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In a mailbag edition of The Whiteboard, we’re answering questions on the latest NBA trade rumors, conference favorites and more.
It’s time for a Friday mailbag, answering your questions with all the insight and brevity I can muster. We’ll be back next week with more so if you have questions, comments or trivia you want me to respond to, send them to us on Twitter or by email and we’ll try to answer them next Friday.
Your questions on NBA trade rumors and playoff matchups and more:
I think there are a lot of guys who could be available and might be able to really help them offensively by taking some minutes at the 4 — Kyle Kuzma, Bojan Bogdanovic, Kelly Oubre Jr., John Collins. The problem is, I’m not sure how many of those high-end targets are really gettable for Minnesota. Presumably, the best package the Timberwolves would put on the table would be built around D’Angelo Russell and he doesn’t really move the needle for the Wizards, Pistons, Hornets or Hawks.
Doug McDermott would be a fun possibility but the Timberwolves would probably have to build an offer around Kyle Anderson or Taurean Prince to make the salaries work, which would create as many rotation problems as it solves and probably not have much interest for the Spurs.
In the end, I think their best option may be just seeing what the best packages they can find for D’Angelo Russell are and then seeing if there’s an end-of-the-rotation type floor-spacing big they can squeeze into the deal.
On some level, they know what they have in James Wiseman. He’s a mobile, athletic big man who can finish around the basket and do some damage on the glass. But it could take them several seasons to find out if he can develop into more than that, someone whose offensive tools can actually be used in a productive framework and whose athletic tools can translate to actual defensive impact. That is to say, they know he could probably put up 18-10 right now in a starting role if they didn’t care about winning games.
I think he’s probably worth waiting on, not necessarily because of his ceiling or his likelihood of reaching it but simply because I’m not sure they get anything in a trade for him right now that really opens their championship window any wider than it is right now.
I still wouldn’t be surprised if the Warriors somehow emerge from this morass by the end of the season. But right now, I’d say it feels like a fairly even race between the Suns, Grizzlies, Nuggets and Pelicans. They all have their weaknesses — depth for the Suns, high-level experience for the Grizzlies and Pelicans, defense for the Nuggets. But they all also have the talent to get there if they catch a few lucky breaks here and there and peak at the right time. If I had to choose today, I’d give the Grizzlies a slight edge because of recency bias and I think they’d be the most fun option, but it really feels wide open.
What Vassell and Johnson have done this season has been fairly remarkable considering the lack of experience on the roster around them. I figured Johnson would take a slight step back with Dejounte Murray initiating the offense and I didn’t see this big a leap coming this quickly from Vassell. However, I think the best-case scenario for the Spurs is adding another player with the potential to function as a primary creator or break the defense in other ways.
But that’s the plan, right? The Spurs are going to see what fate has in store for them in the NBA Draft Lottery and Victor Wembanyama isn’t the only player that could form a hypothetical playoff-contending trio with Vassell and Johnson. This class is deep with players who have primary creator potential and landing someone like Scoot Henderson, Amen Thompson or even Keyonte George could do the job.
Honestly, I don’t think either of these teams really fears anyone else in the conference and the toughest matchups are each other. I know that’s kind of a cop-out because they’re also the two best teams in the East but, all due respect to the 76ers and Nets, I don’t think anyone else is on their level.
The Cavs are probably the biggest threat outside of each other but they’ve already been hammered in two matchups by the Bucks this season. Cleveland matches up slightly better with Boston but if the Celtics hold the top seed they can count on the Cavs having to get through the Bucks before getting to them.
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Fan finds secret to Joe Mazzulla’s early success: Quizlet
Joe Mazzulla might have a popular digital flashcard and studying application to credit for his success in his first season with the Boston Celtics.
- User creates Quizlet to learn basketball players: A Twitter user created a Quizlet so she could, “talk shop” with her boyfriend on Phoenix Suns players. Along the way, she found an account that was owned by “Joseph Mazzulla” which appears to be Mazzulla’s real account.
- Account deleted, but archived: The account was quickly deleted once the Tweet blew up, but someone archived the goods in a PDF. It includes intel on every team and flashcards for players and key aspects of each team’s strategy.
- Celtics success under Mazzulla in first year: The Celtics are 22-7, first in the Eastern Conference, and first in the league in points per game. Not only is Quizlet helping college kids pass exams, but it’s also helping Mazzulla scheme and lead his team to victory.