The Minnesota Timberwolves made a major change to their roster on draft night by trading for All-Star Jimmy Butler. Here is how the move affects the team’s depth chart.
On draft night, the Timberwolves traded Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and the rights to Lauri Markkannen to the Chicago Bulls for Jimmy Butler and the rights to Justin Patton. This change will greatly affect the Timberwolves’ depth chart.
In case you hadn’t heard, this was kind of a big deal. Most of the NBA Universe found out at the onset of the draft.
Adam Silver’s announced the trade hours after the draft began, prompting this tweet from Zach Lowe.
A move like this instantly gives the Timberwolves a mindset, presence, and sense of veteran leadership heading into the 2017-2018 NBA season.
However, there’s still more work to do.
When free agency begins on July 1, Tom Thibodeau and Scott Layden will need to address the Timberwolves’ lack of shooting — three point shooting, to be exact.
Before that happens, let’s take a look at the current depth chart.
Starter: Ricky Rubio
We’ll start with the point guard position, which still belongs to Ricky Rubio. Though that is subject to change, as it has been for the past several seasons.
Frankly, Rubio moving to another NBA would be a surprise to no one, especially when Adrian Wojnarowski continues to makes tweets like these:
For now, however, he’s still the Wolves number one point guard.
However, sending Dunn off to Chicagoland means Tyus Jones will now be the number two man at point for Minnesota.
Backup: Tyus Jones
Tyus Jones seemed to show flashes last year, and it would be nice for him to have a more consistent role on the team.
After Jones, the once overpopulated point guard position now looks a little bare for Minnesota. The Timberwolves will look to add another guard or two that could possibly play the point next season.
Starter: Andrew Wiggins
The top spot here did belong to Mr. LaVine up until the Butler trade. Now, that Mr. “Gets Buckets” has taken his talents to Uptown, this spot is open.
However, it now belongs to Andrew Wiggins.
Wait. Didn’t Wiggins play the small forward position last season? He did, yet he was often overpowered and outmuscled by older and stronger players.
Moving Wiggins to the starting shooting guard will open things up for the Wolves, for it will allow Wiggins to use his 6-foot-8 frame expose smaller guards on the wing and in the post.
The back up shooting guard spot is now up for grabs, for there is no one on the current roster that fits nicely behind Air Canada.
Sure, if the Wolves re-sign Shabazz Muhammed, he could come off the bench at this spot.
On the other hand, Muhammed fits better at the three. Furthermore, the Wolves may not even bring him back, depending on what transpires during free agency. Muhammed enters restricted free agency on July 1.
Beyond that, it’s slim at the two for the Wolves. This is an area that Thibs and Layden will need to flesh out later this summer.
Starter: Jimmy Butler
The Timberwolves will roll out their brand new toy, Jimmy Butler, at small forward when they open the season this October.
Butler, the three-time All-Star and current third team All-NBA stud, may be the Wolves best player right now.
With all due respect to Karl-Anthony Towns, Butler has contributed to more meaningful wins than the Wolves big man.
Towns will eventually reach greater heights than Butler, but for now, Jimmy might be the new Alpha dog on the Wolves.
Therefore, it’s safe to say, he’ll be in the starting line up.
As mentioned above, the Wolves lack depth at the wing. If Muhammed does end up signing elsewhere, there will be no one to back up Butler at the three.
While it’s true Nemanja Bjelica can play some small forward, Thibs has played Bjelica at the four position down the stretch of games.
Bjelica, just like LaVine, is coming off an injury, so his impact may be in question.
To sum up, the Wolves are light at the two and the three. One of Thibodeau’s main tasks in July will be to shore up the depth at the wing with reliable shooting.
As great as Wiggins and Butler could be together, neither is known for their three-point accuracy.
That needs to change for the Wolves during the free agency period.
Starter: Gorgui Dieng
Right now, the starting power forward position belongs to veteran Wolf, Gorgui Dieng.
However, I wouldn’t etch his name in stone on October’s first lineup card. Dieng, most likely, will be on the roster when the season opens. However, he may find himself coming off the bench if Thibodeau can add a playmaking power forward who complements Towns’ game better than Dieng does.
Dieng and Towns work well together, but Dieng’s ideal spot would be the versatile third big off the bench for the Wolves.
Backup: Nemanja Bjelica
Bjelica naturally would back up Dieng at the four, especially as a versatile stretch-four in the final frame.
The Timberwolves’ newest addition, Justin Patton, plays a natural center. However, Patton can shoot, so it’s possible he can be on the floor with Towns.
As a side note, that’s the beauty of a player like KAT. Thibs can run him out there as a four or a five, and he can make it work.
Starter: Karl-Anthony Towns. Duh.
After that, things get really interesting and really packed.
In drafting Patton, the Wolves now have four players on their roster who can play center — Towns, Dieng, Patton, and Cole Aldrich. That’s, dare I say, too many.
Backups: Cole Aldrich, Justin Patton, Gorgui Dieng
Right now, the backup center role belongs to Cole Aldrich. That said, Thibs didn’t find him many minutes last year on a 31-win team, so it’s unlikely he’s going to find many more on the new version of the Wolves.
In drafting Patton, they have another young, cheap prospect to build and develop.
During free agency, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dieng or Aldrich moved, depending on what kind of players the Wolves bring in as signings.
Overall Depth Chart
The Timberwolves have a solid starting lineup that can get them in the bottom half of the Western Conference playoff picture next year.
However, Minnesota is still desperately lacking depth and shooting. Thibs was able to check many boxes with the Jimmy Butler switcheroo; however, Butler doesn’t add to the Wolves’ depth, nor does he improve their three-point shooting.
The Wolves were deep at the point and at the center position last season, but they were light on wing depth and bench scoring.
Despite upgrading their roster by adding the All-Star Butler, the Wolves need to bolster their bench at the wing position in order to have a more fruitful, injury-free, season.
In summation, this depth chart is merely a snapshot as things stand today in Minnesota.
We will update the looks of it after free agency hits and the Wolves’ roster becomes more solidified.