Despite winning 31 game in the past season, the Minnesota Timberwolves look to turn things around after a busy offseason.
The Timberwolves made quite a few signings and trades during the offseason to upgrade their team. During the NBA Draft, they traded Zach Lavine, Kris Dunn, and the No. 7 overall pick to the Chicago Bulls for Jimmy Butler and the 16th overall pick. In free agency, they signed a new point guard, Jeff Teague, to a 3 yr/$57 million deal, after trading Ricky Rubio to the Utah Jazz. They also acquired veteran players Taj Gibson to a 2 yr/$28 million contract, and Jamal Crawford to a 2 yr/$8 million agreement. Even though the Timberwolves traded away their starting point guard, Ricky Rubio to create cap space, and Dunn and Lavine, both very young players with plenty of potential, they still upgraded their roster by bringing in players with proven talents that are in their prime, and two veteran players that can serve as mentors for the young players on the team.
After these additions to the roster, there is no question that their wins will dramatically increase in the next season, and they should definitely be making the playoffs. And, most importantly, they still have arguably one of the best, youngest duos in the league with Andrew Wiggins, 22, and Karl-Anthony Towns, 21. After his third season, Wiggins scored 23.6 points per game, shot 45 percent from the field. He even had a career-best from beyond the arc, making 35.6 percent. In only his second year in the league, Karl-Anthony Towns averaged a double-double, scored an outstanding 25.1 points per game, and grabbed 12.5 rebounds. He is already considered a top 10 player in the league, and still has plenty of years left in the league to grow and improve as a player.
Now, with the addition of Jimmy Butler, the Timberwolves have a player that can serve as a “team leader.” He proved that he can carry the Bulls to the playoffs despite the weak team chemistry, and Butler’s poor relationship with Coach Fred Hoiberg. However, he is now reunited with his old coach, Tom Thibodeau, and has a far better supporting cast to lead a team for the next few years. Most importantly, with the help of Towns, Wiggins, and Teague, he does not have to carry the franchise alone, unlike the past season with the Bulls. Last season, he averaged 23.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 5.5 assists, which were all career highs. In his career, he has 3 All-Star appearances, earned a spot on the All-NBA Third Team, made 3 NBA All-Defensive Second Teams, and received the Most Improved Player award.
Finally, do the Timberwolves have what it takes to compete for a title? For the 2017-18 season, making the Finals seems very difficult as they must overcome the Golden State Warriors in a best-of-seven series. However, they have enough star power to compete against the other top teams in the West, such as the Rockets, Spurs, and Thunder. On the other hand, the T-wolves have many key strengths that can give them advantages against top tier teams. They consist of players like Butler, Wiggins, and Towns that can give them flexibility by playing multiple positions, and being able to adjust to different team’s play style. Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins can play any position from the 1-3, and can also act as primary ball handlers for the offense. Karl Anthony Towns can play the power forward or center slot, and stretch the floor with his shooting range. After being ranked 26th in the league in defensive rating, the Timberwolves’ success depends on how well they play on defense, after deeply struggling last season.
Unlike the other top teams in the league, the Wolves still have multiple years to grow and reach their full potential as a team, so we should not really be expecting them to make the finals, or even the conference finals this year, but as their youngsters progress, there will be no doubt that they will be in the race for a title.