What if the Minnesota Timberwolves never traded for Jimmy Butler?

Could the Minnesota Timberwolves reacquire former draft pick Lauri Markkanen from the Chicago Bulls? (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Could the Minnesota Timberwolves reacquire former draft pick Lauri Markkanen from the Chicago Bulls? (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

You can submit Minnesota Timberwolves questions for next Friday’s mailbag via our Twitter page, @DunkingWolvesFS.

NBA Basketball is nowhere close, it seems. There have not been any (reported) talks of the league continuing its current season. However, it seems as though the offseason may continue as scheduled, given how well the NFL’s draft did last night.

Speaking of the NFL Draft, cross-sport home team Minnesota Vikings were widely considered the ‘winners of the draft’ after they selected LSU’s Justin Jefferson and TCU’s Jeff Gladney.

The Timberwolves have not had much going on, or really any team for that matter — although ESPN’s The Last Dance debuted their first two episodes this past Sunday. There will be two episodes every Sunday for the next month or so.

Without further ado, let’s get into the questions.

The Timberwolves have an interesting path towards contention. Obviously, they did not win much following the trade deadline, although a lot of that is due to Minnesota missing their best player, Karl-Anthony Towns. That said there are really talented teams currently projected to miss the eighth overall seed (Pelicans and Trail Blazers).

Having two stars gives the Timberwolves a real advantage over, say, the Kings, Grizzlies, and Thunder (assuming they lose Gallinari this offseason), and hopefully whoever the Wolves draft can develop into a solid starter.

However, they also need to hit on signings in free agency that can play real, consistent minutes in the playoffs. That means they have to bring in players that can have roles both offensive and defensively. Minnesota needs a real group of rotational players that can compliment D’Angelo Russell and Towns effectively.

Should they find those pieces, the Wolves could realistically become a top-6 seed. However, if they want to become a true contender, they will need to find a third option, and that is going to be very difficult if Devin Booker does not become available.

Having Lauri Markkanen long-term vs. the single year Jimmy Butler afforded the Timberwolves seemingly is an upgrade. That said, Minnesota would have absolutely no defense whatsoever with a lineup of Rubio/LaVine/Wiggins/Markkanen/Towns. No perimeter defense. No interior defense. Nothing at all. While Minnesota would be able to outscore most opponents, the defensive floor of that lineup is putrid. It is impossible to understate how awful it would be.

Next, Markkanen is a long-term stretch four with scoring upside. Honestly, while he is a promising player, I think his skill set is sort of redundant next to Towns anyways. I doubt he would be the draft pick had the Timberwolves decided to pass on that Jimmy Butler trade (honestly, they likely would have selected Dennis Smith Jr.)

However, that also means that Zach LaVine stays in Minnesota as well. LaVine has been a borderline All-Star this past season for the Chicago Bulls, averaging 26 points, five rebounds, and four assists (on splits of 45/38/80). Having him on the roster means the Timberwolves probably never trade for D’Angelo Russell. It also means they would have had the cap room to surround the two with better overall talent.

All in all, I don’t think there is too much of a difference in terms of where the team sits currently. Jimmy Butler gave the Wolves a temporary run at the playoffs, but I don’t think not making that particular trade means Minnesota is better off today.

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We didn’t answer many questions today, but you can make sure your question is included next time by replying to our tweets at @DunkingWolvesFS on Twitter.