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Tax Time For Timberwolves, Pacers Look Worryingly Familiar & Finding Value In NBA Draft

The NBA season is over for the Timberwolves and Pacers, but they already have eyes on the next. Meanwhile, the draft is fast approaching without a clear-cut number-one pick. 

Timberwolves To Crunch The Numbers

Anthony Edwards was compared to Michael Jordon early in the playoffs, but the comparisons have turned to the man who beat him to a place in the NBA Finals: Luka Doncic.

Doncic has been in the same place as Edwards. A superstar player who looks ready to lead his team to glory, but falls short when put up against a more experienced superstar and good defensive team. The Minnesota Timberwolves aren’t far off. They led late in almost every game of their 4-1 series defeat to the Dallas Mavericks. However, with the game on the line late and every possession growing in importance, Doncic and Kyrie Irving had the shots to seal it. Edwards and the Timberwolves couldn’t match the Mavericks in clutch time and it proved to be the difference.

“It’s a lot of our guys’ first time being in this light, especially me. It’s my first time. But we’ll be ready, man. We’ll be all right. First time. Took a loss. Congratulations to the Mavericks. But we’ll be back.” – Anthony Edwards to The Athletic

Just who is part of that we remains to be seen.

This roster is of championship-contending quality. They won 56 games throughout the NBA regular season – the second-most in franchise history. In beating the Denver Nuggets in Game 7, the Timberwolves advanced to the conference finals for the first time in 20 years.

But it all comes at a cost. A second apron of the salary cap cost.

Karl Anthony-Towns is in line to make $49 million next season. Edwards’ bargain $13.5 million from this season jumps to $42.3 in the next. With Rudy Gobert making close to $44 million, the Timberwolves have $135 million tied up in their three best players. Jaden McDaniels has a $23 million extension kicking in alongside Naz Reid making $14 million and Mike Conley $10 million. Just like that, the Timberwolves have six players locked in for a cool $180 million.

They’ve cleared the $172 luxury tax already and are only just short of the $190 million second apron. It’s something teams are willing to exceed for the right roster. However, it needs to be the right roster. In going over the second apron, teams are restricted in their ability to trade future picks, complete sign and trade deals, and will be without salary cap exceptions to sign free agents.

Minny has its superstar in Edwards. Despite the lazy narrative further pressed by an agenda-driven Draymond Green around Gobert, it has its defensive anchor who can contribute to a championship-winning team. Reid and McDaniels are firm fixtures, while Conley will end his career in Minesotta. Towns is the odd man out. He doesn’t justify his salary cap hit, and his production could be replaced by committee.

The Timberwolves will be relevant again for the 2024-25 NBA season, but just how relevant will depend on how they reshape or fill out the roster over the summer.

Indy Needs To Keep The Pace

The Indiana Pacers ended up as a surprise packet of the NBA season to finish with a 47-35 record for 6th in the Eastern Conference.

However, it’s worth noting that they didn’t lock themselves into the playoffs until the last game of the regular season. Development isn’t linear, and assuming improvement and a rise up the standings is dangerous.

They were also the beneficiaries of some injury luck in the playoffs. Making one Conference Finals doesn’t guarantee another. Both the Milwaukee Bucks and New York Knicks suffered significant injuries. Needing seven games to beat the Knicks, as impressive as it was to see them scrape through, set up the inevitability of being swept by the Boston Celtics.

The Pacers played with an incredible offence. Only the Celtics finished with a higher offensive rating than Indy’s 121.0 points per 100 possessions. They put everything into the offensive side of the ball, which worked throughout the regular season.

It does look worryingly familiar, though.

The Hawks did similar. While their offence-first focus worked for a year, it hasn’t since. You can’t sacrifice defence in the way both teams did for those seasons and expect sustained success.

Indiana finished with a 118.0 defensive rating for 24th in the NBA at the end of the regular season. If they don’t address it over the next few months, there is a good chance that take a similar path to the 2021-22 Hawks.

Value In The NBA Draft

Alex Sarr remains as the $1.57 favourite to go with the first pick in the NBA Draft, but there is some discussion around the league that the Atlanta Hawks might instead take Zaccharie Risacher at the top.

ESPN’s Mock Draft is sending Risacher to the Hawks:

“Should Atlanta stand pat at No. 1, Risacher is looking like an increasingly attractive option. His season came to a close with Bourg’s semifinal loss to No. 1 seed Monaco, capping off a playoff run in which he averaged 15.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, shooting 67% from the field and 38% on 3-pointers; all outstanding numbers for a 19-year-old at this level of competition.”

The 19-year-old excites on both sides of the ball. He’s a prototype NBA wing, long and effective in defence, with an ability to score at every level.

We’re still a month out from the NBA Draft. A lot can change in that time. However, with the rumblings coming out of the Hawks and Risacher at $2.88 to go number one, there is value in the Frenchman.

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