The Wolves have repositioned themselves from a team on the rise to a team that has risen. The dramatic draft night trade for Jimmy Butler to moving Ricky Rubio and adding Teague and Taj Gibson are all indications that the Wolves are making a serious run for the playoffs. Tom Thibodeau has made it clear that in order for the Wolves to win, they need tough-minded, defensive veterans around the young nucleus of Towns and Wiggins.
I didn’t want to write anything out of emotion. Draft night was crazy. It was surreal. I couldn’t believe it happened. I joked that I wouldn’t believe anyone said about Jimmy Butler trades unless it came from Doogie Wolfson on twitter. But it happened. The Wolves landed Jimmy Butler and the draft rights to Justin Patton for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and the rights to Lauri Markkanen.
The Wolves essentially created a future super team by adding a top-15 NBA player and one of the best two-way players in the league in Jimmy Butler. Getting the 16th pick in the deal was laughable as well. The Wolves moved back 9 spots in the draft with Jimmy Butler for Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine. It is mind blowing.
All of that said, it still hurts 24 hours later to see Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn leave. LaVine was a class act and was nothing but a hard worker while here. Dunn had a series of tweets on how he was begin to love Minnesota. It is a reminder that, as romantic of a game that basketball is, it is a business. Just start watching the jersey sponsorships over the next few years roll in. We will be constantly reminded that basketball is a business.
This trade happened for a few reasons. The Wolves need to win now and it makes complete sense that they have wanted Butler for a while. But I think deep down, the Wolves wanted Jonathon Isaac. Once it was certain that Isaac was going to be taken 6th, I think the Wolves felt more comfortable making the trade and there was a huge drop off from pick 6 to pick 7. There is also some concern about LaVine coming off an ACL tear. A red flag should go up when a player that relies on their athleticism tears an ACL. It’s not that it’s over, LaVine is still young. But it is certainly risky. Lastly, Kris Dunn still has the word ‘potential’ attached to him. Being that he was drafted as a senior and was advertised as ‘ready to play’, this second season means so much more for him and if he still does have potential. I’m still very high on LaVine and Dunn because both have floor skill sets that will be valuable no matter what happens. LaVine can shoot and Dunn can defend. But both were high-risk assets coming into this next year that the Wolves may have sold at the right time.
What has been overlooked is the cap situation the Wolves pulled themselves out of. The new CBA rule allows for teams to offer max contracts to two players on their rookie scale contract. Both Wiggins and LaVine were up for these extensions and both deserve the max. The Wolves obviously need to save one of these max extensions for KAT. On paper, it would be easy to tell LaVine that he isn’t getting the max because of his injury and he isn’t even Robin in the trio of Wiggins, KAT and himself. LaVine could have potentially declined whatever extension offer the Wolves had for him and opted for free agency this summer. That means, there was the possibility that the Wolves could’ve lost LaVine for nothing.
Now bring in Jimmy Butler’s contract. He is under contract for another two seasons with a player option for a 3rd, which he will likely opt out of for a contract he deserves. He will be 30 years old at that time, which means he is under contract for less than $20M a year during his best playing years. To put this into further perspective, Allen Crabbe is making $1M more a year than Butler over the next two seasons. So salary cap wise, this deal was absolutely genius.
Overall, I commend Tom Thibodeau. He spent the last year assessing his roster and didn’t make any crazy moves so that the Wolves could have the flexibility to make a trade like last night’s. It is clear he understands the value of the players on his roster and ultimately, adding an All-NBA player alongside Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins is a risk that needed to be taken. The real issue was the culture here in Minnesota. The culture needs to change. Butler is going to help build a winning culture around the young players and help them truly understand how to play team defense. If there is one area that the Wolves are going to be happy Jimmy Butler is here for on the court, it is on the defensive end.
What can’t be overlooked though is team chemistry. How is Jimmy Butler going to rally the troops? Wiggins and Towns have looked like numbers chasers on the court this season, which has ultimately made winning not look like a priority. There have been times where Thibs has tried to play Wiggins in the point-forward position but it never seemed natural for him to make good playmaking decisions. Butler will be able to help out in that sense but then you have to wonder, what will Wiggins’ role be in the offense now? Will Butler be more of a facilitator on the floor?
The Wolves now have three legitimate 20 point per game scorers on their roster. While I used to be of the philosophy that there is only one ball on the court at the time, the only way the Wolves flourish is tbrough truly unselfish basketball. The Wolves played a lot of ISO-ball last season and that will need to stop. Outside of the Warriors having four All-Stars, the reason they dominated the league is that they let opponents pick their poison and just moved the ball. I’m not sold Thibodeau has the offensive-genius the Warriors have, but they certainly can start watching a ton of tape.
The thing I am most looking forward to in the court is a Jimmy Butler and KAT pick and roll/ pop game. One thing Wiggins and LaVine were unable to do last year is involve KAT in pick situations. Butler has the shot and playmaking ability to involve KAT heavily in the pick & roll.
It will be interesting to see what position Wiggins plays. He seems more comfortable playing shooting guard through his career. Jimmy Butler can guard anything from the 2-4. If Wiggins can guard the weaker offensive threat between the 2 and 3, he will be able to take full advantage of smaller shooting guards on the offensive end. While small ball has become the new trend in the NBA, the Wolves could take advantage with their length and potential ability to defend the perimeter.
The next question I have is, what happens to Ricky Rubio? He has all the offensive weapons in the world now at his finger tips. He turned the corner at the end of last year. Does Thibs have Rubio in his future plans? Rubio might play great with the new big 3, but would make most sense is adding a 3 and D point guard. I imagine Patty Mills or Patrick Beverly being potential fits. I also think George Hill could be a potential target. This would mean Rubio’s value would lower as teams know we are backed up at point guard.
The final question is, what position will Towns play? Do the Wolves continue to play Dieng and Towns together? I do think Towns is better playing the 5 with the Wolves bringing in a stretch-4 to help offset the lack of shooting. Heck, I wonder if Bjelica might be better off starting. I think the Wolves could have a good hard look at CJ Miles and Patrick Patterson this summer. Neither are starting caliber forwards, but could offer some lineup flexibility throughout the game in stretches where the Wolves need shooting.
This move will certainly have a domino effect though. The Wolves will likely need to add another piece if they are now serious about competing. Where they end up in the West is still yet to be determined. The Clippers, Jazz and Rockets could look very different next season. I will enjoy this trade for now though, regardless where the Wolves end up next season. It is the first time in a while we were on the winning end of a trade. It is probably the biggest move since the Wolves acquired Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell.
It is certainly a new era of Wolves basketball.
P.S. I am holding off on Justin Patton talks. I was praying for OG Anunoby. Patton will certainly be a project and my expectations are low this season. He is an energetic player which should be helpful off the bench. I thought a fence-swing was more appropriate at 16 with Anunoby, but you can’t win them all.
P.S.S. I updated some more thoughts and wanted to add this comic because it’s hilarious
For those following this blog, you know the draft is my favorite day of the season. Not always by choice, but it is the only thing for the last 12 seasons the Wolves have been at the top of.
The Wolves find themselves in the middle of the draft lottery at pick 7. This is typically an indication of an inflection point in the Wolves rebuild. They usually only go up or down from here. The last inflection point was 2013 when the Wolves pick 9th. They were seemingly on their way on the upwards swing after landing the 13th pick in the 2014 draft. Of course, the Kevin Love drama led to a reset.
So the Wolves are in a position to truly improve their team. The 7th pick is really, really valuable in this draft. The caveat though is, the pick will likely require patience. Every player that is projected in the top 10 is a Freshmen. Every single one. Some of them can have an impact immediately, but none are going to completely change the fortunes of the team that drafts them as of this upcoming season.
With these expectations set, you also have to take into account the goals for the Wolves in the 17-18 season. The Wolves are absolutely looking to make the playoffs. Whoever the Wolves draft tonight might not push the Wolves over the hump this season, but equips them for the years afterwards, which are equally important. The Wolves also have the option to move the 7th pick to really bulk up their lineup with a veteran. Because the Wolves have so many assets and the 7th pick, they could be positioned to be involved in a Blockbuster deal tonight.
So diving into what is available today. There are two players that have been floating that the Wolves should absolutely pursue. Kristaps Porzingis and Jimmy Butler. The only thing that is untouchable would be Towns in both deals. But I have to believe the Wolves will be trying to construct something around the 7th pick, Zach LaVine, Ricky Rubio, and/ or Gorgui Dieng. Many might disagree here, but this has to be the top option for the Wolves. The draft this year is set up in that the picks are extremely valuable.
Now, without the pipe dream, the most likely scenario is the Wolves will take the pick at 7 and add them to the roster. From the sounds before the draft, the top 5 picks seem pretty solid. Fultz, Ball, Taytum, Jackson, and Fox should be gone. The Orlando Magic will ultimately decide the Wolves’ fate tonight. Had they not just got a new GM, I would feel more comfortable with them making the wrong decision. My biggest fear going into tonight is that the Magic take Jonathan Isaac at 6. It doesn’t make a ton of sense for them, being that Aaron Gordon is their franchise cornerstone, but he certainly will be the best player available.
Jonathan Isaac is easily my favorite player in this draft and for the Wolves. If the Wolves leave this draft with Isaac, I will be the happiest person on the planet. Unfortunately, he didn’t work out for the Wolves. Being that the most realistic scenario tonight is that the Wolves take a pick and keep it, the best case scenario tonight is drafting Jonathan Isaac at 7. There has been concerns about his response to a question around if he does drugs when asked by the Celtics. Celtics and Thibs should have a decent relationship, so the Wolves should know what they need if they take him. With the Magic potentially taking Isaac and the fact that he didn’t work out for the Wolves, my hopes are low and I am trying to think of a consolation.
My consolation on the day of the draft is Malik Monk. A smaller version of Zach LaVine. I typically don’t like taking scorers in the draft. Scoring is not a great skill that translates well in the NBA. Monk, however, can shoot the lights out too. Monk probably has the biggest range of floor and ceiling going into the draft. If Monk could defend, he would easily be a top 3 pick in this draft. He could be the next Rashad McCants or the next Jamal Crawford. There have been some stretch, great shooter comparisons done to Malik Monk. Like Steph Curry and Ray Allen. I think that is wrong. But I see Monk as the 1b pick for the Wolves. Luckily, Isaac and/ or Monk will be available at pick 7.
Dennis Smith Jr is also an intriguing prospect and has the most potential as ‘the guy I can’t believe everyone passed on’. He is extremely athletic and did everything on the court. He seemingly can be compared to Westbrook with his style of play. My issue though is not with Smith, it is more so that I like Dunn and Rubio too much. I still think Dunn is going to be a good starter in the league and also believe Rubio is the point guard this team needs right now to make the playoffs.
Then there was Lauri Markkanen. The best shooter in the draft apparently. Listen, I am sure he can shoot. I just don’t think he will be able to do anything else. Also, a red flag always goes up when a player gets compared to Dirk. A rule of thumb for me is avoid those guys. They never come close. If the Wolves take Lauri at 7, that would be the worst case scenario for the Wolves. If the Wolves trade down and get Lauri, I might be able to sleep at night. Unfortunately, Markkanen is getting attached to the Wolves a ton. There are also rumblings that the Mavs absolutely love him too.
I also like a couple of guys in the later lottery in Zach Collins and OG Anunoby. It could be interesting if the Wolves could potentially move down to grab one of these two. I would not be opposed to having one of these guys if the Wolves don’t get Isaac. I personally like Collins and Anunoby over Markkanen.
The underrated part of the draft is that trades are being made, and not only for picks. There are a few players that could be available for trade that the Wolves could really use. The two players I hope get linked to the Wolves would be Danny Green and Ryan Anderson. Danny Green is a great 3 and D guy the Wolves could desperately use, along with his veteran presence. Ryan Anderson is a crazy shooter who could really spread the floor for the Wolves and could play the Mirotic role for Thibs’ offense.
The Wolves don’t have a 2nd rounder but there has been rumors that they are interested in purchasing one. There are a ton of solid players that could drop into the 2nd round of this draft. I like sleepers like Sterling Brown and George de Paula. Brown is a great 3 and D prospect that could develop into a good role player. I also have been following de Paula since the 2015 draft, mainly because of his physical tools. He has bigger hands than Kawhi Leonard and has incredible length for a point guard. He would be one of the biggest point guards in recent history. He reminds me of Giannis at point guard. Being that it is a 2nd rounder, I have no problems taking a project. I pray Thibs is reading this and takes George de Paula.
Caleb Swanigan, Ivan Rabb, Josh Hart, and DJ Wilson are guys I like if they drop into the 2nd round. Would keep an eye on them.
Thats all for now. Can’t wait for tonight!
Jonathan Isaac. That is the goal.
The Wolves will reveal their new logo in tonight’s game against the OKC Thunder. There have been some remakes of the logo through hearsay but this one appeared through advertisements on the Star Tribune Website.
It pays tribute to all of the previous Wolves logos. This new logo includes lime green, which will add a new twist to the jerseys.
The draft is always my favorite time of the year. With the Wolves making a push towards the playoffs, it does mean they risk not having a great pick in this draft. A later lottery pick though could be just what the Wolves need going into next season.
The 2017 draft is stacked at point guard. There will be a ton of guard prospects to choose from which will not be great for the Wolves. The Wolves certainly could use a backup/ spot-starter at the two-guard next season but that can be addressed in free agency. I don’t think Brandon Rush is necessarily the answer there.
This draft will have some stretch forwards that could be the long-term partner up front with Karl-Anthony Towns, or just another player to fill out the bench. As the tournament gets started, here are the players I love for the Timberwolves.
Miles Bridges (Michigan State)
The Freshmen reminds me of a Detroit Piston from the 90s. He is incredibly athletic, physical and smart. He has a sweet 3-point stroke and is solid defensively in the pick-n-roll. I don’t know if there is a player I like better than Bridges right now for the Wolves. He is slotted as a late-lottery pick but I can see his stock going up after the NCAA Tournament and through workouts. He has some questionable decision making but I think it is a result of inexperience. He is always a factor when he is on the floor which you don’t always see from freshmen in college basketball. His physical abilities (strength and just athleticism) coupled with his 3-and-D potential makes me feel like he has the ability to be the perfect complement to KAT in the long run. I can’t imagine what he will be like when he becomes 24.
Jayson Tatum (Duke)
It is hard to get a feel for where Tatum ends up but he is worth keeping an eye on. He is also a combo forward but I don’t think he would match up well against bigger power forwards in the NBA quite yet, defensively at least. He started the season off slow but has picked it up quite nice. He has a ton of ‘potential’ as a franchise cornerstone, so there is a good chance he gets taken far before the Wolves pick. It will be good to keep an eye on him though as he is essentially the best forward prospect in the draft.
Jonathan Isaac (Florida St.)
Isaac has probably the best defensive potential in the draft. He is super long and when his body fills out, he will be able to guard both of the forward positions in the NBA. He is a good rebounder, a pretty good perimeter defender and can block shots. He is still working on his 3-pointer, which is a point of concern for me. He also plays a much lesser of a role on his team now than the previous two prospects mentioned. Not a huge concern because Zach LaVine came in with many of the same issues. Isaac will be more of a project though.
Don’t like, but worth watching
- Lauri Markkanen: Lauri is a 7-footer who can shoot and defend. I am not quite sold on him quite yet mainly because I don’t see him fitting well next to KAT, not that he isn’t a good prospect. He also feels like a project like Dragan Bender. With the Wolves committed to Gorgui Dieng now in the long-term, Markkanen feels like he would be more of a redundant asset where the three guys above offer a different flavor in their game than Dieng. Lauri is still worth watching with Arizona because he will be in picking range for the Wolves and his stock could rise in the tournament.
Long Shots (Not in the tournament/ not playing)
- OG Anunoby: OG suffered a season ending injury but screams potential. If the Wolves end up with a much later pick through a trade in the late 1st or early 2nd round, OG might be a guy that can fit well with what Thibs likes. He is a great defender. I would be scared to think what Dunn and OG could be together in the future potentially.
- Ivan Rabb: Rabb is a Sophomore who’s Cal team didn’t make the tournament. He would’ve been a lottery pick last season but was committed to helping Cal win this season. He is going to now looking like a late-1st rounder because he seems like a traditional 4. He is a solid post defender and a good rebounder. His offense is limited but looks like a solid role player.
The Timberwolves just signed Lance Stephenson to a 10-day contract. We probably shouldn’t read into it too much. Much is contingent upon his performance in these next 10 days. Yogi Ferrell just earned a two-year contract in his first 10 days with the Mavericks. Lance has bounced around the league a bit and is looking for a home. With the Zach LaVine injury happening, Lance might have a role carved out for him here for the rest of the season.
I love the signing though. For many reasons. Here is why.
Lance Stephenson can replace the shots Zach LaVine had.
Zach LaVine going down for the season is a big blow for the Timberwolves. Lance Stephenson is the closest thing to replacing the number of shot attempts LaVine had in the offense. The Wolves are very limited in their offense outside of their big 3. Lance at one point was averaging over 11 shots a game. It is difficult to find a player that can feel comfortable to replace LaVine’s over 15 shots a game this season. Shabazz and Bjelica are expected to have greater roles as the season progresses, but they need someone who isn’t shy to take some shots.
Lance plays defense.
Lance’s claim to fame was his ability to get into the head and play defense against LeBron James in the playoffs. Lance has a lot of talent, especially defensively. He never backs down from his competition, something the Wolves struggle with. Tom Thibodeau will certainly not be caught yelling at Lance ‘Stop being soft!’. So him coming in for a short tour or for the remainder of the season could be just for his toughness and defensive ability.
Lance is going to come in and play for something.
If there is one thing that the Wolves have struggled with this season is that they often look comfortable. They seem content with the way things have played out. They have patience. Lance Stephenson will not have that mentality. Lance is coming in for a roster spot. He will look to steal minutes and shots from other players. Sometimes this competition is necessary. With the amount of young players the Wolves have, many haven’t had to fight for shots or minutes. Lance will help change that attitude, even if just a little bit. In his previous non-guaranteed contracts, he has always taken an active role. He played great for Memphis late last season. I think he could play a similar role with the Wolves.
Lance is a veteran.
Lance has amazing experience in his career. Lance has played meaningful minutes in meaningful games. He has spent time now with a few teams around the league in different roles. He will serve as a reality check to the young players who have been given a lot on a silver platter this season. The Wolves faithful has been yearning for a veteran presence in the locker room. We finally got it.
Lance has the perfect personality to shake things up.
Lance is a dog. If he is here only 10 days, he will be the most annoying player in practice. The Wolves need a shake up if the playoffs are truly still a possibility. Why not take a chance on Lance? Many were interested in him last summer.
The Timber Rebuilder.