There’s no getting around the fact that the Timberwolves have the most loaded youth talent in all of the NBA, and they’ve been developing and expanding that talent the past few years. At the start of this past season, NBA fans were expecting a breakout season from Minnesota, after Karl-Anthony Towns ridiculous rookie season, on top of Andrew Wiggins and Zach Lavine’s rise to stardom, but the wolves fell drastically short. The Timberwolves blew the most double digit leads in all of the NBA, putting up a disappointing 31-51 season. It wasn’t that they didn’t perform well together and didn’t have the talent to win those double-digit lead games, it was that these young guys didn’t know how to finish out games against the top, more experienced players in the world.
Minnesota thinks they have the solution to that problem though, Jimmy Butler. The T-wolves stole the show last night during the draft as they made the most blockbuster deal of this offseason, landing Jimmy Butler and the no. 16 pick in the draft, in exchange for Zach Lavine, Kris Dunn, and the no. 7 pick in the draft. It’s easy to see that the Bulls clearly wanted to go in a different direction as they let one of the best players in the league escape from their team on an absolute cheap deal.
Although this won’t be the first time Butler has played for Tom Thibodeau, with the last time of them being together was the year Butler won Most Improved Player, made his first All-Star team, and averaged 20 PPG. And since Thib’s departure from Chicago, Butler has only gotten better, having been a starter in the All-Star game, making the All-NBA Third team, and averaging nearly 24 PPG this past season. Butler is not only known for being an offensive juggernaut, but also for being a lockdown defender and a clutch performer late in games. If the wolves would’ve landed someone with one of those characteristics, it would’ve been huge pickup for them, but with acquiring an All-NBA player who possesses all those attributes and then some, Minnesota is now starting to look like a superteam in the making, if not already so. And I say superteam because even though the wolves went 31-51, look at their roster.
Ricky Rubio, who played lights out in the back half of the season and is known for his stealthy defense and flashy assists, only has upside with Butler coming on board, because Rubio has only made the players around him better, and can find a lot more assists with Butler now on the wing to drive and kick to.
Andrew Wiggins, an absolute athletic freak show, who is starting to look like a perennial All-Star, having increased his PPG averages by nearly four points a year throughout his three years in the league, where he averaged 16.9 PPG in his rookie season, 20.7 PPG in his sophomore year, and 23.9 PPG this past season. There’s no telling what Wiggins will be playing like when he reaches his full potential, but I don’t think NBA teams will want to be around when he does.
Karl-Anthony Towns, who just finished his second year, is already one of the top players in the league. In his rookie of the year campaign, Towns put up 18.3 PPG, shooting 54% from the field and 34% from deep, while also picking up 10.5 rebounds/game. If that wasn’t impressive enough, he came out of the gates even stronger this past year, averaging 25.1 PPG, while shooting the same percentage from the field, and bettering his 3P% to 37%, he even managed to grab more rebounds a game, averaging 12.3.
Gorgui Dieng, the consistent big man in the post for the wolves is no joke. The 2013 first rounder has been a starter for the past three years and he’s put up the relatively same numbers every year, 10 PPG, 51 FG%, 8 REB, and 1.5 Blocks. The wolves aren’t asking Dieng to be putting up big numbers every night, now that he plays alongside Towns, but he is still a big enough of a force down low, on both sides of the ball, that teams must be aware of him, enough so to take some of the pressure off Towns.
Along with these amazing, young starters, the Timberwolves have a talented, youthful bench in Tyus Jones, Shabazz Muhammed, Adreian Payne, Justin Patton, Nemanja Bjelica, and a few more. And after the release of Nikola Pekovic, the wolves also have valuable cap space that allows them to make quality signings in free agency, along with the ability retain their ascending stars.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have been said to be on the rise the past two years but have come up short of expectations. However, after the acquisition of Jimmy Butler, don’t be surprised if the wolves not only break their long playoff drought, but also make a run for the title as well.