Minnesota Timberwolves 2017 NBA Summer League Preview

The Minnesota Timberwolves are ready to begin Summer League action. Below is the Wolves schedule, roster, and players to watch as you prepare for the first game.

Schedule

Las Vegas Summer League (July 7 — July 17)

Saturday, July 8 – 6:30 pm ET vs. Toronto Raptors; NBA TV

Sunday, July 9 – 6:30 pm ET vs. Denver Nuggets; ESPN 2

Tuesday, July 11 – 8:30 pm ET vs. Golden State Warriors; ESPN 2

Roster

What to Watch For 

Playing for a Contract

After last year’s championship, Ryan Saunders returns as Minnesota's summer league coach. However, this time around he lacks a single established NBA player. The sole player under contract, recent draftee Justin Patton, was ruled out indefinitely after breaking his foot this past week. His injury leaves behind a roster bereft of NBA talent but filled with NBA dreamers.

It is a rarity for summer league players to earn a contract, but the Wolves' wing depth remains thin. Thibodeau has nearly exhausted his funds this off-season but is still hunting for shooters and ball-stoppers. With about $6.5 million left in cap space, Minnesota’s management faces a crucial decision. Theoretically, the Wolves could split its investment into two cheaper contracts. There have also been rumors of dumping Aldrich’s contract in a sign-and-trade for a pricier option such as CJ Miles; however, this trade would come at a price. Dumping Aldrich would likely cost a first-round draft pick, a price that Thibodeau and Layden are reportedly resisting. Aldrich is entering the final year of guaranteed money and the Wolves will forfeit their upcoming first-round pick to the Hawks if they finally escape the lottery. But there is another option. If the Wolves can discover a hidden talent over the next ten days, it would drastically alter Minnesota’s free agency trajectory and (further down the line) the team's roster flexibility.

So let’s look at a few players to watch.

V.J. Beachem — Notre Dame: 6’9 Forward — Age: 22

Beachem enjoyed a productive four-year career at Notre Dame. His minutes and role steadily increased on a power-conference team that was consistently competitive. At 6’8 with a 6’10 wingspan, Beachem is physically prepared to become a backup wing despite his thin frame of 200lbs. Moreover, his profile fits perfectly into the glorified 3-and-D category. He struggles to create offensively but has the tools to contribute as a role player. He shot a respectable 39% from three in his collegiate career, but only managed 36% in his final season (albeit on 6.7 attempts per game). Yet conversely, his free throw percentage increased from 58% to 83% in his senior year—although a noisy statistic due to a small sample size of just under two free throws per game. Altogether, Beachem might be the Wolves best shot at a cheap contract. If he can impress defensively while knocking down a few shots, expect the Wolves to take a flier. 

Levi Randolph — Alabama: 6’5 Shooting Guard — Age: 24

Following a season spent in the D-League (now the newly renamed G-League) and the next in Italy, Randolph returns for his third shot at summer league basketball. He is a smooth and effective guard that hovers around the 40% mark as a three-point shooter. While he is an underwhelming athlete, that is not to say he is overmatched. He has a 6’10 wingspan and a knack for fitting into a system. Randolph’s ceiling is likely too low to expect anything more than a bench-riding rotational player, but that could be enough to entice the Minnesota coaching staff.

Charles Cooke — Dayton: 6’5 Shooting Guard — Age: 23

Another shooting guard with a long wingspan (6’11), Cooke is similar to Randolph. He garnered attention as a potential late second-round draft pick, but between his size and lack of an elite skill, he was left undrafted. He was a jack of all trades at Dayton; he led the team in points and rebounds, was second in assists and blocks, and finished fourth in steals. Moreover, in his junior and senior season, he shot a steady 39.7% from three but disappointed with a measly 70% mark from the charity stripe. The Wolves need a backup shooting guard, but Cook must prove his worth as an NBA-level talent to merit a contract.

Deonte Burton — Iowa State: 6’5 Forward — Age: 23

Burton carries the most intrigue on the roster. Physically, he is a near replica of Draymond Green. They each have a 7’0 wingspan and are within twenty pounds of each other. Green is a couple of inches taller, but both are known for their explosive leaping ability. Additionally, Burton brings a ferocious defensive approach—he blocked 1.5 shots per game while taking down six boards per game in his senior season. Offensively, Burton will need to steady his play. He can be careless with the ball, averaging nearly two turnovers per game. However, he flashed shooting potential averaging 40% from three on approximately two shots per game throughout his career. Burton’s positional status as a tweener might offer the versatility that the NBA is coming to covet—regardless of his summer league performance, he could be an ideal candidate for an Iowa Energy G-League contract.


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