In Thibs We Trust? Tom Thibodeau was hired in April of 2016 to become the head coach and president of basketball operations for the Timberwolves. Prior to his arrival, the team had not had a winning record since the days of Kevin Garnett. All newude. My favorite commercial of all time. Anyways, defense has been an issue for this team and Thibs is known as a defensive coach. During his five-year coaching stint with the Chicago Bulls, the team was ranked 1st, 1st, 5th, 2nd, and 11th in defensive efficiency. So, of course in Thibs’ first year, the defense got worse. This dynamic reminds me of Brian Billick, a head coach in the National Football League. Billick was known as an offensive guru and got his head coaching job on this premise. “Our team can’t score, so let’s hire a coach that can fix that,” said the owner of the team….probably. Anyways, Billick tried to sprinkle his offensive magic on the team, but you know what? He realized that he is indeed not a magician and that there are things called players. Coaches can put players in the best positions to succeed but, at the end of the day, players make the coach. Billick was smart enough to realize that the strength of the team was on defense, so he placated to that strength and eventually won a Super Bowl as a result. Will Thibs be as flexible? He was out of coaching for a year and travelled the basketball landscape taking notes so….Read on to find out what I think.
2016 record: 31-51
- Jimmy Butler via trade
- Justin Patton via draft
- Taj Gibson via free agency
- Jeff Teague via free agency
- Jamal Crawford via free agency
- Ricky Rubio via trade
- Kris Dunn via trade
- Zach LaVine via trade
- Jordan Hill via free agency
- Brandon Rush via free agency
- Adreian Payne via free agency
- Omri Casspi via free agency
There’s no doubt that this team will improve upon the 31 wins they put up last season. The question is how much of a leap can they take? I do think the defense will be improved. Thibs will pound his concepts and try to tap into the potential that Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns possess on that side of the ball. What’s really going to help are the acquisitions of Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson. They know the system and provide veteran leadership from the player level. Sometimes, things are more easily digested when it comes from a peer. Now, Thibs looks to be embracing a more offensive mindset, as he went out and acquired, not only Butler, but Jeff Teague and Jamal Crawford. Teague is excellent in the PnR and has a J that defenses have to respect, unlike Ricky Rubio. Crawford is well….a microwave in the truest sense of the word. This team has the potential to be one of the upper echelon teams, but as well all know….potential don’t mean shit, especially in a stacked Western Conference.
PG – As I mentioned above, Teague shoots well from the field and runs the PnR well. A career 35% shooter from three-land, he’s going to provide spacing for the other options on the floor. He’ll grab some boards and pilfer one a game, but it’s the assists that you’ve come looking for. While Thibs-coached teams do not usually operate at a high-tempo, what makes this one of the ideal situations in fantasy is the consistency and volume of minutes. His rotations are fairly predictable and he usually gives his guys a shit ton of minutes. It also helps that there are a plethora of weapons that defenses have to account for. Tyus Jones will be the backup. He’s a very skilled player and many think he has the potential to be a starter at some point. 20 years old! He shot 35% from three-land last season and could be a steal and assist monster if given minutes. As long as Teague is healthy, significant minutes are going to be hard to come by.
SG – Andrew Wiggins. Only 21 years old. Uber-athletic. Can score with the best of them. He just doesn’t do enough outside of that. With his athleticism, he should be grabbing a ton more boards and racking up crazy steals and blocks. He’s also a ball-stopper, so the assists will probably remain low. I’m low on him, but acknowledge that he has the potential to ram it in my grill. There’s that potential word again, though. Jamal Crawford…
Yaaassss! He’s 37 years old, but he can still do his thing. Thibs said he’s going to give him minutes in the 20s. Hooolllaaaa! If you need points and literally nothing else, Crawford is going to be your guy.
SF – Jimmy Butler is the alpha dog? wolf? He’s the guy, the leader of this squad. And he’s Thibs’ dude. He literally does it all. 36% from three-land, 86% from the charity stripe, 1.2 threes, 6.2 rebounds, 5.5 assist, 1.9 steals, and 23.9 points. Only 0.4 blocks, though. Yo, Jimmy. C’mon man. As high a floor with upside that you’ll find in fantasy. Nemanja Bjelica and Shabazz Muhammad are “Break glass in case of emergency.” I would be interested in seeing Crawford and Muhammad on the floor together, though. Would the polarity of the universe shift due to having two black holes on the court together?
PF – Gorgui Dieng ain’t sexy but he’s both a valuable real-life and fantasy player. He does the dirty work for Thibs, but also shoots a high percentage from both the field and charity stripe, will score 10 points, grab seven boards, dish a couple assists, and pilfer and block around one per game. Taj Gibson isn’t a threat to Dieng. He’s there to give him a breather and mentor some of the young guys. He’s also Thibs’ security blanket.
C – Karl-Anthony Towns. Only 21 years old, hasn’t missed a game in his two-year career, plays 37 mpg, scores 25 ppg, 54% from the field, 36% from three-land, 83% from the charity stripe, 12 boards, 2.7 assists, and 1.3 blocks. The scrub only steals 0.7 a game. I initially had him at #4 overall, but moved him up to #2. Justin Patton and Cole Aldrich are “If you’ve broken this glass, you’re fucked.” Patton, the 16th pick in the draft, has dynasty value and potential…there’s that word again, but he’s recovering from back surgery in July. Aldrich is tall.