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Analyzing the Wolves Offseason Thus Far

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The Wolves offseason has been slow and met with mixed emotions. Regardless, it has been a success to this point.

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

So far, Tom Thibodeau and Scott Layden's first offseason at the helm of the Minnesota Timberwolves has been a relatively quiet one. Even though the Wolves were mentioned in rumblings and hearsay for many of the summer's prominent free agents since the conclusion of the 2015-16 season, the team, to this point, has only walked away with two signees, a draft pick, one assistant coach, and a front office employee, much to the dismay of many.

I can't deny that the quantity of personnel moves has been small. But, even if none of the moves cause the Richter Scale to spontaneously combust, it's the quality of the moves that is important, and the Wolves have made many quality acquisitions this summer.

The signings of center Cole Aldrich and wing Brandon Rush were good transactions for the Wolves. Both players addressed obvious holes in the team's roster, defense and three-point shooting to be specific.

Aldrich is a young, defensive-minded center who will provide valuable minutes and bench depth. Last season, Aldrich averaged 5.5 points and 4.8 rebounds in just over 13 minutes per game for the Los Angeles Clippers, but when you look beyond the box score stats it starts to become obvious how valuable he will be for the Wolves next season. Below are Aldrich's values for defensive rating, defensive box plus/minus, and blocks per 36 over the last three seasons, according to Basketball-Reference:

2013-14

2014-15

2015-16

DRTG

100

102

94

DBPM

3.8

3.1

5.8

BLK/36

3.3

2.4

3.1

Those are all solid values and are especially valuable coming off the bench. Add in the fact that last season opponents shot 1.6% worse at the rim than average when being defended by Aldrich and the Wolves may have found another much-needed rim protecting presence to play alongside or as the backup to Karl-Anthony Towns.

In all likelihood, Aldrich will come off the bench as the primary backup to Towns. He will be the second unit's defensive anchor, something they were desperately missing last season. Aldrich's ability to disrupt shots around the rim will help close down the paint and force teams to take more shots they don't want or don't like. That will serve as a drastic upgrade to the all course buffet of open shots the Wolves' bench surrendered last season.

Rush, on the other hand, is a sharpshooting wing who really came on for the Golden State Warriors this past season. Rush is a 40.3% three-point shooter in nearly 1,200 attempts as a professional. It's a well-known fact that the Wolves need to improve their three-point shooting next season, but the team really needs to improve in three distinct areas: above the break, catch and shoot situations, and when players are wide open. Below is how the Wolves and Rush compared last season, according to NBA.com:

Above the Break

Catch and Shoot 3

Wide Open 3

Minnesota Timberwolves

32.8%

34.8%

37.1%

Brandon Rush

45.5%

42.0%

43.7%

Rush will have a rather niche role on the Wolves (read: three-point specialist) and even though it is likely that he won't see much more than 15-20 minutes per game, his impact will be felt as the Wolves will be able to improve their spacing when he is on the court.

Spacing is one of the most important factors of today's offensive system and to say the Wolves lacked spacing last season would be a major understatement. According to NBA.com, a whopping 56.3% of their shots last season came with a defender no greater than four feet away. Having Rush on the court, even if he isn't jacking up shots, in addition to Nemanja Bjelica will force teams to respect the three-point line rather than dropping down and clogging the lane. That will help free up space for the likes of Aldrich, Dieng, and the cutting wings, which will hopefully lead to much more efficient bench scoring.

Despite how one may feel about Kris Dunn's fit and future role with the Wolves, by selecting him the Wolves added to their athleticism and defensive potential. Much ink has been spilled about Dunn's selection and its implications (#ShamelessSelfPromotion), but the fact of the matter is that Dunn projects to be at least an above-average defender and athlete at the next level. Shooting and efficient scoring will be a question mark of his until it actually occurs, but Dunn fits the mold of the player acquisitions Thibodeau and Layden have made thus far: help eliminate the team's glaring weaknesses -- defense and three-point shooting. In an ideal world and despite his somewhat wonky shooting mechanics, Dunn will develop into an above average three-point shooting bulldog who will address both of those needs.

The concept of eliminating glaring needs doesn't just end with the player acquisitions, either; it even extends into the hiring of the coaching staff and front office personnel. The hiring of Andy Greer to be one of Thibodeau's top assistants may prove to be invaluable for the Wolves going forward. Thibodeau and Greer have a long history together and it was Greer who helped turn the Toronto Raptors' defense into the 11th best defense this past season (they were 23rd the season prior). Bringing Greer north onto the sidelines of the Target Center will help Thibodeau implement his defensive veracity and schemes while also helping to usher in a new culture.

And the same can be said of the hiring of former San Antonio Spur Brian Pauga. As Player Personnel Director, Pauga will help to implement a culture into the Wolves front office (something that has been desperately needed for quite some time) that is highly respected not only in the NBA but in all of sports. Pauga was highly regarded within the Spurs organization and any hire that has ties to San Antonio is a good one in my eyes.

Let's also not forget about Thibodeau deciding to keep assistant coach Ryan Saunders around. Saunders is a highly respected, young coach who is known for his analytical approach to the game. He will be of the utmost value acting as an intermediary agent, bridging the gap between the players and the new regime, all while helping to form one of the best coaching staffs in the league.

To put it a little more bluntly, even though the Wolves haven't made many moves, they have made the correct moves. While they aren't necessarily moves that will bring immediate riches to Minnesota, they are ones that ultimately help to make bad teams good and good teams great. They are moves with a long-term vision in mind that may yield some relative short-term successes, such as possibly eclipsing the .500-mark and/or making the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

Would it have been nice for the Wolves to sign the likes of a Luol Deng or Courtney Lee? Absolutely. They are fine players and possibly would have helped the Wolves push for 45-50 wins next season, a win total that would place them amongst some of the NBA's best teams most seasons. But they would have been short-term vision signings; signings that maybe would have looked pretty bad in a couple of seasons a la Kevin Martin. At some point, you have to ask what is better for the Wolves going forward: having Aldrich and Rush on the books for the next one to three years at $25.5 million combined or having Deng and Lee for the next four seasons at $102 million?

I think no matter how you slice it, to this point, Tom Thibodeau and Scott Layden's first offseason has been a success. The moves can't be described as swift or copious, but they can be described as smart, calculated, and addressing needs. And at the end of the day, isn't that all you can ask of your front office?