The latest Minnesota Timberwolves rumor that hints at some discord within the organization is about Tyus Jones‘ playing time and what we know about his future with the Wolves.
There are plenty of juicy tidbits and rumors that have been mined from The Sporting News’ Sean Deveney’s robust piece surrounding the Minnesota Timberwolves and their somehow simultaneously turbulent yet officially quiet offseason thus far.
Deveney covers Wiggins’ slight regression in 2017-18, immediately after signing a max contract, as well as a bit of new information: Jimmy Butler‘s alleged discontent with Wiggins, namely his work ethic and defensive performance.
Sources familiar with the situation told Sporting News that Butler is uncertain about playing with Wiggins — Butler had problems last season with Wiggins, his work ethic and his approach on the defensive end of the floor. Thibodeau has had similar problems with Wiggins in the past, too, and he had some hope that bringing a tough-minded veteran like Butler into the locker room would spur Wiggins to improve. It didn’t.
Deveney goes on to extrapolate out the rumor to suggest that Butler won’t sign a contract extension that would lock himself into playing along side Wiggins for at least the next five seasons — a fair deduction.
Yes, trading Wiggins to free up space to extend both Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns, who is due for his rookie extension this offseason, would be the best-case scenario. It seems ridiculous on it’s face, as it was barely eight months ago that he was extended, but a year of regression at age 22 is certainly a red flag.
The rumor that hasn’t been talked about enough, however, is surrounding Tyus Jones. And not just his alleged trade request (more on that in a moment), but that Jeff Teague reportedly went to bat for Jones during the season and told Tom Thibodeau that the third-year point guard needed more playing time.
There’s plenty to unpack here, from Teague simply looking out to his teammate to the obviously jokes that Teague, a 29-year-old veteran, was being overworked to the tune of 33 minutes per game by the notoriously demanding Thibodeau.
Teague was right, of course. The team actually performed better on a per-minute basis with Jones on the court, and there were plenty of advanced metrics that suggested that Jones had the better season, albeit in comparatively limited playing time. Teague himself narrowly missed setting a career-high in minutes per game, and only an injured knee and a couple of other nagging injuries kept him from totaling a career-high in playing time.
To be fair to Thibs, while Jones played in all 82 games and averaged what was easily a career-high 17.9 minutes per contest, he was far more productive as a reserve than as a starter. In his 11 starts, Jones averaged 9.4 points and 4.9 assists while logging 33.7 minutes per game. He also shot just 27.3 percent from 3-point range as a starter, compared to 37.5 percent as a reserve.
Sure, the 11 games are a small sample size, but it would be an oversight to ignore that he was playing against starters instead of reserves and playing heavier minutes, which could have affected his legs as well as exposed some of his weaknesses as well.
At any rate, the idea that Jones’ teammate, the one who would lose minutes if Jones saw more playing time, campaigned for him to play more minutes is intriguing. It’s at least partly an indictment on Thibodeau and his rotation, and it only adds fuel to the fire that has been raging for several months.