Wolves Are the Best Rebuilding Team in the NBA


Elementary school basketball: take a bunch of young kids that aren’t very coordinated and have them play a game where they aren’t allowed to make progress unless they use their hands to bounce a basketball up and a down while moving.

The result: uncalled, constant traveling, feet-shuffling bricked shots off the side of the backboard, and blank stares from kids to their parents which beg the question, “What is going on?”

For myself, I always loved basketball, even during those younger years of playing. However, the one thing that I always looked forward too, but at the same time dreaded, was the end of the year “Hoops ‘n Hot Dogs” afternoon full of contests, food, and a raffle for prizes.

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The problem for me is that I never won anything at the raffle. Six years in a row, I sat patiently in a group of about fifty other young kids hoping that my number would be one of the thirty or so numbers called to win some basketball cards, a mini-hoop for my closet door, or the coveted Timberwolves tickets. To my dismay, I never won anything.

My excruciating time in the elementary school basketball raffle reminds me of watching the Minnesota Timberwolves five years ago. It was the 2010-2011 season, seven years into the Wolves playoff drought, and I remember thinking of the Oklahoma City Thunder with a sense of bitterness.

“Why do they have all the young stars while we’re over here with a bunch of underachieving scrubs?”

The Thunder boasted Kevin Durant, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka, all under the age of 24, and made an appearance in the Conference Finals. The Wolves, on the other hand, were coping with the likes of Wesley Johnson, Michael Beasley, Wayne Ellington, and a much heavier Kevin Love.

I felt like I was back in the raffle days, where if you go enough times you’re bound to win a prize, but yet nothing ever came of it for me.  In the same way, the Wolves spent close to a decade in the draft lottery with nearly nothing to show for it.  Our number had to be called for a prize sometime…right?

Apr 13, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine (8) and forward Andrew Wiggins (22) talk during a free throw by the New Orleans Pelicans in the third quarter at Target Center. The Pelicans win 100-88. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Fast forward to present day, and Minnesota is that kid who got his number called three straight years. The team is the envy of other rebuilding teams in the league, boasting Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, Zach LaVine, and others that make up the blooming young core for Minnesota.

Andrew Wiggins won the Rookie of the Year last season. Zach LaVine is a human highlight reel projected to have a breakout season. Karl-Anthony Towns was the top talent out of the most recent draft. Shabazz Muhammad seems poised to take his game to the next level. Gorgui Dieng is becoming a solid NBA center. Nemanja Bjelica turned many heads in his recent overseas play.

And hey, Kevin Garnett is back!

With the Milwaukee Bucks graduating from the rebuilding class with their playoff appearance last season, the Wolves are probably the best rebuilding team in the NBA. Some might make an argument for the Orlando Magic, who certainly are on rise, or the Utah Jazz, who finished the season strong last season and play great defense. But neither of these teams have as many players with such an overwhelming amount of potential as the Timberwolves.

Like the Thunder a half-decade ago, the Wolves have three players with the make-up of future stars in Wiggins, LaVine, and Towns, much like Durant, Westbrook, and Harden.  This is something neither Utah nor Orlando can say about their current rosters.

The Wolves have filled out their team pleasantly, thanks to some terrific work from Flip Saunders over the past few years. Muhammad, Dieng, Rubio, and Bjelica are all great pieces on the roster.

Ultimately, however, as was seen when the injured Cavaliers easily sent the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks packing this past postseason, this is still a league driven by stars. Thankfully, the Wolves have three in the making who should make them legitimately competitive in the incredibly tough Western Conference.

Is that a lot of pressure to put on three guys under the age of 21? Absolutely. But it’s what fans have been waiting for since the Lakers sent the Wolves home in the Western Conference Finals back in 2004: a team to make Minnesota a winner again.

“The Bounce Brothers” and their “KAT” (yes, there needs to be something better than that if they become a formidable threesome) all have a great chance to be the players the Wolves need to start winning playoff games again.

But then again… I had a great chance to win one of those prizes at the raffle.

Let’s just forget about the fact that sometimes, for kids at raffles or rebuilding NBA franchises, things inexplicably go wrong and defy probability again and again. For now, the Wolves are the league’s best rebuilding team, and it looks like they’re poised with finally win one of the those raffle prizes.

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