Minnesota Timberwolves: There were bright spots within Tom Thibodeau’s reign

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JUNE 24: Minnesota Timberwolves 2016 NBA Draft Pick Kris Dunn is introduced to the media by Tom Thibodeau. Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JUNE 24: Minnesota Timberwolves 2016 NBA Draft Pick Kris Dunn is introduced to the media by Tom Thibodeau. Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images) /

With Tom Thibodeau’s firing from the Minnesota Timberwolves, it’s time for a new era to begin. And while there were absolutely plenty of tough times under Thibs’ reign, let’s not forget the good times, too.

It’s over, Wolves fans, we made it.

Tom Thibodeau is gone, and a Saunders is back at the helm of the Minnesota Timberwolves as Ryan Saunders, Flip’s son will fill in as interim head coach.

Thibodeau certainly made an impact during his time in Minnesota, and while fans weren’t always behind the moves he made, he brought the Wolves’ their first playoff appearance since the original stint of Flip Saunders.

For those a little behind the times, Flip Saunders coached the Wolves between the 1995-2005 seasons and again from 2014 until his death from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2015. Until Thibs’ arrival, Saunders was the only Wolves’ coach to achieve a winning record and a playoff appearance with the team.

It’s debatable as to whether the Timberwolves would’ve managed a playoff appearance last season without Thibodeau at the helm. On one hand, the team would still have had Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn on the team, as well as Lauri Markannen, if he would have been the Wolves’ draft pick.

But without Butler’s leadership and All-Star play, the Wolves probably would’ve just been a young team on the rise. In a crucial do-or-die game as the regular season finale against Denver, Butler’s experience, leadership, and on-court play was crucial to success.

Ergo, Wolves fans can thank Thibs for the playoff appearance.

Next up is Josh Okogie. Sure, shipping out both LaVine and Dunn during their rise and sliding down 10 picks in the draft as part of the trade was a contentious move, but Thibs’ choice to select Okogie in this year’s draft proves he still knows how to judge young talent.

Okogie has the potential to be a key piece of this team moving forward, as they hope to compete for a championship. His hustle and defensive effort bring flashes of Jimmy Butler, while his offensive talent has hints of Andrew Wiggins.

And not only did Thibs snag Okogie, but he managed to get Keita Bates-Diop with the No. 48 pick, despite his potential to go a whole lot higher. Bates-Diop hasn’t really gotten a shot yet with the big club, but with Saunders at the helm we may get a peek at how good Thibs’ drafting really was.

Perhaps the biggest point of difference Thibodeau made was turning Minnesota into somewhat of a destination. The Timberwolves have never been overly attractive to free agents, and while it still may not be Los Angeles or New York, the Wolves landed the likes of Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson, and Derrick Rose in free agency among other smaller signings.

Two of the biggest names Thibodeau brought to Minnesota almost certainly wouldn’t be here without his influence. For one, Thibodeau coached Rose to his MVP, and after bringing him to Minnesota, has been key in his resurgence. Rose is averaging just shy of 19 points and five assists per game while recently placing near the top in first returns of All-Star voting.

Rose is certainly a fan favorite and has been contributing on the court in ways a lot of NBA fans didn’t think would be possible again. While Thibs out of Minnesota, its unknown if Rose will be interested in resigning in future, or even staying for the remainder of this season.

Another key piece Thibodeau lured to town is Gibson, another former Bull. Gibson has been a stable starter for the Wolves in his two seasons, and again likely wouldn’t have considered Minnesota without his former coach at the helm.

So yes, Tom Thibodeau’s stay in Minnesota was cut short as many anticipated, but it was not without success. Thibodeau brought the Timberwolves a number of key pieces alongside his extensive knowledge, and took us to our first playoff series since the original Saunders was in town.

Thibodeau is on his way out of town, Wolves fans, but let’s not curse him on his way out. Let’s thank Thibodeau for the success he brought to the team and look forward to the future that the Wolves have ahead.

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Now, with a Saunders back at the helm, can the Timberwolves get this season back on track? Only time will tell.