By: Alex Berg
If the reported talks between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Tom Thibodeau become finalized -- hell, even if they would fall apart -- the Wolves are quickly approaching a status that may have not ever been reached by a team to call Minnesota (four “major” pro teams only, the Lynx are awesome and everyone knows it) its home.
Minnesota might be a desired destination for players and, in this case, coaches.
Think back to nearly every promising young player to ever play, in any of the four sports, in Minnesota over the last decade-plus. Any time said player starts to blossom and stand out, it almost became a bittersweet feeling. Sure, the immediate enjoyment was great, but in the back of your head it was always “when is this guy going to leave?”
Getting its own good players to stick around has been enough of a struggle for Minnesota, going out and bringing in good players from other teams hasn’t even seemed like a possibility for most of the last 10-15 years.
Aside from the Vikings bringing in a 40-year old Brett Favre with a revenge narrative and the Wild spending big on Ryan Suter and Zach Parise -- both of whom had strong local ties to the team/area -- when is the last time a big-name player or coach ever willingly chose Minnesota? Maybe Steve Hutchinson signing with the Vikings in 2006?
Now, even if the deal with Thibodeau falls through -- which is looking extremely unlikely at this point -- the top coach, by all accounts, is choosing to come to Minnesota.
That’s pretty cool.
If Minnesota was able to attract the “big fish” in the pond of available coaches, it is not outrageous to think players might follow the light this summer.
Sure, Kevin Durant is going to be at the top of everyone’s free agent list this summer and he probably (I’m not going to rule anything out after all that’s happened over the last two years) is not coming here, but there are plenty of really good basketball players that will be looking to get paid this summer. Some names are: Al Horford, DeMar Derozan, Harrison Barnes, Jamal Crawford; and perhaps more relevant than ever to the Timberwolves, former Chicago Bulls trio Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol and Luol Deng.
Considering the Wolves young core of Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, Gorgui Dieng and Karl-Anthony Towns, it is not hard to see why Thibodeau and other the other top coaches on the market had interest in Minnesota.
Add Thibodeau and yet another high-end draft pick to the mix and Minnesota just might be one of the premier destinations for free agents who want to win.
Whether or not Thibodeau is the perfect candidate remains to be seen. His experience and defensive expertise is countered by a history of over-working young players and sometimes a lack of offense. While both of those are valid concerns, the return of Vice President of Sports Performance Arnie Kander would make me feel much better about the team’s health. And this team can already score, I don’t see Thibodeau’s defensive-minded system changing that terribly.
Another potential concern could be the bulk of Thibodeau’s experience came as a coach and it is unclear how he may handle having “full control.” Bringing in Scott Layden to handle the General Manager duties should help ease that concern. I imagine Thibodeau will have a big say in personnel, but as far dealing with cap numbers and dealing with agents, I expect he will defer to Layden.
What is clear already is that Glen Taylor is serious about winning right now. If the numbers included in the early reports are accurate, Thibodeau is likely going to be one of the top-three highest paid head coaches in the NBA. Perhaps, more importantly, Taylor stepped up and did exactly what I pleaded him to do in my most recent post on this domain. I desperately wanted to see Taylor step outside his comfort zone and swing for the fences. Just once. And there really isn’t much of a bigger swing than this.
What was already clear was Flip Saunders had a vision. He drafted LaVine. He patiently waited to move Kevin Love for Wiggins. He signed Rubio to a four-year contract extension. He drafted Towns. Tragically, he of course passed away before the 2015-16 season began, but his vision is continuing to take place.
Taylor has carried out what Flip was able to do (getting the best young player in the draft for Love and drafting the best young player the following year) by opening up his pocketbook and acquiring someone who is widely regarded as the best available head coach.
Flip chose to return to Minnesota, granted he was not the top-dog on the market his return was significant for various reasons. I think it was always a part of Flip’s plan to make Minnesota a desirable NBA city.
If the new regime does in fact take place and plays its cards right, this could just be the beginning in Minnesota.