- It’s conceivable that Jimmy Butler could wind up back in Chicago after next season, according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. The Timberwolves traded for Butler last summer to bring a veteran presence to the organization, but he can opt out of a $19.8MM salary next summer and may be tempted to leave if Minnesota can’t make an impact in the playoffs. Bulls president Michael Reinsdorf remains a huge fan of Butler and would be interested in a reunion. “I loved the city of Chicago, and I love the Reinsdorfs,’’ Butler said. “I’m forever grateful for them in taking a chance on me, allowing me to become the player that I am today. It’s still incredible to me that I got to hoop in a Bulls jersey. I got to play in the house that [Michael] Jordan built, that [Scottie] Pippen played, all that stuff. That’s because of the Reinsdorfs. If the time comes where I say, ‘You know what, I do want to end this thing in a Bulls jersey,’ I think that would be amazing. But it’s all about being wanted and winning.’’
Speaking to WCCO 830’s Chad Hartman, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor said his team can afford to pay Karl-Anthony Towns and Jimmy Butler the max, despite already having a maximum-salary extension for Andrew Wiggins on the books. However, in order to fill out the rest of the roster with complementary pieces, the Wolves may have to convince some veteran free agents to accept below-market deals.
As Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune details, title contenders like the Warriors, Cavaliers, and Rockets can often convince vets looking for championships to sign minimum-salary deals. Taylor is hoping the Wolves will be able to make a similar pitch, pointing to a star like Butler and a coach like Tom Thibodeau as potentially instrumental recruiters. “That really helps when you have that clout within the league,” Taylor said.
Timberwolves rookie center Justin Patton is done for the season, with the team announcing overnight in a press release that Patton has undergone surgery on his left foot. He will be out indefinitely, according to the Wolves.
It’s the second time Patton has had surgery on the same foot within the last year. Shortly after he was drafted by the Wolves last summer, the rookie underwent a procedure to repair a broken fifth metatarsal in his left foot. The latest surgery is designed to encourage further healing of that same fracture, per the Timberwolves’ announcement.
According to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link), Minnesota is hopeful that Patton will be ready to go for the start of training camp in the fall. Still, as Krawczynski observes, the nagging foot issues are a concern, since similar foot problems have felled promising NBA big men in the past.
The 16th overall pick in last year’s draft, Patton appeared in just one game for the Wolves during the 2017/18 season, playing four minutes during an April 1 loss to Utah. He did see action in 38 G League games, however, posting 12.7 PPG, 5.5 RPG, and 1.4 BPG in 23.1 minutes per contest.
The Wolves will have to decide this offseason whether to exercise or decline Patton’s $3,117,240 option for the 2019/20 season. Third-year options for players on rookie scale contracts are rarely declined, so I don’t expect the team to turn this one down. Still, the 20-year-old will be under some pressure to make it back from this foot surgery and show some potential on the court in Minnesota next season.
Game 1 is in the books for all eight of the NBA’s first-round playoff matchups, and several of those games set up potentially fascinating series. Six of the eight higher seeds held their home-court advantage in the first game, but some of those favorites looked a little shaky in their victories, leading to plenty of speculation about first-round upsets.
We’ll start with the weekend’s biggest upset, which took place in Cleveland, where the Pacers dismantled LeBron James and the Cavaliers in Game 1. It won’t be a surprise if the Cavs eventually pull out this series, but their 98-80 loss on Sunday was something we haven’t seen since James returned to Cleveland in 2014. In their last three first-round series, the Cavs have swept the Celtics, Pistons, and – one year ago – the Pacers.
Of course, these Pacers are a much different team than the squad swept out of the postseason a year ago. Victor Oladipo looked like the best player on the floor on Sunday, and players like Myles Turner, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Lance Stephenson looked great in supporting roles. This Pacers team was overlooked and underappreciated all season, and appear poised to give the Cavs all they can handle in round one.
The other Game 1 upset occurred in Portland, where the Pelicans edged out a two-point win over the Trail Blazers. Anthony Davis (35 points, 14 rebounds) was the best player on the court in that game, but Jrue Holiday‘s impact shouldn’t be understated. Besides posting 21 points and seven assists, Holiday also locked up Damian Lillard on the other end of the court — Lillard made just six of 23 shots.
The Pelicans don’t have a whole lot of standout talent behind Davis and Holiday, but Nikola Mirotic (16 points, 11 rebounds) stepped up as a reliable third option on Saturday. If he – or another Pelican – can continue to support Davis and Holiday throughout the series, New Orleans should have a chance.
Elsewhere, the Raptors, Rockets, and Thunder had to battle to the end to hold off the Wizards, Timberwolves, and Jazz, respectively, but came away with Game 1 victories. The Bucks pushed the Celtics to overtime before losing Eric Bledsoe and Giannis Antetokounmpo to foul problems and ultimately losing the game. None of those four favorites is a mortal lock to advance, though Houston is probably close.
The Warriors and Sixers took care of business with comfortable wins over the Spurs and Heat, respectively.
What do you think? Will we see an upset – or multiple upsets – in the first round of the postseason? Which lower-seeded teams do you think look like the best bets to advance to round two?
Head to the comment section below to share your thoughts!
- Taj Gibson, who signed a two-year, $28MM deal with the Wolves last summer, played through pain during Wednesday’s playoff-clinching win and he’ll do the same during the team’s series with the Rockets. “No different, just got to play through it,” Gibson said of the pain he played through earlier in the week (via Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune). “There’s not much improvement. It’s just something thatâs going to have to heal up in the offseason and get rest.”
- Jimmy Butler has played only three games for the Wolves since recovering from knee surgery earlier in the season. Still, he’s confident that the team, despite the injuries woes, will be able to compete in the franchise’s first playoff series since 2004, Zgoda relays in the same piece. “I feel good, well-rested to tell you the truth,” Butler said. “I’m confident in myself and these group of guys. Everybody’s locked in and focused. We donât have anything to worry about, just go out and play.”
The Timberwolves broke their 14-year playoff drought because coach/executive Tom Thibodeau was willing to trade away the future to get better now, writes Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. Thibodeau signaled a new direction for the franchise last June when he shipped Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the seventh pick in the draft to Chicago in exchange for Jimmy Butler. He followed that up by signing veteran free agents Taj Gibson, Jeff Teague, Jamal Crawford, Aaron Brooks and more recently, Derrick Rose.
After a series of tiebreakers were conducted Friday night, the lottery odds for the NBA Draft have been finalized. Similarly, the draft order for teams outside of the lottery has been decided as well.
While a total of four two-way ties and one four-way tie were all broken by coin toss, the biggest winner of the night would have to be the Mavs who will now officially boast the third-greatest odds when the lottery is drawn on May 15.
Although the Hawks equaled Dallas in futility, both teams limited to 24 wins on the year, they’ll slot in one spot behind them at No. 4. That means, if neither team secures a top-three pick when the lottery results are revealed, they’ll just pick after them, the same as if they had won one more game. Both teams, however, will have nearly identical odds (13.7% versus 13.8%) of securing a top-three pick in the lottery.
The Bulls also won big today, edging out the Kings for the No. 6 spot. Sacramento will have an identical shot at landing at top-three pick, however.
The four-way tie between Utah, New Orleans, Oklahoma City and Indiana ended with the Thunder at No. 20, the Jazz at No. 21, the Pelicans at No. 22 and the Pacers at No. 23.
That Oklahoma City pick will head to Minnesota while the 22nd pick will go straight to the Bulls as part of the Nikola Mirotic deal.
The Heat won the tiebreaker for the the 16th pick, ahead of the Bucks, and will send that to Phoenix as part of the Goran Dragic trade back in 2015.
Milwaukee claiming the No. 17 pick is particularly interesting since, had they won the tiebreaker, they would have had to flip the pick to the Suns as part of the Greg Monroe trade. Since they didn’t, they’ll keep the pick and send a protected first-rounder in 2019, so long as it falls between 4-16.
The Spurs won the coin toss between themselves and the Timberwolves and will now pick at No. 18. Minnesota’s 19th pick will go to Atlanta as part of a 2015 Adreian Payne trade.
As is always the case, the loser of any tiebreaker will end up with the better pick in the second round. In the event of the four-way tie, all four teams will simply be flipped, giving the Pacers the 50th pick and so on.
Here’s a rundown of what the draft order currently looks like, prior to the results of the May lottery.
More importantly for fans of most non-playoff teams, the end of the regular season means that the 2018 NBA draft picture is clearer than ever. The 2018 draft order is close to being set and – with a small handful of exceptions – most of this year’s traded draft picks with protections on them have now officially changed hands or officially stayed put.
However, there are still some major question marks surrounding the draft order, since several clubs finished the regular season with identical records, and draft tiebreakers don’t work like playoff tiebreakers do. In order to break these ties, the NBA will conduct random drawings this Friday, as Jonathan Givony of ESPN notes (via Twitter).
[RELATED: 2017/18 NBA Reverse Standings]
For lottery teams, such as the 24-58 Mavericks and Hawks, who finished tied for third in the lottery standings, the implications of those drawings are huge. Whichever team wins that tiebreaker will have ever-so-slightly better odds at the first overall pick (13.8% to 13.7%), and will be in position to claim the higher first-round pick if neither team lands in the top three.
For instance, if the Suns and Grizzlies remain at No. 1 and No. 2 in the lottery and another team leapfrogs the Mavs and Hawks, the winner of the tiebreaker between Dallas and Atlanta would claim the No. 4 overall pick — the loser would get No. 5. For the second round, the loser of the tiebreaker would receive the higher selection.
Here are the draft tiebreakers that will be conducted on Friday:
- Mavericks vs. Hawks for Nos. 3, 4.
- Kings vs. Bulls for Nos. 6, 7.
- Bucks vs. Heat for Nos. 16, 17.
- Spurs vs. Timberwolves for Nos. 18, 19.
- Pacers vs. Pelicans vs. Thunder vs. Jazz for Nos. 20-23.
Several of those tiebreakers will also affect this year’s traded picks. Most notably, the Bucks/Heat drawing has massive implications for Milwaukee and Phoenix — the Bucks’ first-round pick will head to the Suns if it lands at No. 16, but Milwaukee would keep it if it ends up at No. 17. In other words, each team has a 50/50 shot at the pick. If the Bucks keep it, they’d owe their 2019 first-round selection to Phoenix, albeit with somewhat similar protections.
Here’s a breakdown of the traded first-round picks for 2018. A check mark indicates the pick will definitely be sent to the indicated team:
- Nets pick to Cavaliers (✔️): Eighth in lottery standings
- Lakers pick to Sixers (97.1%) or Celtics (2.9%): 10th in lottery standings
- Note: Celtics will receive pick if it lands at No. 2 or No. 3 via the lottery.
- Pistons pick to Clippers (97.5%): 12th in lottery standings
- Note: Pistons will keep pick if it lands in top three via the lottery.
- Heat pick to Suns (✔️): No. 16 or 17 (tie)
- Bucks pick to Suns (50%): No. 16 or 17 (tie)
- Note: Bucks will keep pick if it lands at No. 17 via a random drawing.
- Timberwolves pick to Hawks (✔️): No. 18 or 19 (tie)
- Thunder pick to Timberwolves (✔️): No. 20, 21, 22, or 23 (four-way tie)
- Pelicans pick to Bulls (✔️): No. 20, 21, 22, or 23 (four-way tie)
- Cavaliers pick to Lakers (✔️): No. 25
- Raptors pick to Nets (✔️): No. 29
- Rockets pick to Hawks (✔️): No. 30
Here’s a breakdown of the traded second-round picks that will change hands in 2018:
- Bulls pick to Knicks (✔️): No. 36 or 37 (tie)
- Nets pick to Sixers (✔️): No. 38
- Knicks pick to Sixers (✔️): No. 39
- Lakers pick to Nets (✔️): No. 40
- Hornets pick to Magic (✔️): No. 41
- Clippers pick to Nuggets (✔️): No. 43
- Bucks pick to Nets (✔️): No. 45 or 46 (tie)
- Heat pick to Rockets (✔️): No. 45 or 46 (tie)
- Nuggets pick to Lakers (✔️): No. 47
- Trail Blazers pick to Mavericks (✔️): No. 54
- Cavaliers pick to Hornets (✔️): No. 55
- Celtics pick to Thunder (✔️): No. 57
- Warriors pick to Nuggets (✔️): No. 58
- Raptors pick to Suns (✔️): No. 59
- Rockets pick to Sixers (✔️): No. 60
11:54pm: The Trail Blazers have defeated the Jazz in their regular season finale and clinched the No. 3 seed with the win. Here are the first-round matchups in the Western Conference:
- Rockets (No. 1) vs. Timberwolves (No. 8)
- Warriors (No. 2) vs. Spurs (No. 7)
- Trail Blazers (No. 3) vs. Pelicans (No. 6)
- Thunder (No. 4) vs. Jazz (No. 5)
9:47pm: The Timberwolves have beaten the Nuggets and clinched the final spot in the 2018 NBA Playoffs. We now know the following.
- The Nuggets will miss the playoffs
- The Timberwolves are the No. 8 seed.
- The Spurs are the No. 7 seed.
- If the Trail Blazers beat the Jazz:
- Pelicans are No. 6
- Jazz are No. 5
- Thunder are No. 4
- Blazers are No. 3
- If the Jazz beat the Trail Blazers:
- Thunder are No. 6
- Pelicans are No. 5
- Blazers are No. 4
- Jazz are No. 3
8:54pm: The Thunder lead the Grizzlies by 12 with less than nine minutes remaining, while the Pelicans lead the Spurs by 18 with less than 10 minutes remaining. Barring a surprise comeback by Memphis or San Antonio, here is how the playoff picture looks after wins by Oklahoma City and New Orleans.
Jazz: 3 or 5
Trail Blazers: 3 or 4
Thunder: 4 or 6
Pelicans: 5 or 6
Spurs: 7 or 8
Timberwolves: 8 or 9
Nuggets: 7 or 9
4:37pm: As we indicated earlier today, the Nuggets and Timberwolves will face-off tonight with the final spot of the 2018 NBA Playoffs on the line.
And while that game will be the only winner-gets-in, loser-gets-eliminated contest tonight, there are numerous other games with playoff seeding implications on the line. In the Western Conference, only the Rockets and the Warriors know their playoff seeding. Seeds three through eight are all still up for grabs, as follows:
Jazz: 3, 4, or 5
Trail Blazers: 3, 4, or 5
Pelicans: 5, 6, 7, or 8
Spurs: 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8
Thunder: 4, 6, or 8
Timberwolves: 6, 7, 8, or 9
Nuggets: 6, 7, or 9
We will be updating the Western Conference playoff seeding scenarios – in real time – as games finish this evening, so stay tuned to Hoops Rumors for all relevant up-to-the-minute developments. For now, here are some initial notes that are not conditional upon other game results:
- The Jazz and Trail Blazers winner gets the No. 3 seed.
- The Thunder will be the No. 8 seed with a loss to the Grizzlies.
- As noted above, the loser of the Nuggets and Wolves will finish ninth in the Western Conference standings.