Timberwolves Roundup: Timberpups, Jimmy Butler’s future

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 23: Jimmy Butler. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 23: Jimmy Butler. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images) /

With the Timberwolves teetering on the edge of playoff elimination, let’s take a spin through some of the internet’s hot takes surrounding the squad.

Trailing the Houston Rockets by a 3-1 margin in the first-round series that resumes on Wednesday night, it’s probably as good a time as any to peruse some of the (mostly) hot takes that the basketball blogosphere seems to have about the Timberwolves.

Following the Game 3 win and prior to the loss in Game 4 on Monday night, The Ringer’s Jonathan Tjarks wrote about the “trial by fire” that the “Timberpups” are experiencing.

It’s a solid article overall, delving into Karl-Anthony Towns usage rate and relative inefficiency in postseason play through three games, while acknowledging the somewhat awkward position the Wolves find themselves in when it comes to Andrew Wiggins and his massive contract. With Jimmy Butler in his prime and Towns and Wiggins still getting their playoff sea-legs, it’s a strange situation for Tom Thibodeau and his squad.

Here’s Tjarks (accurate) assessment of Towns through the first three games of the series.

"Everything is connected for Towns. The smaller lineups that give him more freedom on offense and demand more from him on defense. Taj Gibson, their starting power forward, is essentially a pair of training wheels for their young center. Gibson is a tough-minded veteran who never misses a defensive rotation and can slide his feet on the perimeter, but he’s also a poor outside shooter who clogs up the lane and allows Houston to pack the paint. According to NBA.com/Stats, lineups where Towns is the only big man on the floor have an eye-popping offensive rating of 113.7 in 27 minutes in the series. The problem is that they have an equally gruesome defensive rating of 120.0.The Wolves went with the same small-ball lineup at the start of the second quarters in Games 2 and 3, with Jimmy Butler playing as the 4 next to Towns. It backfired in Game 2, as Houston went on a 17-7 run and gave themselves a lead they would never relinquish. In Game 3, though, that same lineup was one of the keys to the Minnesota victory. The difference? Instead of bailing out the defense by settling for jumpers and hanging out on the perimeter like he did the first time around, Towns went right at Capela the second time around, getting to the rim, drawing double-teams, and kicking the ball out to open shooters. He finished Game 3 with 18 points on 5-of-13 shooting, 16 rebounds, three assists, and two blocks."

Tjarks finishes the article with the seemingly ever-present statement, “If Wiggins and Towns can become complete basketball players, Minnesota can play with anyone.”

Indeed, Jonathan, indeed. You’re preaching to the choir.

Elsewhere, the infamous Joe Cowley at the Chicago Sun-Times penned an article with the headline, “Jimmy Butler back with the Bulls someday? It’s not as far-fetched as it sounds”.

The column doesn’t have any evidence of this, of course. And the fishing questions asked by Cowley are regarding his upcoming free agency — over 14 months from now.

The idea that a 47-win Timberwolves team (up from 31 wins, mind you) that missed Butler for 20 games isn’t good enough to keep the All-Star wing in the fold past the 2018-19 campaign is … unnecessary? Far-flung? Really, really projecting?

It’s anything but sound, that’s for sure. So much can happen in the next year-plus; a continued improvement from Towns and Wiggins and a healthy Butler will almost surely bring 55+ wins next year. It would be extremely difficult to build that as a failure or a non-contending season, of course.

And don’t forget that if that happens Tom Thibodeau will still be in Minnesota, and everyone knows how Jimmy G. and Thibs feel about one another.

Lastly, Butler’s agent, Bernie Lee, took exception to comments made by Wolves owner Glen Taylor (come on, Glen …) surrounding Butler’s injury, surgery, and recovery, as well as the idea that Butler should be “recruiting” future teammates over the summer. According to Lee, the Wolves should be recruiting Butler.

Difficult comments for Wolves fans to hear? Sure. Do they mean anything. Nope. Not right now they don’t.

Next: Jeff Teague has improved as the season has progressed

We’ll be back after Wednesday’s Game 5 with reaction to what is hopefully a road win that kicks this series back to Target Center for a Game 6 on Friday night…