I’m about as far from a journalist as possible. I’m a Wolves fan. Periodically, I enjoy writing about the Wolves. I like to throw stats into my pieces and I like to drop links. Its still just a glorified fan-post on my own site. With that in mind here are my current thoughts on the coming season…
Things constantly change yet so much still feels the same is just an annoying thing to hear or say. What’s different with the Wolves materially going into 2019-20? A few tweaks on the roster to a playoff team. The core is intact. What’s the outlook? More Timberwolves than ever before.
The roster changes are minor. Cole is out, Bjelly is out, J-Cross is out, MGH (is probably gone but I’ve seen this reported two ways), Brown, Brooks, and Shabazz (already gone last year). The ins are Keita Bates-Diop, Josh Okogie, Anthony Tolliver, and Jared Terrell (on a two-way).
I am honestly excited about Keita. I don’t think he’s a star but I think he’s a legit NBA player and getting him in the second round is great. Okogie needs to hit as well otherwise there is legit no wing depth.
The basketball stuff aside this roster is tenuous at best right now. You have one guy in Wiggins locked up on a max deal and the way FA has played out this year and last he wasn’t getting that sort of offer on the open market. Wiggins play hasn’t been max-contract level. Wiggins is still on a max deal so there is that for the Wolves. Then the Wolves moved Zach Lavine for Jimmy. At the time in a vacuum it seemed like a solid play. Jimmy loves Thibs, Thibs coaches the Wolves, Jimmy is an upgrade to Zach, the Wolves should be better. The Wolves made the playoffs so that was better. Making the playoffs is one thing, winning a championship is another. The NBA is in this odd world of super-teams right now. Payrolls are large enough that three max or near max guys can land on the same team. The Wolves are an example of a team with three max or near max guys in Wiggins, Jimmy and Karl. If we are able to retain all three we’ll have three max guys. The remaining roster will be rookie deals, anyone left before the max deals were gifted and minor signings. That core of max guys maxes out in the second round at best unless Karl and Wiggins show major growth. At the root the Wolves “super” team has a shelf-life and a ceiling short of a championship. Karl needs to be resigned this summer or he’s a RFA next summer (which is fine) and Jimmy needs to be resigned (won’t happen) or he’s a FA next summer. This coming year is the last year of this run. Unless there are a lot of injuries in Golden State and Houston the Wolves aren’t anywhere near the top team in the west or the NBA in the coming year. There is still time for Karl and Wiggins to grow but that is in 2-4 years. Wiggins seems to have a ceiling of microwave scorer that has to be a 3rd options at best on a winning team and honestly his player type doesn’t tend to end up on title teams. I’m open to suggestions or comparisons but I’m not seeing it right now. Karl might evolve into a true unicorn and push the Wolves single-handedly into greatness. Right now the vibe seems to be that he isn’t putting in the work to get that done.
All of that is too basketball for how I feel right now. The NBA is in a cycle. The Golden State Warriors (GSW) are good, fair or not they are good. They are going to be good for at least one more year and essentially as long as they can keep this core together. The bargain basement deals they got their stars on has been covered extensively. The bottom line is GSW is so far and ahead better than most teams that you need to set your horizon-line relative to theirs’. Trading Zach for Jimmy might not have been a win-now move. It might have been a culture-defining move to get some guys in the locker-room that could motivate the younger dudes to perform. Jimmy was on a two-year contract and was a wasting asset. The Wolves acquired him with 2-years left on his deal and at the time of the trade they should have known they would be able to offer him an extension that would be below the market-value the following summer. Jimmy could sign for $110 million or wait till next summer and sign for something reportedly closer to $190 million. Jimmy has already signed one deal for $90 million, meaning he is generationally wealthy. That’s money most of us will never understand. While walking from $110 million feels insane on the surface what’s the worst case scenario for him? He gets injured again and is only able to sign for $20 million next summer? I mean he’s already made a boat-load of cash. The Wolves either feel real good about him resigning with them as a FA or they need to move him for whatever they can get. That is crazy to say. They aren’t winning this next year unless GSW falls apart at the seams. That’s possible, but then we still aren’t better than Houston, Boston and probably four or five other teams. The Wolves don’t shoot threes. Wiggins and Butler aren’t outside shooters, that’s just not part of their profile. Thibs isn’t a coach that creates outside shots via his offense either. If Wiggins and Jimmy had clean looks maybe. The way that 3-pointers are currently valued in the NBA the Wolves system starts behind the eight-ball.
Now, we have four things going against us this coming year.
- Wiggins deal isn’t great
- GSW are better than us
- Jimmy is in a walk-year
- We don’t play the modern game
Let’s add these three points as well.
- Can Thibs still coach
- Thibs appears to not be able to handle POBO and coach roles
- We don’t have a modern 4
Where does that put a Wolves fan? This roster should be pushing for one of the bottom 4 playoff spots. If we are healthy all year maybe even higher. Regular season basketball is a different beast than the playoffs and we can scrap past a lot of teams in the regular season trading 2-pointers for missed 3-pointers or so it seemed last year. We aren’t currently set-up to contend in the playoffs without major improvements from KAT/Wiggins. Butler is in a walk-year. Taj isn’t a legit modern 4. Towns needs to sign his max extension. Wiggins needs to improve a lot to be worth his max deal. Thibs might not be able to transition the team into the modern game. The roster isn’t flexible once Kat signs because we’ll have Wiggins and Dieng on big deals paired with Teague and Butler having player options. There just isn’t a lot the Wolves can plan to do next summer with the current roster. This hasn’t even broached the current roster construction as not really meshing well.
What do we do? Blow it up doesn’t seem to be a legit option. You’d take 30-cents on the dollar for Wiggins. You probably won’t get even value for Butler. Teague and Dieng might not actually be tradeable. Taj doesn’t bring anything back worth having till closer to the deadline.
Right now I think you package Butler for an outside shooter you aren’t going to get Gordon Hayward but that should be the type of player you shoot to get. Think about it Hayward just by being on the roster stretches the floor for the Wolves even if Thibs doesn’t want too. It creates space for Wiggins and KAT. Hayward is in year 2 of a 4 year deal. Hayward for Butler doesn’t work straight up. You’d have to pay someone like Sacramento to take Dieng. (SEE TRADE HERE) There is no real good reason I can come up with that Sacramento would do this unless someone is giving them picks. It’d probably have to be the Wolves but maybe it makes sense for Boston. I mean this would give Boston a team that would easily be the best in the East but they are probably already the best in the East and they wouldn’t have to worry about resigning Kyrie and Butler. Like I said this is the type of deal the Wolves should look at, moving Butler for an outside shooter.
Then we have to hope that Thibs magically becomes the right coach. Then we have to draft a 4 next year unless they trade Jimmy for a 4 but who? K-Love is name that’ll get hyped but he’s in a walk-year too. K-Love doesn’t work with Wiggins and KAT one or the other.
Going into this season I think the Wolves max output is 3-seed and bounced in the conference finals. The realistic output is fighting for the final playoff spot. The season is still a few weeks out. I think the drafted pieces get actually more interesting if we flip Jimmy for a new asset or set of assets.