COLUMN: Will the T-Wolves survive Butler’s injury?

Jimmy Butler’s knee is not dead and (hopefully) neither is the Timberwolves’ season.

Butler suffered a torn meniscus on Friday night against the Houston Rockets in the Wolves’ first game after the All-Star break.

As soon as he went down and was holding his knee, my dumb brain went straight to, “that’s a torn ACL, Jimmy Buckets is done and the season is over.”

Luckily, that is not the case. Butler will have surgery to repair his meniscus in the next few days, and although he will be without a timetable to return until the surgery is completed, he’s expected to be back in four to six weeks.

The Wolves looked fine without Butler on Saturday night in their 122-104 win over the Bulls, but Chicago is in full-blown tank mode; playing the likes of Cristiano Felicio and David Nwaba for over 30 minutes.

Minnesota had no problem putting up points against the Tankapalooza Bulls, getting over 20 points from Andrew Wiggins (23), Karl-Anthony Towns (22) and Jeff Teague (25).

Scoring will likely not be an issue during Butler’s absence, as Towns, Wiggins, Teague and Jamal Crawford can each get hot on any given night.

My biggest concern is how the Butler-less Wolves will perform on defense. Wiggins and Towns have both shown defensive improvements, but Wiggins especially will have to step up to fill the void left by Butler.

Head coach Tom Thibodeau rolled with a starting-five of Teague, Wiggins, Nemanja Bjelica, Taj Gibson and Towns against the Bulls. This is a big lineup, as four of the players are between 6 feet 8 inches and 7 feet tall, but four of the five are also decent shooters who will be able to space the floor well.

This lineup has played only 95 minutes together, but holds an impressive offensive rating of 117.8, and a 3.2 plus-minus. The defense with that combination has been a different story. It has a defensive rating of 111.9, which is very bad.

Again, this lineup has played limited minutes together, but I believe the ratings accurately depict its identity: a nice offensive lineup and a defensive liability.

Thibs used only an eight-man rotation, bringing Crawford, Gorgui Dieng and Tyus Jones off the bench. Assuming he will (hopefully) not let Shabazz Muhammad sneak onto the court, the three reserves should each play at least 20-25 minutes per game to take a load off of the starters.

The Wolves are holding on to the fourth spot in the Western Conference right now with a 37-26 record. If the team does get cold without Butler and goes on a losing streak, the ninth place Clippers are only 3.5 games behind Minnesota.

The possibility of a cold spell is certainly real. From March 3-18, the Wolves play the Celtics, Warriors, Wizards, Spurs and Rockets, all of which are top-four seeds in their respective conferences.

Hopefully the team is able to hold it together well enough and avoid an epic meltdown for the next four to six weeks until Butler returns.

I think they’ll be OK. Come back stronger, Jimmy.

Author: thrillswithjmills

Food lover located in Fargo, N.D. Chicken strip aficionado; blogger; aspiring TikTok superstar.

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