The long and agonizing wait is over. The NBA is back, and it’s as eventful and drama-filled as ever.
WHO: Minnesota Timberwolves at Golden State Warriors
WHEN: Saturday, September 29 at 5:30 p.m. PST
WHERE: Oracle Arena, Oakland, CA
WATCH: NBC Sports Bay Area
LISTEN: Q102.1 FM KRBQ
BUDDY BLOG: Canis Hoopus
Golden State: DeMarcus Cousins (out, left Achilles)
Minnesota: Justin Patton (out, broken right foot)
Here are six interesting storylines to keep track of going into the first preseason game.
#1. The cloud of uncertainty over Patrick McCaw
Incoming third-year guard/forward Patrick McCaw still has not signed his $1.7 million qualifying offer sheet. He did not show up on media day, is not listed on the Warriors’ preseason training camp roster, and has not attended any of their practices.
McCaw’s camp is still holding out hope that another team looking for a wing player will offer him more money, but as the days pass by, he is losing more and more leverage. He still may sign with the Warriors, but the team may also choose to move on and sign one of their non-guaranteed/partially-guaranteed players as the 14th man on their roster, or sign one of the remaining free agents on the market.
Whatever the case, McCaw will have to make a decision soon.
#2. The progress of DeMarcus Cousins
In case you missed it (probably because you’ve been living under a rock during the offseason), the Warriors shocked the entire NBA universe with their acquisition of DeMarcus Cousins for the MLE salary of $5.3 million.
We are most certainly going to see this lineup in the near future.
As to when we’ll get to see that lineup, it’s still pretty much up in the air. Warriors GM Bob Myers stated during media day that Cousins will be re-evaluated after four weeks.
Myers said the Warriors will probably re-evaluate Cousins in four weeks and see where he's at. "We won't rush him, but we also won't hold him back."— Connor Letourneau (@Con_Chron) September 24, 2018
Additionally, Steve Kerr made an interesting statement after the Warriors’ first practice session.
Practice Day 1: DeMarcus Cousins update. Did a ton of pre-practice drills. pic.twitter.com/3ymkJEtKOB— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) September 25, 2018
DeMarcus Cousins going through some offensive sets with assistant Jarron Collins after practice pic.twitter.com/3AlRSXtNV4— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) September 28, 2018
We may be seeing Cousins on the floor sooner than the expected December return. Either way, he will most certainly be out for the entirety of the preseason. So for those wishing to see what he can bring to the Warriors, you’ll have to wait a bit longer.
#3. The center-by-committee, youth edition
With Cousins out, Kerr will decide who among Kevon Looney, Jordan Bell, and Damian Jones will start at the center position. Their rotation just got a lot younger, with the recent retirement of David West, Zaza Pachulia opting to sign with the Detroit Pistons, and fan favorite JaVale McGee joining the Los Angeles Lakers.
Looney is the most experienced and most fundamentally-sound of the three. Bell is the option with the most upside, and being the most athletic, he is a constant pick-and-roll/lob threat. Jones, entering his third year in the league, is looking to get more minutes, and with Kerr intending to play the younger players more during the season, he may get those minutes.
As the season progresses, Kerr may switch around who starts at center, depending on who the opponent is and the specific match-up adjustments that need to be made.
After the Warriors’ third practice session, Kerr revealed that he is leaning toward starting Jones for the first preseason game.
Steve Kerr, typically silent on lineup decisions, asked why he revealed his likely starting center (Damian Jones) for Saturday: “Today’s my birthday. I’m in a good mood. I had a really good gluten free waffle in there for breakfast. Doesn’t sound good, but it was tasty.”— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) September 27, 2018
#4. A first look at new acquisitions
Besides Cousins, the Warriors added other notable players to their roster. They acquired Swedish stretch-four Jonas Jerebko for the veteran’s minimum of $2.1 million. He will provide additional spacing due to his exceptional shooting ability; he shot 46.6% from the field and 41.4% from three-point range last season for the Utah Jazz. The Warriors can only hope that he does not become another Omri Casspi.
The Warriors drafted Jacob Evans III with the 28th overall pick of the 2018 NBA Draft, adding a needed defensive wing option to their roster. Evans struggled with his shooting during Summer League, but with the roster depth the Warriors have, they may be content with him being a deep bench asset who comes in for spurts.
In addition to Jerebko and Evans, the Warriors signed guard Damion Lee to a two-way contract, guards Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Ulis to Exhibit 10 contracts, and forwards Danuel House and Alfonzo McKinnie to training camp contracts.
#5. Year three of the Big Four
The Big Four of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Kevin Durant are entering their third straight season together and are setting their sights on a third straight Larry O’Brien Trophy.
There have been whispers of this year being the last year they will be together, with rumors of Durant bolting to another team next year, and Thompson and Green being free agents in 2019 and 2020, respectively. However, Thompson has reiterated his desire to stay with the Warriors, and Green has also stated that he plans to be in Golden State for the long term.
Whatever happens after this upcoming season and beyond, Warriors fans should enjoy another year of the Big Four, and count themselves fortunate to have witnessed history. Nothing good lasts forever, but it should be enjoyed while it lasts.
#6. The Timberwolves’ offseason drama
As many of you have probably heard, Minnesota Timberwolves star Jimmy Butler has stated his desire to be traded away from the team, mostly due to conflicts with some of his younger teammates, namely Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.
Jimmy Butler has requested a trade from the Minnesota Timberwolves, league sources tell me and @JonKrawczynski. Butler has given Minnesota a list of one-to-three teams with whom he's open to signing extension, in anticipation of trade.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) September 19, 2018
The drama has also caused some conflict between the Wolves’ ownership and the front office, with conflicting reports of looking for trade partners and the team having no intention to give Butler away.
Story filed to ESPN: As Minnesota’s front office tells inquiring rivals that team has no plans to trade Jimmy Butler, owner Glen Taylor had a different message at NBA’s Board of Governors meetings: Butler is available and owners/GM’s should contact Taylor himself if necessary.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 21, 2018
As the Warriors’ first preseason opponent, it will be interesting to see the mood and dynamic of the Wolves without Butler, and how head coach Tom Thibodeau will tinker with his lineups without his prized player.
For more information about this saga, head on over to our buddy blog for this game, Canis Hoopus.