With one blockbuster deal already under his belt, Tom Thibodeau will head into Free Agency-eve with the Wolves in a position they’ve never been before; stocked with two All-NBA talents. Free agency in Minnesota sports usually entails sitting back and watching the big markets fight to overpay premium talent, and then sign whoever is left. Last year, Thibodeau spent $4 million on Jordan Hill (who played 47 minutes), and $7.6 million on Cole Aldrich (lost his spot in the rotation).
This year, numerous reports expect Thibodeau to “make a splash.” With just under $20 million in cap space, and two very team friendly contracts in Ricky Rubio ($15 million) and Gorgui Dieng ($16 million), there is financial flexibility. Players like Kyle Lowry, or Paul Milsap have been associated to the team, but there is no doubt that Rubio and/or Dieng would be moved.
Jimmy Butler and KAT have reportedly hopped a jet to LA to begin their recruitment pitch to Lowry. Last year, the Raptor Point Guard set career highs in points per game, minutes, field goal percentage, three point field goal percentage, and rebounds and is due a $35 million max contract from Toronto. While Lowry does fit the two-way Thibodeau mold, it may cost too much to bring him in. Even if he took a pay cut, Minnesota would have hardly any cap space left to fill the holes they created to make space for Lowry.
There are more dire roster needs than point guard. In 2016-2017, the Wolves had arguably one of the worst benches in the league. While Thibs isn’t one to use his bench very often, the talent drop off will be smaller and will keep the team in close games when the starters need a rest. The lack of shooting is also a concern. Minnesota ranked last in three point attempts, and makes last year. Floor spacing will open up lanes for slashers like Wiggins and Butler, and give KAT more room to operate in the paint.
Defense is the other glaring hole. Ranked 26th in efficiency, defense was supposed to be the calling card of any Tom Thibodeau team. Butler definitely helps this, but one defender does not make a good defense. Adding some experienced vets on the wing would help stabilize the perimeter.
Tomorrow I will post a list of potential targets not named Kyle Lowry or Paul Milsap.