Suddenly, Timberwolves are an alluring free-agent destination
MINNEAPOLIS -- Don't expect Minnesota Timberwolves general manager Scott Layden or coach Tom Thibodeau to go busting down doors of potential free agents when teams can first meet with players at 11 p.m. Thursday."I think most players aren't respo...
MINNEAPOLIS - Don’t expect Minnesota Timberwolves general manager Scott Layden or coach Tom Thibodeau to go busting down doors of potential free agents when teams can first meet with players at 11 p.m. Thursday.
“I think most players aren’t responding to that stuff,” said Thibodeau, Minnesota’s coach and president of basketball operations.
Minnesota is finally in a spot where it doesn’t need to rely on gimmicks. Instead, Thibodeau said the Wolves will simply show off their team - one filled with some of the NBA’s top rising talent.
“We feel like we have a lot to offer,” Thibodeau said.
NBA TV analyst Stu Jackson agrees. Jackson, a former NBA coach and general manager, said in the past couple of years, Minnesota has developed into a free-agent destination that requires serious consideration.
Jackson listed the Wolves’ roster - headlined by young stars such as Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins - and Thibodeau as reasons for players to give Minnesota a second look.
“Most players as free agents want to go places where they think they’re going to be successful, while they’ll also be able to develop,” Jackson said. “Everyone thinks that (the Wolves are) going to win, and it’s because of (Thibodeau) and the young talent that they’re going to have. That combination is a very attractive package to anyone considering leaving their existing franchise.”
The Wolves’ facilities don’t hurt, either. Target Center is an outdated eye sore at the moment, but that figures to change with the $129 million renovation that already is underway and should be completed by the end of next summer.
The Wolves and Lynx have a new practice facility at Mayo Clinic Square, which opened last summer. Facilities matter, Jackson said.
“That’s why every team is in the middle of an arms race to build a new practice facility or the best practice facility,” Jackson said. “Is the Target Center a drawback? Maybe to some people. But if players and free agents have a nice home, that home being a practice facility, and the ability to the commute to the practice facility from a nice area in the town or city they’re in, I think those day-to-day things are important.”
Jackson even downplayed the importance of Minnesota’s market size, noting the global recognition players like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have received in Oklahoma City.
So what’s the downside of coming to Minnesota?
“The only issue is whether or not weather matters to you,” Jackson said. “But aside from that, I can’t see the Timberwolves not being a very good situation for most players.”
That’s a big leap from where the Wolves were, say, five years ago, when the franchise lacked any clear direction. Jackson called the Wolves the “new kid on the free-agent block.” Where does Minnesota rank among all of the free-agent landing spots? Jackson wasn’t sure - but it looks to be creeping up on some of the league’s elite franchises.
“They’re in that group of teams that I think big-name free agents may and will consider because of the attractiveness of the package,” Jackson said. “All the big-name free agents can’t go to one team. There’s going to be that fallout effect.
“And at some point,” Jackson said, “as you’re prioritizing franchises that you want to work at, in terms of where you think you’re going to win and be successful … you’re going to get to Minnesota.”