Alpha Wolf: Why Jimmy Butler fits perfectly with the Timberwolves
After years of lying dormant in the cold bottom of the NBA’s rough Western Conference, the Minnesota Timberwolves charged to the Windy City and snagged their cornerstone All-Star Jimmy Butler plus draft pick Justin Patton in exchange for two-time Slam Dunk Champion Zach LaVine, prospect guard Kris Dunn and the rights to draftee Lauri Markkanen.
Mixed reactions followed the initial shockwave of the news that greatly overshadowed the happenings within the draft itself, with many expressing displeasure over the oft-criticized Chicago Bulls front office for letting go of their team captain and perennial All-Star.
On the flip side, many also expressed excitement over the Wolves’ addition of Butler and understandably so, because on paper, he is a hand-and-glove fit in Minnesota. Whether it all actually works out for the up-and-coming team obviously remains to be seen. For now, there are a number of reasons that immediately jump out as to why Butler is a good fit:
1. Tom Thibodeau
Simply put, Jimmy Butler would not be the high-caliber player that he is today if he was not put through the grind-out tutelage of Thibodeau, the Bulls’ head coach from 2010 to 2015. Being a former 30th pick of the 2011 draft, Butler was understandably kept sitting at the end of the bench in his rookie season, averaging just 2.6 points and 1.3 rebounds in 42 appearances.
With former teammate and NBA minutes leader Luol Deng going down with an injury in Butler’s second season, it was Thibodeau who gave the green light for Butler to run wild, and he did just that. In the final 14 games of the regular season, Butler averaged a staggering 42.4 minutes along with 14.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.9 steals. He even played all 48 minutes for 3 straight playoff games, including a series-winning Game 7 against the Brooklyn Nets.
Butler flourished and won the 2015 Most Improved Player award the last time he was let loose by Thibodeau. Expect the same thing for their upcoming reunion.
2. The True Timberwolves “Big 3”
Butler is now set to lead the back-to-back #1 overall pick tandem of Andrew Wiggins (2014) and Karl-Anthony Towns (2015). Although the Wolves’ pseudo-Big 3 of Towns (25.9 PPG), Wiggins (23.6 PPG) and LaVine (18.9 PPG) were all beasts last season, they were all inexperienced and lacked a true leader like Dwyane Wade and Paul Pierce of the Big 3s before them. Having 3 youngsters all go front and center in their formative years is just too close for comfort.
Now, they can rally behind and learn from a hard-nosed seventh-year veteran without losing any playing time. With a familiar coaching system and all the potential in the world among them, this new trio may just be leading Minnesota to its first playoff appearance in 14 years.
Defense was another thing sorely lacking from the young Big 3 last season. Sure, they’d wow crowds with freakish athleticism and scoring prowess but they would also lay out a red carpet towards the basket for the opposition. Despite being the tenth best offense in the league with a 110.8 Offensive Rating, they were 27th – third-worst – with a 112.0 Defensive Rating.
Wiggins and LaVine were directly responsible for these defensive woes, as they were just 12th and 13th in their own team’s defensive plus/minus rating despite them being first and fourth respectively in possession usage rates. In other words, they led the team in hogging the ball but were outclassed by nearly all of their teammates in defensive diligence. If you’re the worst defenders on a team already third-worst in league defense, you’ve definitely screwed up.
With LaVine gone, the pressure is on Wiggins to improve his defensive mentality and the defense-first Butler will definitely make sure he steps up.
As stated earlier, the young roster lacked a leader who would hold slackers accountable to their actions and Butler is one of the last people you would want to disappoint. Having been a former 30th overall pick, he had to literally scratch and claw to earn the approval of his peers and coaches. Logic would assume that he would ask the same from his protégés.
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Then again, all these are just theories at this point, and theory is useless without practice. Basketball history, like Murphy’s Law, dictates that anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
What’s undoubtedly sure, however, is the fact that next season will be the most exciting time for the Timberwolves since the MVP heyday of the legendary Kevin Garnett. He has said it himself: “Anything is possible.” – Rappler.com