Timberwolves Summer League: Wolves win game two

DES MOINES, IA - MARCH 17: Perry Ellis
DES MOINES, IA - MARCH 17: Perry Ellis /

The Timberwolves Summer League squad bounced back from a poor performance in their first game to overtake the Denver Nuggets in the second contest.

One day after laying an egg in their opening Summer League game, the summer Wolves bounced back to take down the Denver Nuggets, 90-71. Whatever Ryan Saunders told the team after the game on Saturday or before the game on Sunday seemed to work for the club.

A few players stood out among the group and could make a run at one of the two two-way contracts the Wolves can offer under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Several players — most notably Matt Costello, Perry Ellis, and Charles Cooke — played much better on Sunday than in the first contest. Marcus Paige played his second solid game in a row and seems to be the leader in the clubhouse for one of the two coveted two-way G League contracts.

And, oh yeah, Tom Thibodeau was sitting right under the Wolves’ basket the whole game talking with Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers. Their presence may have caused the young (potential) Wolves to attack the game with a little more gusto.

Don’t say anything to Thibs, but I believe I watched him crack a smile or two while he shot the basketball breeze with the Bay Area basketball mind.

After Saturday’s game, I provided a minute-by-minute recap of the action, both on and off the court. For Sunday’s game, I will give a breakdown based on stand out players, both good and bad.

Game Two, Player Breakdown

Perry Ellis did not get the start in this game. I can’t blame Saunders for giving some other players a look, as Ellis did not look great in Saturday’s action.

However, Ellis came in off the bench e and redeemed himself. He hit a few long bombs, made some nice plays with Matt Costello, and generally seemed more confident in his decision-making throughout the contest.

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Marcus Paige began with a lefty floater to start the game and is clearly hot after his G-League contract. He seemed to control the flow of action for the Wolves on Saturday, and it was no different at the outset of this game. Paige displays a good handle, a reliable jumper from mid-range and deep, and overall great hustle.

Paige dominated the game for the Wolves in this lopsided win, and it looks like he’s playing his way towards an NBA roster spot, or at least a two-way contract for someone in the league.

Paige’s only problem, as I mentioned yesterday, is that he’s like Tyus Jones — but not as good. Jones is already the Wolves undersized backup point guard. Does Thibs really want to have a poor man’s Tyus Jones either backing up Jeff Teague and Jones or taking that G-League spot?

Matt Costello made major hustle plays throughout the quarter — backs, steals, offensive rebounds. Clearly he learned a thing or two about playing hard from Tom Izzo at Michigan State, so I’m certain Thibs appreciates that. Unfortunately for Costello, the Wolves need another big man as badly as Las Vegas needs another casino. I highly doubt there’s anything Costello can do to earn a two-way spot.

His hustle plays and rebounding helped the Wolves pull away from the Nuggets in the third quarter. Costello, too, should be able to find an opportunity somewhere in the G-League.

Karl-Anthony Towns was in the house! I think the Wolves might find him a few minutes this year, no?

Deonte Burton passed up a (wide!) open three only to dribble once, take a step forward, and brick a mid-range jumper. Right in front of Thibs, to boot. He was a disappointment in Saturday’s action, and he continued to struggle today. As I mentioned yesterday, Burton is an undersized big in the realm of Charles Barkley and Draymond Green. He has a similar build, but that’s where the comparisons stop. He looked out of place most of the game on Saturday and again on Sunday.

I doubt Burton will find a home in the NBA.

Charles Cooke did not get to play much in the first Summer League game, but Ryan Saunders said he was going to make a concerted effort to get Cooke some quality minutes in the second contest. Cooke did not disappoint.

Cooke, an undrafted wing out of Dayton, made the most of his opportunity on Sunday. He nailed several jumpers, played some ferocious defense, and got the ball moving on the offensive end for the Wolves.

Cooke, unlike the aforementioned players, is exactly the kind of athlete the Wolves need to fill out their current roster. At 6-foot-5 and 196 pounds, Cooke is the ideal size for a backup wing.

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Currently, the Wolves only have recently inked Jamal Crawford on the wing to back up Andrew Wiggins and Jimmy Butler, so adding a young, athletic wing who hustles and can make a three is a priority for Thibodeau and Layden.

I don’t think Cooke has the chops to make the roster at the onset of the season, although he is player to watch for on one of the two-way contracts. I would keep my eye on him over the next couple of Summer League games to see if he can make consistent shots and good decisions on the court.

C.J. Williams made some nice plays, causing me to look him up in the program. I quickly saw that he’s already 27 years old.

Levi Randolph nailed several threes. The Wolves must be on the look out for anyone with a pulse that can hit from beyond the arc. One has to wonder if these players are casting threes to show off their range for the Wolves. That said, he’s another player to watch over the next couple of games to see if he can make treys with any consistency.

Jack Gibbs showed off some range in Saturday’s game, but his performance took a huge step back on Sunday. He is just a little too slow and small to play in Summer League with the bigger, stronger, faster athletes. And if that’s the case in Summer League, then the NBA is probably not in Gibbs’ future.

The Timberwolves won by a score of 90-71. All in all, it was a great day of action. I would watch Paige, Cooke, and Randolph in the coming games to see if they might fit the Wolves’ needs.

All three fill voids that the Wolves currently have at both backup guard spots and on the wing. One or two could certainly play themselves into the coveted two-way G-League contracts.

Next: Timberwolves Fans Can Finally Be Excited Again

The summer Timberwolves are off on Monday and will be back in action on Tuesday against the Warriors.