Basketball lost three legends to retirement this past offseason: Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett. The loss of Garnett might have been taken especially hard by some Minnesota Timberwolves fans, as he was the face of the franchise for a decade and likely the best player to ever wear Wolves’ blue. Despite Garnett’s decision to retire over the summer, as well as the longest running playoff drought in the National Basketball Association, Timberwolves fans have plenty to be excited about for the future.
Although Garnett was on the roster last year, he did not make nearly the same impact he had back in his heyday. Instead, the team was led by the young core of Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, Zach LaVine and Ricky Rubio. Wiggins, the top overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft, was originally acquired in a trade from the Cavaliers that sent star power forward Kevin Love to Cleveland. It appears that this trade was definitely a good one for the Wolves, as Wiggins has outscored Love the past two seasons as a teenager.
Towns, the first overall pick in last year’s draft, is already a superstar after only one year in the NBA, putting up 18.3 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game in his rookie season. Guarding LaVine, the reigning NBA Slam Dunk Contest winner two years running, is any defender’s nightmare. As well as being able to posterize just about anybody in the league, LaVine can also knock shots down from the perimeter, as he made 123 three-pointers last season, the most of any player on the Timberwolves. Last but not least, Rubio has been a well-rounded playmaker for Minnesota, posting double digit points, 8.3 assists and 2.2 steals per game over the past five seasons. This core of young players, three of whom were still below the legal drinking age at the start of 2016, will certainly terrify the NBA for years to come.
The Timberwolves made a couple of key additions to their team this offseason as well. Tom Thibodeau, who has a career .647 winning percentage coaching the Chicago Bulls, was brought in to lead the team to the playoffs for the first time since 2004. Thibodeau is famous for being the loudest individual on the court at all times and brings a fiery passion to the game that has netted him four playoff appearances and a Coach of the Year award over a span of five years. He is certain to make an impact in Minnesota.
In June, the Timberwolves used the fifth overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft on Kris Dunn. At 22 years old, Dunn has a much better chance of making an immediate impact than the “one-and-done” players (who declare eligibility for the draft after only one year in college) who were drafted before him, such as Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram. He has now won the Big East Player of the Year award for two straight years while playing for Providence College and is ready to lead the Timberwolves to glory.
After years of irrelevance, the Timberwolves look like the scariest team in the Western Conference. Many have predicted they will end their record-long playoff drought this season, and I could not agree more. The core of Wiggins, Towns, LaVine and Rubio will only get better this year, and is now joined by Thibodeau and Dunn. This roster could eventually challenge the all-powerful Golden State Warriors for supremacy in the Western Conference. The legendary Kevin Garnett may have retired, but the future of the Minnesota Timberwolves could not be brighter. Prepare for this young, exciting team to still be playing come April.