FOX Sports North heads to the podium and distributes awards for the top players and moments from the Minnesota Timberwolves’ 2017-18 campaign.
Most valuable player: Jimmy Butler
Butler has been the most valuable player on the Timberwolves from the moment he gave out his phone number at his introductory press conference last June. Butler’s known to be a do-it-all, two-way player, and his stats prove it: 22.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.9 assists and a career-best 2.0 steals per game in 2017-18. His promising first season in Minnesota was hampered by injuries, but the Butler-less Timberwolves almost proved his worth even more. In the 59 games Butler started in the regular season, Minnesota went 37-22. Without Butler? 10-13.
Top newcomer (not named Butler): Jeff Teague
It took a while for Timberwolves fans to warm up to Teague, who was signed as beloved guard Ricky Rubio’s replacement in July. Teague only improved as he became more comfortable playing under head coach Tom Thibodeau and averaged 16.1 points and 7.2 assists per game over the final three months of the season. In nine NBA seasons, the 29-year-old has never missed the playoffs. He made sure that streak would continue by pouring in 17 points and seven assists in Minnesota’s victory over Denver in the season finale, a win-and-in situation that launched the Wolves into the playoffs.
Sixth man: Derrick Rose
Rose earned this award purely from his performance offensively in the postseason. Signed by the Timberwolves in early March, Rose was pedestrian in nine regular-season games, averaging 5.8 points and 1.2 assists in 12.4 minutes per game. But he showed signs of his 2011 MVP self in five postseason contests, averaging 14.2 points and 2.6 assists in 23.8 minutes off the bench. Rose shot 70 percent from 3-point land (7 of 10) and tallied double-digit points in four of five games against Houston.
Unsung hero: Taj Gibson
Referred to as the “glue” of the Timberwolves, Gibson led by example with his grit and effort night in and night out. At the age of 32, Gibson set a surprising new career-high with 33.2 minutes played per game. He tallied 12.2 points per contest -- his best mark since 2013-14 with Chicago -- and 7.1 rebounds, his highest average since his rookie campaign in 2009-10. “The NBA’s only No. 67” was one of 27 players around the league to play in all 82 regular-season games and also set career bests in field-goal percentage (57.7), offensive rating (123) and VORP (2.1).
High point: Win over Rockets in Game 3
Playoff basketball returned to Minneapolis in April for the first time since Kevin Garnett was banging his head beneath Target Center hoops in 2004. Down 2-0 in its first-round series with Houston, Minnesota outplayed the Rockets in Game 3 from start to finish in front of an electric sellout crowd of 18,978. Butler, Teague and Andrew Wiggins scored 20+ points, Karl-Anthony Towns dominated Houston’s Clint Capela and grabbed 16 rebounds and the Timberwolves won handily 121-105, sparking conversation that maybe, just maybe, Minnesota could steal the series away from a Houston team with a history of postseason failures.
Low point: Third quarter of Game 4
The Timberwolves, coming off their big Game 3 win, entered halftime of Game 4 down one point at 50-49. They were swarming James Harden in the first two quarters, producing on the offensive end and looking like they have a legitimate chance of tying the series 2-2 against the NBA’s most potent offense. But then Harden woke up. The MVP candidate sunk 7 of 10 attempts from the field in the third quarter and led the Rockets to a 50-point effort in that period to take back control of the game, and ultimately, the series. Harden outscored the Timberwolves himself in that quarter, 22-20.
G League MVP: Amile Jefferson
Jefferson has yet to make his NBA debut, but the rookie played well enough in Iowa to have his two-way contract converted to a standard deal in April, allowing him to travel with the team in the postseason. Jefferson tallied 36 double-doubles in his first professional season and averaged 17.8 points, a league-leading 12.9 rebounds and 34.9 minutes per contest for the G League Wolves. Jefferson also led the G League with a 17.5 player impact estimate (PIE), a measure of a player’s contributions in a game.