The best way to rebuild a team? Draft a player who puts up one of the greatest rookie years in the history of the league. Karl Anthony-Towns proved to be one the most NBA-ready players in years and was deservedly named a unanimous Rookie of the Year. He could easily be a top-15 player by the end of next season, if he isn’t already.
Minnesota has already nailed the first part of its offseason: Hiring Tom Thibodeau to be its next head coach. Thibs has shown a changed perspective since taking a year off and he’s landed in a terrific situation in Minnesota. He can sculpt the young team into a terrifying defensive unit, employing the great physical tools that Towns, Ricky Rubio and especially Andrew Wiggins have.
Wiggins is the player who could benefit most from playing under Thibodeau. His length and tremendous athleticism, coupled with Thibodeau’s teachings, could turn him into one of the five best defensive players in the league. We’ve seen enough to know he probably can’t be a No. 1 option on offense, but, thanks to Towns’ brilliance, he probably doesn’t need to be. If he focuses on defense and stays within himself offensively the Wolves will be in great shape.
As an added bonus, the Timberwolves have the fifth pick in the draft this June. It could be an awkward slot to draft, but the Wolves probably already have their two best players going forward they just need to add contributors. A stretch four like Henry Ellenson who can play next to Towns could help, but so could a pure shooter like Jamal Murray or Buddy Hield. With Hield, the Wolves have a chance to chase people off the three point line on defense (with Towns and Gorgui Dieng protecting the paint) while maintaining a high octane offense with the lights out shooting that Hield brings to the table. Hield at the 5th pick seems like the dream.
The only glaring issue on their cap sheet remains the contract of Nikola Pekovic. Pekovic is little more than a sunk cost at this point, as injuries have cost him the past few years. Minnesota could push its cap space above $30 million by waiving him via the stretch provision, but they’ll likely explore the trade market first.
There is one pitfall the Wolves need to be careful of this summer- free agency. For all his merits Thibodeau has never worked a rebuilding job. Will he abuse his newfound President of Basketball Operations powers and overpay veteran free agents? Can he remain patient and only pursue players who fit the Wolves’ timeline? The Wolves need to take it one player at a time and fill the holes they have with strong, contributing role players. If Thibs remains patient, he has a chance to build the next Western Conference juggernaut.