Would the Minnesota Timberwolves’ pre-Jimmy Butler roster be better than the current one, or is the post-Butler team set up for future success?
The Minnesota Timberwolves have been mired in a two-year-long fiasco with the Jimmy Butler trade, the second Butler trade, and its fallout.
While the new-look Timberwolves surely hold promise with their young core, it’s important to remember that there was a very different young core just two years ago.
That begs the question, was the Butler trade(s) worth the setback that Minnesota has endured?Would you rather have the Robert Covington–Dario Saric return, or was it a mistake giving up on Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, and the draft pick that became Lauri Markkanen?
For this hypothetical, I’m also going to take back two other trades. The first is the Ricky Rubio trade, meaning that the Wolves lose the pick with which they selected Josh Okogie last year. To balance this out, I am also taking back the Adreian Payne trade, in which Minnesota gave the Hawks the Kevin Huerter pick, which ended up being the pick Okogie.
If you want to base this decision solely off statistics, than the choice is clearly in favor of the new squad. Covington was a true force on the court before he got injured, and this season would surely look differently if he hadn’t gone down with a bone bruise. As for Saric, he has turned around a slow start with his new team and has shown glimpses of the promise that made him a lottery pick by Philadelphia.
As for the players that the Wolves gave up, well … none of them have performed incredibly well. Markkanen is arguably playing the best among them, but he is still a net-negative when on the court. Dunn has gotten much better than when he was playing under Thibodeau, but he is still an offensive liability with a 99 offensive rating.
As for LaVine, he has not progressed as wanted, and his situation is somewhat comparable to that of Andrew Wiggins: a player who showed immense talent who just isn’t living up to the hype. LaVine had the knee injury that set him back, but that’s also partly why he was included in the trade instead of Wiggins.
However, if you really think about if the old group of youngsters could have played these last two seasons together, I think that they would be in a better state than where the team is right now. Think about a potential lineup of Rubio, LaVine, Wiggins, Markkanen and Towns, and you just get the sense of something special.
The second team would likely be Tyus Jones, Derrick Rose, Okogie, Taj Gibson and Gorgui Dieng. You could argue about Gibson or Markkanen starting, but it is an excellent 10-man rotation regardless. And that isn’t even counting Dunn, Luol Deng, or Anthony Tolliver, who could all come in handy as well.
While the flashes of what could have been are certainly enticing, we no longer have the opportunity to see what this group had the capability of doing.
Instead, we have to wait and see what the front office can do in the offseason. Hopefully, the Timberwolves will finally get back on track towards becoming a true contender.