Thoughts on the Minnesotta Timberwolves Offseason 2017
It’s early in the offseason but since most transactions are already verified, let me share with you my thoughts on the Wolves’ offeason moves and how it affects the future of the team and its players.
To summarize, Minnesotta has done the following this offseason:
- WAIVED Nikola Pekovic
- WAIVED Jordan Hill
- ACQUIRED Jimmy Butler and Josh Patton (17th overall, 2017) from the Bulls for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and Lauri Markannen (7th overall, 2017)
- TRADED Ricky Rubio to the Utah Jazz for OKC’s 2018 1st round pick (Lottery protected)
- AGREED TO SIGN Jeff Teague to a 3-year, $57M deal.
- AGREED TO SIGN Taj Gibson to a 2-year, $28M deal.
So what does this all mean for the Timberwolves?
The Wolves just got older and more experienced
The young core of the Timberwolves (which I hoped would stay together at least until the end of their current contracts) is young no more. Rubio (who’ll just be 27 next season), LaVine (22), and Dunn (23) who played significant minutes for last year’s team (32.9 mpg, 37.1 mpg, and 17.1 mpg respectively) are all gone. Replacing them are the more experienced Butler (28), Teague (29), and Gibson (32). This should help with one of the Wolves’ biggest problems last season – their inability to close out games or to come back from deficits as these veterans can help stabilize the team during games or losing streaks.
Thibs got his guys?
Thibodeau has always had a preference for players who are good defenders and durable enough to log hellish minutes for him. He’s also said numerous times that he needs shooters in order to space the floor better for KAT and Wiggins.
Butler, Taj, and Teague fit the bill as to the first part. Jimmy Buckets knows Thibs system well and even thrives in it. He won his Most Improved Player Award playing under Thibs with a league-leading 38.7 mpg during the 2014-15 season. He’s a 3x member of the All-Defensive (2nd) Team and arguably one of the Top 10 two-way players in the league. Taj played under Thibs in Chicago as a solid back-up off the bench. He can play this role again in Minnesotta or be a starter at the 4-position alongside KAT. Personally, I’d rather have Dieng start and have Taj come off the bench early and often. Teague, for his part, has not played less than 70 games per season in his 8 years in the league.
However, these players aren’t really known as elite floor-spacers. Butler and Teague each shoot just above league average and make about one three-pointer per game while Taj has yet to add the three-point shot to his arsenal. In comparison, LaVine averaged more 3 pointers per game (2.6) and at a higher clip than all of them combined. With the Taj signing, the Wolves don’t have much in terms of cap space so they need to get creative in order to land an elite floor spacer, a 3-and-D guy, or a stretch-4 to the team.
What does this mean for KAT and Wiggins?
The arrival of Butler and the departure of Rubio will affect Wiggins’ numbers more than KAT’s – I expect KAT to average 25 points and 12 rebounds again next season. He’s just THAT good. Plus, right now, KAT’s more versatile and stable offensively than Andrew – KAT can go to the post or run the pick-and-pop for a three effectively.
This shouldn’t be a problem for Wiggins though as this can serve as the perfect time for him to cement his role in the team. Now that he’s not expected to be the main scorer or playmaker, he can focus on other aspects of his game that can contribute more to the Wolves’ success – rebounding and defense are chief among them. I’ve always said that I’ll take a Wiggins who averages just 20 points but has 7 rebounds and 4 combined steals + blocks per game than one who scores 30 points per game with minimal peripheral stats. Wiggins also needs to improve on his defense in order to stay on Thibs’ good side. He has the length and athleticism for it so I hope he buys into Thibs’ system. Wiggins could be the one tasked with defending the opposing team’s best player or take turns with Butler doing the task. I’m pretty confident that if Wiggins becomes an above-average defender, teams will really have a hard time against the Wolves.
Who is the Alpha of the team?
It will be Butler for now but in the long run, it will still be KAT. It’s just like during the medieval times. Butler’s keeping the throne warm until KAT matures and comes into his own.
From what I imagine for this team, it’s Butler, not Teague, who will be the primary ball-handler and facilitator. The offense will probably run through him and then through KAT. If the offense breaks down, they’ll have Wiggins, Teague, or Taj to fall back on. That’s a pretty solid offensive line-up if you ask me.
Will they finally make the Playoffs?
YES. I’m calling it right now. Barring any season-ending injury to their players, the Wolves will finally make the Playoffs this year. I have them pegged gunning for the 6th-8th seed in the West. Yes, just the 6th-8th seed. The West is freaking crazy right now.
Will they reach the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history?
Sadly, NO. As I’ve said, the West is freaking crazy right now. The Warriors are still the Warriors; the Spurs aren’t going anywhere; the Rockets just added the best PG of this generation; while the Thunder added an elite PG (Paul George) of their own. It will take an unholy combination of luck and skill for the Wolves to get out of the West. They’ll probably go down before they even reach the Conference finals but that’s alright. Reaching the Playoffs in the next few years will serve as an invaluable learning experience for KAT and Wiggins that could further accelerate their growth.
When the old guards fall and the dynasties crumble, only the Wolves will be left to pick up the pieces and rule.
Rubio got traded? :(
Man, this was hard for me too. Rubio and Love were the ones that got me hooked on the Wolves and their potential way back in 2009 (2 years before Rubio even played an NBA game). Now both of them are out of the team. Love gave us Wiggins so that’s okay, I guess, but Rubio got traded for a protected 1st round pick and to a division rival at that. I think the Rubio trade could’ve been handled better but I understand the predicament the Wolves were in and why they had to pull the trigger. They needed to send Rubio to a team that could take in his salary while taking in no salary themselves so that they can sign a player. It just so happened that the Jazz had ~$16M cap hold that they could use until June 30. The Rubio trade will allow the Wolves to sign Jeff Teague plus they got a first round pick for it. If Teague shoots well next season and the pick turns into an asset (by keeping it or trading it for another player), then this trade will be considered good.
I wish Ricky the best in Utah. If Hayward stays, he’ll probably reach the Playoffs this season for the first time in his career. The Wolves and Jazz will meet 4 times next season. I want the Wolves to succeed but I also hope Ricky burns his former team just once in those four games. #GraciasRicky