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NBA Free Agency: Veteran Help

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The Wolves have bolstered their young core with several veterans so far

NBA: Playoffs-Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

As of today, the Wolves have made several dramatic moves in the offseason that have changed the makeup of the Minnesota Timberwolves. To recap:

  1. Traded Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and #7 pick to Chicago for Jimmy Butler and #16 pick (Justin Patton)
  2. Traded Ricky Rubio to Utah for 2018 OKC first round pick
  3. Signed Jeff Teague for a 3-year 57 million dollar contract with a player option on the last year
  4. Signed Taj Gibson on a 2-year 28 million dollar contract
  5. Renounced the rights to Shabazz Muhammad

That is four players from last year’s team, all of whom played major minutes, that are being replaced this year. In their place stands Butler, Teague, and Gibson, three veterans who will be playing integral roles.

One of the interesting things about the Wolves last year was that they not only were the youngest team in the league, but they completed disregarded relying on veterans at all throughout the season. Only Zach LaVine’s injury, and thus Brandon Rush’s extended playing time, forced the Wolves to utilize any veteran heavily.

Next year will be markedly different. However, in many ways, it will be the same.

A few things that we can be somewhat certain on already.

Karl-Anthony Towns will be playing in two-big lineups almost 100 percent of the time. Many of us here have longed to see Towns play in 5-out lineups to fully take advantage of his shooting abilities, as a stretch-four would make teams play to their limits. Instead, Towns will be playing with Gorgui Dieng or Gibson all of the time. Thibs cares much more about what happens on the defensive end rather than the possibilities on offense.

The Wolves are going to the worst three-point shooting team in the league. Losing LaVine was also going to hurt the Wolves in the shooting department. The Wolves were dead last in the league last year already in three-point attempts per game. Now, between the six or so main guys of Teague, Wiggins, Butler, Dieng, Gibson, and Towns, there is really not a prolific three-point shooter in the bunch. It’s very likely that Towns may the best shooter out of them all. Spacing is going to be a challenge.

Butler and Wiggins are going to play a ton of minutes. It’s all well and good to talk about how the roster today is not the final roster for the Wolves, but resource allocation matter. The Wolves have not signed a single backup wing behind Butler and Wiggins, two players who Thibodeau has historically played a ton. I will venture a guess that they will both come in the top-five in minutes per game next year.

The Wolves only options, at this point, to get a backup wing are the room exception or veteran minimum deals. They are looking for someone to take Cole Aldrich’s salary (about 7 million) and reportedly are open to attaching the 2018 OKC pick.

Aldrich was signed by the Wolves last year in what seemed like a quality deal, as the Wolves would be getting a backup center behind Towns and Gorgui. Gibson makes that redundant. As we look back at resource allocation, the Wolves currently are paying five (counting Justin Patton and assuming we accept that, at this point, Gibson and Gorgui are both truly centers) centers for about 43 million dollars.

Now, the Wolves may have to part with their only return from trading Ricky Rubio so that they move on from the backup center they signed last year.

Hopefully they figure something out.

This is not time for doom-and-gloom. The Wolves just completed the biggest blockbuster trade in franchise history. The team is going to be good next year. Like legitimately good. That is a big deal. This team needs to be in the playoffs.

However, the Wolves are certainly going against the path of the modern NBA. We will have very limited wing depth, little three-point shooting, and be featuring lineups almost entirely with two-bigs. The recent joke is that the Timberwolves are becoming the “TimberBulls,” created in the image of Tom Thibodeau as he gets the band back together.

Thibodeau certainly believes in the path he has chosen. He believes that the Wolves have just upgraded at point guard and have brought in the interior defensive presence needed to shore up one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA. Those can both be true things, but it can also be true that those decisions may have come at a team-building cost greater than the benefits of these new players.

We shall see what today brings.