As many of you know by now, the 2019-2020 NBA season is indeed resuming later this July, with 22-teams currently stationed in a bubble-like environment at the most magical place on Earth (Orlando, Florida).
For many NBA fans, this is exciting news — their favorite teams will once again be playing real, live basketball games against real, live opponents, all in an effort to bring back some sense of normalcy to society (while also placing an enhanced emphasis on the league’s bottom line). But what about Timberwolves fans — who will they cheer for since their favorite team was one of the notorious “Delete Eight” franchises that failed to qualify for the NBA’s latest experiment?
My good friend Mike O’Hagan provided some interesting reasons earlier this week as to why Wolves fans should start cheering for another small market franchise located in the Midwest (after all, this *is* a Bucks blog). There are plenty of valid reasons to cheer for Milwaukee this summer — the team is awesome, they have a tremendously enjoyable superstar in Giannis Antetokounmpo, and more than anything a Bucks championship would give Wolves fans optimism that we too can enjoy a NBA title without exporting our allegiance to a franchise on the east or west coast.
With all of that said, if you’re truly looking for a team to root for come end of July that provides hope and optimism for your Wolves fandom, the logical choice to ME is simple: the Brooklyn Nets.
It’s been well-documented over the last handful of months that the Minnesota Timberwolves currently project to acquire the Nets first-round pick in the upcoming 2020 NBA Draft. Just to refresh everyone’s memory (mine included), this pick was originally part of a 2019 trade between the Nets and Hawks (a deal that sent Allen Crabbe and two future first round picks to Atlanta in exchange for Taurean Prince and a 2021 second-round pick). That Nets 2020 first-rounder (which is protected 1-14) was then sent from Atlanta to Minnesota as part of this past spring’s blockbuster deal between the Hawks, Rockets, Nuggets, and Timberwolves (you know, the trade that included nearly every player who spent time in the Bahamas).
Again, the key word in the paragraph above is “currently” — as in, the Wolves currently are projected to get the Nets pick, but with the NBA inviting a ninth Eastern Conference team to the bubble (Washington Wizards), there is a chance (albeit small one) that the Nets could choke away their lead to a team led by
John Wall Bradley Beal Davis Bertans Ish Smith. As you know, the Nets themselves will resume play with a depleted roster, as Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, DeAndre Jordan, and (possibly) Spencer Dinwiddie will all be staying home rather than traveling to Mickey’s village.
Nevertheless, Brooklyn still figures to have Jarrett Allen, Caris LeVert, and Joe Harris — which gives them a far greater talent advantage than the team attempting to dislodge them from the eight spot. The Nets have also made a few interesting free agent signings to replace the stars who are staying home, which gets me to my next point.
Ghosts of Timberwolves Past
Two words: Jamal Crawford.
Two more words: Michael Beasley.
At the time I was originally writing this, the Nets were scheduled to have both Jamal Crawford and Michael Beasley, two infamous Wolves alumni, suiting up for them when play resumes at the end of the month. Since then, news has broke that Beasley is no longer staying in the bubble due to a positive test for COVID-19, and at the time of posting this it was unclear whether or not he would be rejoining his new team before games kick off.
Update: it appears the Kansas State product will no longer be rejoining the Nets. Here’s to a quick and full recovery for Mr. Beasley.
Nets forward Michael Beasley will not join the team and the franchise will replace his roster spot, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium. Beasley tested positive for coronavirus. Justin Anderson remains a signing candidate.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 16, 2020
Regardless, rather than completely punt on the season, the Nets are at least attempting to remain competitive down in Orlando, and these signings (along with the signing of Tyler Johnson from my home state of North Dakota) support that notion. You can’t tell me it won’t be at least partially enjoyable to flip a Nets game on just to see if Crawford can get hot and steal a victory or two, thus strengthening the odds of his former employer receiving a highly coveted additional draft pick.
Where Brooklyn At?
My last reason for jumping on the Nets bandwagon may be the least exciting, yet it’s still important to mention. This current iteration of the Minnesota Timberwolves has deep ties to Brooklyn — D’Angelo Russell made his only All-Star appearance while a member of the Nets, Assistant General Manager Gianluca Pascucci spent several years working for the organization, and our beloved Jordan McLaughlin was a member of their G-League affiliate last season.
Again, these former relationships aren’t necessarily a sexy reason to start donning black and silver when you turn on League Pass. However, when you factor in the notion that Gersson Rosas may be attempting to construct somewhat of a hybrid of what the Nets and Houston Rockets have done in the past, you can start to build a case for why cheering for their summer success would be a smart move for fans of Minnesota.
Are there any other reasons to cheer for the Nets that I may have missed? Or have you already transferred your allegiance to another team for when the season resumes at the end of July? Let me know in the comments who you’re riding with (and why!)