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How Long for the Wolves to Coalesce?

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With all the new faces, will there be an adjustment period and will it cost the Timberwolves?

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Utah Jazz Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

We are just two days away from the Wolves pre-season opener against the Lakers—our long (but fascinating!) summer is over. I can’t wait to get a look at these guys in uniform, especially all the new players on the roster.

Which raises a question for today: How much of a adjustment period should we expect, and how much can the team afford if they want to be a serious playoff contender this year?

There are four or five (depending on whether Aaron Brooks plays, another interesting question) new guys who are likely to be in the rotation:

Jimmy Butler
Taj Gibson
Jeff Teague
Jamal Crawford
Aaron Brooks

Now, these are all veterans, and three of them know Thibs and have played for him before, so that likely mitigates things, but it’s going to be a very different team, and of course it’s not just the new guys who have to adjust, but the holdovers as well. Finding lineups that work, players learning how to work with other players, all of it is part of the process, but how much time will it take?

I’m hoping that the defense, even if it isn’t as good as it will hopefully someday be, will be better right away with Butler and, to an extent Gibson out there. Both because of their individual abilities, and because it will be two more guys who know what they are doing within Thibs’ system, which can only help.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t be surprised if the offense takes a temporary step back early on, as they figure out how to play together, how to get everyone their best opportunities, etc.

The hope is that their talent carries them early while they work things out, because they can’t afford much of a slow start in what is going to be a brutal Western Conference.

Thibs is hoping the China trip helps both with bonding and with basketball, and they can get things figured out quickly. It starts, publicly at least, Saturday night.

In other NBA news, the Cavaliers have signed Dwyane Wade after he reached a buyout agreement and was waived by the Bulls. This of course reunites him with LeBron James. We’ll see how much he has left, but of course it’s all about the post-season for the Cavs.

It further clogs up their roster, however, and some decisions need to be made. They have a more than full roster of guaranteed contracts. In particular, they have about eleventy billion wing(ish) players who will expect to play. If they go with a starting lineup of:

Derrick Rose
Dwyane Wade
LeBron James
Kevin Love
Tristan Thompson

They still have J.R. Smith, Jae Crowder, Kyle Korver, and Iman Shumpert on the bench. And that is not exhaustive. They can and will play three, four, and conceivably even five wing lineups, and it should be fascinating. That said, I wish the Wolves could make a trade for some of that wing-depth goodness.

NOTES

  • Nemanja Bjelica returned to Minneapolis for the birth of his child, but is expected back with the team by the weekend.
  • JaMychal Green has re-signed with the Grizzlies on a two year deal after a long summer as a restricted free agent. I’m a bit surprised he didn’t generate more interest early in the summer, but restricted free agency is a tough spot, as we’ve seen.
  • Here’s an ESPN article detailing the FBI investigation into college basketball corruption. It involves financial advisers and at least adidas paying off college coaches and players. Not shocking.

Enjoy your day.