It’s been almost a week since Timberwolves All-Star Jimmy Butler went down with a right meniscus injury. Although there is no official timetable yet for a return, he is expected to be back for the playoffs. Butler has been vital to the Timberwolves success thus far, so this injury is a worst nightmare for any Minnesota fan. With an ability to rack up numbers across every stat, Butler’s presence will surely be missed down this crucial stretch of the season. However, as devastating as this injury is, I think Timberwolves fans should remain optimistic.
It’s no secret that the Timberwolves have several weapons on their roster. Aside from Butler, Minnesota has fellow All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns, as well as other threats in point guard Jeff Teague and shooting guard/small forward Andrew Wiggins. I have been thoroughly impressed with how well the Wolves have managed to play together, especially considering that this is Butler’s first season with the team. They seemed to have little to no struggles integrating an All-Star caliber player into the roster.
The Timberwolves have played two games since losing Butler. Both, however, have been against pretty weak opponents in the Chicago Bulls and the Sacramento Kings. The Wolves managed to beat both opponents with an 18-point spread. Obviously, I am hesitant to take these two wins as an optimistic sign considering the opponents, but the fact that both games were won with a large spread is a hopeful sign. The first real test since losing Butler came Thursday night as the Wolves faced off against Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers. The Timberwolves lost the game 108-99, but will play the Jazz in Salt Lake City Friday night. If Minnesota can bounce back from last night and win an away game against a good Jazz team, it would certainly be a great sign for them.
For any Minnesota fan, I would not worry. Butler’s ability to step up and take over games will surely be missed, but I think Minnesota will be able to finish out the season strong. Karl-Anthony Towns will of course have to step up each night to fill in for Butler’s absence, but I fully expect the Wolves to finish the season with a top-4 spot in the West. Unfortunately, the Timberwolves are often overlooked in the West because of two dominant forces in Golden State and Houston. However, look for Minnesota to continue their high level of play down the stretch and earn themselves their first playoff berth in over a decade.