By: Dan Slaubaugh
It’s true. Ricky Rubio, Spanish unicorn and wonderboy sensation, is no longer a Minnesota Timberwolf.
I’ve dreaded writing a farewell for some time now (over a year), but the time has come. Let’s do this.
The year is 2010. I’m on my couch as a 14-year old teenager watching the Michael Beasley and Kevin Love-led Timberwolves. I’m surely getting way too excited about the prospect of those two being able to lead an NBA team deep into the playoffs. Again, I’m 14. I’m probably eating Lucky Charms two meals out of the day and rooting for Tim Tebow to make it in sports. Oh wait, I’m still doing those things today. *Sigh*
Deep down, though, I knew I was watching some terrible basketball. That Timberwolves team finished 17-65, so it wasn’t any secret they needed major talent upgrades throughout their roster. The one outside glimmer of hope I had for the team came from an 18-year old teenager playing professional basketball in Spain.
His name - Ricky Rubio.
The words ignited feelings of hope. Consoled feelings of frustration.
The Wolves fifth overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft played in the EuroLeague at age 16 and was considered the Spanish Pete Maravich, with dribbling and passing skills that were eye-popping. He played against the U.S. in the gold medal game at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 at age 17.
Fast forward to 2011. Ricky Rubio is on center stage in Minnesota, dealing dimes in front of a rejuvenated fan base at Target Center. His game was different. It was flashy. It was entertaining. A pass-first point guard with the ability to draw “ooh’s and ahh’s” out of the crowd was exactly what the franchise needed.
Rubio had that team on track to break a seven-year playoff drought. Unfortunately, the spark-provider suffered a torn ACL in the team’s 42nd game against the Lakers at home, ending his season and ultimately the team’s playoff chances as Minnesota went 5-20 in its final 25 games after the injury. The date was March 9, 2012. I don't even have to look that up because it's been ingrained into my mind ever since the night of the injury. That's the kind of effect Ricky has had on my life.
Regardless of the outcome, Ricky’s rookie year was the most fun I've had watching the Timberwolves. They weren’t deep and filled with top-tier talent. However, they meshed greatly together and had phenomenal team chemistry. This led them to success when Ricky was healthy.
Unfortunately, the next five years of Rubio’s career in Minnesota would be the culprit of exhausting discussion regarding the point guard’s value. The main flaw, of course, being his suspect jump shot that never fully improved for a long stretch of time.
Rubio was an incredibly contentious player in Minnesota. But through it all, his positive attitude, selflessness, and loyalty to make his team better shined through a failed rebuild and being asked to run the show for incredibly inexperienced and young rosters.
People seem to forget, but Rubio was healthy for his last two years in a Wolves uniform. He could have easily demanded his way out by asking Flip Saunders or Tom Thibodeau to trade him. Throughout his time in Minnesota, Rubio never truly had a realistic chance to heavily compete with the teams surrounding him.
But he never complained. He was always a shining light during the dark times. Sad part about it, he was underappreciated through it all.
As Drew Mahowald (former OTP writer) once said following the 2015-16 season:
"The most disappointing thing about this season is the fact that Wolves fans still bash Ricky Rubio. I just don't understand it. It gave me an idea, actually. I created a Timberwolves basketball knowledge test, a test that proves how much you know about basketball, specifically Wolves basketball. Here's the test:
Do you think Ricky Rubio is a valuable asset to the Wolves moving forward?
If yes, you pass.
If no, you fail. You have little knowledge of basketball. "
There are so many, but my favorite moment of Ricky Rubio’s career in Minnesota was his game-winning three on March 12, 2016 in Oklahoma City. It was a joy to see him shut his haters up for one night.
Another favorite memory of Rubio was on March 3, 2013 against San Antonio when he registered his first triple-double, which included a beautifully epic two-times-behind-the-back-layup. Boy oh boy that was filthy.
It would take far too long to retrieve the ample amount of fond memories Ricky Rubio has given to myself and the rest of Wolves nation, so I’ll just move on.
Although Rubio was never fortunate enough to make the playoffs in Minnesota, he still put on a show each and every night. A show that catapulted him up to second place on the Wolves all-time assists and steals leader-board.
From the bottom of my heart, I just want to say thanks for everything.
Thanks for being incredibly loyal. You could have easily complained and went public in your dismay of the way you were treated by management here. Heck, you had the best year of your career last year and wounded up hearing about a washed up player (Derrick Rose) replacing you when the season finished. But you didn’t because you aren't wired that way.
Thanks for being an awesome teammate. I will never forget the moment when Tyus hit that game-winner against Toronto. Nobody was happier than you. It exemplified how selfless you are - a great teammate who truly only cared about winning.
Thanks for giving us hope in the darkest of times. There was many times over the years that I would literally only turn on the television just to watch you distribute the basketball. You made me fall in love with this team. You are the reason I’m a Wolves fan.
And last *wipes tears*, thanks for being Ricky. Our Ricky.
You truly weren’t like anybody else.
Good luck in Utah. We’ll be rooting for you.
By: Louie Vicchiollo
With the beginning of free agency less than 24 hours away, NBA fans can start to get excited. Hell, they should already be excited; Chris Paul is a Rocket, Phil Jackson isn’t a GM anymore, rumors continue to fly, and most importantly, Jimmy Butler is a Timberwolf.
Yep, it still feels really good to be able to say that. Just checking.
July 1st is arguably one of the most exciting, fun, nerve wracking days of the entire year when it comes to the NBA, especially with this year’s underwhelming playoffs. Free agency begins, players begin to get snatched up, and every fan can wonder what moves their team will make before all of the big name players are gone. The beginning, the big name, superstar, rumor filled players are the most exciting, but that does not mean the end of free agency doesn’t matter. You could be one Andre Igoudala away from making the playoffs, or one Paul Millsap away from being a contender. Now, I’m not saying Ben McLemore matters just as much in free agency as Blake Griffin, but that isn’t to say he won’t have a significant impact on the team that signs him.
Teams often dramatically change during free agency, and this is what I want to dive a little bit deeper into in this piece: what effects do major changes to a roster have on winning? Roster continuity is an amazing stat provided by Basketball-Reference.com (which is where all the statistics in this piece come from) that details what percentage of minutes played by a team come from the players on the previous year’s team.
A huge part of winning basketball games is having good team chemistry, which can only be developed the more you play together. This is why we see teams like the 2010-11 Miami Heat start 9-7 when they added LeBron and Bosh or the 2014-15 Cleveland Cavaliers starting 5-7 with the return of LeBron and addition of Kevin Love; it takes time to get used to playing together, that is just the nature of basketball. Draft picks, free agency, retirement, injuries and more can affect team chemistry and roster continuity in major ways.
So what effect does this roster continuity have on winning historically? Since the 2000-01 season, the average roster has had a roster continuity value of 66%, meaning that 66% of the minutes played that year were played by the players on the same team’s previous year’s roster. Check out the graph below detailing every team since the 2000-01 season and how their roster continuity and win percentage relate.
The trend is pretty clear: the higher the roster continuity %, the more likely you are to win. It also makes sense that the average team with a roster continuity rating of 66% should win 50% of its games, which the graph indicates. Now of course, this graph isn’t perfect. There isn’t a perfect relationship between roster continuity and win percentage, but it is very interesting to look at. Let’s look at a few of the outliers, indicated by the green data points and labeled.
Starting with the most fun one, the 2015-16 Warriors. Ah, yes, the 73 win team. While it should never be understated how difficult it is to win 73 games in a season, when you look at roster continuity it makes sense why they won as much as they did. They had 95% rating for their roster continuity that year, only adding Ian Clark, Anderson Varejao, Jason Thompson, and Kevin Looney’s minutes to the previous year’s roster. It probably didn’t hurt that the Splash Brothers hit a combined 678 threes on the way to Steph’s second, and unanimous, MVP. Give us a reigning champion, the reigning (and about to be back to back) MVP, and a 95% roster continuity rating and watch the wins pour in. Like I said, while 73 wins is amazing, it isn’t too surprising when looking at the 2015-16 Warriors.
The 2006-07 Seattle SuperSonics (Marked OKC on graph) should have been really good if we are going off the roster continuity prediction, so what happened? They should have won 49 games but they only won 31?! Injuries. Ray Allen only played 55 games, and Rashad Lewis only played 60. It should also be noted this isn’t come in and shoot four threes Ray Allen that we saw late in his career, this is 26 points per game, four and a half rebounds and assists per game, shooting 44 percent from the field Ray Allen. Losing your top two players to injuries won’t help you win games.
Now, the champion 2007-08 Boston Celtics. With a roster continuity rating of 50%, how did they win more than even half their games, let alone a championship?!? Remember that guy who we just talked about on the Seattle SuperSonics who got hurt when they were supposed to be really good? He joined the Celtics. Yeah, roster continuity can work the other way too. With the addition of Ray Allen and, sigh, Kevin Garnett, two superstars at the time to the already very strong core of Rondo and Pierce, the Celtics were able to overcome the low roster continuity rating with their superstar talent. ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!!!!
Finally, this is a Wolves blog, so let’s talk about the 2003-04 Timberwolves. Similar to the 2007-08 Celtics, the Timberwolves added some really good talent this year in Latrell Sprewell, Sam Cassell and Fred Hoiberg (yes, I’m letting my Iowa State bias come into play here). Sam Cassell finished the year with 12.1 win shares, Sprewell with 5.7, and “The Mayor” with 6.1. Much like the 2015-16 Warriors, it probably didn’t hurt to have your best player playing in MVP form. This is yet another example of how talent can outplay the low roster continuity when you have a high level of talent.
So, now that we have looked at the individual seasons of every team since the 2000-01 season, you might be thinking “sure, low roster continuity can be outplayed by talent for a season” or “just because you have high roster continuity for a season doesn’t mean you will be good” but that doesn’t mean roster continuity means anything over longer periods of time (which, of course, is what roster continuity is measuring, continuity over longer periods of time) so how about we look at the averages for every franchise since 2000-01? Check out the graph below.
Hmm… what a surprise, the higher the roster continuity rating, the more likely you are to win games even over multiple seasons. This shouldn’t be a surprise, but I do want to mention a few quick things before we leave this graph for the internet archive to swallow up. Miami, Dallas, and San Antonio all have win percentages way higher than what their roster continuity would suggest, and Minnesota, Washington and Oklahoma City all are significantly below what we would expect. What could be the cause of this? I don’t have an exact answer, but one thing that I think is interesting is the front office of each of these teams. The teams above the prediction curve all have front offices that are widely regarded as great, and the teams below… well… but the front office is already indirectly involved in the continuity ratings because they are the decision makers in what players are on the teams, so is there another factor that changes this dramatically?
One thing that isn’t factored into roster continuity is coaches, and they play a big, big role in it. Like I mentioned before, roster continuity is calculated by the percent of minutes played by players from the previous year’s team on the current year’s team; a change in coaching can drastically change who plays, how much they play, and how often they play. Even if you only bring in three new players, a new coach could play those three players much more than the previous coach would, or vice versa.
Long story short, coaches affect minutes a lot (who woulda guessed?)
Let’s look at another graph, this time how the number of coaches for every team since 2000-01 has affected the win percentage since that season.
Another clear indicator of how our response variable (win %) changes with a new explanatory variable (number of coaches from 2000-17). You probably didn’t need the graph to guess, but the more coaching changes you make, the less likely you are to win. This is another factor that can be forgotten when thinking about team chemistry, not only do the player on the court have to gel together, but the coaches and players have to make a good connection both on and off the court.
There is one thing that needs to be said not only about coaching changes, but about this whole roster continuity concept in general: try to be like the Spurs. One coach since 2000 and an average roster continuity rating of 78% is a formula for a really good team for a really long time. Granted, they have had some okay draft picks and their coach is decent, but regardless this is just another thing the other teams in the league should take note of that the Spurs do and follow suit.
Yes, free agency is exciting. Really, REALLY exciting, and it should be! Your favorite team, the hometown team that you know and love could land a superstar, or add “that one piece we need to get to the next level”, but that doesn’t mean it is all sunshine and rainbows. The more you change your roster, the less likely you are to win, and that why you pay the front office the big bucks to know when to keep someone, or when to let them go. I don’t think anyone can argue the sheer awesomeness of the Jimmy Butler trade (exception: Bulls fans), there is no denying that and I won’t even try to. But I will also be the first to say that attempting to keep your roster continuity rating high will almost always help, and it should be done. With all of that said, I have a prediction for you, Timberwolves fans.
We will be just fine. No, better than fine! We will be good, potentially really good.
Remember that guy who got hurt for the 2006-07 Seattle SuperSonics, then joined the championship 2007-08 Boston Celtics? Or how about the guy who took the 2003-04 Minnesota Timberwolves and their 27% roster continuity rating and gave them 58 wins? Jimmy has the talent to do what they did. Be excited Timberwolves fans, Jimmy Butler is a top 15 player who can help the Wolves reach that next level, who can help bring the Wolves to the playoffs, who can help bring Minnesota a championship.
By: Cal Colbert
“I'm excited to be back with the Timberwolves and want to thank Glen Taylor for this opportunity. My goal is to help the Wolves achieve the success that we experienced during my tenure with this organization. We have a strong nucleus in place and will look to add assets that will allow us to make the playoffs and eventually compete for an NBA Championship.” Flip Saunders said this at his first press conference with the Timberwolves when he returned to the organization in 2013.
Flip was great for this team. He put this organization on the map when he took over as general manager and later head coach in 1995. He, and Kevin McHale, did so by immediately drafting the hard working, competitive, high energy, and very athletic, 6’11” Kevin Garnett. Before hiring Flip, the Timberwolves had never had a winning season.
In his first season as head coach, he coached 62 games with a record of 20-42. Flip, who was then the GM, replaced then head coach, Bill Blair, after 20 games in the 1995-96 season. During his first full season as head coach, 1996-97, he led the Timberwolves to their first ever playoff appearance with a record of 40-42, which unfortunately in a first round exit. It’s easy to see why Timberwolves fans everywhere were excited. They had a young and very talented star in Kevin Garnett, and a new coach that seemed to be doing all the right things to get this organization where it needed to be.
Flip Saunders was the head coach from 1995-2004. In the nine and a half seasons Flip was head coach, the Timberwolves recorded only two losing seasons, both of which took place at the beginning of his tenure. Flips highest level of success with the Wolves came in the 2003-2004 season when the team made the Western Conference Finals. They were knocked out by a stacked Los Angeles Lakers team, that fielded a starting lineup of Gary Payton, Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone, and Shaquille O’Neal. Can you really blame him?
Flip Saunders had a lot of success in the NBA, and he knows how to put a winning team on the court. It makes sense why Wolves fans were excited to see Flip Saunders return to Minnesota. The man was a basketball genius. Not only did he know how to put a team out on the court that can execute and win games. He also saw the potential in players, when many others didn’t.
When Flip returned to the Timberwolves organization in 2013 he was hired as the Director of Basketball Operations. By doing this, the Timberwolves organization entrusted him with the future of this team, whose only identity at the time was Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. This was a great move by the organization. Flip Saunders had proven himself in the NBA, and he was familiar with the organization. It just made sense.
Unfortunately, his second time around with the Wolves was cut short after he lost his battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Though his return to the Wolves was short-lived, Flip made many noticeable changes to the roster that have been a big part in forming the team we have today.
In 2013, he drafted Trey Burke with the ninth overall pick. Burke was flipped to the Utah Jazz in return for Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng.
2014 saw Flip draft Zach LaVine with the 13th overall pick. He then proceeded to trade Kevin Love in a blockbuster trade to Cleveland where the Wolves acquired potential star Andrew Wiggins, who was the first overall pick that year.
In the same year, Flip signed Ricky Rubio to a team friendly, four-year extension worth $55 million. At the time, many people criticized Flip for giving Rubio what seemed to be an overpay for a player of Rubio’s caliber. In retrospect, this deal proved to be very fruitful for the Wolves. Rubio is a franchise main stay, and has continued to prove his worth. Due to last year’s cap spike, Rubio’s contract is now seen as a bargain to many teams.
In 2015, the Minnesota Timberwolves and Flip Saunders won the NBA lottery. It was the first time the Wolves had ever won the lottery, and I'm sure you all remember Flip and his gang jumping up and down after finding out they would have the number one overall pick.
Flip used this pick to secure the rights of Karl-Anthony Towns. A young, big man out of Kentucky, Towns had all the potential in the world. Later that season, Flip traded Thaddeus Young to Brooklyn for Kevin Garnett. This brought a much-needed veteran presence to the roster as well as a courtside mentor for the young pups, especially Towns. Flip never saw Towns play a minute in the NBA, or see this team progress the way it has.
Flip's contributions provided the Wolves with all the parts to be successful. They had the experienced point guard in Rubio, two highly athletic wings in Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins, and who could forget about Karl-Anthony Towns? We also had Gorgui, who was slowly proving his worth on the defensive end and had the top Win Share for the Wolves at 4.9.
Even though Flip was building a team for the future by forming a potential “Big 3” in LaVine, Wiggins, and Towns, it didn't quite work out that way. However, it may have worked out for the better. Had Flip not seen the potential in LaVine, the Wolves would have never had the trade pieces they needed to acquire the All-Star SG/SF from the Chicago Bulls, Jimmy Butler. Who would have thought that Zach LaVine, a player that didn't even start for UCLA and averaged less than 10 points per game, would turn into the high flying, two-time dunk contest winner and the smooth scorer he is today?
As much as it hurts Wolves fans to see LaVine go, I think we can agree that acquiring Jimmy Butler was the right move for this organization. Also known as Jimmy G Buckets, he is one of the best two-way guards in the league and debatably a top 15 player. He brings everything that the Timberwolves need to the table as far as a leader, a veteran with playoff experience, a lockdown defender, and a go-to guy in the clutch. Jimmy is exactly what this team needed, without Flip, and of course Tom Thibodeau, it wouldn't have been possible. If it wasn't for Flip and all he did in acquiring these young assets, hopeful future stars, and role players, the Wolves would not be in a place to succeed like they are now.
By: Jonah Sprinkel
Last night marks one of most positive and impactful moments in Minnesota Timberwolves history. All Wolves fans are familiar with the selection of Karl-Anthony Towns at #1 in 2015. Then there's the infamous Kevin Love for Andrew Wiggins trade in 2014 (and Anthony Bennett, but I'm going to pretend that didn't happen). Moving further into the past we find Garnett hoisting the league MVP trophy in 2004 . Even prior to that is the drafting of Garnett himself in 1995. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the dark period between Kevin Garnett's exit and the true arrival of a new era in Towns and Wiggins.
There are a few of you asking the question, "What about the Kevin Love era? Wasn’t there at least one bright spot?" To those people I must ask you this, ‘Do you really consider any of that to be a positive experience?’ I certainly don't. In retrospect, the Wolves only accomplishment was selling false hope to a fan base rabid for a decent basketball team. Up to this point, that's all the Towns and Wiggins era has been. Empty predictions. False hope. Promises of tomorrow. Each season, the Wolves have arrived in June and everyone around the team has felt that there is hope. That, maybe, if things go just right, the Wolves will be a competitive group. Tonight, those hopes, dreams, aspirations, whatever you want to call them, seem to have been replaced with a likelihood.
Ladies and Gentlemen. For the first time as a Timberwolf, I present to you, All-NBA shooting guard and Olympian, Jimmy Butler. The former Golden Eagle brings two key things that the Timberwolves have lacked for quite some time. First, and this probably goes without saying, Butler is a top-flight defender as evidenced by being selected to the All-Defensive 2nd Team three years in a row. He is constantly tasked with matching up with the best offensive guard or wing player on the opposing team. Secondly, Butler brings success, having been to the playoffs in four of his last five years.
This trade has been a year in the making. During the 2016 NBA Draft I sat in the lower bowl at Target Center during the Draft Party, constantly refreshing Twitter, hoping to see a trade announcement connecting Butler to the Wolves. It never came to pass and I moved on. Remember, Tom Thibodeau was new to his President of Basketball Operations role. It’s possible Thibs felt he could not accurately apply value to his own players without seeing them perform in person. It also seems very likely that Thibs was head over heels in love with then prospect, Kris Dunn. Whatever the reason, the Wolves moved forward into their 2016-17 season without the services of Jimmy Butler.
Last night, Tom Thibodeau made a move that takes not only guts, but also shrewd bargaining skills. Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the 7th overall pick became Jimmy Butler and the 16th pick. Before last night, I had little faith in Thibs ability to simultaneously turn around both the on-court production and the front office. Keep in mind, those are two separate jobs and Thibs is doing both. The most successful teams in the league, Golden State, San Antonio, Cleveland, and Boston have both a head coach and a front office leader. This is extremely common in the NBA. Scarcity is a word I would use to describe the kind of unique power Thibs currently holds. That being said, the execution of this trade gives me good reason to believe that Thibs will be successful as a front office leader. Whether or not he can effectively coach up this roster into a winning squad remains to be seen.
There is only one way to view this trade in the eyes of an armchair GM. It is a win now move. Butler is one of the best two-way players in the league right now and in turn this will dramatically impact the Wolves playoff odds. For argument’s sake let’s take the Win Shares statistics as truth. If that is the case Butler would have added 10.7 wins to this Wolves team. This number is found by taking Butler’s win shares from last season (13.8) minus both Dunn (0.1) and LaVine’s (3.0) win shares. In this hypothetical scenario, the Wolves would’ve ended the 2016-17 season at 41-41, tied for 8th in the Western Conference with the Portland Trailblazers.
Of course, numbers can be thrown around all day long but none of this will be confirmed until the new look Timberwolves hit the court. This is where I find a little bit of a hiccup in the Butler move. Before the trade, this team seemed to be forming an identity with each of the “Big 3” seemingly growing into their roles. Wiggins was being groomed to be a closer and defensive. KAT was becoming the un-guardable, hopefully do it all franchise superstar. LaVine was the mammoth sized spark plug capable of getting hot at a moments notice. The arrival of Butler and the exit of LaVine seem to signal a change in these roles.
Since 2014-15, Butler has been the number one option in Chicago when he burst onto the scene by winning the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. Over the course of the last three seasons Butler’s usage percentage has risen from 21.6 in 2014-15, to 24.4 in 2015-16 and finally to 26.5 this past season. In comparison Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns posted a usage percentages of 29 and 27.5 during the 2016-17 season. It will be almost impossible for all three guys to maintain the same percentage of touches in the upcoming season.
Having coached Butler his first four years in the league, Thibs likely sees Butler as “his guy”. Butler puts the ball in the basket and most importantly in Thibs mind, he works over other players when playing defense. Butler is an established star, with vital playoff experience, in the very middle of his physical prime. Once you combine these factors it is reasonable to assume that Butler will shoulder many of the “alpha dog” responsibilities.
What does this mean for Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins? Well, for KAT I’m not sure it means much. He likely should have been an All-NBA center last season based on his offense alone. He will surely continue to improve on both ends of floor, he’s only 21! Karl, if you’re reading this, defense is key my friend. Andrew Wiggins’ role is where we’ll likely find some changes.
When Wiggins was traded to the Wolves many viewed him as a potential franchise savior. While I’m not sure that was ever in play, I do believe Wiggins has the talent and work ethic to become a All-Star level player. Either way, Wiggins was given alpha dog responsibilities from the moment he touched down in Minneapolis.
Two years ago, the arrival of Towns changed this narrative slightly. Wiggins was now seen as a member of a one-two punch duo that would lead the Timberwolves to the promise land. In their first two years together, Wiggins logged the higher usage percentage as both Sam Mitchell and Tom Thibodeau seemed to prefer the ball be in his hands more frequently. With Butler joining the team and KAT emerging as an unstoppable offensive force, the narrative is set to change for Wiggins once again.
It’s very possible that Wiggins becomes the third scoring option and even spends time as the second unit’s primary scorer. On the other end of the floor Wiggins will likely take on a reduced role. I’m beginning to sound like a broken record but I cannot stress enough that Butler has both the experience and resume to lock down nearly every point guard, shooting guard and small forward. This will allow Wiggins to not only learn high level defense from a high level defender, but also to put the practices in place without the added pressure of guarding a James Harden or a Russell Westbrook.
Outside of the roles that each of these players have I also must question Butler's fit alongside Andrew Wiggins and with the current roster. During the 2016-17 year the idea that Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine were redundant was tossed around fairly often. It was easy to see why. They were both ball dominant yet explosive offensive players who you could envision leading a team in scoring. However, they were lackadaisical on defense and obviously need time to mature into their bodies. The pair of them favored iso-ball and seemed to lack the ability to create for others. While the reasons aren't the same, I think there might be some skill-set redundancy between Wiggins and Butler.
Andrew Wiggins checks in at 6'8, 199 lbs and a 7'0 wingspan while Butler stands at 6'7, 220 lbs and a 6'8 wingspan. Obviously they are not identical twins but you can see the physical resemblance. This bodes well for the Wolves defense. If Wiggins becomes a capable and reliable individual defender this will allow the Wolves to switch everything between these two. There are very few teams who will have this capability in a wing starved league. The flip side to this comes on the offensive end.
Percentage of Field Goals Attempted tells us where on the court and how frequently a player attempts his shots.
Andrew Wiggins Jimmy Butler
0-3 feet 29.1% 28.2%
3-10 feet 13.1% 12.5%
10-16 feet 13.9% 16.4%
16 feet > 3 point line 25.3% 23.2%
3 pointers 18.4% 19.8%
Wiggins and Butler shoot the same shots, from the same area of the court and nearly identical rates. This can be confirmed by their shot charts from last season. The right side of the court is heavily populated with shot attempts from both players. We're not even to free agency yet, but this raises some concerns. Courtesy of NBAsavant.
Let's put all the worrying and scrutinizing aside for just a moment and recognize what a wonderful and amazing time to be a Timberwolves fan! Without getting too far ahead of myself it seems like the Timberwolves will be relevant again. I have not experienced that feeling since the age of 10. My inner, darker Timberwolves fan continues to tell me that all of this is for naught and something will inevitably derail this season. But after last night I must believe that the odds have finally fallen in the Wolves favor for good. Too much has gone right for the Wolves since the re-arrival of Flip Saunders. The dark days are over! The “basketball gods” have smiled on the Timberwolves.
By: Dan Slaubaugh
Two years ago, the Cavaliers pulled off a miracle coming back from a 3-1 series deficit against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals to bring the city of Cleveland their first championship in 52 years.
The Warriors were able to get revenge this year, winning their second title in three years against the Cavs in five games. With how incredibly talented the Warriors are, it's going to take a miracle to take them down in a seven game series likely until the year 2020.
For the Wolves to eventually be able to compete with top-tier teams like Golden State and Cleveland (or the other 27 teams when Golden State starts to regress), they must find value in the NBA Draft. In Flip Saunders' tenure in Minnesota, he was able to find great values in Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad (via trade for Trey Burke), Andrew Wiggins (via trade with, well, you know), Zach LaVine, and Karl-Anthony Towns.
Last year we saw Tom Thibodeau call the shots for the first time as President of Basketball Operations for Minnesota. He chose Kris Dunn with the fifth overall pick, a selection that raised many questions at the time and continues to do so almost a year later.
There are a plethora of options the Wolves could go tonight. They could draft a prospect, trade down in the draft, or trade the pick entirely. This leaves fans completely guessing for what Tom Thibodeau has in store, setting up a very intriguing and exciting night in Brooklyn.
The members of the On The Prowl staff got together to discuss what Thibs' strategy should be and also predicted the outcome of the draft's lottery selections.
(Some answers may be more complex than others)
Where will you be watching the draft tonight?
Dan: At my apartment in Fargo, ND probably watching by myself simply because I feel awful inviting friends over only to be refreshing Twitter every three seconds for news/rumors (AKA Woj Bombs) the entire night.
Zach: I unfortunately will not be able to watch the draft. I will be umpiring baseball games, but will have everything recorded so I can come back and watch all the excitement through.
Jonah: I’ll be watching from home.
Cal: I will be at home watching the draft with my roommate. You may know him, @sprinkeljonah.
What do you want the Wolves to do with the 7th overall pick?
Dan: Jonathan Isaac, baby. The combo-forward from Florida State is the perfect short and long-term fit for Minnesota. The versatile big blocked 2.3 shots per 40 minutes, showed he can switch out and guard the perimeter, shot 59.3 percent inside the arc, and rarely turned the ball over. Isaac will be a project and probably won't be the deciding factor in getting this team closer to the playoffs next year. Thing is, were not drafting him for his production next season. We're drafting him for what he could potentially bring to the table three years from now, a two-way player with great ability to defend PnR's (a fantastic skill in today's pace-and-space NBA) in this league.
Zach: Trade the pick for a starting caliber player or a top bench player.
Jonah: In an ideal and perfect Timberwolves world (boy, do I wish this existed) the Wolves come away from the draft with Jonathan Isaac from Florida State. Not only would he bring defensive ability, athleticism and a promising shooting touch, he also adds great hair to an already solid cast of Wolves hairstyles.
Cal: Trade Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and the seventh overall pick to the Bulls for Jimmy G Buckets.
Dan: JIMMY BUTLER WELCOME TO MINNESOTA. Nah, I doubt this happens. But it has been reported by The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski that the Wolves have assets and interest and trading for Jimmy Butler. A trade would probably involve a few (or all) of Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and the seventh overall pick. Before you close your browser after what I'm going to say next, hear me out. I would pull the trigger on this deal. Zach LaVine is my favorite player in the entire league, but when you have the chance to land a top 15 player with more than one year on his contract (without giving up Wiggins or Towns), you do it.
Zach: Draft Jonathan Isaac out of Florida State.
Jonah: When it comes to the first option for this pick, trading for Jimmy Butler is probably the obvious answer to most Wolves fans. In an alternate universe, I might agree with you. In this alternate reality, it’s also possible to travel by tubes and the Wolves have won six straight titles so maybe we should just figure out how to move between dimensions instead? Sadly, our beloved Timberwolves exist in this reality where the otherworldly Golden State Warriors also exist. Let me present you with a scenario.
The year is 2019. The Warriors are on track for a threepeat and their fourth ring in five years. Both Kevin Durant and Steph Curry will be 31 years old while Klay Thompson and Draymond Green will be 29. The Timberwolves are a competitive playoff team led by Karl-Anthony Towns age 23, Andrew Wiggins age 24, and Jimmy Butler age 30. Do you believe that this Wolves squad is capable of matching that Golden State team?
Cal: Draft Jonathan Isaac out of Florida State.
Dan: Trade down. If I'm Tom Thibodeau and Jonathan Isaac is off the board at number seven, I'm looking to trade down and acquire Gonzaga big man Zach Collins. The former Bulldog profiles as a solid jump shooter in addition to a solid rim protector and rebounder. The Wolves don't need anyone to play 35 minutes and be the next great star in Minnesota, but a quality 28-30 minutes per game in a complementary role would be fantastic value in a loaded NBA Draft. If Tom Thibodeau believes Collins can provide that two/three years from now, he may take a chance and trade back.
Zach: Draft Lauri Markkanen out of Arizona.
Jonah: If Jonathan Isaac is not available, the wisest move would be to draft the best available player. Lauri Markkanen, Dennis Smith, Malik Monk, De’Aaron Fox, whoever it may be. A lack of “fit” does not negate a player’s value. Maybe one of those guys evolves into a high quality starter. Or, another team values said player so much that they make a deal to acquire him. Crazy things happen in the NBA, we’ve all seen it. And as we saw this year in the NBA Finals, the team with the most talent usually has a good shot at bringing home the Larry O’Brien.
Cal: Draft Lauri Markkanen out of Arizona.
Prediction of the Wolves' pick
Dan: Jonathan Isaac, Florida State.
Zach: Wolves trade down by drafting a player at number seven that a team lower wants. Trade results in Zach Collins + another asset to the Wolves.
Jonah: Jonathan Isaac, Florida State.
Cal: I think the Wolves will end up drafting Isaac if he is still available. If Isaac isn't on the board when we are on the clock, I think we will draft the best player available.
Bold Prediction of the Night
Dan: I tweeted this yesterday, and call me crazy, but the Wolves trade Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and whoever they draft seventh overall to Chicago for Jimmy Butler. This is merely a bold prediction and I've had like 15 bowls of Lucky Charms since Monday morning, so I don't blame you if you can't take me seriously.
Zach: Jimmy Butler gets traded to the Boston Celtics. (Is this considered bold?)
Jonah: Phil Jackson has seen the future and moves Kristaps Porzingis in exchange for the Lakers #2 pick. Lonzo Ball is forced to run the triangle while LaVar screams madly from the sidelines of Madison Square Garden ala Spike Lee.
Cal: Same as my homie Dan.
(From left: Dan Slaubaugh, Zach More, Jonah Sprinkel, Cal Colbert)
Thanks for reading, basketball fans. Enjoy the draft and be sure to follow OTP on Twitter (@OnTheProwl_MN) for extensive coverage on all news and analysis surrounding Thursday night's NBA Draft.