The Minnesota Timberwolves appear to be making the right decisions off the court for the first time in franchise history, and now it is up to the players to perform on the court.
Update: Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated recently tweeted that the Philadelphia 76ers are also interested in Marshall.
Kendall Marshall has been with the Sixers at PCOM the last few days, per a league source. A training camp invite looks on the horizon.
— Jake Fischer (@JakeLFischer) September 2, 2015
The Wolves are coming off an NBA worst 16-66 record but have made several wise decisions this offseason, including making Karl-Anthony Towns the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft. Towns averaged 12.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.8 blocks a game during Las Vegas summer league action. As expected, he did struggle with some things.
Towns shot just 39. 8 percent from the field, committed 3.6 turnovers a contest, and was whistled for 6.2 fouls a contest in 31.2 minutes of action.
Nevertheless, ESPN Insider David Thorpe had high praise for the 6-foot-11 19-year-old after his performance during Las Vegas Summer League action.
“Towns’ elite-level potential was on full display in Vegas. The big man out of Kentucky utilized a nice jump hook, showed good speed racing up and down the court and blocked some shots as a helper as the week progressed.”
“He is years away from being a dominant player, but reaching that status is in his wheelhouse for sure. Focusing on defense would be a good place for him to start during his rookie season, given Minnesota’s need for rim protection.”
Minnesota also drafted Duke point guard Tyus Jones in the first round, signed former second round selection Nemanja Bjelica to a three-year contract, re-signed veteran Kevin Garnett, and traded small forward Chase Budinger to Indiana for small forward Damjan Rudez.
The Wolves were in need of an upgrade for their point guard situation as they only had Ricky Rubio and Zach LaVine on the roster before drafting Jones. Rubio, who only appeared in 22 games last season, has been bitten by injuries throughout his four-year career — he has appeared in at least 60 games in a season just once. LaVine is very athletic but better suited for the off-guard spot.
Both Jones and LaVine also played for the Wolves Las Vegas Summer League team. Jones reached double figures in two of his four games and finished averaging 7.8 points to go along with 2.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists a game. The 19-year-old shot 40.7 percent from the floor and just 25.0 percent (2-of-8) from beyond the arc.
LaVine appeared in just two summer league games and lit of the scoreboard, pouring in 20 points in both contests. He finished his two-game trial, averaging 22.0 points and 7.5 rebounds along with 2.0 assists. LaVine shot only 32.4 percent from the floor though he did make 5-of-12 from three-point range (41.7 percent) and 15-of-18 from the free throw line (83.3 percent).
Jones and LaVine struggled with turnovers in Vegas, which may be why ESPN 1500‘s Darren Wolfson is reporting that the T-Wolves are interested in free agent point guard Kendall Marshall. Jones turned the ball over 13 times for an average of 3.25 times a game while LaVine averaged 3.5 turnovers a contest.
There's been #Twolves dialogue on FA PG Kendall Marshall — his camp might've initiated. Anyway, ACL concern there. But MN on the lookout.
— Darren Wolfson (@DWolfsonKSTP) July 24, 2015
Marshall, a 2012 first round pick of the Phoenix Suns, has struggled to stay healthy in his three years as a professional. The 6-foot-4 point guard appeared in 28 games for the Milwaukee Bucks last year before tearing his ACL. He averaged 4.2 points, 3.1 assists, and 1.0 rebounds per game while shooting 45.5 percent from the floor and 39.1 percent from beyond the arc.
Marshall is a skilled passer who excells in pick-n-roll situations. He turns the ball over a bit too much and lacks athleticism, which impacts his effectiveness on the defensive end.
The Wolves also have a bunch of young talented players with some possessing off-the-roof athleticism like reigning rookie of the year 20-year-old Andrew Wiggins, 23-year-old small forward Shabazz Muhammed, and 24-year-old center Gorgui Deng along with 25-year-old shooting guard Lorenzo Brown. Minnesota also has veterans like shooting guard Kevin Martin and center Nikola Pekovic along with second-year pro Adreian Payne as well as 2013 No. 1 draft pick Anthony Bennett.
The Wolves should be much better this coming year but it will be tough for them to challenge for a playoff spot in the ultra-difficult Western Conference. If Minnesota can improve their win total by 15-20 games, it should be considered a very successful season.
(photo by Bill Baptist/Getty Images)