'New era, new look'. This has become the slogan for the Minnesota Timberwolves. In April, as the 2016-17 regular season was coming to an end, the Timberwolves revealed a brand new logo. That alone was an exciting time for Wolves fans. Little did everyone know that the Wolves front office had more plans to renovate the team.
Fast forward to now, and 'new era, new look' has a brand new meaning. This offseason was indeed a very busy one for the Wolves front office as they took the summer by storm. They certainly delivered on their promise of a new direction. Their first move was trading point guard Ricky Rubio to the Utah Jazz, in exchange for a 2018 first round pick. The real fun began, however, on draft night when they traded the 7th overall pick, Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine to the Chicago Bulls to acquire three-time All-Star Jimmy Butler. They then went on and signed free agents Jeff Teague, Jamal Crawford, Taj Gibson and Aaron Brooks. With these new acquisitions, the expectations are certainly high this year for the Timberwolves.
The Timberwolves number one goal right now is certainly to end their 13-year playoff drought, currently the longest in the NBA. The team ended last season as the 13th seed in the Western Conference, with a 31-51 record. But the Wolves weren't the only western conference team to make big moves this summer. The Thunder acquired Carmelo Anthony and Paul George, while the Rockets traded for Chris Paul. Also, the Warriors are still the Warriors.
While the Wolves aren’t in the position to win a championship just yet, getting some experience in the playoffs is definitely the first step. Barring any injuries, they can finally end their playoff drought and snag the 4th seed at best.
Something to watch for this upcoming season is for the Wolves to become a better defensive team. Last season, the Timberwolves ranked 26th in points allowed per possession. With Tom Thibodeau as the head coach, people expected Minnesota to instantly turn it around on the defensive end. That didn't happen. Bringing in Butler and Gibson, who have developed as players under Thibodeau's system will help tremendously.
While the young team was certainly fun to watch, there has been a lack of veteran leadership in the Timberwolves locker room for quite some time now. By adding guys like Jamal Crawford and Taj Gibson, the Timberwolves front office seems to have recognized where their issues lie and are looking to fix them. Jimmy Butler is another guy who can step up and be a leader. There have been issues with him publicly criticizing teammates, but he's proven he wants to win. Last season was a learning experience for him.
You can expect Butler to come into the season looking to lead the team right away. One of the biggest impacts Butler can have with the Wolves is being a mentor to Andrew Wiggins. While Wiggins has improved each year offensively, he has proven that he still has room to grow defensively. Critics have often commented on Wiggins lack of effort on defense during his first three years.
The Timberwolves front office offered Wiggins a 5-year, $148 million contract, only after he promised to elevate his game. With Butler's guidance, Wiggins should have a solid fourth year.
Jeff Teague might not be the passer that Rubio was, but his offensive game is an upgrade. Teague also had a better defensive rating, and contested more shots according to NBA stats. Another upgrade the Wolves made was by signing Taj Gibson. The Timberwolves desperately needed a rim protector last season, and Gibson is more than capable. Another guy Wolves fans will love having is Jamal Crawford. The Wolves ranked dead last in bench production last season and with Crawford joining the second unit, they don't have to worry about scoring. With the 3-time Sixth Man of the Year coming off the bench, bench production is surely to get better.
The expectations are definitely high already for this new Timberwolves team. The first couple of months will be a challenge as the players will have to learn the system. It will definitely take some time to gain the chemistry and trust that is needed. In the meantime, the focus will be on acclimating the new players, as well as ensuring that Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins still grow in the process.
With the season set to start in a few weeks, it's clear that fans are ready for this new chapter. The Timberwolves will be a fun, hardworking, league-pass worthy team. If all goes as planned, Wolves fans can look forward to that feeling of excitement come April for the playoffs. The new era of Timberwolves basketball is upon us, and it'll be one exciting ride.