Thibodeau: Taking 'next step' now the focus for Timberwolves

The long grind of an 82-game season ended with a short postseason run for the Timberwolves, but that early departure doesn't dampen this year’s success for head coach Tom Thibodeau.

“At the end of the season, you’re going to have 29 teams that don’t reach the goal of winning a championship,” Thibodeau said. “When you lose for 14 years that says a lot, and to change that is a massive change in your culture.”

The Wolves are now in review mode as their season ended after Thursday’s loss to Houston in Game Five of the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Hindsight is 20/20 and the team does see room for improvement on the court and in the front office.

“I think about the trade deadline and [wonder if we] could have been more aggressive,” Timberwolves general manager Scott Layden said. “You know maybe we should have done something different and I take responsibility for that, but we are always looking to push and push and get better.”

The Timberwolves did get better on offense from an efficiency standpoint, but there is work to be done in the deep shooting department. Minnesota finished last in the NBA in both made three-pointers and three-point attempts in the 2017-18 regular season. 

Positives over the last year were prevalent too, like making the move to get Jimmy Butler. Even though Butler has only one year left under contract, there is a confidence that the Wolves will keep this core together for as long as they can.

“I think that the importance of keeping a team together and keeping a team in a system like coach’s can be critical to have more success,” Layden said.

Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins are also part of that future and next season begins a big run for Wiggins. He had a sometimes lackluster season before entering a max deal, but next year the expectation is for Wiggins to maximize his potential.

“It won’t be clouded,” Tom Thibodeau said of Wiggins’ mindset going into next season. “Last summer he had his contract that probably took something away from him because you’re not approaching things maybe in the same way... We saw down the stretch [Wiggins] playing a more complete game and I think he can build on that.”

Thibodeau mentioned on Monday that every team is chasing the two best in the West: Houston and Golden State. Now, Minnesota must stake their claim alongside those teams in the conference. It’s all part of the Wolves’ “next step” on their upward journey in the NBA. 

“The competition should bring the best out of us, and I am hopeful that it will,” Thibodeau said. 

The Timberwolves now look ahead to the offseason with the NBA Draft on June 21 and the start of NBA free agency on July 1.