The Minnesota Timberwolves have skyrocketed from up-and-coming young team to potential title contender in the span of one offseason.
What was once an interesting high-potential core is now anchored by an established star in Jimmy Butler. Better, Butler spent his foundational years in the league playing under current Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau.
Thibodeau's reputation of being a hard-nosed, old-school coach definitely precedes him. Coach Thibodeau was key in helping the Chicago Bulls morph into a legitimate contender just as Derrick Rose peaked, then kept the team relevant despite the former Bulls' stars inability to reach those lofty heights again.
That comes with strong coaching and principles being instilled across a franchise. There's certainly reason to have doubts about how hard Thibodeau pushes his team, especially when it comes to minutes played, but his high level of demands also builds character and respect.
That's something Butler hopes to help Thibodeau get his message across to every member on the roster, serving as a sort of liaison between the coaching staff and Coach Thib's raspy demands.
"I have to be [the interpreter]. I think everybody including myself is going to get tired of Thibs' voice a lot of the times so I'm going to have to be the guy to get his message and point across probably at a 90 percent tone of what he's doing, so yeah I'll be there for that," Butler said as training camp begins for the Timberwolves, as reported by Nick Friedell of ESPN.
The good new for Butler? That responsibility doesn't fall on him alone. The addition of Taj Gibson was an under-the-radar move that makes a ton of sense for Minnesota. Gibson, like Butler, can help drive Thibodeau's message to the team. This is especially important in the frontcourt, where big man Karl-Anthony Towns resides.
"It was like I never left. I just jumped right back into things. [Thibodeau has] changed in a lot of ways. I try to tell the young guys, when he first came in he was green. He didn't really know how to communicate.
"The way he communicates now and how he draws things up on the board, it amazes me, because he was not that outspoken at first. Now, he's explaining things in detail, but giving you a good story along with it. And he's real passionate now," Gibson said.
The Timberwolves need to take a huge leap to put themselves in the conversation with the Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs, but with Butler and Gibson on board, the process of building up is being accelerated.