As I mentioned in this article, the Timberwolves have a bright future. YouTube commentator AFunkyDiabetic also elaborated well on this subject in this video. It is honestly hard to state how bright the future of the Wolves could be.
We can start with Andrew Wiggins. He is a rising star. He was 8th in minutes played, showing that he is durable. 13th in field goal attempts, 8th in free throws made, and 13th in total points scored. Did I mention that he did that before he was old enough to drink? He averaged over 20 points per game and is developing as an outside shooter to pair well with his Dwyane Wade-style rim charging. A truly deadly combo. Karl Anthony-Towns, now that’s another beast entirely. 8th in field goals made. 10th in offensive rebounds, 6th in defensive rebounds, 4th in total rebounds. 6th in blocks. Shooting a solid 54.2% from the floor (good for 8th in the league). I think the scariest stat was his 22.5 Player Efficiency Rating. As a rookie. Did I mention that he can shoot 3s?
There are 8 players who averaged at least 18 points, 10 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks as a rookie. 5 are currently in the Hall of Fame (David Robinson, Hakeem, Shaq, ‘Zo, Ralph Sampson), one recently retired and is a surefire Hall of Famer (Timmy), one is a 2-time All Star (Elton Brand), and the last one is Karl Anthony Town. Shout out to Mike Korzemba for pointing that out in this video. Towns is also under the tutelage of Kevin Garnett, and Garnett as practically a player-coach will help develop Towns and push him to his absolute best. Towns is already arguably the second best center in the league, behind Boogie. As a rookie.
There’s also Zach Lavine, a Slam Dunk Champion who averaged 14 points per game and shot 39% from downtown while averaging 28 minutes per game and playing in every game last season. At 6’5, he can play either point guard or shooting guard effectively and that versatility will certainly come in handy. Rookie Kris Dunn from Providence will be a lockdown defender in a few years. Veteran 2/3 tweener Brandon Rush shot 41% from 3 last year with the Warriors and this offense will definitely give him some opportunities to shoot from deep. Shabazz was an effective 6th man last year, averaging over 10 points in about 20 minutes per game while appearing in every game. I also like Adreian Payne as a young, 3-point shooting big man to come off the bench.
Here are my suggestions to the Timberwolves so that they can go from successful rebuilding project to NBA champions.
- Trade Ricky Rubio, Gorgui Dieng, and Nikola Pekovic
Ricky Rubio is acceptable as a starter, for now. Dieng isn’t a bad center either. Pekovic is also a very good player. But for an team that wants to focus on youth and athleticism, these three players have more value in trade than they do on the court. I think a trade of Ricky Rubio, Gorgui Dieng, and a first round draft pick to the Bulls for Jimmy Butler would be a solid trade offer. But the Bulls, with their strange rebuilding philosophy, have made this trade untenable. A few trade ideas I think would work, and have tried in this NBA trade machine include:
- Ricky Rubio and the draft pick for the 2017-2018 season for 21-year old, athletic center Jusuf Nurkic and 3-point shooting big Joffrey Lauvergne from the Denver Nuggets, plus the option for the Nuggets to switch first-round draft picks with the Timberwolves in the next draft.
- Nurkic, with his strong jumpshooting ability, would be a better fit for the offense and I think he will do even better next season since he has slimmed down. This would also be good for the Nuggets so they have a better point guard to have ahead of Emmanuel Mudiay so he is not overexerted, plus they can get rid of their log jam at the center position, letting Jokic start and get more minutes. A second unit with either Dunn or Lavine, alongside Shabazz, Adreian Payne, and Joffrey would be very strong.On paper, this trade would add 5 wins to the Nuggets and cause 4 extra losses for the Timberwolves
- Ricky Rubio for young, defensive power forward Nerlens Noel and perimeter shooter Nik Stauskas of the 76ers.
- The 76ers get 2 more wins and the Timberwolves lose 2 more games. This would give the Timberwolves strong inside defense for a decade, along with more perimeter shooting. Plus, Rubio could coach young Spaniard Sergio Rodriguez. On paper, this gives 2 more wins to the Sixers and 2 more losses to the Wolves.
- Dieng for skilled shooter Shabazz Napier and young guard Patrick Connaughton of the Portland Trailblazers.
- Shabazz would get more minutes in Minnesota, plus he’s cheap. Portland needs a young big man. This one isn’t difficult to see. On paper, this gives 4 wins to the Blazers and gives 4 more losses to the Wolves.
- Nikola Pekovic and a 2nd round draft pick in next year’s draft, plus the option for Phoenix to switch first round draft picks in 2018, for Brandon Knight.
- Imagine a second unit with Brandon Knight, Shabazz, and Adreian Payne. Scary, scary. Plus the Suns need a big man and Pekovic can improve their lineup almost immediately and let Devin Booker be their starting guard. And Devin Booker has an excellent game for a 19 year old, to say the least. On paper, this gives 4 more losses to the Suns and has no effect on the Wolves.
- Dieng and a first round draft pick for Markieff Morris of the Washington Wizards.
- A sweet-shooting big man who can stretch the floor and give more options to Towns and Wiggins? Not bad at all. Plus the Wizards need a young big man and Dieng is just that. On paper, this gives 2 more wins to the Wizards and gives 3 more losses to the Wolves.
The point of this is the Wolves have lots of potential trade targets and lots of different deals that would be of huge benefit to their team down the road.
- Play your young players a bit less, just for next season
The Wolves have young stars, yes. But there are two issues with this. One, they risk injuring their players if they keep playing them as much as they do. Players as competitive as Wiggins and Towns playing that many minutes will overexert themselves for wins that won’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Two, the Wolves aren’t there quite yet and should milk that. Next year’s draft looks amazing. The Wolves are projected to have the 5th overall pick and take Florida State 3/4 tweener Jonathan Isaac. 6’10 with a long wingspan and hops, he could potentially fit well with the Wolves current roster. Jayson Tatum out of Duke would also be a good draft choice or possibly German Isaiah Hartenstein, out of the Dirk Nowitzki/Kristaps Porzingis mold. The less that the Wolves play their young stars, the worse they will do and the better positioned they will be for this amazing draft.
- Targeting quality free agents
Luckily for the Wolves, there are two great options who will be available in the near-future for acquisition. The two best options for them, in the short term, are Blake Griffin of the Clippers and Joffrey Lauvergne of the Nuggets. This is obviously assuming that the Wolves don’t trade for Joffrey. Blake Griffin likely wants to leave LA for greener pastures, especially considering his tumultuous relationship with the team’s staff and that Chris Paul is also likely to leave. Playing with the Wolves would give Blake the possibility of winning at the professional level and he would fit in well. An excellent rebounder and underrated passer, he could improve the team tremendously. Joffrey Lauvergne, likely as a backup to either Dieng or Pekovic in this situation, would learn to work within Thibs’ system. Having two big men who can play defense around the rim and stretch the floor would be awesome. And who’s to say the Wolves can’t get both of these players? There’s also Bulls 3/4 tweener Nikola Mirotic who could provide solid shooting off the bench and Kelly Olynyk (best described as a shooting guard awkwardly in a big man’s body). A comprehensive list of all the free agents who will be available after next season is available here.
The best thing that the Wolves could do is wait for Anthony Davis’ contract to end. His contract ends after the 2021 season. The Warriors, despite having arguably the greatest team in NBA history, will eventually get old. By this time, the Wolves will probably be the #2 or #3 team in the West. A developed Kris Dunn, along with a polished Zach Lavine and surefire All-NBA talents in Wiggins and Towns, plus Anthony Davis? The inside defense would be impeccable. They could stretch the floor with ease. Pick and rolls would be unguardable.
- Hold onto your coaching talent and obviously your best players
Get Kevin Garnett to preach to these players that a ring is in their future and they can certainly get it if they stay together. With two players who will be among the top 10 in the league very soon, they will attract top tier talent. But not if Wiggins and Towns squabble like Shaq and Kobe. Or Shaq and Penny. Egos must take a back seat to success. With Wiggins’ notoriously quiet personality and it doesn’t look like the Wolves will have an issue with Towns either. The Bulls were foolish to fire Thibs. He’s a great defensive coach and the Wolves are really lucky to have gotten him. He was recently rated as the best newly hired coach by CBS Sports.
If the Timberwolves do all these things, they will be well-positioned for the Warriors' decline. Once the Warriors began to decline due to age (and it will happen, I promise), the Wolves can rise to the top of the Western conference and will have the opportunity to win multiple NBA titles with a possible lineup of:
Starting at the point guard slot, out of Providence, All-NBA Defensive Second Team member, Kris Dunn!
At the 2 guard, from Kansas, All-NBA Second Team member, the Quiet Assassin, Andew Wiggins!
Small forward from Florida State, 6'10 with hops to boot, Jonathon Isaac!
Power forward, All-NBA First Teamer Anthony Davis
Center, All-NBA First Teamer Karl Anthony-Towns!
Off the bench: Zach Lavine, Shabazz Napier, Shabazz Muhammad, Jusuf Nurkic, Joffrey Lauvergne, Adreian Payne, and Patty C.
Just imagine that team. So much versatility. Lavine could start if the team needs more offense, or Dunn if they need more defense. Isaac could be moved to the 4, or Wiggins could be moved to the 3 and Lavine to the 2. Look out for the Wolves in a few years, y'all.