Do the Timberwolves have a shot at making the playoffs without All-Star Jimmy Butler in the lineup down the stretch of the regular season?
The Minnesota Timberwolves got some bad news nearly two weeks ago when guard Jimmy Butler went down with a knee injury.
It looked horrible — like ACL-tear horrible. Ultimately, it wasn’t quite that bad, although a torn meniscus is certainly still a serious injury.
Initially rumored to be out between four and six weeks, Butler could perhaps be back for the playoffs. But will the Wolves make it there without him?
It is certainly doable, but will be tough. Here’s Taj Gibson, via Jace Frederick at twincities.com.
"“If he has a chance to come back and play, we’ll have to wait and see,” Wolves forward Taj Gibson said. “Hopefully, if he’s healthy enough he can play, but as a friend first, I want him to be 110 percent ready, because over the years I’ve already seen guys rush back and those kind of things hurt a player’s career.”"
And that’s another thing. As good as it would be to have Butler back, the team also has to think about his future. The Wolves should continue to be playoff contenders in the coming years with Butler, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. It may not be worth it for him to rush back this season.
Butler has been a great addition to this Wolves team. He has been their best player all season and you can also make a fairly simple argument that he has been their best player since Kevin Garnett. His ability to score and defend has been huge; the Wolves are already not a very good defensive team and his scoring helped take the load off of Wiggins and Towns.
And as Tom Thibodeau said, a team can’t simply replace “a guy like Jimmy” individually.
The Timberwolves are currently sixth in the Western Conference at 38-28, including a 2-2 record since Butler’s injury. They sat third less than two weeks ago, and the Denver Nuggets are the eighth seed and only 1.5 games behind them.
The Wolves have some very tough games ahead, which include facing the Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs and the Houston Rockets down the stretch.
Overall, it’s an extremely frustrating turn of events for this organization and the fans. It looked they were finally going to end their 13-year playoff drought with ease, and perhaps even get the third or fourth seed in the West. The playoffs are far from a slam-dunk at this point.
So many changes happened this offseason for the Wolves: new jerseys, new court, a renovated arena and new additions which of course included Butler. Fans quickly started buying season tickets after the draft day trade for Butler and this was the most excited they had been since the Wolves made it to the Western Conference Finals in 2004.
With Butler in the lineup, it would have been a bit of a disappointment had they finished the season somewhere in the No. 6 to No. 8 spots. It would have been great to see them back in the playoffs again, but they still had the talent to be a top-five seed.
At this point, an eighth seed would be acceptable. Without Butler in the lineup to get them all the way there, fans will be happy if the squad simply makes the playoffs.