Timberwolves on the prowl in free agency

It’s been a while since I have written about the Minnesota Timberwolves. The team has been very active in the free agent scene since it began on July 1.

At least 2/5 of Minnesota’s starting lineup will be different — with the additions of Jimmy Butler and point guard Jeff Teague.

I think the Timberwolves have had one of the more impressive offseasons when compared to any other team in the NBA.

Taj Gibson will provide depth in the frontcourt and Jamal Crawford is a guy who has made his career coming off the bench and adding instant offense.

Minnesota drafted Creighton’s Justin Patton, who suffered a broken foot in a summer workout and might miss a good chunk of the season.

Still, the Timberwolves added four guys and all will bring something to this team that was lacking last season.

While Ricky Rubio is off to Utah, Teague adds an element Rubio wasn’t able to provide. Teague set a career high in assists per game (8.7), rebounds (4.5) and he averaged 17 points on a team with Paul George and Myles Turner. He isn’t as tall or long as Rubio, but he has the ability to get into the lane and finish around the rim, something at which Rubio was not good.

I think everyone knows what Butler adds: toughness, defense and the ability to generate offense at the end of the shot-clock.

Gibson also brings a toughness to the front line. He is an experienced player who played for head coach Tom Thibodeau in Chicago. He knows what to expect coming in and will mostly do more than what is asked of him.

Crawford won’t give much on the defensive end, but he can score, and Minnesota will need that jolt off the bench.

In my opinion, I think Minnesota has taken a huge step forward. While the Western Conference is stacked with good players on good teams — led by the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets — I believe Minnesota has entered the playoff picture and could threaten some of the better teams in the conference. Oklahoma City will tough now that it added Paul George, but I think the Thunder are beatable.

Golden State, Houston, Oklahoma City and San Antonio are locks for playoff spots. For the remaining four spots, it’s up to Minnesota, Utah, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis and Denver for the remaining four spots. I think the Los Angeles Clippers — with Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Danilo Gallinari — have a better chance to make the playoffs than most of the teams on that list. Griffin’s health will be the main factor. The Clippers also added Patrick Beverly and Lou Williams when they traded Chris Paul.

It’s still too soon to tell what will happen, but Minnesota should and will be in the playoff picture for the first time since 2004.


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