The Complicated Future of the Minnesota Timberwolves

WHAT a difference a week makes in the NBA. With most franchises patiently waiting for training camps to get underway the Minnesota Timberwolves are in a different position. With a 5x All-Star demanding a trade and their 22-year old superstar signing a massive extension things are anything but stable for the T-Wolves. Where do they go from here?

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LET’S start with the biggest talking point in the NBA. Jimmy Butler wants out and apparently, he is refusing to turn up to the team’s media day and training camp. It’s a shame that the Butler-Timberwolves chapter seems set for a messy divorce, but you can understand how things went sour so quickly. Since Butler landed in Minnesota things have been unstable and ever since the rumour surfaced earlier in the week that Butler requested a trade we have heard conflicting reports from key Timberwolves personnel.

HEAD coach and president of basketball operations in Minnesota Tom Thibodeau was reportedly open to the idea of Butler playing out his contract this season. Therefore Thibs wasn’t fielding trade calls from other teams, that was until owner Glen Taylor overruled him. Not only does Taylor want Thibs to listen to potential deals, but he also wants one to go through before the Timberwolves’ first practice on Tuesday. According to The NBA Godfather (Woj), several teams including the Clippers, Rockets, Pistons, Nets, Blazers, Heat and 76ers are testing the waters for a potential trade.

AMID all this drama surrounding their star player, Minnesota swiftly and quietly secured the services of superstar big man Karl-Anthony Towns into the next decade. KAT signed a HUGE five-year, $190 million dollar extension yesterday, putting to bed any rumours over were Minnesota’s allegiance lies. If there was any doubt that they viewed Towns in higher regard than Butler it was put to bed this week, with Minnesota comfortable making KAT the face of their program moving forward.

WITH Jimmy Butler as a sidekick, there wasn’t as much pressure on Towns to deliver on a nightly basis. Now with Butler walking out the door all the blame and praise is coming Towns’ way. Entering his 4th pro season, Towns’ numbers regressed slightly in year three which was to be expected. Minnesota struggled all season to find the right mix as KAT, Butler and Andrew Wiggins clashed while trying to find the teams identity. The third member of this trio is a big reason why the T-Wolves are in this indifferent position after opting to give him a huge extension of his own 12 months prior.

WHILE I can justify paying Karl-Anthony Towns $190 million dollars, the same can’t be said when it comes to paying Andrew Wiggins $148 million dollars for the same duration of time. Wiggins has career averages of basically 20/4/2 and while these stats are fine, you have to wonder if giving him such a huge payday was necessary. Wiggins also regressed a season ago as he fought Butler for shots/minutes on the wing and some (myself included) have doubts over how good he can really be.

A Butler trade comes at a perfect time for Wiggins who hasn’t exactly been a fan of the former Chicago Bull. When news broke out that Butler wanted to be traded, Nick Wiggins, the brother of Andrew who briefly had a stint during training camp with the Wolves in 2015, tweeted out “Hallelujah” before deleting it.

WHILE Butler’s move frees up minutes and shots for Wiggins, it also helps to ease the suddenly mounting salary cap pressure Minnesota faces. In 2019-20 they will pay Wiggins, KAT, Gorgui Dieng and Jeff Teague (if he accepts his $19mil player option) over $80 mil combined. If you were to add Butler’s $20 million on top then all of a sudden they are locked into this core with little flexibility to sign other key players to solve their shortcomings. That might be enough to get you to the playoffs, but it won’t be enough to truly compete in the ferocious West.

IT is worth pointing out that Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins have combined to miss ONE regular season game through seven seasons. Two players with that type of durability are the ones you are meant to give these massive extensions too, I mean it’s not very often two young No. 1 picks are on the same team together. Even though all the drama and ego juggling last season Minnesota somehow managed to break a 13 season playoff drought, with Butler only managing 59 games too.

TimberwolvesImage from sports.yahoo.com

THERE’S no doubt this list has talent and if they find the right mix, the T-Wolves could vault up the standings. Their return for the Jimmy Butler trade will really dictate how their season unfolds, with a package revolving around future draft picks likely leading to a few more L’s in 2018-19. If I was a betting man my guess is Butler will become a Clipper, maybe even by the time you’re reading this article.

DON’T rule out something weird though like Butler landing in Miami or Phoenix (or Cleveland?) given how desperate Glen Taylor wants a deal to get done. A few days ago on my podcast, I talked about Jimmy Butler’s worth and if he can be ‘the guy’ for L.A. or wherever else he lands then we could see an MVP level season from Butler, I think he’s that good. Pairing him with another star (Toronto 👀) would be interesting and might signal the creation of a brand new superteam too.

ONE thing is clear at this point though, that superteam probably won’t be Minnesota as they are now tied to their young duo for the next chapter in their franchise’s history. Will it pay off or blow up in their face? That’s the $338 million dollar question we all want to be answered.

Peace ✌

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