Last year was supposed to be ‘the year’ the T-Wolves finally turned things around. The same way Tom Thibodeau transformed the Chicago Bulls into annual contenders with a hard-nosed, defensive-minded approach—he was expected to ‘coach-up’ the T-Wolves' young and talented roster. But Thibodeau’s legendary defensive schemes were stunningly absent his first year at the helm. Rather than wait for some of those players (Zach LaVine and Kevin Dunn) to progress, Thibodeau went out and brought in reinforcements.

The Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson effect

Jimmy Butler came into the league under Thibodeau as an unheralded, late first-round pick.

Each season he made remarkable improvement until he ultimately took over the keys to the Chicago franchise (in part thanks to Derrick Rose's bad knee). But injuries, roster mismanagement, and suspect coaching forced the Bulls into rebuild mode and opened the door for the Butler/Thibodeau reunion in Minnesota. Butler is top 15 NBA player and will be counted on to lead the T-Wolves' playoff push. In Chicago, Butler made his mark on the defensive end, and his responsibility will be not only to lock down the opponent's top wing each night—but to close out games down the stretch.

Taj Gibson would be a solid rotation player for any NBA team. He’s explosive around the basket, can shoot from midrange, and understands the intensity involved in playing championship-level defense.

But it’s his veteran leadership that will be paramount to the growth of this team. The issue often with young players is that they ‘don’t know’ how to win, but with the addition of these two vets—the question that remains is will the young T-Wolves listen?

Are Towns and Wiggins Ready To Take 'The Leap?'

Karl-Anthony Towns is an offensive monster.

His ability to shoot and score from all areas of the floor make him one—if not thebest young talent in the NBA. His game is so far advanced for a player his age that it was a bit surprising that he, like the rest of the T-Wolves, struggled defensively. Like some first and second-year players, the underlying cause didn't appear to be lack of effort.

But more will be expected now that he has some help (Butler and Gibson) anchoring the defensive side of the floor.

Andrew Wiggins has been a polarizing player since his year at Kansas. The former #1 overall pick has off-the-chart talent and oozes athleticism, but the knock against him in college was that he disappeared during games. Now, it's whether he can buy into playing winning basketball. Butler will take some pressure off defensively and (hopefully) instill some good habits into Wiggins, but it's on the offensive end where things will be most intriguing.

Wiggins, Towns, & Butler are all high usage players. Butler is the T-Wolves best player right now, and Towns is too talented not to have much of the offense revolve around him.

The drop from the second to third scoring can be steep. So, how will Wiggins respond? He's shown enough offensively in the league that he signed a max contract extension. But moving forward, if Minnesota is going to have the kind of year that people are expecting—then Wiggins may have to take a step back offensively to focus on his defensive effort.