II: Minnesota Timberwolves
The Denver Nuggets’ unlikely surge to the top of the NBA was not an accident. It was a long and carefully orchestrated strategy of former Nuggets President Tim Connelly, the same NBA executive who now holds the title of Minnesota Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations. And that same Tim Connelly has had his hand at sculpting the Timberwolves roster for two consecutive off-seasons.
While some may consider this lofty position a bit of hubris, I love the strategy of the Timberwolves roster for two reasons: The Timberwolves have staggered the star power of this roster on two tracks. Seasoned veterans include center Rudy Gobert, PF Karl-Anthony Towns, F Kyle Anderson, and PG Mike Conley Jr. Veterans on this team are found as three starters and a key player off the bench.
But this Timberwolves roster also boasts key young players as well. SG Anthony Edwards, SF Jaden McDaniels, C Naz Reid, and SG Nickeil Alexander-Walker are found as the other two starters for the team as well as two key rotational players. While this team did trade away D’Angelo Russell at the NBA Trade Deadline, Mike Conley Jr. and Nickeil Alexander-Walker have already proven their value.
The Timberwolves were battered with injuries and unfamiliarity among players a year ago. Neither of those challenges should be a factor this season.
I: Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns clearly are making an ‘All In,’ play for an NBA Championship this season, and have gone to great lengths to stockpile talent to do so. With a roster that rivals that of the NBA All-Stars, the Suns clearly are focused on the NBA Championship or bust for the 2023-24 NBA season.
The Suns have loaded up their roster, acquiring Brooklyn Nets All-Star forward Kevin Durant at the 2023 NBA Trade Deadline, and then doubling down by adding former Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal in the 2023 offseason.
As a result, the Suns have four players on the roster who average approximately 20+ points per game. Much like the Timberwolves, the Suns roster is not overly dependent upon the durability of veterans, or the anticipated development of younger players.
The greatest challenge to the Phoenix Suns will be to acclimate everyone on the team to specific roles that do not create excessive competition among teammates for the lone basketball. There are as many as three alpha males in the Suns starting lineup, and that can create friction if the players are more focused on personal achievements than winning as a team.
Still, it’s impossible to deny that the Suns are at the cusp of greatness this season. If their roster stays healthy and committed to winning as a team, regardless of what that takes, they could emerge with the 2024 NBA Championship.