Friday’s in the summer are already beautiful and exciting and full of possibilities, but when they also include the news that your favorite basketball team acquired Jimmy Butler in a blockbuster trade without giving up Karl-Anthony Towns or Andrew Wiggins, its practically impossible to focus on anything other than your squad (including work ... sorry boss).
Yes, you read that right. The Wolves finally landed Jimmy Butler. It had been 428 days since Tom Thibodeau and Scott Layden took over as the lead decision-makers for the Wolves, meaning it had been 428 days since the new regime had made their first splashy move via trade or free agency. By moving on from fan favorite Zach LaVine, as well as Kris Dunn—Thibs’ first draft pick as President of Basketball Operations—the Wolves front office announced to the city and to the fanbase and to rest of the league that it is indeed a new era in Minneapolis.
Once the dust settles from this June blockbuster, what exactly does the current roster look like? And more importantly, what work still needs to be done to surround the Wolves new Big Three with enough talent to compete in the Western Conference? Let’s take a look:
PG: Ricky Rubio, Tyus Jones
SG: Andrew Wiggins
SF: Jimmy Butler
PF: Gorgui Dieng, Nemanja Bjelica, Jordan Hill
C: Karl-Anthony Towns, Cole Aldrich, Justin Patton
Shabazz Muhammad’s days in Minnesota seem to be numbered, but it’s possible they could bring him back as Butler’s backup if the price is right and they strike out on better more consistent shooting wings in free agency. In addition to Bazz, the Wolves will also see Brandon Rush, Adreian Payne, and Omri Casspi hit free agency (although some combination of those players could be re-signed).
At first glance, that roster above, specifically the (current) projected starting five, is simply stunning. The Wolves haven't possessed this much talent since the 2003-2004 Wolves roster (Garnett, Spreewell, Cassell) that went to the Western Conference Finals. The days of rebuilding, ping pong balls, and mock drafts are now a thing of the past, and hopefully won’t return until at least 2030.
However, at second glance, the roster above also gives me chills in a not-so-fun way. The Wolves have exactly two wing players on their current roster, and although the consensus winner of the Butler trade, they somehow got worse in terms of outside shooting. With free agency one week away, and with somewhere around $20 million in cap space (this number could fluctuate depending on Jordan Hill’s $4 million dollar team option), Thibs & Co. still have PLENTY of work to do to build this roster into a true contender. Below is a list of possible unrestricted free agents (UFA) and restricted free agents (RFA) that the Wolves could target in July (no particular order):
Paul Millsap (UFA)
Serge Ibaka (UFA)
Pau Gasol (UFA)
JaMychal Green (RFA)
Danilo Gallinari (UFA)
Andre Iguodala (UFA)
Otto Porter Jr. (RFA)
James Johnson (UFA)
Jonathon Simmons (UFA)
Bojan Bogdanovic (RFA)
Joe Ingles (RFA)
CJ Miles (UFA)
JJ Redick (UFA)
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (RFA)
Rudy Gay (UFA)
Dion Waiters (UFA)
PJ Tucker (UFA)
Tim Hardaway Jr. (RFA)
Kyle Korver (UFA)
Andre Roberson (RFA)
Luckily for the Wolves, that’s a fairly deep list, and while certain names may be less attainable (specifically RFA guys like Porter, Caldwell-Pope, etc.), it still gives them plenty of options to address shooting, rebounding, and rim protection by signing a combination of these guys (in addition to cheaper guys like Nick Young, Rodney Stuckey, Anthony Tolliver, Jason Terry, etc.).
With the new Big Three finally formed and locked in for the foreseeable future, the last remaining roster question for the Wolves is this: who exactly is going to run the team from the PG position? It wouldn’t be a day that ends in “y” without yet another “Ricky Rubio is available via trade” rumor floating around the internet; however, friend of the site Jon Krawczynski sent out two interesting tweets this morning:
Obviously things can change quickly, but Layden said wolves were excited about Rubio's 2nd half. "He's going to have a great career here."— Jon Krawczynski (@APkrawczynski) June 23, 2017
This clearly contradicts the Rubio narrative that has existed since Thibs took over last May. While this year’s free agent PG crop is deep (Kyle Lowry, Jrue Holiday, George Hill, Jeff Teague, Derrick Rose, etc.), an argument can be made that considering his age (still only 26) and current contract (owed $29 million over the next two seasons), Rubio is more valuable than each of those guys listed. Do Thibs & Co. agree? If so, it could go an enormously long way in speeding up the construction of the roster by eliminating the need to move Rubio and invest in another floor general.
With July 1st signaling the start of NBA free agency, the Wolves have only one short week to turn their attention from celebrating the arrival of Jimmy Butler to determining how exactly to fill the rest of the roster out with shooting, rebounding, and rim protection. If you thought this last week or so in the NBA was crazy, buckle up. With Jimmy Butler officially on board, the Wolves must now surround their talented trio with the necessary supporting pieces to become true contenders in the league.