Just one week after trading for Jimmy Butler, GM/coach Tom Thibodeau has traded point guard Ricky Rubio to the Utah Jazz. And today, he signed free-agent PG Jeff Teague (3 yrs/$57m).
How do these moves help the T-Wolves chances of making the 2018 postseason?
Let’s discuss this matter below by covering what Minnesota gains in Teague and loses in Rubio. We’ll also discuss how the Timberwolves 2018 odds will be affected.
Teague Upgrades Minnesota’s Outside Shooting
Minnesota wasn’t a terrible three-point shooting team, hitting 34.9% and ranking 20th in the league. But then again, they weren’t good enough to keep defenses from guarding the paint and cutting off driving lines.
Rubio was never going to be the point guard to do this. He’s a career 31.5% three-point shooter, and this dipped to 30.6% last season.
This is where Teague becomes valuable. Although not Steph Curry, Teague hit a respectable 35.7% from beyond the arc last season. This is at least good enough to keep defenses honest.
The ceiling is also higher on Teague’s three-point shot. When playing with a better Atlanta lineup in 2015, he hit 40.0% from beyond the arc. He’s a good spot-up shooter – especially when playing with other offensive threats – which is exactly the situation Teague enters in Minnesota.
Another good thing about the 8-year veteran is that the Wolves don’t lose anything from a driving perspective. Much like Rubio, Teague is good at penetrating into the lane and creating shots for himself and teammates.
Teague is More Durable
Contrast this to Rubio, who’s only played 75+ games three times in his 6-year career. Going further, he’s missed 25 or more games in 3 seasons.
While Rubio has stayed on the court the past two years, durability remains a concern after he appeared in just 22 games in 2015.
Wolves will Miss Rubio’s Playmaking
One area where Minnesota is hurting after trading Rubio to the Jazz is playmaking. This isn’t to say that Teague isn’t a playmaker, given that he averaged 7.8 assists last season.
With a loaded offensive unit that includes Butler, Towns, and Wiggins – all of who averaged over 20 PPG last season – having an optimal passer distributing the ball would be great.
Why did Minnesota Give Up Rubio for a First-Round Pick?
Over the past few seasons, the T-Wolves have been a developing team. But this went out the window when they gave up Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and the seventh-overall pick (Lauri Markkanen) for Butler.
So why give send Rubio to Utah for a first-round pick (via Oklahoma City)? A pick that’s likely to be a late first-rounder after OKC signed Paul George?
Given today’s inflated contacts, Rubio is well-priced here. But Minnesota couldn’t see giving up this much money to a guard who’ll come off the bench to spell Teague.
Furthermore, they needed to keep cap space clear. They added Butler’s $19.8-million-per-year deal to their books, and just signed Teague to a $19m-per-year contract.
This wouldn’t put them over with Rubio aboard. But again, it doesn’t make sense to pay a backup point guard $14.1m.
Another factor is that Utah’s offer may have been the most attractive. Here’s an ESPN report about the New York Knicks’ hesitation:
“The Knicks had interest in trading for Ricky Rubio but were not willing to part with a first-round pick to obtain the guard, per sources. Minnesota, according to reports, traded Rubio to Utah for a protected first-round pick. GM Steve Mills appears to be following Phil Jackson’s rule of valuing first-round picks, which seems wise for a team that appears to be in the midst of a rebuild.”
Timberwolves 2018 Odds after Teague Addition
This is especially the case when considering what Minnesota now has, and the immense importance of three-point shooting in today’s league.
Thibodeau is trying to build a contender right now, and he’s made the right moves. We certainly don’t see Minnesota winning it all in the 2017-18 season. But we do see them earning a playoff seed in the tough Western Conference.
Our guess is that they finish in the 6-8 range, challenge their first round opponent, get Towns & Wiggins more seasoning, then battle for a top-4 seed the following year.