It’s hard to not get caught up in the hype looking at their roster. The delusions of grandeur begin to permeate as you examine the core of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Many NBA analysts have already dubbed the “Timberpups” – a nickname given to the squad for its roster’s young age (average age 25.6) and its wealth of talent (12 first round picks on the roster) – the next Juggernaut ready to take the league by storm. The implications are that this squad can feasibly compete for several 50 win seasons and maybe championships with the talent readily available on the team. The logic is hard to disagree with given the presence of Andrew Wiggins ( a gifted athletic wing whose jump shot has come along as of late and has a scoring prowess akin to that of a young Tracy McGrady), Zach Lavine ( a Hyper- athletic combo guard whose hops have already one of the best dunkers in the game) and most importantly Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns is a generational talent that was molded for the modern NBA, a big man that averages 20 and 10 easily while being a gifted ball handler and passer and shooting over 30% from the three, feats which, at only 21 years old, offer a tantalizing potential as one of the best players in the game in a few years. Coupled with masterclass coach Tom Thibodeau , avoiding the hype surrounding the team is not an easy task. However, given the team’s subpar record (22-35 , 13th in the western conference and 4 games out of the 8th seed as of this writing) and the team’s tendency to commit defensive lapses and have mental errors, doubts creep in as to whether the right foundation is in place to adequately cull the greatest reward from the vast pool of talent they possess. It’s too early to tell, but in order to determine the best course of action for the Timberwolves management, they must look to the past of other similarly constructed rosters (i.e. : rosters housing a large sum of young assets obtained through the draft) and understand the  gamut of outcomes which may occur with this core.


OUTCOME 1: Brief Flash of Potential followed by Disappointment and Dismantlement


The most common outcome for most teams that draft in the high lottery for consecutive years. These teams usually are mired with ineffective management and scouting departments which renders these picks for the most part useless. Every so often a few prospects show potential in the system, but these flashes for the most part are due to high usage rates and free reign of the offense. The potential of these prospects are stunted due to a shaky institutional foundation and eventually their confidence and ceilings are lowered as a result of dysfunction. No franchise resembles these tenets greater than the Sacramento Kings, whose absurd decision making and often confusing draft strategies compounded to create a toxic environment. High value draft picks such as Demarcus Cousins, Nik Stauskas , Ben Mclemore and Tyreke Evans, all players who were lauded for their potential who (with the exception of Cousins) have disappointed in the pros due to Vivie Ranadive’s and Vlade Divac’s inability to adapt to the needs of their prospects. This is punctuated by Ranadive’s famous quote in which he stated that he wanted to implement cherry- picking, a tactic utilized in AAU and not in professional sports, as an offensive set for the Kings. As a result of the incompetence , the franchise is forced to cut ties with its prospects and the cycle of obtaining talent with no resources for growth continues. The Timberwolves, for all the criticism and disappointment of their current record, seem to have a much more stable foundation and a greater emphasis in player development than the Kings at this stage and are unlikely to succumb to the self fulfilling prophecy of futility.


OUTCOME 2: Development of Impressive Core but lack of Depth / Inept Coaching leading to Short Lived Success


This outcome seems like a very likely conclusion for the Timberpups to this point unless Wiggins and Lavine grow as defenders and playmakers and the second unit of the Wolves improves significantly. The team that embodies this outcome most accurately is the Portland Trail Blazers. from 2012 to 2015,these Trailblazer teams were rife with a talented core of Damian Lillard , Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews and Lamarcus Aldridge who on average won 50 games. Unfortunately, due to management’s inability to surround their core with complementary players that could hide the weaknesses on the roster, the Blazers were stuck as a playoff “one and done”. The result of this constant disappointment was the departure of Matthews and Aldridge in free agency and Charlotte’s acquisition of Batum via trade. Why does this option fit the Timberwolves the best? Two reasons: First is the Timberwolves inability to surround Wiggins and Towns with role players who can complement their skills. Players such as Jordan Hill, Cole Aldrich and Shabazz Muhammad may be competent pieces but share similar deficiencies to the players they are trying to complement, and their effectiveness is rendered moot with a greater consequence of debilitating the team’s success. The second reason and probably the most important is Tom Thibodeau. Thibodeau is recognized for his accomplishments as a head coach and his reputation as a defensive savant who helped to facilitate the breakouts of Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler. However, he is also infamous for his extreme training and over reliance on his star players which led to the collapse of a great Chicago Bulls team under injuries to key players and resulted in part to the shortened prime of many of the players he helped to develop, such as Luol Deng and Joakim Noah. The fear is that in a similar situation Thibodeau could exhaust his star players and force them into the same fate as the Bulls. The hope is that Thibodeau can manage his players minutes and develop them while they are still young.


OUTCOME 3: Development of a Superstar Core, Management’s’ Hubris Destroying Said Core


This outcome has only really happened twice in the past 30 years and should be viewed as a cautionary tale for teams obtaining an unbelieveable amount of talent.These two examples are the mid 1990 Orlando magic and the early decade Oklahoma City Thunder. Through a run of  lucky and successful drafts, both teams acquired multiple superstars, who developed at a rate which sent both franchises into overdrive in terms of expectations and success. In both cases, the teams were dubbed the next dynasty, which would be able to compete for multiple championships and would result in legendary status for the players. Both would compete in an NBA Finals but would lose, yet expectations were still high as the core was extremely young and could feasibly return to the highest stage. Unfortunately, in both instances, Free agency would tear apart the teams as Shaquille O’Neal would abdicate from Orlando to the Lakers and Kevin Durant would choose the Golden State Warriors over the Thunder. The Thunder, in particular, began their own teardown years before by trading away key piece James Harden to the Houston Rockets with the expectation that their return would be enough to make up for Harden’s value.Harden is currently a league leader in assists and has been a mainstay on All NBA teams since his departure from OKC. It is still too early in the development of Towns,Wiggins and Lavine to know if they have that superstar ceiling but it seems possible at this point and thus, this option still remains and must not be taken lightly.



Only one team can claim to have reached this outcome and the chances of the Timberwolves becoming a dynasty themselves is slim. The creation of a dynasty via the draft is the culmination of institutional synergy and innovation which is not only rare, but can at times be unsustainable. When it is,however, the results are constant elite production from players not only found in the early first round but gems discovered in the second round and in free agency. These dynasties position themselves in contention for titles through shrewd decision making and an understanding of analytics which supersedes their competitors. The Spurs, headed by the genius of R.C. Buford and Gregg Popovich, are the only franchise to claim modern dynasty status.They’ve constructed teams through elite scouting, AND by promoting the “Spurs way” which values player development and the team over individual gain. All Stars and future Hall of Famers Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili exemplify the Spurs perfectly. Both were late picks who thrived in large part due to the Spurs stability. In order for the Timberwolves to reach this level, management and players must be on the same page and must sync their goals accordingly. At this point in time, it seems unlikely the Timberwolves will reach this level but it is plausible.



The Timberwolves have a ways to go to be considered an elite team but they are on the right path to create a situation in which their star players can develop. The previous signings of Kevin Garnett and Andre Miller were a great step to show the young players the blueprint to become elite.The hire of Thibodeau to guide the team is, in theory, a good option because he hold his players accountable and stresses effort on both sides of the court. Even if the results haven’t shown it, progress is evident in Wiggins mentality and Town’s defensive effort. It takes patience, some luck and group effort to want to succeed as a team instead of individually but the potential to become great is evident.

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