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Rumor: Tom Thibodeau expected to trade young Timberwolves player for established veteran

Charlotte Hornets v Minnesota Timberwolves

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 15: Head coach Tom Thibodeau of the Minnesota Timberwolves looks on during the second quarter of the game against the Charlotte Hornets on November 15, 2016 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

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It’s been a decade since Tom Thibodeau worked for a losing team.

The Bulls won each season he coached. Prior to Chicago, he served as an assistant on championship-contending Celtics teams. He was a Rockets assistant before that, and he suffered through his last losing season in Houston. (He took last year off after getting fired by the Bulls.)

Thibodeau appears likely to break his winning streak this year. President and coach, he’s overseeing a Timberwolves team that’s too young to win consistently. Minnesota is 4-10 while relying heavily on three 21-year-olds: Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine.

So, the anticipated question has become reality: How will Thibodeau, a coach at heart and first-time executive, handle roster building?

Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report:

Tom Thibodeau is not exactly a paragon of patience, which is why league sources expect that he is only a few more losses away from dealing one of his young stars for a veteran who can help him win now. His first look will be for a player he already knows and trusts because he’s already had that player in his system. Would the Lakers consider advancing their youth movement and dealing former Bull Luol Deng? Would the Bulls consider parting with Jimmy Butler or Taj Gibson? Where Thibs looks is not certain, nor is who he’d be willing to move. But those in the league who know his hunger to win and win now are convinced he will begin calling around soon, if he hasn’t already.

There are a few possibilities, potentially overlapping, here:

1. “League sources” are aware of Thibodeau’s notoriously competitive nature and, without specific insight here, are merely supposing he’ll push for a win-now trade. You or I could do the same.

2. “League sources” work for teams that want to acquire a young Timberwolves player and are trying to pry one loose. If this is the intent behind the rumor, it wouldn’t necessary reflect reality for the Timberwolves.

3. “League sources” – either from Minnesota or through conversations with the Timberwolves – have clear knowledge of Thibodeau’s plan. This is the meaningful one.

Which is the case? I don’t know. There’s plenty of room for this rumor to be either credible or not.

There’s a wide range in trade value between the named former Thibodeau players. Jimmy Butler is playing like an MVP, and the Bulls won’t rush to trade him (though, despite Chicago’s denial, Butler was linked to the Timberwolves before the draft). Deng is struggling in his first season of a big contract with the Lakers. Gibson is solid but would be somewhat redundant with Towns, Gorgui Dieng, Cole Aldrich and Jordan Hill.

So, I’m not counting on a trade like the one described here. But I am watching more closely for such a deal after hearing this rumor.