Minnesota Timberwolves 47-35, #20 pick (from OKC)
After creating their own version of the big three by trading for Jimmy Butler, signing Wiggins to a max extension and Karl Anthony-Towns, then signing Jamal Crawford and Taj Gibson, and trading for Jeff Teague, this team looked destined for elite status. They fell well short of the expectations and narrowly made it into the playoffs.
What went right-
Jimmy Butler was as advertised, an elite scorer with a superstar mentality. KAT extended his range and shot 42% from 3 and they got good contributions from guys they may not have been expecting in Tyus Jones, Nemanja Bjelica. They managed to still win nearly 50 games even with Butler going down with injury and battled through some horrendous coaching.
What went wrong-
Tom Thibodeau has basically coached himself out of the league. He can’t help himself but play his big time players 40+ minutes per game every game and it got Butler hurt. Then they brought in Derrick Rose late in the season to the horror of just about everyone, consistently played him over the more effective Tyus Jones and got nominal contributions from everyone else on the roster. Andrew Wiggins had his worst year in just about every category since his rookie year and his max extension hasn’t even kicked in yet.
The Wolves are capped out sitting right at the luxury tax line for next year at $117M and that’s before they begin to work on a max extension for Towns. They’re massively overpaying Gorgui Dieng at about $16.5M annually for the next 3 years, Taj Gibson at $14M next season and Jeff Teague at $19M for the next two seasons. They’re in a rough spot. Jamal Crawford will be a free agent and they don’t own their 2018 1st round pick as it will go to ATL after trading that pick for Adriean Payne in 2015 who went on to barely play for Minnesota. They’re going to be hoping for much greater contributions from their 1st round pick last summer Justin Patton but he appeared in only 1 game this season. Minnesota’s in a rough spot this summer only dealing with minimum contracts and must fill out a roster that is bleeding at the wing. They will own OKC’s 2018 1st round pick from two prior trades and with OKC just behind them in the standings, it doesn’t hurt as bad, but they need to hit on this pick.
Oklahoma City 48-34, no pick
OKC, much like MIN, went their own route with their version of a big 3 of Westbrook, George and Carmelo. It seemed like the rutters fell off when Andre Roberson went down with injury, but there’s much deeper rooted issues with this team and with Paul George possibly fleeing in free agency, the future is not bright in OKC.
What went right-
The first half of the season, OKC was playing well. They found consistently good lineups of a balance of offense and defense, but Roberson was their glue and when he got hurt, they lost their way. Paul George looked like an elite all-star the first half of the season as well, but also fell off after an injury. I guess the bright spot was Westbrook averaged his triple double (extreme sarcasm).
What went wrong-
Other than the Roberson injury, there isn’t one thing to point at. It just seems like a Westbrook-led team isn’t destined for anything but pretty stats. Carmelo Anthony was such a shell of himself it looks like they may go the route of buying him out. They had absolutely no bench playing Jerami Grant and Raymond Felton for long stretches and in closing games.
Well, George may be gone, they don’t own their pick and they may have to buy out Carmelo. But OKC is a historically stingy franchise, they may be hard pressed to buy Melo out, but for franchise success, it’s likely in their best interest. But franchise success has always taken a backseat to cost savings (see: James Harden not receiving a proper extension). If George leaves and Melo is bought out, OKC will have about $15M in cap space to work with. But that leaves two starting positions up for grabs to be fixed in free agency. This team may resort back to the season prior where it’s Westbrook and a bunch of random guys. The future isn’t bright in OKC and they have limited options even if George re-signs. They really need to hope Terrance Ferguson takes a big step next season.