On May 31, 2004, as Kevin Garnett and the rest of the Minnesota Timberwolves left the Staples Center after suffering a Game six Western Conference Finals loss to the star-studded Los Angeles Lakers, the team probably wasn’t imagining an upcoming 12-season playoff drought. However, that’s exactly what would follow that exciting Western Conference series, leaving the franchise with the longest active playoff drought in the NBA. This included an under-performing campaign last season, in which their young talent couldn’t win them more than 31 games.
Nevertheless, the Wolves decided to throw all their chips onto the poker table, trading for Jimmy Butler on draft night and signing free agents Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson, and Jamal Crawford, among others. The bench, known for being one of the lowest-scoring in the league, has suddenly been revamped, with Crawford, Dieng or Gibson, and Aaron Brooks, along with experienced players like Tyus Jones and Shabazz Muhammad.
Still, the point of pride on the roster should be the starting five, and the Wolves now boast one of the strongest in the league, with a front-court of Gibson/Dieng, Towns, and Butler and a back-court of Wiggins and Teague. All-in-all, those five have combined for four All-Star appearances and two Rookie of the Year awards. There will be some unfamiliarity at the beginning of the season, as Towns and Wiggins are accustomed to Ricky Rubio feeding them the rock, along with Butler and Wiggins being similar players, both being able to play wing. However, this is a team that should finally break the playoff curse.
Last Wednesday, the Wolves will have began their 2017-2018 season in San Antonio. They took on the powerhouse Spurs, and there are not many other opponents they could play that could cause a much more exciting beginning to the season, despite the fact that small forward Kawhi Leonard and point guard Tony Parker were out for the Spurs.
ESPN, based on the real-plus-minus statistic, projects the Timberwolves as the four seed in the West. In all likelihood, they’ll be worse than that, but the fact that projection sites are optimistic about the Wolves roster speaks volumes about the anticipation of the talent that has been acquired.
The franchise also introduced a new logo for the team, representing a wave of change in the fortunes of the team, along with alternate jerseys like the rest of the NBA. This only further creates the new-look-Wolves that will look so much different from last season, but with so much more potential.