The first year of the Tom Thibodeau era in Minnesota was an interesting one. The team drafated Kris Dunn to eventually replace Ricky Rubio and Thibs had a team that was led by two young, budding stars in Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. There was some thought that they would actually make the playoffs last season with all the young talent they had. Unfortunately, that thought of them making the playoffs went away pretty fast. While Towns, Wiggins and guard Zach Lavine (before he got hurt) were playing very well, the Timberwolves were not going anywhere fast. The team had some veterans on it, but they were not really contributing at all and the team just could not get going behind the young stars they had. Minnesota would finish last season at 31 wins and 51 losses, which was good enough for 13th in the Western Conference standing. Along with that, Kris Dunn did not perform like the Timberwolves thought he would. Not exactly what Thibs and crew expected in Minnesota and you know Thibs was not going to take that sitting down. So instead of just standing pat and wanting to keep trying to develop more the younger player, Thibs made some decisions about his team and what better decision is there to go get some commodities that he knows personally?
There were many teams in the running to get Jimmy Butler from the Chicago Bulls this offseason. The Bulls said they were not really trying to get rid of Butler, but it surely seemed otherwise with all the things that were being mentioned. After Jimmy said that he wanted to be in Chicago, some thought him being traded was not going to happen, Well, that lasted all of about a few days. The Bulls would end up trading Jimmy Butler, along with the 16th pick in the draft(which turned out to be Creighton big man Justin Patton), to the Timberwolves and his former coach in exchange for Kris Dunn, Zach Lavine and the seventh pick in the draft (which turned out to be Arizona sharpshooting big man Lauri Markkanen). With that trade, the Minnesota Timberwolves acquired a guy that would be able to set the tone for the team on the defensive end on the perimeter. The Timberwolves were not very good defensively last year and although he has the athleticism, Wiggins has not shown to be a very good defender. With Butler added, he can now take the top offensive weapon on the opposing team. Butler adds on the defensive end with an example and toughness, but he also adds to the Timberwolves offensively. The Timberwolves were not one of the clutch teams in the fourth quarter. They just could not close out games and that cost them wins last season. Well, with Butler, the team gets a guy that can help them close out games and was one of the best performers in the clutch in the NBA. That type of addition should give the Timberwolves more punch and help them get in position to make the playoffs next season.
Along with adding Butler to the team, the Timberwolves also added another former Bull that Thibs was familiar with. After having a season that included two teams (the Chicago Bulls and the Oklahoma City Thunder), Taj Gibson was looking for a team to begin the next chapter in his career. Many wondered where he would end up, but in the end, Gibson ended up joining his former coach in Minnesota. The Timberwolves and Gibson agreed to a two-year, $28 million deal to bring the veteran big man to town. Just like Jimmy brings toughness to the perimeter, Taj brings that grit and toughness to the frontcourt. Karl-Anthony Towns benefitted from his rookie season he shared with Kevin Garnett, but he still needs a veteran presence in his ear to help him out. With Taj there, he can not only help mentor not only Towns but the rest of the young bigs in Minnesota on the ways of Thibs while playing with them on the court. Along with his rugged and physical play, Gibson can also hit the midrange jump shot that can help spread the floor some for newly acquired point guard Jeff Teague. His offense is inconsistent but he can definitely be a weapon for the Timberwolves on both ends.
Along with the two former Bulls signing up for the Minnesota experience, the Timberwolves moved on from Ricky Rubio (traded him to the Jazz) to clear the way for them to sign Teague to be their point guard. With the new acquisitions along with the talent this team already had, the Timberwolves look poised and ready to make some noise. Of course the Western Conference will definitely be tough, but the Timberwolves will definitely not be backing down anytime soon. The toughness that Thibs exudes will now be carried out by his former players in Butler and Gibson and this team will hopefully take the next step in their evolution. All the pieces are there now thanks to a great offseason so far and all they have to do is come together on the same page. Nothing is guaranteed but the Timberwolves are projecting upward in the Western Conference.