The Timberwolves introduced Taj Gibson and Jeff Teague at a press conference yesterday, and it wasn’t even close to the biggest new player intro of the off-season. That’s amazing when you think about it. The Wolves have remade their roster over the course of just a few weeks, going from a young team with no playoff experience to a veteran team with a ton of experience.
Gibson and Teague both said all the right things of course, these things rarely provide much in the way of surprises. Teague asserted that he had his eye on the Wolves as soon as the Jimmy Butler trade went down, and Gibson of course spoke about wanting to be back with his old coach Tom Thibodeau.
Thibs, for his part, spoke about Teague’s pick and roll ability, Gibson’s defensive talent, and their experience and success as parts of winning teams.
But what I’ve been thinking about is the changes, not just for the Wolves, but for so much of the league, especially the Western Conference.
There are so many teams that have made significant alterations to their rosters that I am excited to see play. The Wolves are, of course, chief among them, and perhaps much of my excitement is the idea that the Wolves will actually be in a real competition with some of these squads, competition for playoff spots, for seeding, for things that actually matter. Which is quite refreshing.
But consider: Other than the Warriors and Spurs, just about every other Western Conference playoff contender has made major changes to the makeup of their team. Some will work out, some won’t, but it makes for an exciting uncertainty heading into the season. Here are a few teams I’m most interested in seeing how things develop:
Rockets: Add Chris Paul. Yeah, just getting one of the best point guards in league history, no big deal. As of this writing, working to acquire Carmelo Anthony. Will be fascinating to see how Paul and James Harden figure it out in Mike D’Antoni’s system. Third in the West last season, and still making splashes.
Thunder: Oh, let’s trade for Paul George. After an MVP season from Russell Westbrook, who led them to the playoffs, they added an All-Star, even if it’s just for one season. Swapped out Taj Gibson for Patrick Patterson as well. The George acquisition should help them especially when Russ sits, which is when they got hammered last year.
Clippers: Lost Paul, which is obviously painful, but did not fold. Got a decent haul from that trade from the Rockets, including Patrick Beverly, who will help them. Also saw J.J. Redick walk. Signed one of my personal faves, Danilo Gallinari, and brought in one of the exciting free agents this year, Milos Teodosic. I think they will still be good (health permitting) but so many changes, who knows how it all fits together?
And of course our Wolves, who have, in one way of thinking about it, swapped out Zach LaVine, Ricky Rubio, Kris Dunn, and Shabazz Muhammad for Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson, and Jamal Crawford. That’s a lot of minutes changing hands, and is going to result in more wins.
This is our team. They will add some peripheral guys; someone to compete with Tyus Jones at point guard, a couple of wing guys, but the players who are going to play are here. How does it fit together? Will there be growing pains early?
Many will argue that this is all sound and fury signifying nothing, with the Warriors sailing above the fray secure in their superiority. But I disagree. This is a competition, that’s what makes it fun. I like that teams, both the Wolves and their competition, are trying things. Assertively trying to get better, or refusing (like the Clippers) to fold when they are handed a set-back. Trying matters, and, while I haven’t loved everything they’ve done, I’m happy that the Wolves are now in that mix.