The Minnesota Timberwolves have had a unique history as a franchise, with only one player really known for his time as a Timberwolf. But could the post-Garnett Wolves finally be finding an identity and culture?
Take a stroll through a list of Minnesota Timberwolves all-time leaders and you’ll see a whole lot of the same name over and over again.
With back-to-back No. 1 draft picks in Wiggins and Towns, Minnesota has become more of a destination for free agents to consider. If someone told you eight years ago Derrick Rose would be playing in Minnesota voluntarily, would you have believed them? Things are changing, and that can only be good for the future of the Timberwolves.
Towns and Wiggins have already climbed their way up through the Wolves’ record books to leave their mark during their short careers. That is, of course, a fact that emphasizes the fact the Timberwolves were in dire need of establishing a culture.
Towns and Wiggins are just four and five years into their careers, respectively, and are already second and third all-time leading scorers for the Wolves. To put that in perspective, Stephen Curry and James Harden each rank third all-time for their respective franchises. Sure, both teams have more seasons in the league than the Timberwolves, but it’s still a bit alarming.
Wiggins and Gorgui Dieng both feature in the top 10 in both minutes and games played in a Wolves jersey, while Wiggins is the leader in 3-point attempts. Towns leads all other players to wear a Wolves jersey in points per game, while Taj Gibson leads in all-time field goal percentage.
Things are slowly changing in Minnesota, as evidenced by the record books. Don’t get me wrong, Garnett still leads most categories and most likely will for the foreseeable future — he’s still almost 600 games played ahead of Wiggins — but the fact that modern-day Wolves are leaving their mark in the records is only a sign of good things to come.
Every competing team has a basketball culture that drives their success throughout the season. Look at the Spurs for example, since Gregg Popovich’s first full season as head coach in 1997-98 (the same year Duncan was drafted), the team has not missed a single playoff series, has won five NBA championships, and has been one of the most dominant Western Conference teams in history.
Even a look at the current Golden State Warriors showcases a winning culture that has drawn top-tier free agents to join for their shot at a championship victory. The 2015-16 Warriors even broke the record for best Regular Season finish of all time, with 73 wins and just nine losses throughout the season.
Meanwhile, the most important list for the Timberwolves right now is their injury report.
This season was never going to be easy for the Timberwolves. The preseason drama with Jimmy Butler, the mid-season sacking of Tom Thibodeau and an insurmountable amount of injuries put a hamper on any chances the Wolves really had at a playoff opportunity.
Yet, through all of that, the Wolves have managed a respectable 36-43 record and rank 11th in offensive rating.
Things would be better without a large list of injuries, and while this season is almost over for the team it should prove to be an important learning experience.
The pressure will now be on the front office this offseason once free agency starts. Players are now more likely to consider Minnesota thanks to the culture that is being built, but with almost half the roster hitting free agency at the end of season, the pressure will be on to keep that culture strong.
Once the Timberwolves hit the court next season, expectations will be high once again. If the team continues to flourish under the new culture that Ryan Saunders is attempting to develop, then those expectations should be met.