If there is one team that improved their roster considerably during the offseason, those are the Minnesota Timberwolves. The team led by Tom Thibodeau made several roster moves that will position them as one of the contenders in the Western Conference as soon as next season. And in fact, they are on the verge of becoming a contender for years to come.
Minnesota ended last season with a 31-51 record, but Thibodeau knew he needed to improve on that mark. With that in mind, the Timberwolves behaved aggressively in the market as soon as the season ended. And with that in mind, they acquired Jimmy Butler from the Chicago Bulls. Minny had to part ways with Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn, and Zach LaVine, though. But everybody knows Minnesota won the trade. In fact, several experts believe the T’Wolves robbed Chicago.
However, the Timberwolves did more than acquiring Butler. They shipped Ricky Rubio to the Utah Jazz in exchange for a future first-round pick as well. The losses of Rubio and Dunn will hurt their depth. However, the Timberwolves found a new starting point guard in Jeff Teague. The former Atlanta Hawks star signed a three-year, $57 million to join the franchise.
Those two moves should improve Minnesota considerably. They know have a legit “Big Three” with Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Andrew Wiggins. But more importantly, now Minnesota will be an improved team on both ends of the court. Having Wiggins and Towns assured them the ability to score, but Butler’s presence will make them tougher defensively. And if we add Thibodeau’s defensive tendencies, then Minny will be a very tough team to beat.
No one knows how high they will end in the West, though. At least on paper, Minnesota seems to be behind the Warriors, the Rockets, the Spurs and the Thunder. But they should be good enough to claim a playoff seed between the fifth and eighth spot. Although competition for those spots will be hard. The Clippers, the Jazz, the Trail Blazers and the Nuggets will make things difficult for them.
Baby steps, though. Making the playoffs alone would be a massive improvement. After all, the Timberwolves have not reached the postseason since 2004. That drought is the longest in the league, but it should end in 2018. That’s their floor, and their ceiling is extremely high. Towns, Butler, and Wiggins are good enough to turn quite a few heads in a loaded Western Conference.
They might not battle Houston, Golden State or San Antonio for the Conference title. Heck, they might not even make it past the first round. But the Timberwolves have become a much better team over the last two months. And there is no doubt they will be very, very good this next season. And the years beyond as well.