Why the Minnesota Timberwolves Should Consider Firing Tom Thibodeau


Brandon Wagenfeld

TImberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau has experienced a decline in his coaching abilities, but that is unrelated to senioritis.

Brandon Wagenfeld, Blueprint Contributor and All-Around Cool Guy


It’s been a great run for Tom Thibodeau as the Timberwolves’ head coach and president of basketball operations. He’s taken them to greatness not seen since George W. Bush was still in office.

Through sheer will, he transformed a ragtag group of youngsters into a team that not only made the playoffs for the first time in fourteen years, but demolished a 65-win Houston Rockets team in game three of the first round. Clearly this team will only improve from here, led by the brilliant player development of Thibodeau.

If only this were the case. Despite the team’s relative success, Thibodeau leaves much to be desired. He is extremely stubborn, refusing to adapt to the conditions of today’s league.

The team’s offense consists mostly of isolations (while other players stand still), which worked well during the regular season when the team could subsist off of the scoring of Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins and the offensive rebounding of Karl-Anthony Towns and Taj Gibson.

This will never be successful during the playoffs as others will easily adjust to the team’s uncreative offense. One of the most important parts of being a coach in the playoffs is being able to make adjustments.

One of the most famous examples in recent memory is Steve Kerr benching David Lee and Andrew Bogut in favor of Draymond Green, who was better suited to defend quicker players. Another important part of this to remember is that Kerr dug deep into his bench to find Green, who had previously been playing behind Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala, Lee, and Bogut.

Thibodeau has never shown the willingness to trust new players, especially those coming off the bench. Players on the Timberwolves have actually expressed their frustration at Thibodeau’s unwillingness to play players such as Gorgui Dieng or Marcus Georges-Hunt, inhibiting their ability to gain confidence.

Moreover, he has run his players into the ground, nearly causing them to miss the playoffs for the 15th consecutive year. Players who have played under Thibodeau don’t have a great track record when it comes to health (Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Derrick Rose), and the team doesn’t need him injuring Wiggins and Towns after investing consecutive first overall picks in them (as well as $150 million over five years in Wiggins).

In addition, Thibodeau has done nothing to improve the team’s defense in two years as coach, despite signing talented defensive players in Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson in the offseason.

The team’s effort on defense has been inconsistent throughout the year, but the real issue is the fact everyone always seems to be out of place on that end of the floor. The team allows tons of wide open three pointers and layups, but strongly contests mid-range jump shots. This is the opposite of what a modern NBA defense should be doing, and for someone is considered a masterful defensive coach, Tom Thibodeau seems strangely oblivious to this. Even worse than his coaching on defense is his player development.

Andrew Wiggins has seemingly regressed in the two years since Thibodeau’s arrival, which would be understandable if Wiggins was 33 years old and not 23. After taking a huge leap his sophomore year, Karl Anthony Towns’ development has stagnated, and has possibly gotten worse on the defensive end.

As the President of Basketball Operations, he has made several questionable moves. The trade for Jimmy Butler received a warm reception, but in the long run, who knows if it was the right decision.

The move improved the Timberwolves’ chances of immediately making the playoffs, but it possibly lowered their ceiling by trading away a potential superstar in Zach Lavine, as well as Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen who would have rounded out a very talented young core.

Thibodeau also traded fan favorite Ricky Rubio to the Utah Jazz for just a late first round pick (not a great return given Thibodeau’s record of player development).

All of these things in mind, there is still hope for Thibodeau and the Wolves. Dwane Casey and the Toronto Raptors received similar criticisms for several years due to their stagnant offense, poor defense, and poor minutes management, but they’ve improved in those regards and could potentially make the NBA Finals this year.

Hopefully, Thibodeau will figure things out, because being a bandwagon Cavs Warriors Sixers fan doesn’t feel right to me.