Wolves Summer League Preview

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The Wolves finalized their Summer League roster early this week in advance of a series of practices leading up to Friday night’s opener in Las Vegas.

Before taking in the game this evening, it’s important to know who you’re cheering for — and there are a few obscure names on the roster, per Summer League usual. Of course, a big chunk of the minutes will be played by actual rostered Wolves players on guaranteed contracts. Here’s a primer on the squad:

The Guaranteed

Tyus Jones, Zach LaVine, Adreian Payne, Karl-Anthony Towns

That’s two 2014 first-round draft picks and two 2015 first-rounders — a lot of talent for one team in Summer League.

Of course, we all saw Payne fumble around for the Wolves in the spring and look largely lost since being acquired from the Atlanta Hawks right before the trade deadline in February. But he’ll see heavy minutes as the Wolves try and decide what kind of playing time he’ll be worthy of in the fall, and maybe even boost his stock a bit on the trade market now that Towns is in the fold.

Add in the fact that there really isn’t a pure center expected to see lots of playing time on the Summer League team, and we’ll likely be seeing a lot of Payne over the next few days.

Jones and LaVine will surely start at point guard and shooting guard, respectively, and Towns will start at center. It will be a treat to see those three work together, not to mention that the presence of Jones and 2014-15 Wolves player Lorenzo Brown means that LaVine will play little to no point guard in the coming days.

The Jones-Towns pick-and-roll will be very fun to watch, as well as some meaningless but enjoyable LaVine dunks in transition.

Familiar Faces

Lorenzo Brown, Brady Heslip, Othyus Jeffers, Jordan Morgan

Brown is the most-familiar of the returning faces on the Wolves Summer League entry. He was a second-round draft pick back by Minnesota back in 2013 and was part of the final cut-down that fall in training camp. He split the 2013-14 season between Philadelphia and the D-League before heading to training camp with Detroit in the fall and making his way back to the Wolves during the season.

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  • Brown appeared in 29 games and started seven for the 2014-15 Wolves, playing decently overall but continuing to struggle shooting the basketball and at times with turnover issues. He is on a non-guaranteed contract that will likely see him with the team in training camp but probably not on the final roster come November.

    Heslip, the former Baylor University sharpshooter, is back for some more Wolves Summer League action. He thrived in 20 games with the Reno Bighorns last fall, averaging 24.5 points on 17.8 shots per game, including 12.8 three-point attempts per contest. Heslip made 44.3% of his attempts from beyond the arc and while he literally contributed nothing else to the team, it was still an eye-opening slew of jump shots.

    He went overseas last January and ultimately won the Finals MVP award in the Adriatic League. Heslip won’t make the Wolves roster, but it is noteworthy that Saunders is intrigued enough by the diminutive shooting guard to keep bringing him back. He could very well be in training camp with the team again this fall.

    Othyus Jeffers was part of the final roster cut in the fall of 2013 along with Brown and joined the team for two games at the tail end of the 2013-14 campaign after playing four games with San Antonio. He’s a three-time D-League All-Star, having averaged 19 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game over parts of five seasons.

    Morgan is only familiar because he played well on the Wolves’ Summer League team in 2014. He’s an undersized (six-foot-eight) power forward who doesn’t do anything at an outstanding level. He is not a realistic option for a regular season roster spot in the NBA.

    The Obscure

    Ivan Aska, Kyle Barone, Tyler Stone, Sam Thompson, C.J. Williams

    Every Summer League roster is filled out by guys that you may or may not remember watching in college, but not necessarily in the past year or two.

    Aska played four years at Murray State and has split his time playing professionally between Puerto Rico, Greece, Belgium, and Israel. He’s a wing in a somewhat similar mold of Jeffers and should see some decent playing time this summer.

    Barone is the only true center on the roster. He had a great senior year at Idaho in 2012-13, averaging 17.1 points and 9.7 rebounds per game before playing in Hungary, Poland, and Japan.

    Stone is a 6′-8″ forward who averaged 19.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per game in his final season at Southeast Missouri before playing 28 games in Turkey last season. Thompson is the only undrafted rookie on the team, as he finished his collegiate career at Ohio State this past spring with All-Big Ten Honorable Mention honors. Williams is a shooting guard who played in the D-League in 2013-14 before heading to Italy last season.

    Game On…

    We’ll have a recap of tonight’s Wolves-Lakers match-up immediately following its conclusion. The game is live on NBATV at 7:30 p.m. Central Time.

    Enjoy the unofficial debuts of Towns and Jones, everyone!

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