Give And Go

By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
The National Basketball Association free agency and/or transfer window has been open for a good two weeks and a lot of activities have been happening through it. One team that has been very busy of late retooling are the Minnesota Timberwolves, which have gotten a number of players who this space believes should help them in being a tight pack.

The Wolves got via trade All-Star Jimmy Butler from the Chicago Bulls and the 16th pick in this year’s rookie draft, which was used to get big man Justin Patton of Creighton, in exchange for upstarts Zach Lavine, Kris Dunn and no. 7 overall pick, which was used to select Arizona seven-footer Lauri Markkanen.

After that Minnesota traded away longtime point guard Ricky Rubio to the Utah Jazz for a future pick before signing former All-Star Jeff Teague from the Indiana Pacers as replacement for Rubio.

Recently, the Wolves inked a deal with power forward Taj Gibson to snatch the latter from the Oklahoma City Thunder. Gibson, like Butler, is reunited with former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota.

Considering how the NBA landscape, particularly in the Western Conference where the Wolves are playing, has been severely altered by the “mind-blowing” transfers that have been happening in the last couple of years, change of one form or another was definitely needed for Minnesota.

While the team they had last season, led by young guns Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, was being competitive, still direction arrows pointed to them still being a work in progress and might have to wait some time more to start reaping the fruits.

With the changes they have made of late, this space believes that the development process of the team to being more competitive has
been fast-tracked and would actually pay immediate dividends in a form of a playoff spot come next season.

The addition of Butler, with his solid two-way game, gives Minnesota a promising “Big Three,” the “It” word
it seems in The Association these days, with Towns and Wiggins.

Butler’s should complement the game of the young fellows in Minnesota, albeit admittedly all them have to make some sacrifices and adjustments to make their tandem work.

Leadership on both ends of the court is also something that Butler brings to the team as he can be an offensive stabilizer down the stretch as well as a defensive anchor to aid the still-developing thrust of Minnesota.

Teague, meanwhile, may not be the bulk assist man that Rubio is but he has shown the ability to play big when called upon, especially during his stay with the Atlanta Hawks where he was a one-time All-Star. He is an added threat and another veteran leader along with Butler.

Gibson, for his part, is another good addition as he is a tenacious defender and rebounder and will be energy guy for the Wolves,
much like what he did in Chicago for Coach Thibs. He is tandem with Gorgui Dieng at the power forward position, along with big man Towns, has upside written all over it.

The bench of Tyus Jones, Nemanja Bjelica and Patton (a former teammate of Gilas Pilipinas pool member Kobe Paras) still need some seasoning but if the team gets some steady veteran support in the offseason it should fortify its legs in the league.

So exciting times in Minnesota anew? Definitely and Wolves fans should expect better things from their team next season. A solid pack of Timberwolves are coming and the league should take notice.

Michael Angelo S. Murillo has been a columnist since 2003. He is a BusinessWorld reporter covering the Sports beat.