The Minnesota Timberwolves have a new man in charge in Tom Thibodeau. After taking a year off following his unceremonious exit from Chicago, Thibs took over as president and head coach of the young Wolves, and this summer marked his first opportunity to run the show. While Minnesota didn’t do anything drastic, the addition of Kris Dunn and some depth has the team in position to take a big step forward behind its talented young core.
1. Best move of offseason
Jake Weiner: Is there even any room for debate? Snatching up Tom Thibodeau to be their new head coach and president of basketball operations was a no-brainer for Minnesota. The Wolves filled an obvious need with the best free-agent coach on the market by a long shot. Giving Thibodeau control of the front office was a risky but necessary decision that we can’t fully judge yet. Regardless, that was the risk Minnesota needed to take to grow its promising roster into a legitimate contender.
Kelly Scaletta: Hiring Tom Thibodeau. My first inclination was that he was going to destroy the careers of everyone involved and try to bring over his old Chicago Bulls buddies. None of that happened. Instead, he seems dedicated to the developing of his young core. And the more you look at them individually, the more you see how much potential there is. The Rubio-LaVine-Wiggins-Dieng-Towns lineup was the fourth-best offensive unit in the league last year with 250 minutes. And now Thibs will be developing their defense. Scary.
Jason Patt: I have no idea if Tom Thibodeau will prove to be a good president, but we know he’s an excellent coach and developer of talent, so giving him this dual role is a worthwhile risk. There are concerns about him overworking some of the best players on the team and perhaps sacrificing long-term goals for wins in the present, but hopefully he’s learned from some of his mistakes in Chicago. If things go right, he’ll turn this young team into a juggernaut in no time.
2. Worst move of offseason
Jake: Signing Jordan Hill for two years, $8 million. While the contract terms are hardly crippling, Hill just isn’t a particularly effective player. In an overall sound offseason for the Wolves, that’s enough for me. He doesn’t score efficiently on offense, as more of a volume player. And defensively, Hill just can’t cut it. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Thibodeau leave him on the bench most nights. We’ll find out if Thibs will stubbornly play his new guys because he signed them, or be more like Doc Rivers, who loves talking up a new bench signing and then gets sick of the guy three weeks into the season.
Kelly: I got nothing. They didn’t really do much more than have a good draft and add some depth, though. So it’s hard to think of anything damaging they did.
Jason: It’s hard to come up with anything here in terms of player personnel moves. The biggest contract went to Cole Aldrich, and that was only three years, $22 million. You can argue that the changeover from the old regime to Thibodeau’s wasn’t the smoothest, as there was quite the front-office bloodletting, but sometimes that’s just business.
3. Offseason grade
Jake: A-. The addition of Thibodeau is enough to clinch Minnesota a strong grade. Thibodeau’s restraint from signing a big contract during this summer’s circus was also a positive decision, as many of this year’s deals will not age well moving forward. Cole Aldrich was a nice value signing, while Kris Dunn looks like a legitimately awesome pick at No. 5. The only thing holding back Minny from a full-blown A is the lack of an exciting free-agency deal. Finding a way to leverage cap space in the next year or two for more talent now without sacrificing the future would’ve been ideal.
Kelly: B+. A lot of what they had was already in place. The pieces are there for the most part. Drafting Dunn gives them the final piece and Thibodeau is the man to put all those pieces together and get them clicking. But they don’t get an A because so much of the work was already done.
Jason: B+. Hiring Thibodeau was a no-brainer. As was drafting Kris Dunn when he dropped to No. 5, even with Ricky Rubio on board. And while not much was done in free agency, it was good to see Thibodeau not make any panic deals in terms of huge contracts or trades.
4. Early prediction for 2016-17
Jake: Fringe playoff/lottery team. Coach Thibs should oversee a big improvement from Minnesota’s young roster, but they still have a long way to go from last season. Thibodeau can’t instill his defensive principles overnight, and the team still sorely lacks outside shooting to stretch the floor. Still, there is enough talent that Minnesota should compete for a solid number of wins. I’d bet on them being edged out of the playoff race, but they certainly have a crack at a lower seed.
Kelly: 50 wins and the No. 4 or 5 seed. I know this seems high, but I have a lot of confidence in Thibodeau’s coaching through a regular season. He coached less-talented teams to 50 wins or close to it in Chicago. And sure, that was in the weaker Eastern Conference, but the West isn’t as strong as it once was either. And again, this is a more talented team. In fact, in terms of sheer talent, they could be the best team this side of Golden State.
Jason: It’s impossible to think the Wolves won’t improve, but I think they’re still one more year away from taking a truly significant leap to Western Conference contender. They should be able to push for 40ish wins before falling just short of the playoffs. But I see big things for them in 2017-18 assuming good health for the top guys.