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#pounditWednesday, September 30, 2020

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Stories by Darryn Albert:

Timberwolves expected to take Anthony Edwards with No. 1 overall pick?

Anthony Edwards

The Minnesota Timberwolves could be zeroing in on a lead prospect atop their draft board.

Tim Bontemps of ESPN reported Thursday that league insiders expect the Wolves to take former Georgia star Anthony Edwards with the No. 1 overall pick. Bontemps adds that he is considered the best positional fit for them.

Edwards, a 19-year-old wing, averaged 19.1 points and 5.2 rebounds a game for Georgia last season. Questions do exist about his defense and shooting efficiency. But with Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell already in Minnesota, Edwards makes for a better match than a James Wiseman or a LaMelo Ball.

On the other hand, the Wolves might not even keep the pick. But if they hold firm in the No. 1 slot, Edwards may be the player that makes the most sense.

Report: Steve Nash reached out to Dirk Nowitzki about joining staff in Brooklyn

Dirk Nowitzki

Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki were co-stars on the court for many years, and the former was apparently interested in becoming co-stars on the sideline as well.

Marc Stein of the New York Times reported Thursday that Nash, who was just hired as the new coach of the Nets, reached out to Nowitzki to gauge his interest in coming to Brooklyn as an assistant. Nowitzki was not interested in returning to the game full-time so early into his retirement however.

Nash, who retired in 2015, was teammates with Nowitzki on the Dallas Mavericks for six memorable seasons from 1998 to 2004. Nowitzki, meanwhile, is barely a year removed from his own retirement after a 21-season NBA career.

Granted, Nash signed a four-year deal to coach the Nets. Thus, it is still very possible that Nowitzki could ultimately join Nash’s staff in Brooklyn at some point. Nowitzki does seem to be thriving in his retirement though. It seems like he can definitely take his time to plot out his next career move.

Report: Fred VanVleet is free-agent target for Knicks

Fred VanVleet

The New York Knicks may have their eye on a particular point guard to pair with RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson.

Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News reported on Wednesday that the Knicks are interested in Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet, who will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Bondy adds that the Knicks will likely have over $50 million in cap space.

VanVleet, 26, has become a true star for the Raptors. His hot shooting and defense on Stephen Curry was indispensable to their title run last season. VanVleet also leads Toronto with 19.2 points and 7.7 assists a game in this year’s playoffs.

While undersized, VanVleet is expected to command a large payday in what is a fairly weak 2020 free agent class. The Raptors would obviously like to keep him. But if VanVleet decides to chase the bag, the Knicks should be a very competitive suitor.

Michael Porter Jr. blames Clippers doctor for slide in draft

Michael Porter Jr

The Denver Nuggets’ second-round playoff series will be personal for Michael Porter Jr.

Porter told reporters on Wednesday that he blamed the LA Clippers’ team doctor for his slide in the 2018 NBA Draft.

“Their doctor was the one that wrote the [medical] report on me,” Porter said, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “I think he wrote some stuff like he thought that I would never play basketball again so I didn’t think they would pick me. But, I mean, it’s going to be fun to play against them, for sure.”

The 22-year-old Porter, who was once in play to go with the top overall pick in 2018, fell due to concerns over his back. He appeared in just three games in college because of back issues. Porter also had a microdiscectomy of his L3-L4 spinal disks in 2017 followed by a second spinal surgery in 2018.

The Clippers had the No. 12 and No. 13 picks in that year’s draft. They used one to trade up for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and used the other to take Jerome Robinson. Porter then went to the Nuggets with the No. 14 pick. While he missed his entire rookie season, Porter has since emerged as a dynamic offensive contributor for Denver in the bubble.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers also spoke on the Porter issue on Wednesday.

“It was brutal for us,” said Rivers, also per Youngmisuk. “We had [him] on our board, just the medical report, the red flag was so hot. We got the one guy we wanted in [Gilgeous-Alexander]. And the second pick, when he was on the board, it was a brutal pass because everyone in the room knew his talent but it was more the injury concern. That was the only other concern.”

Gilgeous-Alexander was a revelation for the Clippers before he was traded to Oklahoma City last summer in the Paul George blockbuster. The Robinson pick though was a big whiff. The Clippers dealt him to Washington in the Marcus Morris trade last February after a very underwhelming tenure.

Porter did recently admit that he once thought about quitting basketball because of his back. Without the benefit of hindsight at the time, the Clippers’ evaluation of Porter at the time still seems defensible.

Report: Timberwolves will explore trading No. 1 overall pick

Timberwolves logo

The Minnesota Timberwolves won the No. 1 overall pick in last month’s draft lottery, but that does not necessarily mean that they will be keeping it.

The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie reported Tuesday that the Wolves are expected to gauge the market for the pick the next couple months. Vecenie adds that general manger Gersson Rosas is one of the NBA’s most aggressive GMs.

James Wiseman, LaMelo Ball, and Anthony Edwards are three of the top prospects in this year’s draft class. But Wiseman overlaps positionally with Wolves center Karl-Anthony Towns. Ball does so too with new Minnesota guard D’Angelo Russell. Edwards, while he does play the wing, is weak enough defensively that the team may not do well drafting any of the three.

Rosas hinted at this possibility from the moment Minnesota won the lottery. That ultimately may be the smart play in a draft without a surefire top pick.

Isaiah Thomas critical of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s passive defense

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Giannis Antetokounmpo is drawing some criticism from one of his former competitors in the Eastern Conference.

Former All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas sent a tweet Tuesday bashing the Milwaukee Bucks star for his passive defense to start the team’s second-round series. Antetokounmpo, the newly-crowned Defensive Player of the Year, noticeably did not defend Miami Heat counterpart Jimmy Butler as Butler took over in the fourth to win Monday’s Game 1. After the game, Antetokounmpo was not pleased with a reporter who brought up the issue.

Thomas wrote that it was Antetokounmpo’s job to take that assignment as the leader and the DPOY. He said that players like Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, and Kawhi Leonard would have accepted the job.

Granted, Antetokounmpo has a big load to carry on offense as well, unlike the players Thomas mentioned (with the exception of Leonard). Taking the reporter’s bait might have also led to Antetokounmpo indicating doubt in head coach Mike Budenholzer’s defensive gameplan.

In any case, the Bucks need to make a big adjustment to get their series back on track. Antetokounmpo now very well may see more time checking Butler. He also now knows that the spotlight on him will be even more intense after his latest award.

JJ Barea frustrated he was not able to contribute to Mavs’ playoff run

JJ Barea

JJ Barea is one of the longest-tenured Dallas Mavericks, but that tenure may now be on shaky ground.

Puerto Rican outlet El Nuevo Dia reported on Monday that the veteran guard was “frustrated” he was not able to contribute to the team’s playoff run. Barea also expressed uncertainty about his next career move.

“I still want to play basketball, I feel like I can still play basketball, ” said Barea, per HoopsHype. “I don’t know exactly where. If it is going to be in Dallas, I know what they want is to move me to coach. If I want to play basketball, I have to go the other way.

“For now I want to play in the NBA,” added Barea. “I haven’t thought much about other options. There will be [options], but I am used to this life and the NBA. Spain is always an option. It was my Plan B before I got to the NBA. That was many years ago.”

The 36-year-old Barea was playing out this season on a one-year veteran’s minimum deal. It was his 11th season with Dallas spanning two separate stints. Barea, who tore his Achilles in early 2019, appeared in 29 regular season games this year. He was effectively a healthy scratch for the playoffs though with Seth Curry, Trey Burke, and Delon Weight all playing well.

While Barea had some cool moments with the local fans this season, he may have to look elsewhere if he would like to continue his playing career.

Rajon Rondo expected to return in second round?

Rajon Rondo

The Los Angeles Lakers fairly easily dispatched of the Portland Trail Blazers without Rajon Rondo. Now Rondo could be back for the next series.

Lakers coach Frank Vogel said Monday that the team is hopeful Rondo will return at some point in the second round of the playoffs, per Melissa Rohlin of Sports Illustrated. The Lakers will face either the Houston Rockets or the Oklahoma City Thunder in that series.

Rondo, who fractured his right thumb in mid-July, is back in the bubble and has cleared quarantine. He appeared close to playing in the first round but developed back spasms that ultimately kept him sidelined.

The Lakers seem to be in good spirits right now, and having the former All-Star Rondo back in the lineup should be a further boost for them.