Souhan: Wolves bosses, after years of panicking, need to try a different P word ...
Anyone saying the Timberwolves can't advance in the playoffs is going to have to be more specific.
These Timberwolves did:
Andrew Wiggins. D'Angelo Russell. Jarred Vanderbilt. Malik Beasley. Jimmy Butler. Steph Curry*. Tom Thibodeau.
(* Curry never played for the Timberwolves, but should have.)
Imagine that lineup playing together. Curry at the point. Russell at shooting guard. Wiggins at small forward. Vanderbilt at power forward. Beasley off the bench. The Wolves could even trade Vanderbilt and a bunch of draft picks for an overrated center to round out the roster.
Thibodeau would turn this group into the kind of team nobody wants to play.
Did the Wolves blow it with each of these winners? Let's break it down:
Curry: You know the deal. The only NBA general manager in the universe who wouldn't have spent the fifth or sixth pick in the draft on Curry instead of Jonny Flynn and Ricky Rubio just happened to work for the Wolves at the wrong time. Did the Wolves — specifically, David Kahn — blow it? Of course.
Wiggins: You could have argued that trading Wiggins for Russell and giving up a draft pick to make the deal happen was necessary for the Wolves at the time, but it didn't work out too well. Wiggins won a title and is in the second round of the playoffs again. The Wolves soured on Russell after he contributed to a first-round playoff loss. At least new basketball boss Tim Connelly was able to trade Russell for a point guard, Mike Conley, who plays well with Rudy Gobert, and plays defense.
Russell: The Wolves were right to trade him for Conley, and to trade him while he was shooting so well that he had trade value. Russell wound up in an ideal position — playing catch-and-shoot guard in an offense orchestrated by LeBron James. When asked to lead the Wolves, he wound up getting benched in an elimination game in the 2022 playoffs.
Vanderbilt: He was a logical player to trade in the Gobert deal, because Gobert is a better defender and rebounder, but Vanderbilt plays his role well in L.A.
Beasley: He proved to be erratic, and he's barely playing for the Lakers this postseason. The Wolves did well to deal him.
Thibodeau: Thibodeau is a quality coach. The Wolves' history as a desperate and underachieving franchise bit them again when they hired Thibs not only as their coach, but as their general manager. He failed to build equity in the organization, but the Wolves erred, too, by giving him too much personnel power. That's why they wound up with Kris Dunn instead of Jamal Murray. And Thibs' biggest mistake was believing he had a bond with …
Butler: He is a great player. Thibs set back the franchise by believing that Butler would be a good influence on his young players, and that Butler wanted to sign a long-term deal with the Wolves.
The Timberwolves, as a franchise, have had two enduring flaws:
1. Desperation. When you are a horrible franchise, you seek saviors. Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, Gobert and Butler are all quality players. When you treat them as saviors, they will disappoint you.
2. Bad management. Every bad decision the Wolves have ever made can be traced to ownership hiring the wrong people at the wrong time, and those people making bad or short-sighted decisions.
The 2022-2023 Timberwolves season was ugly. What the Wolves shouldn't do is act like typical Wolves management and overreact to a short-term problem.
Connelly making the decisions, Chris Finch coaching, star-caliber players on the roster — this still has a chance to work.
This group put up a fight against the No. 1-seeded Nuggets, who are leading Kevin Durant and the Phoenix Suns.
For once, the Wolves should display patience, and see what their current players can do with a little health and a little luck.