The Timberwolves opened their Las Vegas Summer League season on Saturday. Vegas was hot but the Wolves, unfortunately, were not.
The Minnesota Timberwolves Summer League team, coached by Ryan Saunders, looked young and inexperienced in their 97-72 loss to the Toronto Raptors.
This is my second trip to the Las Vegas Summer League, and both times have been a blast. It’s a great chance for fans to see young players, stars, coaches, and broadcasters in a fun and relaxed atmosphere.
It’s sort of like the NBA’s Coachella.
Here’s my minute-by-minute account of today’s action, on and off the court. Hopefully, this gives you the full fan experience. I’ll be recapping tomorrow’s action as well.
12:30pm It’s hot! 110 degrees, to be exact, as I walk from my hotel to UNLV.
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- Timberwolves start, bench, cut: Mike Conley, Shake Milton, Jordan McLaughlin
- Which Timberwolves roster additions have upgraded the bench?
12:50pm Zach LaVine is signing autographs for young fans near the Chicago Bulls end of the court. This made me miss his future on the Wolves. I feel as though he’s going to be the one we look back at in four years and wish Thibs didn’t make the trade. Until then, I guess we’ll have to make due with our new All-Star, All-NBA talent in Jimmy Butler. Oh well. Nice consolation prize.
1:00pm Lakers fans are crazy! The lower bowl was filled by the start of the first game. Today marked the first time in Summer League history that the day was sold out. Lakers and Celtics playing at 5:30pm had just a little to do with that.
1:10pm The Chicago Bulls take the court, featuring Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen. Dunn didn’t look good. Markannen can sure shoot. LaVine, of course, stayed in his stylish street clothes.
3:15pm Wolves take the court with this group of fairly random, undrafted players. Ryan Saunders and the rest of the coaching staff are looking Summer League Chic in their white tennis shoes and Timberwolf polos.
3:32pm Marcus Paige hits a three. First points of the game.
3:37pm Paige drives in and hits the pretty floater. Great start for the Tar Heel. He looks like one of the stronger players on the court.
3:35pm Ellis looks awkward, undersized, and old. Not a great combination.
3:40pm The Las Vegas local sitting next to me asks if I could watch his seat and his son for a few minutes while he runs to the concession stand. I fend off a half-dozen Laker fans for the seats while he’s gone.
3:44pm I check my phone to see that the Wolves sign Jamal Crawford. It is by far the most exciting thing to happen in the game this far.
3:51pm Raphiael Putney hits a three and taps the side of his head like he’s the second coming of KG and Carmelo Anthony.
3:55pm Putney bricks a three. He runs back on defense without the aforementioned headbang.
3:59pm Deonte Burton was a potential player to look out for on this team. So far he, standing 6-foot-5, looks too short and stalky to play in the NBA. He’s no Draymond Green or Charles Barkley.
4:02pm Marcus Paige is a poor man’s Tyus Jones. G-League material?
4:02pm Burton shows off his left-handed mid-range jumper. Looks good, but again, he’s 6-foot-5 and plays like a big.
4:05pm It’s becoming oh-so clear that the Wolves don’t have an NBA player on this roster.
4:07pm Paige is the best player on floor for Wolves in the first half.
4:16pm Raptors lead 43-36 at half. Wolves look awkward. Dunn and Jones dominated this league last year, and none of these Wolves look very promising.
4:20pm I now venture to the concourse for a snack. The guy returns my favor and holds my spot.
During halftime, it dawns on me how nice it would’ve been to see Justin Patton in action. It’s also clear that the Wolves are no longer the darling, upstart team in the NBA. That title belongs to the Sixers or Lakers. There are no Wolves on this summer league team who will see major minutes, if any, this season.
4:32pm Wolves can’t stop them or score on offense. More of the same.
4:37pm Wolves fall behind by 20 after a free throw. This is getting out of hand now.
4:40pm Davidson’s Jack Gibbs (Curry!) hits a long three. He’s quick. He has shown nice range.
4:42pm Putney attempts another high arcing shot! It clanks off the iron He looks like Adreian Payne out there. I doubt that’s a good thing.
4:46pm A Helter Skelter sequence ends with Paige stroking another three.
4:55pm Gibbs hits another bomb. A poor man’s JJ Barea?
5:04pm Gibbs still shaking and baking out there as the Wolves trail by 23 points. He’s quick. However, after watching Dennis Smith Jr. in the first game of the day, I realize he’s not that quick.
5:14pm Game over. Wolves lose 97-72. Wolves looked bad, no NBA ready guys. Maybe two guards for the G-League?
In the end, it’s clear that the Timberwolves have hardly any players that will make their NBA roster if any at all. Gibbs and Paige appear to be dual-contract G-League candidates. Beyond that, Burton was a bust. Ellis appeared awkward, old and nowhere near NBA caliber.
When you take into account that some of these players are also 23 or 24 years old, it’s clear that they’re here to help fill out the squad.
Tomorrow may provide some more answers, but for now, Wolves fans must be thinking, “So when does Patton come back from injury?”
Nevertheless, the Las Vegas Summer League is a great atmosphere and it’s a chance to see so many young players on the same day.
This may be, in the end, a good thing for Minnesota fans: the Wolves have too many actual NBA players on their roster to fill out a competitive summer league team. After all, isn’t that the goal of such an exhibition?
I will have more updates and recaps after Sunday’s action in the desert.