For every conclusion, a question. For every dilemma, a reason for hope.
It’d be easy — and tempting — to dismiss the Timberwolves’ 0-for round-robin showing at the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League. To be sure, increasingly futile efforts against Dallas, Washington and Chicago’s summer clubs aren’t marks of a well-groomed slew of youngsters far ahead of the NBA’s learning curve.
But few summer league teams fit that bill. That’s not the point.
What is pressing is that third-year point guard Alexey Shved remains inefficient, even against inferior competition. That second-round pick Glenn Robinson III’s evident athleticism hasn’t been accompanied by production. That Minnesota’s youth contingent features athletes that can run and gun but also commit costly giveaways.
How it all affect the Wolves’ 2014-15 roster is murky, for now. Coach and president of basketball operations Flip Saunders has said this midsummer sojourn is more about acclimation than anything else — for himself, his coaching staff and players alike.
But the foundations of player and team’s future are slowly pieced together each time hightop meets hardwood.
Some of Minnesota’s are being fashioned on solid ground. Others, not so much.
Appearing in two games, Shved leads the team in scoring (15 points per game) and assists (2.5 a contest) but still hasn’t harnessed his energy into an NBA-caliber combo guard. To make matters worse, he missed Tuesday’s 107-73 loss to Chicago with a groin injury.
Robinson, drafted 40th overall with a good chance to make Minnesota’s final 15-man roster, has flown around the floor and pulled up in transition as well as advertised. But he’s made just 6 of 20 field-goal attempts and is scoring 6.3 points per game in three starts.
Turnovers have run rampant, too. Primary ballhandlers Shved and first-round pick Zach LaVine average a combined 7.7 of them.
But it’s not uncommon for slop to reign supreme during summer league, where defense is scarce and rookies alongside fringe prospects make for noncontiguous courses of play.
And among the muck, a couple silver dollars have emerged, too.
Shabazz Muhammad continues to show he can do what a 14th overall pick should against a field of lesser opponent talent: take over. Saturday against Dallas, he scored 27 points in a 10-for-24 shooting performance and pulled down 11 rebounds.
Yet three days later, he played 25 minutes against Chicago and made just 3 of 15 field goals.
Welcome, again, to the volatile world of summer league.
That universe has treated LaVine well thus far. The 13th overall selection in this year’s draft averages 12 points, 2.3 assists and five rebounds per game while displaying the speed and hops that drew Saunders toward him.
And second-year center Gorgui Dieng appears to be carrying his thicker frame effectively. The 2013-14 all-rookie second team honoree is shooting 58.8 percent, scoring 9.7 points an outing and pulling down a team-high seven rebounds per game.
Seeded last in the 24-team field, Minnesota takes on ninth seed Phoenix on Wednesday afternoon at 3 p.m. The winner moves on to face Sacramento at 3 p.m. Thursday, while the loser moves to the consolation round (all squads are guaranteed five games).