All week at Amico Hoops we will look at different draft scenarios for the Minnesota Timberwolves, based on realistic places the Timberwolves can find themselves in. We conclude by unpacking what it would look like for the Timberwolves to trade completely out of the draft.
Tom Thibodeau is a very talented coach; he understands defenses like no other, he knows how to motivate players, and his teams have always succeeded. The talent in Minnesota might be young, but it’s ready to make the leap. If aging owner Glen Taylor and the ultra-competitive Thibodeau decide not to wait around, this team could make a run at the playoffs next season.
If they do so, it’s possible they look to flip assets into a player who can help them now. The organization appears to love Zach LaVine, and he certainly has a strong bond with his teammates. But he had a rough start to his NBA career outside of dunk contests, and only came on late last year. If the Timberwolves think he doesn’t have the upside of a star, they may move him in pursuit of one.
The Trade: The Chicago Bulls, tired of dealing with their disgruntled star, are willing to trade Jimmy Butler. They send Butler to the Wolves in exchange for LaVine, Adreian Payne, the #5 pick in the draft, and a 2017 second rounder.
Butler would slot in beside Wiggins on the wing to form the most terrifying defensive combination in the league. Combined with Ricky Rubio, an All-Defense first-team candidate this past season, and the rim protection and post defense of Karl-Anthony Towns, this team could be a top-five defense in just a couple of years.
Free Agency: Embracing their win-now mentality, the Timberwolves throw a max contract offer at Harrison Barnes, who accepts. He completes the starting lineup in the frontcourt alongside Towns, where his defensive versatility and improved offensive game fit right in.
Thibodeau’s defensive scheme and coaching, combined with the superior defensive talent of the roster, help the Timberwolves become the 6th ranked defense in the league. Their offense rises to 14th, with three players – Wiggins, Towns, and Butler – averaging at least 20 points per game. They make the playoffs as the eighth seed in the West, and push the Golden State Warriors to seven games in a near-upset.
The next season the team improves even more. They win 55 games, good enough for the fourth seed, with the top defense in the NBA and the seventh best offense. Karl-Anthony Towns finishes second in MVP voting to Kawhi Leonard, while Rubio leads the league in assists and Butler, who wins back-to-back defensive player of the year awards, leads the league in steals.
The presence of both Wiggins and Butler as two-way wings means Thibs doesn’t play either too many minutes, and this squad reaches the playoffs fully healthy. After dispatching the Utah Jazz in five, they upset the San Antonio Spurs in the Second Round in a series for the ages. In the Western Conference Finals this young team finally peters out, losing in six to the Warriors on their way to four-straight titles.
The next year, Minnesota lifts the trophy.