21 April 2016

Can Tom Thibodeau lead the Timberwolves to greatness?

(Chicago Tribune)
The Minnesota Timberwolves may not have been the first team to get off the coaching carousel this offseason (that was the Brooklyn Nets) but they were able to land one of the top head coaches on the market. Tom Thibodeau, formerly the head coach of the Chicago Bulls before being pushed out by management a year ago, agreed yesterday to a five-year, $40 million contract to become the head coach and the president of basketball operations for the Wolves. And it's kind of a big deal.

This hiring is a big deal for a franchise that has not made the NBA Playoffs for 12 years, the longest current playoff drought in the league. Ever since trading Kevin Garnett to the Celtics in 2007, the Timberwolves have been in a perpetual rebuilding state but there is hope on the horizon. They have the past two top overall draft picks in Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, both of whom look like budding stars. Zach LaVine and Shabazz Muhammed also are intriguing pieces and Minnesota will add another top draft pick in this summer's draft.

But these guys were all in the mix this season for a team that won 29 games and played some awful defense at times. That's where Thibodeau comes into play. Thibodeau is rightfully regarded to be one of the elite defensive minds in basketball and every single one of his teams in Chicago played very strong defense and they hit the boards hard. The Wolves have pieces that could be put together to make a quality defense, namely athleticism across the board, and so it is not as if Thibodeau doesn't have things to work with.

Thibodeau was able to have plenty of success in Chicago because he was able to get everything out of his players, even when his teams got hit by injuries. However, that also fits into one of the notable downsides to Thibodeau is that he rides his players too hard and leaves them susceptible to injury. That was why many of his Bulls teams were not healthy come playoff time and why I didn't like him for the Pelicans job last year. Plus, those teams in Chicago were all veteran clubs for the most part and now he is going to one of the youngest clubs in the league.

But what is key now is that Thibodeau is solely in charge, so he won't have the issues with the front office that ultimately cut his run short with the Bulls. It's similar to the setup that Stan Van Gundy, another hard-charging coach, has in Detroit and it is safe to say that it is going pretty well thus far. Thibodeau did handpick a general manager and he picked former Jazz and Knicks general manager, under whom he worked in New York. Of course, Layden did such a bad job with the Knicks that he was replaced by the one, the only, Isiah Thomas.

In the end, there is hope for the first time in a decade for basketball fans in the Twin Cities. He may not be the perfect coach but the guy wins and he gets everything he can out of his teams. For a team with such a talented core at hand, it is very easy to be thrilled for what is to come.

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