With free agency in full swing, and the Wolves serving as major players in the fun early on. That continued today, as the Wolves swooped in to sign Taj Gibson to a 2-year, $28 million deal.
This move is mostly a popular one, but did come with some rational criticism on social media. Here, we’ll dive into what this move means for the Timberwolves, and what it doesn’t.
What This Means
The Wolves add badly-needed defense and rebounding to their core of big men- The Wolves, were in the bottom 5 in defensive rating last season, and second to last in defensive rebounding. It was what often drove Thibs the craziest. Taj Gibson helps with that in several regards. He comes in with a reputation for being a defensive force inside that can guard both power forwards and centers, and is known for sharing his old/new coach’s fire for basketball as a whole.
Gibson also carried a defensive rebounding percentage of 19.1, a good number considering he was playing alongside ballhawks like Steven Adams, Enes Kanter and Russell Westbrook. All that will be a huge help for this team going forward.
This team still needs shooters, badly- This team needs to add shooters. With the departure of Zach LaVine, the startine lineup’s best three point shooter is its center. Jimmy Butler, Andrew Wiggins, and Jeff Teague are all serviceable three point shooters, but none of them are flame throwers. Gorgui Dieng takes a corner three once every 4 or 5 games. Taj Gibson isn’t a three point shooter at all.
We’ll get to why this isn’t the end of the world, but it does put more pressure of the rest of the starters, as well as guys like Nemanja Bjelica, to step up and hit more effectively from deep. As it stands right now, the Wolves will likely be towards the bottom of the three point shooting ladder for yet another year. But, in fairness, that strategy put them towards the top in offensive rating a year ago. This was mostly a defense, rebounding, hustle and character signing (though he has historically been a 50 percent shooter on 8-10 shots per game, as well). It was a good signing, but it does not help in a regard that badly needs help.
Thibs looks like he wants to keep his options open in a couple years-Gibson has been signed for 2 years now. Teague has been signed for three years, with an option on that third year. Jimmy Butler is on a (very nice) three year deal. This looks like his way of setting the Wolves up for some playoff games in the early stages of Wiggins and Towns, before they get paid. And, they’re going to get PAID.
Maybe after a couple years, retooling around KAT and Wiggins with different pieces will make the most sense. Maybe not. The short contracts help the Wolves keep their options open for when the time comes.
What This Doesn’t Mean
The Timberwolves Are Done Making Moves– It is clear that the Wolves still are in dire need of wing help, specifically wings that can shoot from the perimeter. It’ll likely require Tom Thibodeau (who knows that Wiggins and Butler are now the only wings on the roster, with Shabazz Muhammad’s rights being renounced have now reportedly happened) to ship out Cole Aldrich’s remaining 2 year, (approximately) $15 million out, which will almost definitely require a sweetener.
That may end up being the lottery-protected first rounder that came from the Ricky Rubio trade, which would be a hard pill to swallow. At any rate, a pair of wing shooters are absolutely necessary for the Wolves going forward.
Thibs is desperate to “get the band back together”- Acquiring a top 15 NBA player is a good move, regardless of what team the GM used to coach. Yes, it’s fantastic that Jimmy Butler was guided early in his career by Thibs, and it’ll likely help ease the transition, but that move was smart no matter what team made it.
You can definitely argue that Taj Gibson is here in large part because he is a “Thibs guy”, but the move is not without logic. If the Wolves suddenly add Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose, or Kirk Hinrich, come talk to me. For now, I think the “TimberBulls” nickname is lame. There, I SAID IT.
So far, three major moves have been made to shuffle this team up. This is a team that can, and maybe even should, make the playoffs next year. Gibson helps with that. It’ll be up to the subsequent moves the rest of the offseason to see just how good this team can be, and just how much they can solidify themselves as a true Western Conference threat.