Timberwolves coach/personnel boss Tom Thibodeau got to enjoy a one-week victory lap where every Minnesota fan was on board with the plan. It started the Thursday of draft night with the trade that brought Jimmy Butler to the Wolves.
It ended not long after Butler was introduced to Minnesota the following Thursday at Mall of America when the Wolves (finally) made the years-in-the-making trade of Ricky Rubio and signed Jeff Teague to replace him. The skepticism from at least some corners continued when the Wolves dished out $28 million over two years to Taj Gibson, giving them a badly needed big man but also gobbling up much of the rest of the money they have to give players.
The question since then has been, um, would the Wolves maybe like to hire some guys who can play off the bench and/or shoot the basketball? Because the roster seems thin on both fronts.
This led to a reported pursuit of Nick Young, but now that Swaggy P has apparently agreed to terms with Golden State, you are free to wrap your head around being disappointed with not getting Nick Young — something I might not have believed when I turned 40 (I am still 40).
So what’s left? C.J. Miles’ name comes up an awful lot from various writers, including our own Jerry Zgoda, as someone the Wolves could obtain if they are able to clear out more space by dispatching Cole Aldrich to another team along with a first-round pick.
Put another way: now that a 32-year-old wing shooter coming off the best season of his career has signed elsewhere, the Timberwolves can fully commit to chasing a 30-year-old wing shooter coming off the best season of his career (Miles set career highs in true shooting and win shares last season, and contrary to how it might seem from that picture he is 6-6 and not four feet tall).
Let’s say that happens, and the Wolves are able to get one more functioning bench body with the $4.3 million salary exception at their disposal. And maybe they can add a veteran point guard as insurance for around the league minimum.
That leaves a starting lineup of: Teague, Butler, Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns and either Gorgui Dieng or Gibson. And a bench of: Dieng or Gibson, Nemanja Bjelica, Miles, Tyus Jones, $4.3 million salary guy, veteran minimum point guard guy, first-round pick Justin Patton and a few other league minimum guys plucked from the bargain bin and/or scouted from the summer league.
Last we heard in March, Bjelica underwent successful surgery for a broken bone in his foot. Patton also has a broken bone in his foot, which will delay his development and cause him to miss critical summer league action.
I’d say that makes the last 2-3 rotation spot signings pretty important. Miles, another shooter and a point guard who can hold the fort with Jones if Teague has a short-term injury are critical pieces. A springy big man with upside would be nice.
Or, again, put another way: the Wolves are building a custom home with a lot of expensive finishes. Let’s just hope the heat and the plumbing work.
I will say this, though: having Teague instead of Rubio gives the Wolves more bench versatility. Any two players out of Teague, Butler, Towns and Wiggins can sit for an extended stretch while the other two stay on the court and lift the second unit. The Wolves shouldn’t need a great bench — just a good enough one. If Thibodeau is able to fully deliver on that, the honeymoon is on again.