In Friday’s game against the Houston Rockets, Jimmy Butler suffered what the Timberwolves are calling a “meniscal injury” to his right knee.
With just over three minutes to go in the third quarter against the team with the league’s best record, Butler was fighting for a rebound in the post. Directly before he fired a pass to forward Taj Gibson, Butler took an awkward step and fell to the ground in pain, clutching his right knee.
Rockets trainers and Chris Paul rush to see if Butler is okay, moments after injuring his right knee. (Photo by Michael Wyke/Associated Press)
While team doctors rushed onto the court, Butler was clearly in pain, judging by his contorted facial expression. He could not leave the floor under his own power, and it seemed as if one of Minnesota Timberwolves fans’ biggest nightmares had become a reality.
Due to the clutching of the knee, and the fact that he needed help off of the court, many thought the injury was surely an ACL tear. That would have been sure-fire season-ender for one of the best guards in the NBA.
Instead, the Timberwolves PR account released a statement Saturday at 3:45 ET that the injury was to his meniscus. They gave no timetable for his return.
Being that the injury isn’t necessarily a death sentence for Butler’s season, how effective can Minnesota be without him?
Most meniscus injuries take four to six weeks to rehab, if it is not serious. That would put his return date somewhere between March 24 and April 7. If the injury is not severe, then Butler would be ready to play at least one week before the playoffs are slated to begin.
Let’s assume the worst for a moment, saying Butler cannot return until April 7. The Timberwolves will have two games before the playoffs’ start date on April 14. That gives him two “rehab” games to get reacclimated to the team before the important games start. Two games is far from ideal, but it is much better than simply tossing him into NBA playoff basketball without time to get a handle on the pace.
In the best-case scenario, Butler could return to the court during the March 26 game against the Memphis Grizzlies. That would be doubly useful. His first game could come against a subpar team, meaning the Wolves could win easily despite restricted minutes. Plus, he would have eight games to get into playoff shape.
We will know more about his return date soon, but for now all we know is that the Timberwolves certainly plan on having him return for their playoff run.
Expectations without Butler
Minnesota is currently the fourth seed in the Western Conference. Their surprisingly efficient offensive game plan has propelled them forward in a way that wasn’t supposed to come to fruition until next season. The problem is, however, much of that success was thanks to Jimmy Butler.
Karl-Anthony Towns will likely become the focal point of the Wolves’ offense. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Before his injury, he was putting up 22.2 points per game, along with 5.0 assists and 5.4 rebounds. The biggest loss to the team, though, will be his minutes. Jimmy “Buckets” was averaging 37.1 minutes per game, which led all NBA players. Replacing someone who is on the court more than any other individual in the entire league will not be easy, regardless of their offensive output.
Tom Thibodeau likes to ride his starters hard. That has been his identity since he started coaching. But Minnesota’s relatively weak bench made it less of a strategy and more of a necessity. Considering Butler’s consistent offense and his admirable defense, he is a natural choice to eat up minutes for any coach.
But without him, it is likely that Jamal Crawford, Aaron Brooks, Shabazz Muhammad, Andrew Wiggins and Jeff Teague will all have no choice but to help pick up the slack. Thibodeau is capable of creating lineups that will somewhat mask Butler’s absence, but players will have to shift positions often.
Karl-Anthony Towns is still having a terrific season, and the offense can shift its focus to him. Teague can play shooting guard, and Crawford can help stop the bleeding in the backcourt. With the talent on the team, it is probably unwise to bet the Timberwolves fall out of the playoffs completely.
That being said, Minnesota has a rough stretch of games during the period they can count on Butler being out of the lineup.
If he returns on March 26, then nine of their 11 games without him will be against teams above .500. This includes a five game stretch in which they play the Celtics, Warriors, Wizards, Spurs and Rockets. These are not only playoff teams, but both favorite and dark horse contenders to reach the NBA Finals.
Butler gets helped off the court by his teammates. (Photo by The Houston Chronicle)
There is a very real chance that Minnesota could drop all five of those games. Depending on what the rest of the teams below them in the standings do, that could just be enough to put them on the bubble. Being that the Timberwolves have less games to play than any other team in the league, this could dig them a hole that might be hard to get out of.
The good news is that after that stretch is done, the Wolves will play the Grizzlies twice, along with the Hawks, Mavericks and Lakers. These are all teams well below the .500 mark. Throw in a game with the Jazz and two games agains the Nuggets (which they will more than likely split) and that could give them life.
It’s not out of line to say their seed will go as Butler’s injury goes. If his knee is worse than the Wolves feared, they might be fighting for a spot. If it is routine, then Minnesota will probably end what is currently the longest playoff draught in basketball.
Featured image by Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports
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I want to start by saying thank you to the NBA 2k League community. The feedback I’m getting from you all is great and motivating me to produce better content. My second NBA 2k League prospect profile will feature TimmiTHD. He’s been a supporter of mine from the beginning, but that does not make him beyond my criticisms as a prospect.
TimmiTHD (TT) has chosen to be a play-making slashing shooting guard and was matched up against a sharpshooting shot creator. Due to a technical difficulty in his stream, I wasn’t able to evaluate his first game in the combine. So, my possession-by-possession evaluation was based off of his first game of day three.
Overall, TT has incredible potential. He has some areas where he is particularly strong and has unique communication that goes beyond the norm. However, he also makes some philosophical choices on defense that frustrate me beyond belief. I don’t think any of my critiques of TT aren’t fixable, but, they will certainly hold him back from being the best player he can be.
As I eluded in his profile, watching TT’s style of defense sends me on an emotional roller coaster where I’m applauding him one moment, and the next typing in all caps to communicate my frustration. Let’s start with the good. TT plays a style of defense that I love, aggressive hedging. He also makes flash defensive plays. In the game I watched, TT had multiple steals and even more tipped passes resulting stoppage of play, or someone else picking up the loose ball. You can see what I’m describing in the video below.
TT had several more plays just like this I did not include. As you can see, he can frustrate opposing offenses and create easy transition points and opportunities for his teammates. I am a huge fan of anyone who plays hedge defense. For those who don’t know, it means a player who’s man is not involved with the offense decides to play off with the intention of helping or making a big play. But, I have serious issues with how aggressively and frequently he plays hedge defense.
TT has to do a better job of staying out of the paint in an attempt to make plays on defense. His opponent was not confident in his jump shot, so it didn’t cost him or his team in this game. But, he repeatedly left his man open on multiple occasions and will get exposed if he faces a true sharp.
As a shooting guard, you should rarely fall below the elbows when playing hedge defense, unless executing a switch. That’s a general statement. In reference to TT, he should never fall below the elbow when hedging because he is so gifted at initiating transition offense. In order to ascend to the top of his position, he must adjust defensively.
TT’s overall offensive approach is great. While his archetype is all about making plays, he wants to make plays for his teammates. His spacial awareness was great, with only a few instances of confusion. Overall, TT is a strong offensive player. He doesn’t take a lot of shots, but, that’s a trend I’ve seen across the combine because of the unpredictability of the shooting mechanic. What truly stands out about TT, is his gift to initiate transition offense.
As stated earlier, these are only a few clips of his incredibly strong transition game. He has a great feel for when and who to pass to on the break. But what makes him excel at this facet of the game, is his communication. “Circle gone.” I cannot tell you how impressed I was by this statement.
TT could have easily said, “I’m open” or “hit me”, but he chose to say “circle gone”. What that does is make his teammate’s job easier. By announcing the button that corresponds with his position, the outlet passer does not have to think. As the game went on, these transition passes were leaving his teammate’s hands before the camera even adjusted.
That is an elite level of communication because it doesn’t make his teammate think, just react. That is an incredible asset to have in this combine because he’s playing with teammates who are not familiar with him or his style.
Overall, his offensive game is solid. I couldn’t find any glaring holes. On several occasions, TT passed on open shots to get his teammates involved. In a game they are winning by double digits, that’s okay. In a close game where every possession is crucial, he can’t pass up on open looks.
I am attributing his, and most players’ hesitation to shoot, to the new mechanic. Players don’t want to miss a lot of shots, so they’d rather pass or drive. This is something I’d like to see improve throughout the combine, more confidence in their jump shot.
Communication and Attitude Evaluation
TimmiTHD has excellent communication on both sides of the ball. On defense he calls out screens, motions and anything else that could interrupt their defensive flow. His communication on offense is the best I’ve seen. Identifying his button for the outlet passer really puts him on another level.
TT’s personality is great as well. A shooting guard needs to know when to be aggressive and when to take a back seat. TT has demonstrated that he can do both. He also brings a fun, authentic style to the game, which his teammates feed off.
It pains me to do this, but I have to give TimmiTHD a “B-” from what I’ve seen. TT can make some quick, simple adjustments to quickly catapult his stock. I also wanted to communicate that his defense, if no adjustments are made, could considerably hold him back from being the best player he can possibly be.
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The Golden State Warriors are the 2017 NBA champions. Now that the Finals are over, the entire basketball community will be focusing on the upcoming NBA Draft on June 22. This is a prime opportunity for teams to either deepen their roster or build playoff caliber teams. Here is Hagan’s Haus 2017 NBA Mock Draft V 4.0.
1: Boston Celtics: Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington
(Photo Credit: Elaine Thompson/AP)
The Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers are working on a trade so that the 76ers can select Markelle Fultz. Even if the trade doesn’t get finalized Fultz will be the number one overall pick in this draft.
2: Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA
Los Angeles is not going to pass on a player who will make those around him better and has the star power that Lonzo Ball has. These rumors floating around about the Lakers falling out of love with Lonzo is all a smokescreen. The truth of the matter is that the first two picks have been decided and they are just trying to keep people interested and on their toes.
3: Philadelphia 76ers: Josh Jackson, SG/SF, Kansas
This pick is just like the first overall pick. It is likely going to be Boston drafting in the third position and they will take Josh Jackson. This is a sign that the Celtics may put all their faith in Isaiah Thomas as their point guard. Jackson can fit right into the culture they are building in Boston and he will help them get closer to compete for a championship.
4: Phoenix Suns: Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke
The Suns are just unlucky. Phoenix was supposed to have a top three pick but fell to fourth when the lottery took place. Now they are going to miss on Josh Jackson by one pick. Jayson Tatum is flying under the radar but will be a very good NBA player.
Tatum has a polished isolation game and can score from anywhere on the floor. Tatum will be a solid second option to Devin Booker.
5: Sacramento Kings: De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky
(Photo Credit: http://www.zimbio.com)
Reports coming out of Sacramento say that the Kings are absolutely in love with De’Aaron Fox and are even willing to trade both the fifth and tenth pick to move up just one spot to get him.
Fox should be around at five and the Kings can draft their franchise point guard. Buddy Hield and De’Aaron Fox would be a promising backcourt that would help the Kings get closer to the playoffs.
6: Orlando Magic: Johnathan Issac, F, Florida St.
Orlando has been terrible ever since Dwight Howard left. Johnathan Issac has been recently compared to Kevin Durant, but he is not the scorer that Durant is. Issac will bring tons of athleticism to the Magic. He has proven he can play an all-around game but has been very inconsistent. If developed correctly, Issac can become one of the best two-way players in the NBA and an All-Star.
7: Minnesota Timberwolves: Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky
The Timberwolves are already loaded with young talent and in a perfect world, Tom Thibodeau would like to acquire more veterans in the locker room. Minnesota might be looking to make a trade in the future and will take the best available player which will be Malik Monk. Monk is a scoring machine capable of going off at any moment. He is the best scorer to come out of college since Kevin Durant and will easily average 20 points per game in the NBA.
8: New York Knicks: Frank Ntilikina, PG, France
New York has always been a city of immigrants. The Knicks are going to follow that mold it seems, as they already have Kristaps Porzingis and are in love with Frank Ntilikina.
Ntilikina has excellent size for a point guard. He is listed at 6-foot-5 and 190 pounds. Ntilikina is a pass-first point guard with a high I.Q. He has developed a mid-range game and excellent floater but is a really inconsistent shooter. Ntilikina also has great lateral quickness that makes him an elite defender.
9: Dallas Mavericks: Dennis Smith Jr., PG, NC State
Dennis Smith is arguably a top five player in this class. The Mavericks have a chance to find their franchise point guard who can help lead them back into the playoffs. Smith can score, pass and rebound with the best of them while in college. He also has the insane athleticism that allows him to posterize defenders.
10: Sacramento Kings: Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona
The Kings currently have two core pieces in Buddy Hield and Willie Cauley-Stein. If they take Fox earlier in the draft then it becomes an even better core. Lauri Markkanen could then take this team to even better heights.
Markkanen is a 7-foot stretch big who will be able to shoot the three in the NBA. He has all the intangibles to become a power forward like Dirk Nowitzki. He can stretch the floor or go inside. Markkanen would fit alongside Cauley-Stein because he can stretch the floor.
Getting Fox and Markkanen would make the Kings one of the best young teams in the NBA.
11: Charlotte Hornets: Donovan Mitchell, SG, Louisville
Donovan Mitchell was projected to be a late-first round pick around a month ago but has lately been flying up draft boards. Teams who have worked Mitchell out have been really impressed by the 6-foot-3 shooting guard. Mitchell is a shot creator and that is something the Hornets need. Charlotte could create a dangerous backcourt by pairing Mitchell with Kemba Walker.
12: Detroit Pistons: Harry Giles, PF, Duke
Detroit needs a big man alongside Andre Drummond. Picking Harry Giles would be a shock here, but could be a huge steal. Giles was considered the best player coming out of high school and was projected to be the No. 1 pick before he began having injury problems.
We have not seen what Giles is fully capable of, but his potential is through the roof. He is an athletic finisher who can be molded into a great defender.
Giles has had a lot of injuries but if he can get healthy he has the skill and potential to be the best player in this draft class.
13: Denver Nuggets: Zach Collins, PF/C, Gonzaga
(Photo Credit: http://www.zimbio.com)
Denver is really close to becoming a playoff team in the tough Western Conference. Their young guards just need more experience and will continue to develop.
Collins is a good rebounder and shot blocker. Pairing him up with Nikola Jokic could create one of the most dangerous frontcourts in the NBA. Collins needs to mold his offensive skills, but because Jokic is so skilled offensively, Collins’ defensive skills would create a perfect combination.
14: Miami Heat: T.J. Leaf, PF, UCLA
The Heat were amazing in the second half of this season. Hassan Whiteside is a franchise centerpiece at center. Their guard play has been tremendous, and Justise Winslow is really coming into his own. That leaves the power forward position as their biggest need.
T.J. Leaf has a high motor and can play both inside and out. Miami would get a player who could be molded into a star by Erik Spoelstra.
15: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS: JOHN COLLINS, PF, WAKE FOREST
John Collins could be a valuable piece around Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Collins has a good offensive game that would help take pressure off their guards to score. He has a post-up game that most bigs don’t have. His impressive footwork allows him to beat even the best of defenders. If he develops his defense, he could become a top power forward in the NBA.
16: CHICAGO BULLS: JUSTIN PATTON, C, CREIGHTON
(Photo Credit: Chris Machian- The World Harold)
Building around Jimmy Butler seems to be the top priority for the Chicago Bulls. Robin Lopez is serviceable, but he is not a center that will help a team reach a title.
Justin Patton may be one. He is a 7-foot monster that averaged 12.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game as a freshman at Creighton.
NBA coaching could turn Patton into a dominant center in an era of outside shooting. There will be few players capable of defending him once he grows into his own. The Bulls would be lucky to get Patton.
17: Milwaukee Bucks: Bam Adebayo, C, Kentucky
The Milwaukee Bucks are building something special. Giannis Antetokounmpo is looking like a future MVP and Khris Middleton is a stud. Drafting Adebayo will give Milwaukee a presence inside to make the Bucks even more dangerous. The talent they already have and can acquire with Adebayo will allow the Bucks to get closer to the Eastern Conference finals.
18: Indiana Pacers: Luke Kennard, SG, Duke
Luke Kennard fits the new style of the NBA. He is a pure shooter and can be a valuable scorer in the NBA. Kennard isn’t going to be a guy who changes a franchise but as a sidekick to Paul George, he could thrive. George wants the Pacers to add talent so they can compete for a title adding Kennard would help go a long way in the Pacers effort to keep Paul George when he becomes a free agent.
19: Atlanta Hawks: Jarrett Allen, C, Texas
Dwight Howard is aging and no longer a top center in the NBA. The Hawks must prepare for the future and that could be in the form of Jarrett Allen. Allen is a beast on the boards and has the potential to become a solid post-up big man.
20: Portland Trailblazers: Justin Jackson, SF, North Carolina
Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum need help and Justin Jackson would fit perfectly with this team. Jackson would be the piece to help get the Blazers back into the playoffs.
He has great length and can stretch the floor. Jackson played great for most of the tournament. He had a subpar performance in the title game, but can still become a good NBA starter.
Jackson needs to add weight but is a versatile defender capable of guarding multiple positions. His mid-range jumper is well-polished.
21: Oklahoma City Thunder: OG Anunoby, SF, Indiana
OG Anunoby will improve the Thunder on the defensive end of the floor immediately. In college, Anunoby was able to defend all five positions and that kind of versatility will make him a valuable player.
He also shot 36 percent from three in his career and will help take some pressure off of Russell Westbrook.
22: Brooklyn Nets: Ivan Rabb, C, California
The Nets will not be good for a long time which means they can be patient with the development of Ivan Rabb. He has lots of potential to grow offensively.
Rabb is already a good defender, and even though he only averaged about one block per game in his career, he altered plenty of shots. His inconsistency at Cal is what hurts him, but he has shown flashes of brilliance and that is what the Nets will try and bottle up and turn into a consistent output.
23: Toronto Raptors: Isaiah Hartenstein, PF, Germany
Isaiah Hartenstein is a bit of an unknown but is an old school big man. He plays an extremely physical style and is a great rebounder. Hartenstein is also a great shot blocker and the Raptors really need an inside presence. He has very little experience but the success of Kristaps Porzingis helps Hartenstein.
Isaiah Hartenstein will need a lot of developing on his offensive game but with the Raptors current roster, he can fill the role of rebounder and rim protector without having to rush his offensive development.
24: UTAH JAZZ: CALEB SWANIGAN, PF, PURDUE
The Jazz are in almost as good of a position as the Celtics. They finished as the fifth seed in the tough Western Conference and have two first-round draft picks.
Swanigan can come right into the NBA and contribute off the bench. Depth is what the best teams have, and that is what Utah is going to get in picking Swanigan.
25: ORLANDO MAGIC: Terrance Ferguson, SG, Australia
Terrance Ferguson has been very hyped up as of late. He attacks the basketball and can also be a spot up shooter. Ferguson will need to develop defensively but would be a good fit with the Magic who need some more scoring.
26: Portland Trailblazers: Semi Ojeleye, F, SMU
Semi Ojeleye is an athletic freak. Ojeleye can handle the ball, shoot threes, create his own shot and get to the rim. Semi Ojeleye is going somewhat underrated in this draft because of his lack of perimeter defense. The Blazers have enough picks to take a shot on Ojeleye to continue building the depth needed to compete in the West.
27: BROOKLYN NETS (VIA BOSTON): JORDAN BELL, PF, OREGON
(Photo Credit: http://247sports.com)
Jordan Bell was a second-round pick before the tournament. Bell was a huge reason Oregon reached their first Final Four since 1939. The Nets would get a solid rebounder who brings in a heavy motor and will give you everything he has. The Nets need these high energy type of players to change the culture in Brooklyn.
28: Los Angeles Lakers: Josh Hart, SG, Villanova
Josh Hart is a leader and a winner, and the Lakers could use some of that in their locker room.
Hart improved his scoring each season at Villanova, and that should translate into the NBA. Hart doesn’t have to be a starting shooting guard to make a big impact. Every team needs a bench scorer and Hart can fill that void for the Lakers as they continue to build towards a championship.
29: San Antonio Spurs: Thomas Bryant, C, Indiana
Any player that the Spurs take should celebrate as if they won the championship. The Spurs will develop Thomas Bryant into a solid NBA starter. Bryant is an excellent rebounder and has a knack for getting offensive boards. He has some decent low post moves and with Gregg Popovich coaching him up he can turn decent into dominant.
30: Utah Jazz: Tyler Lydon, F, Syracuse
Tyler Lydon has improved vastly from his freshman season to sophomore season. Lydon improved his points, rebounds, assists and free throw percentage. At 6-foot-9, Lydon can stretch the floor and he would be a great fit in Utah as a solid role player.
31: Atlanta Hawks: Dillon Brooks, SF, Oregon
32: Phoenix Suns: Dwayne Bacon, SF, Florida St.
33: Orlando Magic: Jawun Evans, PG, Oklahoma St.
34: Sacramento Kings: Rodions Kurucs, SF, Latvia
35: Orlando Magic: DJ Wilson, PF, Michigan
36: Philadelphia 76ers: Tyler Dorsey, G, Oregon
37: Boston Celtics: Johnathan Motley, PF, Baylor
38: Chicago Bulls: Devin Robinson, F, Florida
39: Philadelphia 76ers: Derrick White, G, Colorado
40: New Orleans Pelicans: Frank Mason III, PG, Kansas
41: Charlotte Hornets: Tony Bradley, C, North Carolina
42: Utah Jazz: Mathias Lessort, F/C, France
43: Houston Rockets: Kyle Kuzma, PF, Utah
44: New York Knicks: Frank Jackson, SG, Duke
45: Houston Rockets: Ike Anigbogu, C UCLA
46: Philadelphia 76ers: Anzejs Pasecniks, C, Latvia
47: Indiana Pacers: LJ Peak, SG Georgetown
48: Milwaukee Bucks: Alec Peters, PF, Valparaiso
49: Denver Nuggets: Jaron Blossomgame, F, Clemson
50: Philadelphia 76ers: Jonah Bolden, PF, Australia
51: Denver Nuggets: Alberto Abalde, SF, Spain
52: Washington Wizards: Cameron Oliver, PF, Nevada