A little over a year ago Tom Thibodeau and the Timberwolves made a draft night trade to help bolster their young roster by acquiring Jimmy Butler. This trade was smart and it helped propel the Wolves to making the playoffs for the first time since the ’03-’04 season. Jimmy Buckets has brought a defensive presence on the wing that the team was lacking in a bad way, and his work ethic and will to win has helped to turn the page on the past 15 years of mediocrity. If it weren’t for Butler missing 23 games due to a meniscus injury, the Wolves were looking at a 4 or 5 seed. Instead they scraped their way to the 8 seed, beating the Nuggets on the last night of the season to secure the spot. After losing in five quick games to the team that is allergic to mid range jumpers, there was a lot of hope, but the internal issues of the team were starting to leak out.
As to what the biggest question that faces the Wolves this season, the answer is quite simple.
What are they going to do about Andrew Wiggins?
It’s no secret that Wiggins has not lived up to the hype that surrounded him as the number one pick in 2014. When the Wolves made the trade to send Kevin Love to Cleveland in exchange for Wiggins and Anthony Bennett(one of the worst number one picks of all time) the future looked bright in Minnesota. Once the Wolves added KAT the following year everyone was talking about this young, athletic team that was a few years away from being legit. Bolstering back to back rookie of the year winners, along with a healthy Zach Lavine, Wolves fans finally felt they had something to look forward to.
With the Butler trade, the process of becoming a respectable team in the west was expedited, the Wolves looked poised to make some noise this past season. Making the playoffs was great, but the biggest takeaway from this season for Minnesota is that they need to figure out what they are going to do with Andrew Wiggins. The easy answer seems like a trade, but the $150 max extension he signed in October makes that very hard. The Wolves need to figure out a way to get rid of him or they could be looking at another early playoff exit.
Wiggins is a liability on defense, he’s not a consistent three point shooter, and there are some people in the organization that question his work ethic. And by some people, I mean Jimmy Butler and Tom Thibodeau, two people that hold a lot of weight within the organization. Butler publicly criticized Wiggins for his questionable work ethic and it doesn’t take a genius or ESPN insider to see where his comments are coming from. Wiggins has a laid back facade on the court, and although his athleticism bails him out at times, he can’t make up for the fact that he doesn’t work hard on both ends of the floor.
Unless Andrew Wiggins really dedicates himself to becoming an above average defender and three point shooter, the Wolves may be looking at a wasted two years. Jimmy Butler will not stay in Minnesota next summer when he becomes a free agent if he feels that the organization is more committed to Wiggins. If I was Tom Thibodeau, I would be exploring options to somehow shed Wiggins because Wolves fans will be calling for Thibs head if they can’t manage to retain Butler.
My message to Thibs: Work some magic and get rid of Wiggins, because if you don’t the Wolves are looking at another anticlimactic playoff loss that will sting even more when Butler decides to take his talents elsewhere.