Minnesota Timberwolves: What makes a championship contender? Part 3

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 13: Jimmy Butler
CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 13: Jimmy Butler /

After a busy off-season, do the Minnesota Timberwolves have what it takes to contend? In a three-part series, we will look at the starting five, the bench and the coaching to see how they stack up in the tough Western Conference. To finish things up, coaching.

The Minnesota Timberwolves have a long history of bad luck when it comes to coaching. There have been many men brought in to help turn the franchise around since Kevin Garnett was traded, but none have been able to return the franchise to the playoffs.

This should change soon, as current head coach Tom Thibodeau has a much different approach and dedication to the game than others in the past. He is different than guys that patrolled Minnesota’s sidelines previously (remember triangle offense descendant Kurt Rambis? How about coach-when-he-wanted-to Kevin Mchale?)

Thibs has given the Wolves fan-base something to look forward to. He is a defensive mastermind and has an incredible passion for the game.

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So how does he stack up when it comes to other successful coaches in the league? Teams who have had lots of wins recently have done so by having great leaders on the sidelines to guide them.

Arguably, the best coach in the league right now is that old guy down in San Antonio, Gregg Popovich. Another is Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, who had the privilege to play with the best player ever to wear a knee/calf sleeve, Michael Jordan.

Things that both of those coaches have in common;

  • The belief that no one player is the best on the team or above anyone else. It’s all about the collective effort from all the players.
  • Having a system that keeps multiple players involved, through passing and player movement.
  • Getting guys to play great team defense.

Of the above things mentioned, Thibs should be able to teach the Wolves how to be strong on defense. He was able to add Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson who are rugged defenders and hopefully can be an extension of him on the court.

As far as getting collective effort from the entire team and sending the message that no one player is above anyone else, Thibs is covered.

Karl-Anthony Towns talks about how he wants the team to be great and that wants to do whatever he can to get them into the playoffs. Jimmy Butler has also said from the get go that he does not want to be the face of the franchise.

This is great for Thibs because his two best players already have a team-first mentality. They can help set the tone for him on the floor. When it comes to getting the collective effort from all of the players, especially on the defensive end, he will need his stars to speak on it as well as perform out on the floor.

This is especially true for Towns and Maple Jordan (Andrew Wiggins)

They both are excellent at putting the ball in the basket, but Thibs needs to get them especially to put in that same effort on defense.

Lastly, passing and player movement.

Thibodeau is mostly known for his defense, so it’s fair to question how successful his team will be in these areas. He has relied more on isolation basketball than Golden State or San Antonio, but that will definitely have to change this year.

While the Wolves did average about the same number of assists per game last year as the Spurs, they traded away Ricky Rubio and have no one on the roster who can facilitate like he can.

This is where player movement comes in. If Thibs can get guys moving better and being more effective without the ball in their hands, mainly Wiggins and Butler, it could take the team to another level offensively.

Next: Who is the face of the Timberwolves franchise?

On paper, it looks like the Wolves have all the pieces for Tom Thibodeau to have success this season. Emulating some of the things that make the other great teams winners should be possible with the level of talent that is at his disposal.  If they can, Thibs should be able to rest his vocal chords more this season.