Minnesota Timberwolves fans have spent a lot of time waiting. At what point does waiting for Wolves players to get older … get old?
When does getting old, get old?
Minnesota Timberwolves fans have experienced their own version of the Philadelphia 76ers’ “Trust the Process” mantra since they traded Kevin Garnett and the centerpiece of their return was a young power forward drafted out of high school named Al Jefferson.
Once again, fans were told “just wait until he is 25 and averaging 25 and 12”. While the Love-Mayo trade goes down in history as a win for the Wolves franchise, they eventually traded Al Jefferson because of Kevin Love.
Effectively, they exchanged 25 and 12 for 25 and 12. For then-president of basketball operations David Kahn, it was too much of a good thing; having multiple All-Star level post players was bad. Drafting multiple point guards (Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn) while passing on a multi-season MVP (Stephen Curry) is fine.
And that brings us to Love’s tenure with the Wolves. Things looked to be pointed in the right direction. Rick Adelman was a more than adequate coach, finishing his career with north of 1,000 wins. Had it not been for Kobe and Shaq or Duncan and the Spurs we would most likely consider him a great coach, as his early 2000’s Sacramento Kings teams were formidable and largely successful, just without a Finals trip on their ledger.
It looked like everything was playing out for Kahn. Love turned into an All-Star with a team filled out with a team of solid role players. Things looked good and Kahn was patient enough to get his wish and the young Spanish point guard came over on a white horse from Spain. The Timberwolves were in the playoff hunt for the first time in years.
Sure, the 2011-12 campaign was a lockout-shortened season, but the Wolves had a promising young point guard in Rubio, an emerging pound-it-in-the-paint center in Nikola Pekovic and a versatile All-Star in Love.
Could they have used more defense? Sure. However, they were in pursuit to be a team in the playoffs, which they had not sniffed in years. Then, there was that fateful night in March. Rubio went to play help defense on Kobe Bryant and the young Spanish point guard went down with a torn ACL.
This night really set in motion what was to be the end of the David Kahn era. Injuries derailed the next two years. Love, who was already upset about not being given the max deal, became more frustrated with the losing. But can you blame him? We can debate whether he was truly worth a max contract, but it’s not like the Wolves were going to get a max free agent to come to Minnesota.
Love looked like he would be the Wolves next great Kevin, and one day get his jersey raised in the rafters at some point, maybe. Then again, the first great Kevin still doesn’t have his number hanging above the Target Center court…
Snatching LaVine was one of the few draft picks the Wolves can be proud of in the last decade. That year’s team managed 16 wins and landed the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft. Finally, progress! Sure, it was via the lottery, but for the Wolves, not moving back in the draft is progress. The Wolves even made the right choice at No. 1, selecting Karl-Anthony Towns over Jahlil Okafor.
Then, tragedy struck and Flip Saunders got sick. Too sick, too quickly, it did not seem real. Before KAT could even tie up his laces to play his first NBA game, Flip passed away. Sam Mitchell took over for the year and again we were told to wait. Wait until these kids got older, and they will be a force to be reckoned with in the NBA.
The Wolves hired Tom Thibodeau and fans waited another year. The kids put up better offensive numbers, but even Thibodeau got tired of waiting for the kids to get older. So, he traded LaVine for Jimmy Butler.
Jimmy is either the second or third-best player to ever wear a Wolves jersey, and whether you like him or not, he led the Wolves to the playoffs for the first time in 13 years. Had Butler not gotten injured, there was a chance that they would have been the No. 3 seed in the West. Instead, they were the No. 8 seed and ended up losing to the top-seeded Rockets in four games in the first round.
Butler decided he wanted to be elsewhere. Thibodeau was relieved of his duties and the Wolves started rebuilding again, this time with the youngest coach in the league. This is not a knock on Ryan Saunders, I really like his coaching style and the Wolves ATOs (after timeout plays) were really good this year.
Last summer, Rosas traded up in his first draft in charge, giving up his first-rounder and Dario Saric for Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver with the No. 6 pick. Culver had some flashes as a rookie and had something resembling an average rookie year.
Culver doesn’t exactly fit the Wolves’ offensive attack that is focused heavily on 3-point shooting, and he hasn’t been consistent in getting into the paint at this stage to score at the rim, either.
Could there be some similarities to Jimmy Butler? Jimmy was not amazing his first few years, but the Bulls waited, and Jimmy developed. Waiting is not something that the Wolves have done often. Think about Zach LaVine, or even Corey Brewer or Al Jefferson.
In some ways, this is similar to when the Orlando Magic didn’t wait on Victor Oladipo and the Los Angeles Lakers didn’t wait on Russell. Those players were all traded and eventually became really good players.
Can Rosas afford to allow Culver to get older or does he need to trade him for a player who is older and ready to roll? Sure, Culver’s shot needs work, but it may never get better; he’s shooting under 50 percent from the free throw line as a professional, after all.
However, even with all the negatives, he has the right work ethic and attitude. He seems to fit right into Minnesota’s culture, working hard but never talking about how hard he works. I really hope it works in Minnesota.
Time will tell… but we’ve heard that before, haven’t we? I know owner Glen Taylor has, too. Personally, I have watched the Wolves play in two playoff series that I can remember. Neither ended in their favor. Along with the rest of the Timberwolves fanbase, I have been waiting for players to get older for 15 years.
Of course, none of this is Rosas’ or Culver’s fault. At least not yet.