBA’s all time leading rebounder. Brunson has had an amazing career filled with hard work and championships. The record came at Target Center in a big win over the rival Los Angeles Sparks. It was a fantastic game, as Neil wrote about.
Yesterday, Nemanja Bjelica reached an agreement on a one year deal for the room exception, which is around $4.5 million. Ultimately, the lack of cap room limited the market for Bjelica, as it did for so many players, and he settled for a one year deal which will allow him back onto the market next summer. It’s worth noting that he wound up taking significantly less than the Wolves paid for Anthony Tolliver.
That isn’t a criticism of anyone involved; circumstances led us here. Bjelica was unlikely willing to take a one year deal from the Wolves, as it appears likely that he wanted a new situation, understandably. To an extent, Jamal Crawford’s bolt for the door, Bjelica’s escape, and Tyus Jones’ nearly asking out reminds us that Tom Thibodeau has a lot of work to do to make guys eager to play for this organization. Even to get Tolliver to commit, they had to go over the tax-payer MLE amount and use a big part of their non-tax payer MLE. At any rate, goodbye to Bjelica, who had his moments.
The Kawhi Leonard Saga Continues
Zach Lowe wrote about possible suitors beside the Lakers yesterday, and included our Wolves as a possibility, writing this:
Minnesota/Andrew Wiggins: This is interesting. Wiggins is a divisive player. He probably carries negative trade value on his max-level deal. But he’s 23 and undeniably skilled, and the Spurs still have a jones for midrange jumpers. Toss in a couple of picks, and the Wolves could make a compelling offer.
It’s hard to see Minnesota going into 2018-19 with both Leonard and Butler on expiring contracts. That is too much risk. It’s logical to then flip the discussion to a Butler-for-Leonard deal -- expiring for expiring -- but that seems unworkable.
In truth, I would take the risk. Yeah, you might lose both of them, and maybe that’s even likely. Maybe there is no way you could afford to keep both even if they both were willing to re-sign. But it would a fun as hell year, you would get off the Wiggins contract, and you would still have Towns embarking on his maximum extension.
The World Cup is Back
The quarterfinals of the World Cup begin today with two matchups:
France vs. Uruguay, FS1, 9:00 am CDT.
France is one of the most talented teams here, but have looked sluggish frequently in this tournament. But their young star Kylian Mbappe dominated their round of 16 win, and I’m not sure Uruguay has an answer for him that doesn’t involve multiple cards. That said, go Uruguay! I’d love to see them with the upset, and I’d love to see Luis Suarez score some goals today.
Brazil vs. Belgium, FS1, 1:00 pm CDT.
Brazil must be considered the overall favorites now in this tournament, and they are fun to watch and dripping with talent. I have a soft spot for Belgium, however, as several of their players have ties to Tottenham Hotspur, the club team I root for. They had a rousing comeback 3-2 win over Japan in the first knockout stage, with my guy Jan Verthongen getting their first goal.
Tomorrow, Sweden faces England, and Croatia takes on hosts Russia in the other quarterfinals.
Hello Summer League
The Wolves tip vs. the Nuggets is scheduled for 10 pm CDT and will air on NBA TV.
Of course the guys to watch are the Wolves’ draft picks, Josh Okogie and Keita Bates-Diop, both of whom should see plenty of playing time. Also of note is Jared Terrell, a guard from Rhode Island who signed a two-way deal with the Wolves.
Given their tight cap situation, I do wonder if any of these guys might sneak into the last roster spot or two. Another guy to keep your eye on for that kind of role is Amile Jefferson, who was on a two-way for most of last season with the Wolves, and had a big year in the G-League. We know he has an NBA skill, which is rebounding, and he averaged 17.8/12.8 in 45 games with the Iowa Wolves, setting a league record for double-doubles (36) along the way.
My Annual Reminder: Don’t read too much (or, anything) into Summer League. That said, who do you have your eye on?