Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau didn’t know what his future would hold when, during his one season out of the NBA, he included the Utah Jazz as one of his many visits.
Turns out he got a good look at a team that is following a very similar path as the Wolves are now.
Think of NBA teams with good, young talent and the Jazz — Minnesota’s opponent Monday at Target Center — and the Wolves come to mind. The Jazz has players such as Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert, Rodney Hood and Dante Exum. The Wolves have Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns and Zach LaVine.
“They built it with some good young players, they built a foundation around defense,’’ Thibodeau said.
The Jazz is a bit further down the road. Towns, Wiggins and LaVine are 21. Hayward is 26, Favors 25, Gobert and Hood 24.
Jazz coach Quin Snyder, in his third season as a head coach, won 38 games two years ago, 40 last season. He knows the challenges Thibodeau is facing right now.
“Any time you have young players, it’s a process,” Snyder said. “That’s the nature of youth. But it’s a privilege for those guys to play for [Thibodeau]. He’s a teacher.’’
But, with youth, it takes time. In Utah, the addition of veterans like George Hill and Joe Johnson have helped give the Jazz roster balance.
“We try to be our own identity, our own team, but they’re young and talented like we are,’’ LaVine said.
“But we have to go out and prove we’re one of the better up-and-coming teams.’’
LaVine had one of the most impressive dunks of the year Friday night in Phoeniz when he slammed over Suns big man Alex Len. Then, a night later, Wiggins made the highlight reel by dunking over Golden State center JaVale McGee.
So which dunk was better?
“Mine was pretty nasty, but Andrew’s was pretty crazy, too,” LaVine said.
Said Wiggins: “I’m going to give him this one. Because he kind of just glided, and he got hit and then he cocked it back.’’
Neither player said there was any kind of competition in the area. In terms of volume, Towns entered Monday’s game with a team-leading 14 dunks. LaVine had 13, Gorgui Dieng and Wiggins 12. But LaVine is more likely to go for the glitzy dunk given the chance. Wiggins is less likely to do so.
“He be chilling man, I don’t know why,’’ LaVine said. “I get a breakaway I’ll show you what I can do. He might just lay it in. But two points is two points.’’
• For the first time since 2013 the Wolves will face a Jazz team without guard Trey Burke. The Wolves took Burke with the ninth pick, then traded him to the Jazz for the rights to Shabazz Muhammad (14th pick) and Dieng (21st). A few fans were unhappy the Wolves didn’t keep Burke. Muhammad’s future with the Wolves isn’t yet clear, but Dieng has a four-year contract extension and is starting. Burke, meanwhile, was traded by the Jazz to Washington over the summer.
• Snyder said he tried to get Thibodeau to draw up a couple of plays when he visited Utah last season.