Way-Too-Early Expectations

With free agency slowing down, it appears that the Timberwolves have their roster close to filled out (give or take a wing/point). Here are a few predictions with the current roster.

Stats for rotation players will look something like this:

Jeff Teague: 13 ppg, 8 ast, 1.5 stl

Being the fourth option on a team with ball dominant stars will knock a couple points off of Teague’s total from last season. His assist numbers should go up, though. He as always been a good distributor, but he hasn’t had this kind of firepower at his disposal.

Andrew Wiggins: 20ppg, 3ast, 5 reb

Wiggins will get his share of points. Having Butler will draw some of the attention from Wiggins and allow him some more room to operate. His silky-smooth jumper will become more consistent from deep. Wiggins won’t get as many touches, but his quality of looks will increase. Look for him to make improvements in rebounding as well.

Jimmy Butler: 20ppg, 6 ast, 6reb

Butler will terrorize opponents with his explosive drives, crafty array of mid-range shots, and the occasional catch-and-shoot triple. His scoring will dip slightly, as will his touches. Butler will be the locker room veteran presence, and the go to closer at the end of close games, alongside KAT.

Taj Gibson: 8ppg, 7 reb

Gibson will be the physical defender the Wolves have been lacking for years. He won’t light up the scoreboard most nights, but look for him to hustle on both ends every game. His familiarity with Thibodeau will also aid in the drastic growth of the young pups.

Karl-Anthony Towns: 27 ppg, 13 reb, 2 blk

KAT will solidify himself among the NBA’s elite this season. He will lead the team in scoring, rebounding, blocks and will also live up to his “defensive anchor” potential. His skill and athleticism + another year of Thibodeau’s defensive tutelage will round out a two-way superstar primed to wreak havoc on the block for the next decade.

Gorgui Dieng: 9ppg, 8reb

Similar to Gibson, Dieng will demonstrate unwavering hustle in whatever position he is cast. He will carve out a role as a jack-of-all-trades and the first big man off the bench. His scoring will fall, but he will grow as a defender under the wing of Taj Gibson. Dieng will be a perfect fit on the second unit.

Jamal Crawford: 8ppg, 2ast

Crawford’s role is to add some outside shooting and a scoring spark off the bench. At age 37 don’t expect huge numbers out of him, but expect a great veteran leader with the desire to win. Oh, and some pretty good handles too.

The last couple rotation spots are still up in the air. If no more talent is brought in, expect Tyus Jones and Nemanja Bjelica to do a respectable job in their backup roles. Jones will be an able playmaker and average three point shooter, and Bjelica will be a reserve stretch four.

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Changing of the Guards

Who would have thought, that the only guard remaining from last season’s roster would be….Tyus Jones?

After the first week of free agency, the Timberwolves look like a completely different team on paper. Of the five guards that played substantial minutes last year, Jones is the only one to survive the roster overhaul that saw Ricky Rubio, Zach Lavine and Kris Dunn traded, and Shabazz Muhammad cut loose.

Thibodeau’s total team transformation is finally putting the Timberwolves back on the map. Last year’s free agent class was “headlined” by mediocrity. Jordan Hill, Cole Aldrich, and Brandon Rush combined to make a marginal impact at best. This year’s crop (so far), has been an upgrade in every sense of the word.

After acquiring seasoned vets like Butler, Gibson, Teague, and most recently Jamal Crawford, it is clear that the decade long rebuild is over in MN. Lacking veteran leadership in 2016-2017, the addition of players who can help develop a winning culture was the first issue addressed in free agency. ¬†Jeff Teague is a winner. He’s been on a playoff team every year of his career. Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson were part of the perennial playoff Bulls team under Thibodeau in Chicago. Jamal Crawford is a 17 year veteran, and three time 6th Man of the Year. It is clear Thibs wants to change the culture in Minnesota, and he has the right personnel to finally do it.

Many expected this massive roster overhaul a year ago, when the Wolves struggled to start the season. A visibly impatient man, Thibodeau is notoriously known for favoring former players and there were rumors of Andrew Wiggins + Zach Lavine + the 5th pick of the draft for Butler in 2016. Thankfully, he didn’t pull the trigger. Instead he used 2016-2017 as a trial season, getting a feel for what his team was capable of, and his patience has appeared to pay off.

This is what it must feel like to have a relevant basketball team.