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Nobody should be surprised by the way Tom Thibodeau has remade the Timberwolves

Ricky Rubio
MinnPost file photo by Craig Lassig
There isn’t enough space or time to properly eulogize Ricky Rubio’s tenure with the Wolves.

There are significant things yet to be determined about the 2017-18 edition of the Minnesota Timberwolves. For one thing, after the blizzard of personnel changes that have taken place during this frenetic offseason, the Wolves currently have six “bigs” (centers and power forwards) and only two “wings” (shooting guards and small forwards), a roster imbalance that necessarily will be addressed over the rest of the summer and early autumn.

But what can safely be surmised is that over the past two weeks, the Wolves have entered a new era in their history and planned trajectory.

Ever since Lebron James decided that he needed Kevin Love to help him win an NBA championship as he came back home to Cleveland, the franchise has been sacrificing immediate gratification for the tantalizing but always nebulous prospect of future glory.

This three-year sales pitch was heralded by the “Eyes on the Rise” campaign the franchise unveiled shortly after Love — the team’s lone legitimate star at the time — was traded away for the prior two overall #1 draft picks, Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins, and a package that also included silky power forward Thaddeus Young. Toss in the Wolves own top draft pick that season, raw combo guard Zach LaVine, and you had a collection of pogo sticks that the Wolves could mold into a dunktastic public relations campaign.

But “Rises” can be fitful, and hard on the eyes of the faithful. Bennett and Young crapped out and are long gone. Franchise architect Flip Saunders died from a secretive-and-thus-shocking degeneration of his supposedly manageable cancer. Center Karl-Anthony Towns and Saunders’ eventual successor Tom Thibodeau emerged as potential saviors for a new Rise. Wiggins, who is still around, and point guard Ricky Rubio, who now suddenly isn’t, became polarizing topics of debate as to their true value on the team.

Through it all, the Wolves won just 76 of 246 games, and extended their playoff drought to an NBA-worst 13 consecutive seasons.

If that streak goes to 14 years, there will now be hell to pay. And heads rolling. After hoarding his resources and immersing his young core of players to intense scrutiny via heavy minutes played together under his regimen of withering detail and unyielding demands, Thibs is not delaying gratification any longer. Over a pair of whirlwind weeks, he has remade the team’s personality and expectation level according to his own standards. The 2017-18 Timberwolves will be older, blunter, bruising, expensive and better.

Victories over aesthetics

By far the biggest change engineered by Thibs is a brand new backcourt. Last year’s starters, Rubio at the point and LaVine at shooting guard, were shipped to Utah and Chicago, respectively. For those who savor the sheer beauty of basketball, these are near-mortal wounds.

Relative to the local fan base, I was a fairly persistent detractor of LaVine, a charmingly guileless and engaging gym rat who began to make genuine strides in his once-dunderheaded shot selection but still seemed light-years away from untangling the vagaries and vexations that must be parsed and coped with in the course of playing effective team defense.

LaVine’s offensive virtues provided a potent counterweight to these flaws, however. As a two-time dunk champion, his aerial acrobatics around the rim garnered the most audible oohs and aahs. But I always found the mechanics of his jump shot — from the impressive skyward propulsion to the exquisite flick and follow-through of his wrist and arm at the apex of his ascendance —to be his most pleasurable artwork.

There isn’t enough space or time to properly eulogize Rubio’s tenure with the Wolves. Rubio embodies the quote from another former Wolves point guard, Stephon Marbury, who said, “Point guards are born, not made. God delivers point guards.” Unfortunately, those divinity-model point guards have become an anachronism in the modern NBA, where accurate shooting is now as important to the position as precise and visionary ball distribution.

I’ll treasure my trunkful of Rubio memories. Even his gaudy assists were motivated by checkmating the degree of difficulty more than a craving to add mustard and relish for the reality TV show. What could happen “off the dribble” was a magic bag of dimes that included court-length chest passes in transition that tear-dropped to his streaking teammate in perfect stride for a layup; half-court bounce passes at crazy diagonals that seemed to put the entire floor on tilt and tack on a fourth dimension; and quite possibly the best no-look passes in the history of the NBA, performed with such unexpected subterfuge it was if he had jeweler’s eyes in the back of his head.

I jumped for joy when LaVine was packaged with Kris Dunn and the number-seven overall pick in the recent draft in exchange for Chicago’s small forward Jimmy Butler and the number-sixteen overall pick. But I morosely stared into space when Rubio was dealt to Utah in exchange for a lottery-protected draft pick next season, and, more importantly, the loosening of resources that allowed the Wolves to sign free agent Jeff Teague to a three-year, $57-million contract as Rubio’s replacement.

But my feelings, like everyone’s feelings who follow the Wolves right now, are moot.

For years this organization was criticized for running a “country club” characterized by nepotism and excessive loyalty to those with past connections to the franchise. Another appropriate source of criticism has been the ongoing slew of dashed promises for improvement, a litany of “back to the drawing board” gambits greased by poor judgment and excessive caution.

Tom Thibodeau was hired to change the culture of the Timberwolves. After getting his bearings and taking the time to confirm or rebut his first impressions of the franchise, that is exactly what he is doing. There will inevitably be successes and failures during the overhaul, but, given the past 13 years of ineptitude, nobody should be surprised, or alarmed, that the status quo is being razed.

The bottom line is that Thibs was never comfortable with Rubio. He drafted Dunn to take Rubio’s place, installed Wiggins as the primary ball handler on many sets early last season specifically to diminish Rubio’s role, and always damned Rubio with faint praise when an honest appraisal of the team’s big-picture outlook was required. Ironically, Rubio thrived under the adversity and Thibs had no real choice other than to utilize him more than any coach had since Rubio’s rookie year.  

But you can’t get the keys of the franchise flipped to you on a lucrative five-year contract and not boldly follow your instincts, your preparation and your basketball DNA to the hilt. Amid much fanfare, Thibs was hired specifically to transform the Wolves. The guy with the track record successful enough to garner the enthusiastic participation of Butler — his former player and one of the top two-way performers in the entire NBA — is also the guy who doesn’t value Rubio’s magic enough to countenance his clanking jump shot.

A year ago, the consensus was that the Wolves needed an overlord to transform the promise of Towns and Wiggins into concrete, meaningful victories. They hired the best candidate on the market. Now comes the consequences. LaVine’s buckets and Rubio’s dishes may indeed be beautiful keepsakes for the mind’s eye, but as the saying goes, beauty is also in the eye of the beholder. And Thibodeau’s vision necessarily holds sway.

Toward a better balance

Whether you agree or disagree with the plethora of roster moves executed by Thibs over the past couple of weeks, it is hard to argue that any of this is a surprise or a major departure from the successful priorities and methods that made him such an attractive hire in the first place.

Thibs believes in suffocating defense as a top priority of team identity. Thibs believes in a durable starting five that makes important contributions off the bench more of a luxury than a necessity. Thibs believes in maximizing resources in a manner that gives more weight to short-term success than any Wolves executive since “Trader Jack” McCloskey.

The acquisition of Butler was a home run for Thibs all the way around. None of the three assets sacrificed to get him was devoid of question marks, or figures to match the height and breadth of Butler’s skill set. His age, defensive tenacity, history with Thibs and natural personality stamps him as a team leader and extension of his coach on the floor and in the locker room. And his ability to play small forward and become the Wolves’ “wing stopper” on defense shifts Wiggins to his more natural position of shooting guard and loosens his load at both ends of the court. As Thibs sees it, having a playmaker like Butler able to run the half-court offense on a semi-regular basis also reduces the value of Rubio’s virtues and requires a point guard who can score more reliably.

That said, paying Teague $19 million a year seems exorbitant. Yes, he is more compatible with Butler — his jumper is more accurate and his drives to the basket are quicker and more successful. But he is at best a mediocre long-range shooter (albeit better than Rubio) and is not Rubio’s equal on defense. He also adds $5 million to the payroll over what Rubio was earning for the next two seasons.

The third major acquisition besides Butler and Teague is power forward Taj Gibson, signed for two years at $14 million per season. Like Butler, Gibson is an ex-Bull who blossomed under Thibodeau and totes a calling card of defensive discipline and intensity. For Butler, the cultural dividend is gravy on the substantial meat of his overall skill set. Gibson is less talented, but sets the tone as a glue guy rather than a star doing the yeoman work required throughout the roster. Gibson can start or come off the bench. Either way, expect him to play plenty alongside Towns, and to mentor him by example the way Butler will mentor Wiggins on defense out on the wing.

At the beginning of the offseason, Thibs listed four interlocking priorities for the team moving forward: Defense, toughness, outside shooting and an ability to close out games effectively. Thus far, three of those boxes have been checked. Butler and Gibson are experienced bruisers in the Thibodeau method of rubber-hose defense. They are also barbed-wire tough. Butler is a closer comfortable with the ball in his hands late in the fourth quarter. Teague is a more effectively option on offense, both late in games and in the playoffs, when opponents are more apt to put a laser focus on matchup deficiencies.

The remaining weakness is outside shooting, which in the modern NBA is kind of a big deal. Those criticizing Thibs are on relatively firm ground noting that essentially getting Teague and Gibson for Rubio and $18 million of salary cap space leaves a roster that has a woeful lack of depth, few if any outside marksmen, and precious little space under the salary cap to address these needs effectively.

Because my prevailing philosophy here is that you need to give the overlord the freedom to execute his vision, I will be the devil’s advocate on why these maneuvers make sense.

According to the stats page at nba.com, the Wolves ranked 10th in offensive efficiency (points scored per possession) and 26th in defensive efficiency (points allowed per possession) last season. Quality teams are well balanced on offense and defense. When you are a top 10 offense and a bottom five defense, you emphasize defense.

Remember, that top 10 offense happened despite the Wolves ranking last in both three-pointers attempted and made last season. And while it is true that outside shooting is a trend still on the rise in terms of usage and effectiveness league-wide, it is not as if the Wolves have abandoned that aspect of their offensive arsenal.

Yes, the loss of LaVine is especially acute here. Despite missing 35 games due to injury, he attempted 18 percent of the Wolves total treys, and made 20 percent due to his team-best accuracy of 38.7. Neither Teague nor Butler shot threes nearly as often or as accurately.

But the loss of LaVine is mitigated somewhat by the loss of Rubio and Dunn, who shot 30.6 and 28.8 percent, respectively, from long range. By contrast, Teague was at 35.7.  

Gibson is a nonfactor from three-point territory and will hurt floor spacing when he is out there. But it is possible that the Wolves will often play with a quintet who are all around average — last season that was 35.8 — from beyond the arc. Gorgui Dieng takes forever to wind up and shoot but nails 37.2 when he does, and would seem a natural fit if the Wolves want to emphasize corner threes. Towns shot 36.7 percent and has a great touch all over the court. Butler also shot 36.7 percent, while Wiggins was just a titch below Teague, shooting 35.6 percent.

Granted, sustaining a high percentage with a high volume of attempts is what separates the great shooters from the merely good or average ones. And it is not clear that anyone on the Wolves can be that sustaining outside threat.

But there are also no shortage of potential candidates. It is interesting to note that in Thibs’ final year in Chicago, Butler used a greater percentage of his shot attempts on three-pointers, and made those threes with greater accuracy, than at any other point in his career. Wiggins boosted his three-point percentage from 30 to 35.6 last season on significantly more frequent attempts. Teague was a 40 percent shooter from deep two years ago on a career-high number of attempts.

Furthermore, it is not as if the Wolves have to live and die by the three. No, it is hardly optimal to not have as many outside threats as opponents. But the Wolves actually have strengthened the way they were so efficient on offense last season — putbacks off offensive rebounds and getting to the free throw line. Gibson excels at offensive rebounding and will clean up the boards on the weakside when Towns is double-teamed in the paint. Towns, of course, is arguably the NBA’s most prolific putback artist. Meanwhile, adding Butler to Wiggins gives Minnesota two wing players who thrive on drawing fouls.

Going for broke

Thibodeau’s approach to payroll is a little tougher to defend, especially since he still has five or six roster spots to fill and very few resources to do it that don’t involve packaging the top draft pick they got in the Rubio trade with Cole Aldrich, their primary free agent acquisition from last season.

One can argue that Thibs is using the vets as a bridge to catalyze the development and eventual dominance of Towns and Wiggins. In this view, Gibson is signed for two years, and both Butler and Teague have player options on the third year of their respective three-year deals.

But the rosy scenario of a seamless transition from the vets to the emerging kids is hardly guaranteed. To the surprise of almost everyone, the salary cap for this coming season actually declined from an expected $103 million down to $99 million (it is based on a percentage of total revenues). And the Wolves are looking at a potential train wreck for the 2019-20 season.

At that point, Wiggins and Towns are almost sure to have been offered maximum contracts, paying a combined $50 million per season ($25 million apiece). If the salary cap isn’t rising and clubs are hamstrung from making big deals, folks like Butler and Teague may well opt in for the $19 million apiece they are owed in 2019-20. Meanwhile, Dieng will still be pulling down his $14 million per season.

That’s $102 million for five players. Ideally, the Wolves will be a team that goes deep into the playoffs by then, generating the kind of gate receipts and enthusiasm for the future that will convince owner Glen Taylor to lay the big bucks.

But over the past couple of weeks, the Western Conference has become even more brutally competitive, making even a playoff trip a signal accomplishment. Indeed, despite their obvious improvements, the Wolves currently seem like they in a large cluster of teams outside of the top three of Golden State, Houston and San Antonio, scrapping with as many as seven other clubs for the remaining five playoff spots.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Wolves fans understand that frustration all too well. But what if you venture and still gain nothing? That’s a potentially bittersweet drama that adds an extra tang to what will be one of the most exciting and consequential campaigns in Wolves history. 

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Comments (18)

Butler...yes The rest...I doubt it

Yes, with Butler, they will be better, but I disagree with the rest of the moves.
Who is the best 3 point shooter on the team now..Towns and that's it.
You want to win in the NBA, you have to do two things along with a viable offense and defense:
* shoot 3 pointers
* play your bench
Thibs new team won't be viable with the 3 pointer and historically he never plays his bench.

Still upset about Rubio

Thanks for this spot-on analysis. I'm hoping I can get over Rubio's exit by the time the season starts. Thibs didn't ever warm to the way Rubio has charmed many of us Wolves faithful. It's too bad Thibs couldn't have seen the value in keeping Rubio - it would have allowed us to get a bigger name like Millsap or Reddick. Another thing I think about is that it remains to be seen how good these Eastern Conference guys like Butler and Teague will look when they start playing in the West full-time. And, we need some shooters - it will be interesting but I'm keeping my expectations lower than most for the time being.

Ricky

I'm really going to miss Ricky Rubio for the reasons you mentioned above. But I think after landing Butler, it was clear that shooting was needed, and I think Teague will prove to be well worth the money. He was the second scoring option on a playoff team last year that had little offense outside of Paul George (though Myles Turner is certainly a future star). Assuming he's the third/fourth option on the Wolves offensively, I think he'll be even more effective at exploiting mismatches; do opponents want to "hide" their worst perimeter defender on Wiggins or on Teague?

Teague also shot .400 two years ago from 3 when playing for Atlanta on a career-high 275 attempts that season. Maybe that was a fluke, but it's important to have a guard who is capable of hitting from distance when teams are focused on Butler, KAT, and Wiggins. Signing a PG of his caliber is a pretty solid investment, especially for a player in his prime. I'm not convinced George Hill would have been vastly superior to Teague either, though Hill is the more consistent 3P shooter.

While I'm still concerned about the bench and would like to have more wing shooting (and defense), I'm more comfortable signing guys like that for the veteran minimum. Finding a Brandon Rush type player out there who can play on the wing is easier than finding a frontcourt player.

Building the Roster

Jeff Teague. Taj Gibson. Really?

Jeff Teague is a fine basketball player. He’s played on some good teams and he’s made stellar contributions to their successes. But very few people in the NBA would have rated him above Ricky Rubio. Five-Thirty-Eight’s CARMELO has Teague categorized as an average starter with a five-year market value of $58.9 million. Rubio, two years younger, is rated a borderline all-star with a five-year market value of $141.1 million. (I’m using market value here in place of WAR because, well, dollar value tells a lot more, doesn’t it?)

Taj Gibson is a long-time NBA player. More important, apparently, he’s a former Bull who once played for Tom Thibodeau. He was brought on board because he rebounds and plays good defense. He’s projected as a starter in place of Gorgui Dieng, even though he pretty much looks to be Gorgui Dieng without the mid-range shot. But the CARMELO comparison of Gibson and Dieng are stark: Gibson’s five year market value is only $9.2 million, compared to Dieng’s $104.9 million. Keep in mind that Gorgui is the younger player by four years.

Even if you don’t like this particular analysis, it’s hard to argue that Teague is a big upgrade from Rubio, particularly the Rubio we saw in the last half of last season, when he outplayed every point guard he came up against. So why the hurry to get rid of him, even when his replacement is not clearly a superior choice? And why does the Gibson acquisition get sold as a big upgrade at that position?

I think the answer lies with Tom Thibodeau’s need to make this team over, to make it his. Ricky, as the longest serving member of the team, was a symbol of the ancien regime, and, as such, had to be cast off. Even Kevin Garnett, ready to help the coach and team had to be refused. He was too much a symbol of another time, another team. Taj Gibson seems like a nice, comfortable choice for Thibodeau. Someone who knows the system and plays hard, although lacking any discernable offensive talent. Still, Thibodeau thought Teague and Gibson high enough upgrades to pay them both several million dollars more than Rubio or Dieng.

I’m wondering about strategy here. Where’s the wing who can shoot threes? Where’s the bench talent? Where will the money come from to pay some additional genuine talent? Is a trade of Andrew Wiggins really the strategy for securing future talent? What is the medium or long-term strategy, given that the last two acquisitions are ageing and on the declining side of their careers?

So now we’re entering the Thibodeau era. It apparently will look much like what we saw when he was in Chicago. Short range thinking will dominate games in the same way as it has player acquisitions. Each game will be played as if it is the last game in the playoffs. There will be little rest for the starters, who will lead the league in minutes played. The bench players will not see much action and, barring injuries, the team is likely to make the play-offs. But it will be a tired team and is not likely to make it beyond the first round.

Agreed

I really think your last paragraph sums it up.

Rubio

I am very fond of Rubio so it is difficult for me to be objective. Even recognizing Rubio's flaws, I'm not sure Teague is an upgrade.

Also worth noting:

"If the salary cap isn’t rising and clubs are hamstrung from making big deals, folks like Butler and Teague may well opt in for the $19 million apiece they are owed in 2019-20."

If Butler opts out to sign a new deal with us (which I think is the most likely option), his cap number jumps immediately to 28M because of his 150% cap hold.

Even if Teague opts out and we renounce him, Butler, Towns, Wiggins and Dieng alone would put us over the cap.

Thibs over-values bigs?

The roster/payroll imbalance is curious. I don't understand how and why the Wolves are paying backup or fringe starting bigs so much. Cole didn't seem like a bad deal at the time, but $7M for him vs. reported ~$5M/year for Nene in Houston? And then 2/$28 to Taj when Patrick Patterson (similar player but younger and can shoot 3's) signs in OKC for significantly less (3/$16M). Top it off with $14M (and escalating) for Gorgui the next four seasons? The Wolves appear to be overpaying players whose value is diminished in today's pace-and-space NBA.

That said, I agree that patience and benefit of the doubt is due in light of the obvious coup in adding Butler. I also think Wiggins and Bjelly (and others, including KAT/Gorgui) can take a step forward this season in 3-point accuracy, given the overall improvement of the lineup.

In short, optimism has given way to real expectations. Good times.

thibs style

Like it or not I believe Thibs likes a short rotation. Basically 8 guys getting almost all the playing time. Butler is a nice addition, and Wiggins could really tear it up this season.

The problem is

he burns out those eight players in a year or two.
That's what happened in Chicago.
He will have his best record this year, then tail off.
Three years from now we'll be back to rebuilding, with no base of young payers other than Towns (Wiggins will be gone by then), assuming that Towns hasn't gone free agency.

Change for Change's Sake?

Solid work, Britt, as usual. The Butler move made sense and what was traded away seemed fair for the return from Chicago. The trade with Utah makes no sense to me and the moves afterward don't seem to make the team better which is the goal. There also is an interesting problem for the Wolves. Do what you will, but the West is stacked so you really need to build a foundation for the next couple years. You have the core of KAT & Wiggins.
The biggest needs were outside shooting and defense. I don't see those addressed.
There's no doubt about it, 2017-2018 will be interesting.

What's the Message?

I don't know what kind of message dealing Rubio sends, but if it in any way says "no loyalty", then we have huge problems in 2-3 years.

Wolves changes

Good article- the team didn't progress last year and the TC was 2/3 empty. No doubt Glen Taylor had a firm conversation with Thibodeau. Time for wholesale changes.

Time will tell but I like all of Thibs' moves except, in hindsight, drafting Patton. The bench is thin but the team is heading in the right direction.

Thibodeau is not enamored with anybody who played last year. If Towns and Wiggins do not improve defensively Thibs will move them, too.

Wasn't optimal, but...

The problem when assessing these moves is no one commenting knows what the preferences of the free agents were or has a great handle on the guys they've signed beyond reading basic stats. For example, George Hill theoretically would've been a better fit than Teague and signed for the same money with the Kings, but it was reported that Hill wasn't really interested in playing here. There can also be a tendency to view players from afar and do some armchair scouting with a few basic stats. The Taj Gibson and Patrick Patterson contracts seem to reflect an overpay for Gibson, but can many Wolves fans really effectively express the differences between them defensively? Gibson immediately becomes their best rim protector, never allowing higher than 53.6% on shots 6 feet and in (and under 46% in Thibs' final season in Chicago) while Dieng and Towns have been allowing above 60% their whole careers. Other than that, I couldn't break down film in a way to know the differences between them, nor could anyone else on here. I wanted them to keep Rubio and end up with different free agents than who they got, but the player has to be interested and choose them above their other options. The only team that's had close to an "optimal" offseason would be the Warriors (which required an unprecedented salary concession by Durant), and even they probably weren't happy they had to pay Iguodala that much.

As for the bench and the future cap, every franchise's path to success in those areas is through getting maximum value from cheap assets, which usually means the draft and the mid-July through September portion of free agency. For example, Dieng's contract might not even be in the calculations if Justin Patton becomes good enough to replace him. It's important for them to hit singles and doubles with non-lottery and 2nd round picks, but their best or 2nd-best player (Butler) is the ideal example for showing that value can be grabbed there, even if that guy just becomes a quality role player instead of the All-NBA team player that Butler is. With free agency, here's a list of notable Thibs contributors who played on free-agent contracts of under $2 million a season and were in his playoffs rotations: Keith Bogans, Kurt Thomas, Marco Belinelli, Nazr Mohammed, Nate Robinson, D.J. Augustin, and Aaron Brooks. Those are the types of guys who can be signed for the veteran's minimum, and I'd rather have them than pay JJ Barea $4 million or Corey Brewer $5 million. Additionally, the Warriors and Spurs keep finding young free agents and 2nd round picks that contribute around their stars. If they can't develop starters/bench guys in the draft and find rotation value in free agency, that will hurt their future significantly, but they weren't going to have this cap space in future years and might as well have spent it to fill in the cracks around 3 max guys than not have enough top-end talent to survive in future years.

With the shooting, they don't have a wing player who you'd trust to get a 3 in a late-game situation. Beyond that, though, a lot of teams have made the playoffs with a worse shooter on the wing, including the Clippers, Grizzlies, Blazers, Thunder, Bulls, and Pacers last season. This offseason was never going to solve all the problems that needed to be solved in order to win a playoff round. And in the regular season, there aren't enough defenses that will be organized and stout enough to force Gibson to beat them offensively. They were the 10th-best offense last season despite half a season of LaVine, a PF who made 16 3s the entire season, and 2 PGs who were well below-average from 3. None of their shooters have the gravity to bend the defense their way, but a defense has to at least respect the threat each possesses.

Good article

but perhaps a bit optimistic. We shall see whether Thib's team made in his image--sort of--actually produces or fails. One thought on Teague. He started to make his name in this league with scoring. How many scorers do we need? Who is going to be willing to give up shots? I hope it is Teague. I don't think it will be KAT.

Who Shoots?

Your point is well taken: with KAT, Wiggins and Butler needing to take 75 - 80% of the team's shots, it seems that the real need is for a PG that can set them up, distribute the ball in a way that keeps them all interested, and doesn't have to shoot in order to feed his own ego. Of course, if he's one of the NBA's top defensive players and a passing wizard, so much the better. But where could the TWolves have found such a perfect match for this team?

I don't necessarily love the

I don't necessarily love the Gibson and Teague deals personally for multiple reasons (all of which have been stated here in some form), but I can see what Thibs is going for. After years of having this organization run by rank amateurs, I'm willing to let Thibs see what he can make of what he has put together. It does hearten me to see this organization get out of the "selling hope" business and put themselves in a position where the expectations are that they should win.

Now or never

Thib's over-the-hill gang will be as good this year as they're going to be.
I've still skeptical about the effect on Wiggins of going from first option to third.
I suspect that he'll be gone before the start of the regular season. Maybe traded for a real center?