The Timberwolves, as they enter their new era, are building the team. They’re assembling a collection of skilled contributors that together will strive for the common goal.
While Danny Ocean and his team of con artists in Ocean’s 11 were after a very handsome haul, the new look Wolves are drawing up their scheme to bring home the ultimate prize; the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Let’s meet the cast…
Danny Ocean/Jimmy Butler
Danny Ocean, the recently paroled ring leader of the heist, commands the respect of his fellow grifters. His charisma and unquestioned drive are the fuel used to propel him toward his end goal. When asked why he would want to attempt a seemingly impossible heist, he replies that the house always wins. When you get the best hand you can get, you go all in and take the house.
Butler was recently released on his own recognizance from the clutches of dysfunction otherwise known as the GarPax era of the Bulls front office. He will immediately step into the role of unquestioned team leader and act as the on-court extension of Thibodeau and his game plan.
Like George Clooney, who played Danny Ocean, Butler is the natural born leader cast perfectly to guide the franchise toward success. After finding his escape from a tumultuous situation in Chicago and reuniting with his former head coach, Butler is in the best position he’s found himself in his career.
Rusty Ryan/Karl-Anthony Towns
Rusty Ryan is Ocean’s right-hand man, the same role in which KAT will function beside Butler for the next phase of his development. As described by screenwriter Ted Griffin, ““Danny and Rusty are old school. They’re guys who live by a code, which now seems a little outdated. They’re like modern gunslingers after the west has been civilized.”
This sentiment only begins to tap the surface of KAT’s game and abilities. Building a team around a true center feels a bit more like your dad’s game than the pace and space direction the league is heading.
In an era in which the NBA is shifting towards “death line-ups” and positionless basketball, Towns defies the trend and positions himself as the potential kryptonite to the new age roster construction becoming more prevalent across the league.
As a player who can punish on the block, show finesse off the dribble, and knock down a dead-eye shot from range, Towns proves to be a matchup nightmare for years to come.
Linus Caldwell/Andrew Wiggins
Linus Caldwell is a talented newcomer with a lot to prove. Much like Caldwell, Wiggins found himself in a Wolves uniform a short three years ago surrounded by lofty expectations.
The young man from Canada, dubbed “Maple Jordan” at an early age for his exceptional skill set and stunning athleticism, came to the team via trade when the Timberwolves shipped out scorned star Kevin Love to Cleveland.
The number one overall draft pick, in his first three years with the team, has shown flashes of brilliance in addition to as many moments of inefficiency and defensive lapses.
In 2014-15, the fledgling star was handed the reins of an organization in the midst of a league-long playoff drought and a fanbase with the memory of Joe Smith and David Kahn permanently etched into their collective memory.
As a standalone talent, Wiggins was not able to put the Timberwolves over the top but, like Caldwell, big things can be expected from him as a member of such a talented collective.
Basher Tarr/Taj Gibson
Explosives expert Basher Tarr’s role is to shut off the power in Las Vegas during the heist. Gibson, much like Tarr, is an entity capable of immense power brought in to shut the lights out on opposing offenses and bash his way around in the post.
While his style is that of an old-school bruiser, he’s a crucial piece of the puzzle. Aside from obvious mentorship opportunities, Gibson is a seasoned veteran with multiple effective seasons left in the tank.
Taj’s presence, much like Tarr’s, will help provide a foundation and window of opportunity for his teammates to effectively play their roles to the best of their abilities.
Reuben Tishkoff/Tom Thibodeau
Former Vegas mogul Reuben Tishkoff, besides Danny Ocean, has the most personal connection to the heist. He’s been around the casino industry and Vegas culture his whole life and, after getting muscled out by Terry Benedict (the victim of the con), has a personal score to settle.
Thibodeau, much like Tishkoff and his connection to the casino industry, is an NBA lifer. Going back to 1989, Thibs got his first job in the league as an assistant coach for Bill Musselman’s expansion Timberwolves. A whirlwind career trademarked by sustained success experienced a road bump in May of 2015 when he was fired from his head coaching position of the Chicago Bulls.
His firing came after a 2010 Coach of the Year award and consistent finishes at the top of the Eastern Conference.
Thibodeau then spent the next eleven months further studying the game and spending time learning from the best organizations in the league before going full circle and accepting the position of head coach and President of Basketball Operations of the Timberwolves.
Thibodeau, whether he admits it or not, has a score to settle.
Gar Forman and John Paxson ran him out of Chicago, a city that had grown to love him and the success that came with his remarkable obsession for the game. In his first year with the Wolves, Thibs experienced the first sub-.500 season of his head coaching career.
Tishkoff’s role as the banker and facilitator for Ocean’s con is a clear parallel to Thibodeau’s dual role as Wolves’ head coach and POBO. Having orchestrated a heist of his own, acquiring Jimmy Butler from his former employer for cents on the dollar, Thibodeau is out for the same revenge Tishkoff sought against Terry Benedict.
The Malloy brothers are valued participants in the con due to their primary expertise, all things related to transportation.
Jeff Teague and Tyus Jones will be in charge of driving the offense for the Wolves. Due in large part to height and athletic limitations, neither point guard will be relied upon for soaring dunks or chase down blocks. Instead, they will be tasked with pushing the pace, manipulating driving lanes, and running the offense.
As the con develops, so do the roles of the Malloy brothers. Their quick change skills are utilized by Ocean and company to advance their mission.
Similarly, the Timberwolves will rely on Teague and Jones to be their own quick change artists, switching without notice from primary ball handlers to spot-up threats when Wiggins and Butler are tasked with initiating the offense.
Saul Bloom/Nemanja Bjelica
Bloom is the grifter of the group whose career has run dry. The formerly successful con artist, when found by Rusty Ryan, is too broke to even play the horses. He jumps at the opportunity to get back into the game and surround himself with a team of individuals that will help him achieve a personal renaissance.
Nemanja Bjelica is far from washed up and there is plenty of upside left in his career. That said, the former Euroleague MVP has struggled to find his footing in the NBA during his first few seasons with the Wolves. His ball handling has proven shaky against elite competition and he hesitates when faced with a close out on wide open shots. A winning environment and shared success should revitalize Bjelica and his growth as the stretch four this team sorely needs.
Livingston Dell/Gorgui Dieng
Livingston Dell, the anxiety-ridden surveillance specialist, is not cool. He is the jittery, coffee fueled AV nerd responsible for manipulating and monitoring casino surveillance during the heist.
Gorgui Dieng’s play style is not cool. His lumbering style of play and understated offensive style yield way to a player more content with a mid-range shot that, while advanced stats geeks will discount its place in today’s game, just seems like money when he shoots it. As the year progresses and he continues his growth from long distance, he will play an increasingly crucial role as a spot up shooter and rebounder for this team.
The new era Timberwolves are embarking on a mission to break free from a history of years spent high in the draft lottery. They’re still assembling pieces to round out the roster but the foundation is exciting.
Thibodeau has done well to build the team, surrounding transcendent young talent with incredibly gifted veterans- each with their own defined role.
The house always wins; especially, as it seems, when the Timberwolves are on the other end. Thibodeau and the Timberwolves have the best hand they’ve ever been dealt.
Now it’s their time to go all in and take the house.