The first week of the NBA playoffs is an exhilarating, giddy time. The Association's best teams hit the hardcourt to cordially discuss their differences, while the league's worst teams inevitably clear house. It's an age old tale of haves, and have-nots. But, this year something is different. This year, we may be seeing the beginnings of a very, very dangerous team.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: Tom Thibodeau coaching the Minnesota Timberwolves!
NBA sources say Tom Thibodeau is closing in on a five-year pact in the $10 million range annually to become coach/president of the Wolves.— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) April 20, 2016
Can't you just picture it? Karl-Anthony Towns on the block, beasting dudes. Andrew Wiggins acting as Kawhi Leonard 2.0. Zach LaVine doing crazy-ass Zach LaVine things.
And meanwhile, above and behind everyone, Tom Thibodeau barking orders in his gutteral rasp, wringing every single last inch of effort out of these young guys.
I already had the Timberwolves pegged as the next serious threat to the West. Someday, the Spurs will grow old, shrivel up, and die. The Clippers are inevitably going to break apart the Chris Paul/Blake Griffin/DeAndre Jordan trifecta because of yet another second round playoff exit. The Blazers aren't quite there. The Thunder have been thundering in their pants on and off throughout the year. There is no other team in the NBA with a core as young or as talented as the Timberwolves.
And now, they have their drill sergeant.
First, I do think Andrew Wiggins has the potential to turn into a complete shut down perimeter defender. He obviously has the size and athleticism, and now he'll have someone kicking his ass everyday in practice to expand his defensive game. Also, he is on the path to stardom. Kawhi's cornrows have made an appearance! After winning ROY in 2015, he averaged 20.7 pts/game, 2 assists, 3.6 rebs, with a PER of 16.61.
Karl-Anthony Towns will win this year's ROY award, and just laid down an all-time great rookie campaign. It's kind of crazy. He just averaged 18.2 points per game, 10.4 rebounds, with a PER of 22.5. For comparison, here are the only other players to ever do that in their rookie season, ranked by age.
(Parameters of chart: For single seasons; played in the NBA/BAA; in the regular season; from 1946-47 to 2015-16; in rookie season; requiring Points >= 18 and Total Rebounds >= 10 and Games Started >= 75 and Player Efficiency Rating >= 22; sorted by ascending Age.)
If you add in a minimum of one block per game (he averaged 1.7 per game), that list gets reduced to a simple quadrant. Shaquille O'Neal, Karl-Anthony Towns, Tim Duncan, and David Robinson.
Again, yikes. Now imagine Thibodeau screaming at him until he gets even better.
/hides from the glare of this team's potential.
And this is before we even discuss what LaVine brings to the table. What does he bring to the table, you might ask?
Well, for starters, this:
Can't you just imagine Thibodeau yelling at him enough until he figures out how to consistently dunk like in-game? Perhaps from midcourt? Oh man, there's nothing that Tim Thibodeau's yelling can't cure. Hell, I'm imagining him yelling at me right now, as I write this. And the article is getting written, so Thank you Tom Thibodeau!
Time will be the ultimate judge. This team could very easily flare out. Thibs could get in there, assume the mantle of President of Basketball Ops, see LaVine jack up some batshit insane shots in the first practice, and immediately trade him.
You never know. You never know. But, as we progress into May and towards June, you gotta bet that a good number of the teams still playing meaningful games will be looking over their shoulders wondering what next year and the year afterwards will bring in regards to Minnesota basketball.
Winter is coming, y'all. Better stock up on some warm-ass jackets.