Given the overall history of the Minnesota Timberwolves franchise, the 2021 calendar year wasn’t all that bad.
A Year In Review: The Minnesota Timberwolves in 2021
The Minnesota Timberwolves have only advanced past the first round of the playoffs one time in their 32 seasons of existence. They’ve only made the playoffs nine times, and once in the past 17 seasons.
Given a baseline like this, the calendar year of 2021 didn’t have all that much to live up to.
Let’s take a look at the key moments in the past calendar year for the Timberwolves.
Chris Finch replaces Ryan Saunders as Timberwolves head coach
After an active 2020, the Timberwolves did nothing at the 2021 trade deadline. In fact, the only player transaction until July of the calendar year was the waiving of two-way player Ashton Hagans after a health and safety protocol violation in the G League bubble.
But with the Wolves sitting with a record of 7-24 on Feb. 21, head coach Ryan Saunders was fired and replaced by Toronto Raptors assistant Chris Finch. Then-President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas took the unusual step of hiring an assistant from another team in the middle of the season, leaning on the past interview process prior to Saunders’ hiring in spring of 2019 as the due diligence that the team did before landing on their selection to take over the reins.
Finch took over and went 16-25 the rest of the way. There were plenty of improvements over Saunders’ tenure, although it’s also important to point out that Finch enjoyed a somewhat healthier roster than what Saunders had for much of the first part of the 2020-21 campaign.
Still, Finch’s game management was immediately better than what fans saw from Saunders, and his overall creativity on the offensive end of the floor while still allowing players like D’Angelo Russell to be themselves and operate with relative autonomy was refreshing.
Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore become Timberwolves minority owners
The long-rumored sale of the Timberwolves finally got underway as former Major League Baseball superstar Alex Rodriguez and tech billionaire Marc Lore purchased a minority stake in the franchise with a plan to assume majority ownership by the end of 2023.
Rodriguez and Lore were relatively silent at first but became more vocal in the media late in the summer and more visible once the regular season got underway.
Timberwolves acquire Patrick Beverley, Taurean Prince in offseason trades
After lying dormant on the transaction wire throughout the 2020-21 season, the Timberwolves sprang to life in the summer.
First, the Wolves traded Ricky Rubio to the Cleveland Cavaliers, bringing back Taurean Prince, a 2022 second-round pick, and cash. At the time, the trade didn’t make a ton of sense, as Rubio is clearly the better player in a vacuum. But the next shoe to drop made it all make sense.
A little more than three weeks after shipping Rubio out, the Timberwolves landed veteran guard Patrick Beverley in a swap with the Memphis Grizzlies, only sending out lottery disappointment Jarrett Culver and on-the-outs forward Juancho Hernangomez.
Beverley immediately assumed the vacated backup point guard role, offering improved on-ball defense and the type of spot-up, off-ball shooting that Rubio simply couldn’t provide. The fit between Beverley and the Wolves was simply much better than what Rubio was able to do in his second go-round in Minnesota.
Gersson Rosas fired as Timberwolves front office boss
Not even a month after completing the Beverley trade, Gersson Rosas was fired as president of basketball operations.
It was a combination of a reportedly toxic work environment and an inappropriate relationship with a member of the front office that lead to Rosas’s dismissal. The fact that it came during training camp and on the doorstep of training camp was shocking, and the perception of ineptness surrounding the organization was once again rampant around the league.
Still, Sachin Gupta stepped in on an interim basis and immediately injected calm into the operation. While the Wolves were often mentioned as potential suitors for embattled Philadelphia 76ers superstar Ben Simmons, they reportedly remained in the running while not making any brash moves.
To date, the Wolves sit at 16-18 and are currently in the play-in space in the Western Conference, riding out injuries and illness to their entire starting lineup to remain competitive on most nights.
Yet the 2022 calendar year must be better than 2021 as Gupta and Finch look to make their mark on the franchise, and the Wolves look to make the playoffs for just the second time in 18 seasons and 10th time overall.
Time will tell if the new pairing will last, but things certainly appear to be on the right track.