Tom Thibodeau expected to coach a consistent playoff contender when he joined the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2016. Despite Jimmy Butler's trade demand, Thibodeau reportedly remains uninterested in dealing the disgruntled star for rebuilding pieces.
"No one expects Tom to coach a 25-win or even 35-win team," a front-office executive told Sporting News' Sean Deveney. "Even if he has to agree to dissolve the contract, they'd do that before they go and trade Butler for draft picks."
If he chooses to deal Butler, Thibodeau is expected to go after a comparable veteran piece that'll keep the Timberwolves in the playoff picture. The hot-headed coach suffered through a 31-win season in his first year with Minnesota before acquiring Butler from the Chicago Bulls the following summer. The addition of a gritty All-Star was supposed to help groom the team's young core of Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.
However, Butler's dissatisfaction with that young core's work ethic has put Thibodeau in a difficult position. Regardless, it's possible that he'll play the situation out and see how far his current roster can go in the stacked Western Conference.
"A lot of this has to do with the work ethic of those young guys, and sometimes young guys just click and they get it out of the blue," one general manager said, according to Deveney. "For Thibs, that would be the way he prefers to play this. He has a great relationship with Jimmy, and if he can just get him to give the team a chance, he's got a shot at defusing this whole thing by Christmas."
Minnesota finished with 47 wins last season, reaching the postseason for the first time since 2004.