Posted by: Dan Slaubaugh
In the midst of their first playoff run in 13 years, the Wolves are losing crucial basketball games while looking joyless on the court and more than half the fanbase is pointing fingers at President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach Tom Thibodeau. This fascinating development called for a discussion among the OTP staff, which you'll read below. Because old men Zach and Seth were asleep, you're left with Jonah, Louie, and myself. Enjoy!
Dan: Monday night, the Wolves turned in their worst performance of the season against a Memphis Grizzlies team actively trying to lose the rest of their games. On a night the Wolves had a real opportunity to make some ground in the Western Conference standings, it was an utterly embarrassing and pathetic loss against a team that had lost 17 consecutive road games and 23 of 24 games overall (a streak that extends back to late January). Consequently, and for good reason, Wolves Twitter was collectively irate at head coach Tom Thibodeau for the atrocious performance by his team and the long-term concerns that continue to be exposed over the course of the season. With that being said, I must ask: Is Tom Thibodeau capable of leading the Wolves to an NBA Finals down the road? It may sound like a silly question considering the team hasn't made the playoffs in 13 years, but if we don't think that's even a possibility for the future, then what are we even doing here?
Louie: No. Absolutely not. He has an ancient coaching style and refuses to adapt to the modern NBA.
Jonah: I agree 100% with Louie. In 2010, the Orlando Magic led the NBA in made 3 pointers at 770. In the same year, the Chicago Bulls opponents only attempted 1308 3 pointers and made 427 of them. This year opponents have attempted 2238 3-pointers against the wolves and have made 818. Thibs basically concedes 3’s and that’s all teams shoot in the modern NBA. This stat speaks volumes to me. In a league where the three-pointer is the most valuable weapon, the Wolves are horrendous at defending against it.
Louie: As we have said before, it’s very worrisome that a coach who took a year off to learn cannot adapt when it is so clear. Or listen to his players.
Jonah: Exactly Louie. Multiple Wolves players have now voiced their frustration over playing too many minutes or not letting the bench play. These aren't rookies talking. These are league vets who have seen it all. They know the stress of multiple high-minute games.
Dan: Great point, Jonah. The fact the players are calling out Thibs publicly shows fatigue is on their minds. When Thibs was brought in to be the POBO/Head Coach of the Wolves, most people thought he would bring a toughness and defensive expertise that would take the Wolves to the next level. So far, he's done neither of those and hasn't shown anything to suggest he learned anything during his year-long sabbatical from the league. We've got the expected bad stuff (overplaying starters, not developing bench/young guys, signing ex-Bulls, old-fashioned offense) but none of the good stuff (toughness, defense). Truly frightening.
Jonah: Is it a bad thing that the majority of the fanbase was able to predict what would happen to this team as soon as Thibs was hired?
Dan: I guess Minnesotans just know their basketball.
Louie: One thing that worries me is what will come out after the season concludes. It wouldn’t surprise me to see stories come out about how dysfunctional the locker room is. Players don’t seem to want to play for each other, and they don’t look like they’re having fun on the floor. I would never want this to happen, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was true.
Jonah: You're right, Louie. If you look at the successful/quality teams around the league they celebrate with their teammates when things go well. There are smiles on the court and in the locker room. There is no joy inside Target Center.
Dan: Which certainly won't help the Wolves attract free agents this summer, that is, if any want to come to Minnesota. Thibs' history of over-working players and complete dismissal of the bench will make it almost impossible for the Wolves to draw quality free agents. That's a killer for a team that clearly needs a slew of quality rotation players to support their core players.
Jonah: Also, the Wolves track record as a franchise in general won't help either. Thibs was brought in to change the culture. In my opinion, the culture has, at best, remained the same.
Louie: The wolves just seem to be stuck between a rock and a bunch of hard places. Do you trade making the playoffs for multiple first round picks? Do you need to miss the playoffs for ownership to take certain action? Do you need to make the playoffs and keep Thibs to keep Jimmy? A lot of moving parts.
Jonah: Is the owner willing to take action after having the best season sans KG or is he happy simply being a middle of the road franchise?
Dan: Those are all great questions. Personally, I would like to see the Wolves make the playoffs if they can get a top-7 seed. That would allow them to face a Steph-less Warriors team and maybe, just maybe, push the series to six-plus games if Jimmy Butler returns and matches the all-star level play he showed before he got hurt. In addition, the drought would end, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins would get their first taste of the playoffs, and welcoming the defending champions to Target Center for playoff basketball in April would be all sorts of fun. On the other hand, I think I'd rather they miss the playoffs then get the 8-seed and get swept by the Rockets. The series would not be enjoyable, and the Wolves would have two 1st round picks in this summer's NBA Draft (for more on that, click here).
Louie: I agree. The drought would end, which I think is important for the culture of Minnesota Timberwolves basketball and the Timberwolves fan base. Like I have said before: winning solves a lot of teams problems
Jonah: Winning does solve problems. But winning may only further encourage Thibs to continue down this road of high usage and little bench activity.
Louie: Agreed. We need to win the right way, and hopefully, that means Thibs changing his ways and learning to win in other fashions.
Jonah: I think the idea that Thibs will/can change is a pointless hypothetical at this point. He had time away to examine his mistakes and change his ways and he came back more set in his ways than ever.
Louie: Would you rather see him go as coach or POBO? If you had to choose one.
Jonah: Man, that's a tough one. It's choosing between the lesser of two evils. I'd have to say coach though.
Dan: Coach. I think someone like Dave Joerger, who the Wolves had interest in the same summer Thibodeau was hired, could get much more out of the current roster Thibodeau has constructed.
Louie: I’m on the coach train as well. Fizdale could be fun.
Jonah: Unless there's anything else, any closing thoughts gentlemen?
Louie: I’m all good
Dan: Nothing besides the fact that if the Wolves lose to the Hawks (another team actively trying to lose) tonight, Wolves Twitter will be the scariest place on planet earth. So, go get them Hawks, Wolves. Please, for our own mental health ... Beat. The. Hawks.