Breaking Down the Timberwolves' Off-Season
No team has been more active than the Minnesota Timberwolves during the 2017 NBA off-season. On draft day and throughout the free agency period, the T-Wolves front office have made move after move, and what they have managed to build is quite intriguing. Let’s take a look at the team’s player activity thus far:
Considering that Minnesota already had some great young talent in Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Gorgui Deng, the Timberwolves now have what seems like a solid mix of young stars and seasoned veterans to contend for a playoff spot.
Tom Thimbodeau and General Manager Scott Layden have stated that they still would like to add 3 more players before the start of the season, one being a veteran point guard to back-up Jeff Teague. But even without any new additions, it is pretty clear that Minnesota has made massive changes to their roster. Let’s break down each of the moves made by the Timberwolves, and get idea of the direction the team is heading in.
Trade Ricky Rubio / Sign Jeff Teague
Despite having a fairly successful stint in Minnesota, Rubio was never able to live up to the hype that surrounded his arrival to the Twin-Cities in 2011. Regardless, Rubio is a good perimeter defender and a great play-maker. Through 6 seasons in Minnesota he averaged 10 PTS and 8.5 AST, however something always seemed to hold him back – his shooting. Rubio has shot an awful 37.5% from the field and 31.5% from the 3-point line, during his career. In fact, last season was the first time in Rubio’s career that he shot higher than 40% from the field. In today’s NBA, with how important outside shooting has become, guards like Rubio are an offensive liability.
Teague, on the other hand, is an entirely different kind of guard. He is a skilled scorer that can get to the rim, or knock down outside shots. He’s also a talented play-maker and doesn’t turn the ball over much, averaging less than 2 TOV for his career. Although Teague isn’t quite the maestro that Rubio is, he more than makes up for that with his ability to create plays for himself.
The only downside to replacing Rubio with Teague will be that, due to his size (6’2”, 185 lbs.), Teague is a below average defender at his position. Outside of that, the Timberwolves have a sure-fire upgrade at point guard. Teague is still a very talented playmaker, but doesn’t limit the team’s offense with poor shooting.
Sign Taj Gibson – 2 Years, $28 Million
After being traded from the Bulls to the Thunder last season, Gibson experienced one of the most successful stretches of his career, averaging 11 PTS on 52% shooting, to go with 6.2 REB in 23 games with Oklahoma City. Now, reunited with former head coach Tom Thibodeau, Gibson will hope to recapture the success they had during their time together in Chicago.
The 32-year-old is still a capable shot maker, a great post defender and will bring toughness and discipline to this young Timberwolves squad. His experience playing under Thibs and with Jimmy Butler will help make this transition a little more seamless, but his real value will come from his impact on the locker room and Minnesota’s young core.
Sign Jamal Crawford – 2 Years, $9 Million
Crawford is another veteran that can really help Minnesota both on and off the court. Last season was business as usual for ageless swingman, and although his scoring numbers were down in his 18th season, he actually shot more efficiently on both 2 and 3-point attempts. Crawford provides the Timberwolves with scoring off the bench, as well as another ball handler. This gives Teague and Butler some opportunity to play off the ball, adding yet another dimension to Minnesota’s offense.
The only concern here is Crawford’s age. At 37 years old, Crawford can only provide 20-25 mins per night at a high level, and given the Timberwolves lack of depth behind Wiggins and Butler, this could become a problem.
Trade Zach LaVine & Kris Dunn for Jimmy Butler
Arguably the biggest off-season acquisition this year was Jimmy Butler. Last season Butler’s production sky-rocketed to 24 PTS, 6 REB and 6 AST as he somehow led the dysfunctional Bulls to the playoffs. He finished top-15 in both points per game and player efficiency rating, and remains one of the league’s premier two-way wing players. Having already played for Thibodeau in the past, Butler will be able to fit in well both offensively and defensively with this team, as long as he can accept a smaller role than he had in Chicago.
Although Zach LaVine is developing into a very good player there is no guarantee that he will ever be as good as Jimmy Butler, and after tearing his ACL half-way through last season, there isn’t even a guarantee that he’ll be the same player he was a year ago.
Kris Dunn on the other hand was a big disappointment last year. Drafted 5th overall in the 2016 draft, Dunn was expected by many to compete with Rubio for minutes, perhaps even replacing the Spaniard as the team’s starting point guard. Unfortunately, Kris was an even more inconsistent shooter than Rubio and struggled to earn playing time.