The Grizzlies and Minnesota Timberwolves play the first of four games between the two on Sunday afternoon in Minneapolis. The Wolves look a bit different lately, with Jimmy Butler out and Robert Covington and Dario Saric in.
1. How relieved/upset are you with how the Jimmy Butler situation turned out?
Obviously the whole thing was not handled well; Thibs had his head in the sand for far too long, there was a lack of communication, and Butler really embarrassed the franchise. That said, I like both Robert Covington and Dario Saric, and while there might have been a better deal out there at some point, this strikes me as a pretty decent return under terrible circumstances.
2. What are the expectations for the rest of the season?
Who knows? They looked good the first couple of games without Butler, and in the first game with their new guys, but the defense is still a mess and Butler, for all his faults, is a tremendous ball player. My expectation is they play around .500 ball for the rest of the season and miss the playoffs in a very competitive Western Conference.
3. With Butler gone, is Karl-Anthony Towns the leader of this team?
I think Towns is a leader, but perhaps not “the” leader at this point. It’s a weird roster, with some respected vets (Taj Gibson, Teague, Covington) playing big roles; is a 23 year old the clear leader in that case? Obviously, Towns is the most important person in the organization, and I suspect that will morph into unquestioned leadership over the next couple of years, especially if they improve with him as their best player, but I don’t think he’s solely setting the tone right now.
4. Where does all this leave former MVP Derrick Rose?
We’ll see. Rose has started hot, especially from three, and Thibs loves him, so he’s going to get his minutes even if it doesn’t make a lot of sense going forward. He’ll likely be the bench scoring threat/6th man type, playing both the point and off-guard spots as long as he’s healthy. With the addition of Covington and the emergence of rookie Josh Okogie, it’s going to be tight for minutes on the wing and we could see Tyus Jones lose out even more at the point.
5. What will Covington and Saric add to the team?
They should both fit really well. Covington replaces Butler in the lineup, guards the opponent’s toughest wing scorer, helps on the boards, and obviously shoots threes, something the Wolves have desperately needed. He takes up less possessions than Butler, which might allow Andrew Wiggins to find a bit more of his game again, especially going to the basket. Saric also helps the three point shooting and spacing, can make a pass, and should fit next to Towns well if they can sort it out defensively. He’ll likely move into the starting lineup eventually. It gives the Wolves more depth this year, and a couple of reasonable contracts for starting caliber players going forward. I think they will both be significant additions for the Wolves.
The Timberwolves are very clearly going through some transition right now. It’s never easy to lose such a big piece of your team, regardless of how bad things were off the court with Butler. Once they settle in, it will be interesting to see how they compete with the very deep Western Conference. Eric is very right in his evaluation of what Saric brings to the team, and I’m all in on Covington and Okogie. To me, all three are players that would work well here with what JB Bickerstaff is doing.
Big thanks to Eric and the crew over at Canis Hoopus. Just like we are with the Grizzlies, they’re the best place to get in-depth analysis of everything Timberwolves.