Going into this season, whether the Minnesota Timberwolves were going to make the playoffs or not was a joke of a question. The Timberwolves seemingly had a sure spot, just based off of their roster alone. I mean, when you are rolling with a young, energized squad that houses two All-Stars and a few considerables, what would be your worry?
The T-Wolves executed the first part of their season, showing that they could be a team that would take you deep into the playoffs. It was not until the All-Star break that everything took a turn for the worse.
The All-Star break either does one of two things for a team: it either gives them momentum, or strips it right out of their hands. Unfortunately for the Timberwolves, the latter was the case for them.
A few days out of the break, their best player, Jimmy Butler, went down in a game against the Houston Rockets. Butler is a crucial asset to Minnesota’s roster. This season he was averaging 22.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game. He is a four-time All-Star and three-time All-Defensive player, so to see him go down was a devastating blow to not only Minnesota’s offensive game, but their defensive as well.
The Timberwolves have gone 6-7 since Butler’s absence, which is a staggering stat when you realize that they went into the All-Star break sitting confidently at the third seed in the Western Conference. Now, they sit at the eight seed and have the LA Clippers itching for their spot.
Nevertheless, this drastic downfall of a once thriving team is not solely due to one vacant shooting guard.
It is no secret that Minnesota’s head coach, Tom Thibodeau, is known for stacking his starters with the most amount of minutes he can possibly play them at. I mean, the Wolves’ starters outplay any other team’s starters in the entire NBA right now. This style of coaching has completely exhausted Thibodeau’s rotation to the point in which they are losing to teams like the Memphis Grizzlies and are only scoring 11 points come giddy-up time in the fourth quarter.
In the NBA, this time of year has a “make it or break it” type of atmosphere attached to it. When you are sitting at a rocky eighth seed like the Wolves are, this point in the season can be truly trying, especially for a team that is so spent under Thibodeau’s command.
The T-Wolves only have seven games left to keep — or improve — their current spot in the Western Conference. The ultimate goal of their season this year was to finally snap that elusive 13-year playoff drought. Nonetheless, rolling into this final stretch without Jimmy Butler, and with Thibodeau’s unforgiving minutes, seemingly leaves the Timberwolves’ fate in the hands of other team’s performances.