It’s been a busy off-season for the Timberwolves. After a promising season that included a Rookie of the Year campaign by Karl-Anthony Towns and strides from Andrew Wiggins and Zach Lavine, Minnesota hired Tom Thibodeau and positioned itself to take a step forward next season.
To catch up on everything that has transpired, SI.com talked to Wiggins about his summer, rookie Kris Dunn and what his expectations are for the 2016–17 season.
Omari Sankofa: Take me through your off-season. Obviously, it’s been busy for the Timberwolves, bringing in a new head coach, new front office.
Andrew Wiggins: I went to different places to work out. I was in Long Beach, I was in L.A. and I was in Las Vegas for Summer League. I was working out, and mainly this summer I’ve been working on my handles and my shot and just working on different things outside the three-point line. Other than that it’s been going good. I went to Las Vegas to watch the team play at Summer League, watched Kris Dunn, Adreian Payne. They shocked a lot of people. With the new coaching change, I’m excited for it. I think we’re both ready for the season to get started.
OS: KAT had an incredible rookie season. How are you two adapting to form that 1–2 punch?
AW: We fit perfectly together. We know each other’s games and every game last year the potential was building into the future. I’m working on a few things that’ll help with each other shooting from a double team, moves to get away from the next defender. Reading the defense and reading how we both play off of it.
OS: You watched Kris Dunn at Summer League. It was a small sample size, but how did he look to you in those two games?
AW: He looked great. He’s aggressive, he’s like a dog. He never backs down from nobody. Even when his shot wasn’t falling, he was going to the basket. He’s aggressive and he gets after it defensively, too. He looks like he likes to play defense and that’s what we need. He can maneuver, has a quick first step.
OS: What element does he give the team at PG that’s different from what you get from Ricky Rubio, and how important is it to have two point guards who can do different things?
AW: He can do a couple different things. He’s more athletic, he’s probably quicker. But he’s a young point guard and Ricky’s been in the league for a very long time. So Ricky obviously has an advantage. Ricky has been leading this team at the point guard position for a very long time now. He’s a vet. Ricky knows all of our tendencies, what we like to do, where we like the ball and stuff like that. That’s something, obviously, that Kris Dunn’s going to have to learn in training camp. That’s where it happens.
OS: When Thibodeau first came in as coach and team president, what was the first conversation between you and him like?
AW: It was great. We were both excited. He kinda just asked me, like, what do I think of it and what are my goals for the season. I really wanted it to get done. That was basically it. He asked me where I liked the ball and just talked about basketball really.
OS: Thibodeau has a reputation as a tough, demanding coach. He’s able to get his teams to compete, overachieve at times, and play tough defense. What has the change been like for you guys having a coach like Thibodeau come in with such a big name
AW: For us, it’s huge. We’re a young team so we need someone like him. One thing we lack is defense and that’s something that he does well. He can help us with that right out of the gate. He’s going to make us to play hard. We’re a young team and we need everything we can get.
OS: What was the buzz between you and the rest of your team when you found out Thibodeau was coming in
AW: We were excited. There was nothing negative, we all had positive things to say because of the success he had in Chicago. We were excited to see what he was going to do with this team.
OS: What is the biggest impression that coach Thibodeau has made on you and your teammates so far?
AW: His seriousness. He’s putting that mentality on the team right now. That’s what we need. Whether someone’s working out individually, or with the team, he tries to make it out. He wants to see us practice, he wants to work with us. He wants to see how each guy is doing. He wants to see everything that has to do with the team.
OS: How do you guys factor into the Western Conference playoff race next season? Lots of shakeup this summer, where does Minnesota fit in?
AW: I think we’re going to have a way better season than we had this year. We just had a lot going on. We’ve got some new pieces. I think last year we could’ve beat any team on any given day. This year we need to be more consistent with it. We can make the playoffs. Nothing is easy, we gotta work and our coach is going to make us work.
OS:Have you heard any word from Kevin Garnett on if he plans on coming back yet?
AW: Not yet.
OS: How helpful was it for you guys having Kevin Garnett on the bench last season, acting as a secondary coach and sharing that love and passion of the game?
AW: It was great. He was the best teammate for a lot of guys who are younger. He’s one of the biggest motivators, no matter what he’s always motivating you to do better and he’s always teaching, teaching everyone. If he sees you doing it wrong, he’ll make sure you get it right. He’s always positive, he always brings positive energy and it rubs off of the rest of the team.