Welcome to the Thursday edition of The Cooler, where we love an easy punchline as much as the next person, but still … let’s get to it:

*Timberwolves head coach and personnel boss Tom Thibodeau has shown an affinity for acquiring players he once coached in Chicago.

Last season’s Wolves had two ex-Bulls in the starting lineup (Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson) and two more in the backcourt in seldom-used Aaron Brooks and late addition Derrick Rose.

This predilection has made Thibs an easy target for punchlines about the “Timberbulls” and other such things, but let’s face it: a lot of coaches do the exact same thing because they value known commodities, players they trust and — in the case of a tie — the devil they know over the devil they don’t know.

Mike Zimmer, for example, has craved ex-Bengals during his tenure with the Vikings, with the George Iloka signing being a recent example of one that came to fruition.

In the case of Thibodeau, it’s hard to argue against the results so far. Butler was the primary reason the Wolves improved by 16 victories last season and made the playoffs for the first time in 14 years. Gibson was everything the Wolves could have wanted. Even Rose provided more of a spark, particularly in the playoffs, than many envisioned.

All three are back this season. And they could be joined by more familiar faces if reports are true. The Wolves seem to be close to landing Luol Deng, who had some of his best years playing for Thibodeau in Chicago.

Deng is now 33 and barely played last season for the Lakers before reaching a contract settlement recently to get out of Los Angeles. Deng signed a four-year, $72 million deal two offseasons ago when the salary cap was out of control. Maybe he’d be useful on a minimum deal?

If we get to pick and choose former Bulls, I’d much rather have Joakim Noah — if he, too, can get out of his deal with the Knicks. Noah, also 33, would have a good chance to still bring the requisite defensive toughness the Wolves sorely lacked on the interior last season.

And if the Wolves get both and end up with five former Bulls on the roster? I can think of far worse ways to fill out a bench. As comedic fodder? It’s too easy, and really not that funny.

*The LeVeon Bell situation in Pittsburgh keeps getting messier, with the star running back showing no intention of reporting to the team while still upset over his contract. Good luck to anyone who drafted Bell with a top fantasy pick.

*This could be a lot of things for me, but I opted for this on Twitter: “The Timberwolves are giving fans a reason to be cautiously optimistic this year.” What’s your giveaway?

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