Timberwolves Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Ricky Rubio
SG: Jimmy Butler
SF: Andrew Wiggins
PF: Gorgui Dieng
C: Karl-Anthony Towns
The Minnesota Timberwolves are locked and loaded for the 2017 season. Jimmy Butler is a three-time All-Star, as well as a three-time All-Defensive player that is joining a young, promising Minnesota nucleus with Andrew Wiggins (2015 Rookie of the Year) and Karl-Anthony Towns (2016 Rookie of the Year).
Butler will bring his experience, maturity, and fantastic two-way play to elevate this young team to the a whole new level. He is a huge upgrade over Zach LaVine, and the new superstar will have an early and significant impact for Minnesota next season. Butler is also reunited with the coach who made him a superstar in Tom Thibodeau, spelling trouble for other West contenders.
Among the other players in the Minnesota starting lineup, Andrew Wiggins is a prolific scorer and has multiple All-Star games awaiting his future. Karl-Anthony Towns is already a fantastic player, he has more room to improve to superstardom and is clearly the future of the franchise. Gorgui Dieng is an underrated defender and rebounder, who was included on the All-Rookie Second Team in 2014.
Ricky Rubio may be the most underrated floor general in the NBA last season, averaging 9.1 assists per game. Rubio is still only 26 years old, giving the Wolves one of the best starting lineups in the league and making them a potential contender in the West for years to come.
The Wolves’ only weakness as of now is bench depth. In return for Butler, the Wolves sent away Kris Dunn, who they believed was a budding star, and Zach LaVine, primarily known for his high-flying dunks, but was also a solid asset to the Wolves of the past.
Shabazz Muhammad is looking like the top bench option as of now, who averaged just 9.9 PPG last season. Behind Muhammad? Not much. Brandon Rush (4.2 PPG), Omri Casspi (5.2 PPG), and Tyus Jones (3.5 PPG) are looking like the next options off the bench. Justin Patton (16th overall pick) looks like a promising prospect who could provide quality minutes and have a shot blocking/rebounding presence, but he will need time to develop.
Where do the Wolves stand in terms of competitiveness in the West? The Warriors and Spurs seem to have the top two spots locked up, granted Kevin Durant and Steph Curry remain where they are, which seems almost certain.
The Clippers could be losing Chris Paul and/or Blake Griffin, Utah could be losing Gordon Hayward, and Houston seems to have hit their ceiling. Even if Griffin, Paul, and Hayward stay put, the Wolves have a very real chance of finishing as high as third place in the West if they stay healthy. Although the Wolves might have a better starting lineup than all of those teams, the difference between the Wolves and the other West teams is their bench depth.
The Rockets have two Sixth Man of the Year candidates in Lou Williams and Eric Gordon, as well as the ageless Nenê, the Clippers have a longtime scorer and magnificent ball-handler in Jamal Crawford, as well as polished vets Austin Rivers and Raymond Felton, and the Jazz have clutch king “Iso Joe” Johnson, and young talents Rodney Hood, Dante Exum, and Derrick Favors.
The Wolves took a massive leap in bolstering their roster with the addition of Jimmy Butler. The Wolves could make waves and shake up the West this year and are beginning to look like a force with their young core. Butler has two years left in his contract and if Minnesota is able to get him to stay, the Wolves are looking like a dynasty in the making.