How do you defend these Wolves?

Spoiler alert: I don’t know the answer to this headline. If I did, I wouldn’t be a writer. I would be a coach, or something cooler.

But it’s a question that has been asked throughout the summer among hoop heads. With the trio of Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, teams need to decide who will they pay extra attention to on the Wolves. And it can’t be everyone.

“That’s the thing you can’t overlook,” Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach Tom Thibodeau said this offseason. “We have a number of guys that will be double-teamed.”

It’s true. While this team improved defensively this offseason adding Butler and Taj Gibson, the team also improved offensively, adding Butler, point guard Jeff Teague and three-time Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford.

The Wolves can go big (or traditional) with a lineup of Teague, Wiggins, Butler, Gibson/Gorgui Dieng and Towns. But the team also can go small with Teague, Crawford, Wiggins, Butler and Towns. Wiggins, Butler and Towns have the ability to defend three positions.

“Yeah, I think we have to have the flexibility to play both big and small,” Thibodeau said. “I like the fact that Jimmy can play 2, 3 or 4 and in some cases he can play the point. And I think with Jamal he can play the 1 or the 2 . . . Wig can play three positions, so that does give us great flexibility. And of course Karl, his ability to play 5 and 4 and handle the ball, and play on the perimeter, it’s a lineup that will be very difficult to defend.”

If you decide to play small ball, all five guys are capable of handling the ball, and at least three (Towns, Butler and Wiggins) are guys who attract double teams. And as Butler once said, “you can’t double team everybody.”

Which is true because if you did double team everyone, you’d have 10 guys on the court which is illegal.

It will be interesting to see how other teams try to defend the Wolves in 2017-18.


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