At the end of the NBA season, there were rumblings that Karl-Anthony Towns was not happy with his role in Minnesota or the number of minutes he was being played. Even though I could watch their interaction during the playoffs and see that they weren’t a close unit, I was shocked that Towns was the one being vocal about his unhappiness.
As a fan of his since his year at Kentucky, he had never been known to be a player with problems. Everyone knew that Andrew Wiggins was unhappy, but Towns seemed somewhat content. It appeared as if he was going to make the best of the situation. Him being vocal with the media in the off-season lets me know that things are worse than what many of us thought.
I began to look at what I referred to as the “Minnesota Bulls Experiment” and realized that it has not been working as many had hoped.
Yes, Minnesota made the playoffs last season for the first time in 13 straight seasons. But Houston took care of them in a gentleman’s sweep. No one believed that this Timberwolves team would beat the well-oiled Houston team. So how much did that playoff spot mean if you never even show up?
In the past few days, rumors about Jimmy Butler began to surface. He has long expressed his desire to play with Kyrie Irving. Butler has a player option in 2019 to become a free agent and has expressed to the Wolves that he doesn’t want an extension. Sources report that he’s tired of all of the complaining happening around the organization. And with Kyrie expressing his desire to play in New York and with his upcoming free agency in 2019, it appears that both players could be Knicks by next season.
Should we now all look at the Minnesota and Chicago Bulls trade as a bust?
I know I do.
From the moment Thibs signed Free Agents Taj Gibson and Derrick Rose, and other Bulls fans started calling this team the “TimberBulls” I knew that this experiment was something that Minnesota would soon regret.
During last year’s draft, when Thibs agreed to trade Zach Lavine, Kris Dunn, and their 7th pick in the draft to the Bulls for the rights to Jimmy Butler and the 16th pick, I was skeptical. I couldn’t understand why Thibs would break up his current team, all he needed to do was to add some shooters and veteran pieces.
Just like Golden State, Minnesota had the promise of a young, strong core – Towns, Lavine, and Andrew Wiggins (all the same age) were a trio that was already on everyone’s radar. With his improved shooting, all three were averaging over 20ppg a game at one point. After Lavine tore his ACL mid-season in 2016-2017, their record slipped and they missed the playoffs. That doesn’t mean Thibs should have given up on them, he should’ve added on to it.
If Thibs was smart, he would have drafted sharpshooter Lauri Markkanen and added him to the line-up of Lavine, Towns, and Wiggins. He could’ve picked up a few veteran pieces in free agency like what he did with Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson. Would they have made the playoffs this past season? Maybe not, but they would have been building on something lasting and the chemistry between these players would still have been in tac because they loved playing together.
Why would Thibs pass on Markkanen and trade for a player that is the exact same player as his second-leading scorer? Wiggins and Butler are pretty much the same player, Butler happens to be a veteran. Thibs not only stabbed his star player in the back, but he also stunted his growth. Upon Butler’s arrival Wiggins average went from 23.6 ppg in the 2016-17, season to 17.7 ppg this past season. He appears unhappy on the court, he doesn’t trust his head coach, or the team’s new star player. The addition of Butler hasn’t helped him grow, it’s only caused dissension among the team.
When Thibs added Bull’s fan favorite, Gibson and the struggling ex-MVP, Derrick Rose, it solidified in my mind that he was trying to recreate what he had in Chicago. I can understand a Head Coach wanting that, but a clear-headed President of Basketball Operations would not have made these moves.
Which leads us back to the recent reports floating around the league. In 2019, Jimmy Butler will become a free agent and he will follow Kyrie because this is something they have been discussing since they played together in the 2016 Olympics. And when this happens, where does that leave the Wolves? Back at square one. Yes, they still have Wiggins. Yes, they still have Towns, but they also still have Thibs.
Overall the trade wasn’t worth it. Everyone seems unhappy-from the team to the fans. I’m sure Wolves fans don’t want to only say that they made the playoffs; they want to be competitive.
Thibs is another example as to why Head Coaches shouldn’t be given a dual position. When Minnesota hired Tom Thibodeau as the Head Coach, they should’ve left that as his only title. He should’ve never been given the title of President because it is the decisions that he has made in that capacity that has brought Minnesota to this point. And as much as I like Thibs as a Defensive Coach, he is horrible on the management side.
This upcoming season, we will all see the fruits of last summer’s trade play out. Unless Thibs does something drastic, his locker room will only get worse. And when Butler leaves next summer, if no moves are made, the Timberwolves will be back to struggling with other teams to clinch the 8th seed in the powerhouse West. And if they do make the playoffs, Wolves’ fans should prepare themselves for another painful sweep- gentleman or not.