With the recent — perhaps season-ending — injury to the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Jimmy Butler, sustained during a non-contact injury against the Houston Rockets last week, questions have begun to be raised about Minnesota’s head coach Tom Thibodeau’s coaching philosophies.
Butler was averaging a whopping 37.1 minutes per game this season before the injury, good for second in the league in minutes per game. Butler’s teammates, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, are both in the top 20 in minutes per game, with 35.1 and 36.1 respectively.
Coach Thibs has always been known to give his starters a hefty amount of minutes, even dating back to his Chicago Bulls days, and when you begin to look back at some of the players Thibs has coached in the past and their minutes and injury history, a subtle pattern emerges that does not show Tom Thibodeau in a good light.
Here's the Jimmy Butler injury pic.twitter.com/uu58htE19r
— Chris Long (@ChrisLongKSTP) February 24, 2018
Dating back to 2010-11, five players — four of them All-Stars, have suffered numerous injuries while playing for coach Thibs.
Obviously, Jimmy Butler is the most recent example. But the likes of Zach LaVine, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and of course, Derrick Rose have all struggled with injuries. LaVine averaged 37.2 minutes last season for the Wolves before tearing his ACL. Noah averaged 36.8 minutes in Chicago in 2012-13, and the following season, dislocated his shoulder and underwent knee surgery.
Luol Deng, who was a regular at the top of the MPG leaderboards every season under Thibs, averaged 39.4 minutes for Chicago in 2011-12 and has suffered numerous calf and Achilles injuries since then, rendering him a shell of his former self for the Lakers. And finally, Derrick Rose averaged 35.3 minutes during his rookie season in 2010-11, and we all know what happened to Rose only a few seasons later, something Derrick has never truly recovered from.
Does Tom Thibodeau play his starters too many minutes, so many that they’re at an increased risk of injury compared to the rest of the league due to general wear and tear and not enough rest? You be the judge.