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Report: Iowa Wolves to Participate in G League Bubble

The Timberwolves affiliate will be one of 18 teams to participate in the condensed G League season.

Iowa Wolves v Long Island Nets Photo by Michelle Farsi/NBAE via Getty Images

According to a recent report from The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the Iowa Wolves (the Minnesota Timberwolves G League affiliate) will indeed be participating in the upcoming G League season, which is tentatively scheduled to start on February 8, 2021.

In addition to the Iowa squad, the list of participating teams include:

  • Agua Caliente (Clippers)
  • Austin Spurs (Spurs)
  • Canton Charge (Cavaliers)
  • Delaware Blue Coats (76ers)
  • Erie BayHawks Pelicans (Wizards)
  • Fort Wayne Mad Ants (Pacers)
  • Greensboro Swarm (Hornets)
  • Lakeland Magic (Magic)
  • Long Island Nets (Nets)
  • Memphis Hustle (Grizzlies)
  • Oklahoma City Blue (Thunder)
  • Raptors 905 (Raptors)
  • Rio Grande Valley Vipers (Rockets)
  • Salt Lake City Stars (Jazz)
  • Santa Cruz Warriors (Warriors)
  • Westchester Knicks (Knicks)
  • Ignite (G League Elite team)

Shams also reported that because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the league is focused on using Orlando’s Disney campus as its bubble site for playing the 2021 season. The G League is expected to play anywhere from 12 to 15 games, with playoffs tentatively scheduled for the first full week of March.

It is rumored that it will cost each participating team roughly $400,000 - $500,000 to cover the health and safety expenses related to the bubble. That amount *should* be chump change for any owner in the league (despite what they may say), but either way it’s refreshing to see that Glen Taylor is willing to pay up to allow his G League affiliate the opportunity to participate in the upcoming season and hopefully develop some of the young pups along the way.

Texas Legends vs Iowa Wolves Photo by Jason Bradwell/NBAE via Getty Images

Speaking of development — while the latest news of the Iowa Wolves opting in is a good thing, it’s going to be fascinating to see how this all plays out. Similar to the bubble setup the NBA used for the 2020 playoffs, I would imagine that once players arrive in Orlando, they are essentially stuck there (i.e. there isn’t going to be that flexibility this season to send players “down” and call them “up” from time to time).

John Hollinger echoed this sentiment when asked what this will mean for teams and players this season:

“The biggest issue from the team side is that any assignment of a two-way or prospect must be thought through very carefully. With quarantine rules expected to be similar to those in the Orlando bubble, calling a player up or sending him back down is a massive time sink. As a result, most teams are likely to keep their roster players out of this bubble and use it to evaluate other prospects instead. From the player side, however, this offers a tremendous showcase for those who couldn’t make a roster in training camp.”

In other words, don’t expect to see a guy like Jordan McLaughlin down in Orlando, mainly because he will be needed on a nightly basis for his big league team to back up Ricky Rubio and D’Angelo Russell. The same probably could be said for Jarred Vanderbilt, who may be relied upon over this next month or so to give the team a much-needed boost at the power forward position.

Minnesota Timberwolves v LA Lakers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

The one guy I could envision being sent down to the Disney campus is Jaden McDaniels. The former Washington Huskie has gotten a few minutes already in the NBA, but that was directly tied to game scripts (i.e. blowouts), and I’d imagine (or at least hope!) that going forward the Wolves will have more competitive games on their schedule, thus eliminating any chance for Jaden to see the court. A couple weeks in the Iowa “system” would be really good for the development of Minnesota’s “other” first-round pick, and the team would still be able to bring him back after the G League season concludes.

If most of the former Iowa guys stay with the Timberwolves rather than going to Orlando (such as J-Mac, Naz Reid, and Jaylen Nowell), I would still expect Gersson Rosas and his staff to place a heavy emphasis on the overall importance of this G League bubble. Being able to bring in additional players who maybe went undrafted or have bounced around the G League early in their careers is a great way to discover the next Naz Reid or Jordan McLaughlin, and considering how successful the Iowa coaching staff has been thus far in player development, this could be yet another way for the team to “work around the margins” as they continue to build out the back end of this roster.