Minnesota Timberwolves PR machine is in overdrive with events unfolding by the second from an organization largely relegated to the backend talk in the NBA.
For most casual fans, Timberwolves are a forgotten bunch that gets mentioned when former standout players like Kevin Garnett and Kevin Love pop up.
That has changed in the lead up to the 2018-2019 NBA season after recently acquired Swingman Jimmy Butler reportedly requested to be traded. Despite being named an All Star, hooking up with old mates, Coach and playing in the postseason, Butler is not happy.
Most notably with his fellow top dogs in Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns approach to toppling the big guns in the conference and league. Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers are apparently his desired destinations since the franchises operate in the world’s biggest markets and have enough salary space next season to add another superstar to its roster.
That second superstar is likely his friend Kyrie Irving who pulled off his version of a forced trade ahead of last season from Cleveland Cavaliers. Narratives tend to be slightly different in the media than in real life but with Butler, talk of the four time All Star being a disruptive figure has quite some history.
Derrick Rose’s work ethic irked his torturous work habits and was quick to slam younger teammates in his last season with Chicago Bulls. Many fingers point to Butler as the sole reason behind Minnesota Timberwolves fractured team.
While a section believe trading Butler is the best solution for the team, another section believes keeping the star represents the best way to feature in the playoffs and avoid another slow rebuild. However, the 2011 30th pick isn’t the one to blame. Minnesota Coach and President of Basketball Operations Tom Thibodeau is the cause of Minnesota’s headache due to a string of short term decisions.
For starters, rather than trading for quick fixes to Minnesota’s 12 year playoff less run Thibodeau should have been patient and made minor adjustments to ensure an organic growth. Golden State Warriors was a worn down franchise but making the right draft picks and allowing them to grow created a strong foundation that has yielded three NBA titles in four years. Signing Andre Iguodala, Kevin Durant and Shaun Livingston were the adjustments Warriors management made to its core roster of draft picks. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green were given time to develop their talent while building up confidence.
After his first season ended without a playoff appearance, Thibodeau brought in guys whose future role with the team was in doubt. Butler had two years left on his contract before he became a free agent, Derrick Rose was committed to the end of last season, Jamal Crawford was signed for just a year and Taj Gibson signed a two year deal prior to last season.
Thibodeau has doubled down on his run by bringing Rose back on a year’s deal and signed former player Luol Deng. It must be noted Rose is 30 years old with a slew of injuries, Gibson is 33 and Deng is 33 with a lot of miles on his legs. Betting on the internal development of talented youngsters like Towns, Wiggins, Tyus Jones and Shabazz Muhammad was shunned.
Moreover, Thibodeau’s move for Butler meant Minnesota missed out on three very good players in Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and 2017 Draft pick which turned into Lauri Markkanen. Markkanen is a sure fire All Star in the near future, Dunn is a solid playmaker and defender and LaVine is a fine all round player whose scoring output could be utilized as a Sixth Man. Due to Thibodeau’s preference for veterans, Tyus Jones is reportedly interested in a trade deal from Phoenix Suns knowing very well he will play behind Jeff Teague and Rose at the Point Guard position.
It is hard to envisage first year players Josh Okogie and Keita Bates-Diop getting a lot of playing time due to Thibodeau’s preference and the number of seasoned players on Minnesota’s roster. By signing Wiggins and Towns to lucrative long term contracts and all but giving up on holding on to Butler, Minnesota is reversing that trend and is in position to receive a couple of high draft picks or younger players to work with once Butler gets traded. The next logical step is to restrict Thibodeau’s duties to just coaching and hand Basketball operations over to another personality.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter