Breakup Or Make-Up: The Safe and Extreme Fixes for the Minnesota Timberwolves

We’re still on our NBA journey. The playoffs have begun, and sixteen teams vie for the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Fifteen teams will join the other fourteen non-playoff teams as those who did not win the championship. If a team did not win the title, then that means adjustments must be made in order to best position themselves to win next year. Here at TSFJ, we are going to present ways each franchise can fix themselves. We will have a safe way and an extreme way to do this. Sometimes, relationships just need repair. Other times, a breakup in some form is necessary. We continue with the fourth team eliminated from the postseason, the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Record: 47-35. 8th seed, Western Conference
Head Coach: Tom Thibodeau
Playoff Result: Lost in 1st Round, 4-1, to the Houston Rockets. Shout out to Beyonce.

For the first time since Kevin Garnett was a member of the team, the Minnesota Timberwolves made the NBA Playoffs. They beat the Denver Nuggets on the final day of the regular season to claim the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference. For a good portion of the season, they looked like an obvious playoff team, rising to as high as fourth in the conference. However, the West is tough, and the team needed every one of their 47 wins to make the postseason. For a franchise that had the longest active playoff drought in the NBA, this is a successful season.

However, success flirts with mediocrity in sports. More than half the teams in the NBA make the playoffs, and that means above-average or worse teams are in contention for the final playoff spots. Yes, Minnesota played in the most competitive division this year, with all five teams somehow beating the BettingTop10 odds of the Northwest franchises winning at least 46 games. But the results usually confirm the idea that there is a reason Minnesota finished eighth. The team just wasn’t that good, despite a relatively successful season.

So how do they fix it?

The Safe Fix
The Make-up Song: Barry White – “I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little More, Baby”

Jimmy Butler was traded for, and Minnesota suddenly had the veteran stability it had been lacking. What I don’t think the Timberwolves expected is for Butler to be their best player this season. Towns was an All-Star for the first time this year, but it was Butler who clearly was the major catalyst that changed Minnesota from talented to good.

This brings me to Andrew Wiggins. In season four, and in the first year of a $143 million contract extension, the 22-year-old made lateral strides in his game. No real improvement offensively or defensively, in statistical or video analysis. He was just… an NBA player. He did very little to appear to be trending upward as a player. However, he is just 22. There is so much potential in him to be very, very good; and the team has already paid him. The financial commitment has been made.

The task is now on coach Thibodeau to reach Andrew Wiggins and pull the best out of him—the same way Thibodeau helped make Jimmy Butler the outstanding player he is, back when they both were in Chicago. Wiggins and Towns should be a formidable duo for years to come. With proper veteran pieces like Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson, Minnesota already has what most hopeful teams have: a solid core of players.

The Extreme Fix:
The Breakup Song: Erykah Badu – “Green Eyes”

Andrew Wiggins has expressed displeasure with his role. Jimmy Butler is, through no fault of his own, partly responsible for that. Butler plays with a moxie that frequently eludes Wiggins. That confidence is why Butler is more likely to have the ball in his hands in close games, even as Wiggins has not shied away from that pressured responsibility. Thibodeau trusts Butler more, which may show a rapport that Wiggins hasn’t completely earned yet. It could be because he wasn’t given a chance. But that’s rebutted by the fact that Thibodeau gave Butler a chance to earn a bigger role in Chicago.

Wiggins may need to be moved. Karl-Anthony Towns is not going anywhere, even as he also raised his game but not enough to be the Wolves’ best player. If Wiggins is so disgruntled, and Butler isn’t old enough to be considered past his prime, then maybe Towns is the former #1 overall pick Minnesota should build around. Wiggins’ youth and flushes of brilliance would net a lucrative return. Perhaps the answer for the Minnesota Timberwolves isn’t to be as young anymore. Adding slightly older veterans made them good enough to make the playoffs. This major fix could be what he franchise needs to become one of the top seeds in the Western Conference.

I don’t have the perfect formula to change the Wolves from first round loss to champion in one year, but something must change like the games at mfortune. Happy NBA, folks.

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