Opinion

Minnesota’s 3-Step Plan

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After the Minnesota Timberwolves traded for Jimmy Butler last summer, the whole organization went into an excitement frenzy. The prospect of a Jimmy Butler, Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins trio was fascinating. During the same offseason, head coach and President of Basketball Operations Tom Thibodeau signed some vets in Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson and Jamal Crawford. The Wolves were surely a lock for the 2018 playoffs and one of the most talented teams in the entire NBA.

Everything was going very well in the first half of the season despite some growing pains and defensive confusion. The Wolves were the third seed in the west, holding a minimum three-game lead over the San Antonio Spurs and the three stars were firing on all cylinders. Jimmy Butler and Karl Anthony-Towns were scoring 20+ points a game, and Wiggins was close behind at 18.2 ppg before the All-Star break.

After the All-Star break, Jimmy Butler suffered a significant knee injury and was sidelined for a good part of the second half. All of the excitement from before seemed to be escaping all Wolves fans very quickly. It created a visual tension between all of the players. We’ve learned that Butler was upset with Wiggins and Towns’ effort after he returned from the torn meniscus.

Well, as a Wolves fan myself, I’d like to try to fix the tension, fix the contract situations, and fix this broken culture. I’m going to create a 3-step plan for the Timberwolves by looking at free agents, and current team contracts.

Step One: Firing Tom Thibodeau

The first step will be to fire head coach Tom Thibodeau. This is the right thing to do. Though he was a great coach in the “Pre-Three-Point Era”, his system on both sides of the floor is now out of date. The Timberwolves shot the fewest three point shots in the entire NBA last season. Though the Wolves don’t have any guys who would be considered “snipers”, they still have guys who can hit shots. Karl Anthony-Towns shot an elite clip from the three-point line, ending with 42% on the season. Jimmy Butler shot a respectable 36% and 3rd year guard Tyus Jones shot 37% from October to March. It’s a crime not to let those guys fire away, and Thibs was absolutely the culprit last season. Also, I seriously do believe that Coach Thibodeau is the reason for the lack of effort. Practices are intense, and the starters played more minutes than any starting lineup in the NBA. So the players are gassed every game after the first or second quarter, which there is evidence for that. The Wolves blew some leads this year that were honestly, quite pathetic.

Somehow, Mark Jackson is still a color commentator for ESPN, and not a head coach for an NBA team. When he was with Golden State, he was considered to be one of the better coaches in the entire NBA by many. Though he didn’t have an abundance of talent, he had taken them to consecutive playoffs for the first time in over 20 years. He was the coach of guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and forward Draymond Green. He was an instrumental part of those three players’ development over those three years before current head coach Steve Kerr took over in 2014. They shot a lot of three’s, had a creative offense and played a very simple defensive system. Everything there fits what this team wants and needs.

Step Two: Re-Signing Karl Anthony-Towns

Step two is unquestionably re-signing Karl Anthony-Towns. You may say “Cameron, wouldn’t you rather resign Karl first?” Wellr, it is documented, and quite frankly obvious, that Towns does NOT like playing under Drill Sergeant Thibs. I believe he will be more inclined to stay if Thibodeau is gone. Jackson is more of the “one of the guys” type of people, and I see those two meshing very well. Wiggins could blossom under a creative offense, and Jimmy Butler is going to be Jimmy Butler, and if you have to pay that much attention to Butler and Wiggins, Towns will dominate running the baseline and the paint.

Money wise, Towns is still on his rookie deal, so he would be eligible for a five-year, $158 million extension. That would make the cap situation difficult. It would be tough to sign big name, or even decent free agents. Especially when this offseason, Jimmy Butler will be an unrestricted free agent. Though Butler doesn’t like Towns’ effort level, you need to keep Karl if you want Jimmy Butler to stay.
Regardless, Towns’ effectiveness and efficiency on the court is undeniable. He is only 23 years old and he is arguably the second best player in the entire NBA at his position. I say that to say this; he is a priceless commodity for any team.

Step Three: Sign Rodney Hood

Step three is pretty simple, but could be a big deal. Rodney Hood is very misunderstood in this league. He has an uncanny ability to create a shot. He can hit the three, and play defense. The “3 and D” phrase is played out, but Hood fits that mold to a tee. The Wolves need shooting, like I wrote about earlier. Hood can shoot. The Wolves need defense, badly. Hood is a long, athletic defensive player who looks engaged on that end of the floor. He’s a poor mans Klay Thompson, and any team would want that. Coach Jackson could use a guy to come in after Wiggins sits down, and Hood perfectly fits the 6th man role. Sort of like an Iguodala role in Golden State. Wiggins comes off and Hood hits some threes, and plays good perimeter defense with those long arms of his.

Hood isn’t getting much attention from teams around the league, so he could be signed for cheap. Cleveland does still have the chance to match the offer, but he didn’t really get many minutes last season despite his solid play.

Summary

The Wolves could complete all of these moves as we speak. By replacing Thibs with Mark Jackson, the offense is already more creative, the star players will be happier, and they will have some time to rest in games.

Re-signing Towns would light a fire under him to play to the level of the contract, and in turn would make Jimmy Butler less frustrated.

Signing Rodney Hood adds much needed bench depth. You can roll out a lineup of Tyus Jones, rookie guard Josh Okogie, Hood, rookie forward Kieta Bates-Diop or Gorgui Dieng, and then throw “rookie” Justin Patton in at center. That is a very young, fresh legged group of some athletes and some shooters. With this lineup and coaching change, the Wolves could win 50 games and be a top 5 team in the Western Conference.

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