16-43 • 14th in WESTERN CONFERENCE
The Timberwolves are really bad. Dysfunctional bad. So much so, that they had to part ways with head coach Ryan Saunders 31 games into the 2020-21 season. At that point, the Wolves were the owners of the worst record in the entire NBA at 7-24.
The timing of the firing -- right after Minnesota lost a tight one against the New York Knicks -- only serves as further proof as to how bad things are for the franchise. The fact that the Wolves decided to go with rookie coach Chris Finch as Saunders' replacement further put them in hot water, with personalities from around the NBA calling Minnesota out for glossing over a few qualified African American candidates for the post.
In their defense, injuries have played a significant role in the Timberwolves’ struggles this season. Cornerstone superstar Karl-Anthony Towns had a bout with COVID-19 which put him on the shelf for a significant period. D'Angelo Russell was also ruled out for several weeks after undergoing surgery on his leg.
This season will mark Minnesota's fourth consecutive year without a playoff appearance. They've made it to the playoffs just once (2018) in the past 17 years. This speaks volumes of the unfortunate losing culture that has developed for the Timberwolves over nearly two decades.
The 2020-21 campaign was supposed to be the first full Timberwolves season that we’d see the highly-promising prospect of Karl-Anthony Towns teaming up with real-life BFF D'Angelo Russell. They showed a ton of potential during their brief time together on the court last season, and this year should be no different.
Unfortunately, this hasn't been the case for Minnesota so far this season. Injuries have taken a huge toll on the franchise, but even during the times that both Towns and Russell played alongside each other, it just didn't look like the Wolves were even close to a playoff team.
We don't see how things can get significantly better for Minnesota this term, and as such, it would be an absolute shocker if they actually made the playoffs in 2020-21. Maybe next year (or the year after that), Wolves fans.
As they always say, never say never. At this point, however, not a single Wolves fan should take offense if we say Minnesota is light years away from winning a title. As a matter of fact, they have a lot of work to do to even be considered as a serious playoff contender in a ruthless Western Conference.
For what it's worth, since being established as a franchise in 1990, the Timberwolves have won a grand total of zero championships. Moreover, in their 32 years of existence (this year being Season 32), Minnesota has been to the playoffs just nine times. All of them, except their trip to the Western Conference Finals in 2004, have resulted in first-round exits.
Before we even start talking about championships, let's think about the playoffs first. That's not going to happen this year (again), so the Wolves are already probably thinking about the 2021-22 season and beyond. Making a postseason run is going to be an attainable objective for Minnesota next season, so for now, this is what they should be focusing on.
Karl-Anthony Towns is now in his sixth year in Minnesota. At 25, he's still young and has a lot of basketball ahead of him. However, there's no denying that the clock is ticking for the Timberwolves in terms of keeping their superstar big man happy in Minnesota.
In today's NBA, loyalty has become more of an exception rather than the norm. As such, Towns could well be on his way out of Minnesota if things don't get better soon. It would be an absolute shame if he wastes his prime years with a team with no playoff aspirations -- and KAT is well aware of this.
For what it's worth, Towns signed a long-term extension with the team back in 2018, which should keep him in Minnesota at least through the 2023-24 season. However, Towns can always force his way out of the team if he wishes. This would be anything but unprecedented.
For their part, the Wolves have done their best to try and keep their star happy. They brought on his real-life BFF D'Angelo Russell. Off the court, they've been very supportive of Towns and his family amid his bouts with COVID-19 (both in losing his mom to the virus and when KAT himself tested positive). Nevertheless, this can only go so far. At the end of the day, it's all about winning a championship.
Can Towns do this in Minnesota? This is the biggest question both KAT and the franchise need to deal with. As long as the Wolves are able to convince him that the answer to that question is yes (and within an agreeable timetable), then this should be enough to convince Towns to remain as the Timberwolves' cornerstone superstar throughout his career.
One of Minnesota's offseason moves involved veteran big man Ed Davis, who arrived with the team following a trade deal with the New York Knicks. In exchange for Davis, the Wolves sent Jacob Evans, Omari Spellman, and a 2026 second-round pick to New York.
Davis, who is set to earn $5.0 million this season, is currently on an expiring deal. This means that unless Minnesota decides to extend his deal, he is going to be an unrestricted free agent in the offseason.
Based on what we've seen from him so far, it wouldn't be surprising if the Wolves let him walk in the summer. Davis made a few spot starts in the wake of Karl-Anthony Towns' injury (COVID-19), but he's also accumulated a fair amount of DNP-CD's thus far. In his first 19 games this season, the 31-year-old has produced averages of just 2.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 1.0 assist in 13.9 minutes of action.
Davis hasn't exactly established himself as a key part of the team's rotation, and as such, his future beyond this season might lie elsewhere.
Karl-Anthony Towns is the best player on the Timberwolves roster, as he has been for many years. Now in his sixth season in the NBA, KAT has established himself as one of the best big men in the league and there's no denying that Minnesota should consider themselves lucky to have drafted Towns as the first overall pick back in 2015.
Statistically speaking, Towns had his best year as a pro in 2019-20, averaging a career-best 26.5 points (on 50.8 percent shooting), 10.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists (also a career-high), and 1.2 blocks per game. He also drained a career-best 3.3 triples per game on a highly-efficient 41.2-percent clip.
The one thing that also stands out for Towns is his durability -- at least early in his career. He did not miss a single game in his first three seasons, and he sat out just five of them in his fourth year. Last season, however, KAT was limited to just 35 games in the shortened season due to injury. He's also been in and out of the lineup in 2020-21, missing several weeks after testing positive for COVID-19.
As of February 2021, the Minnesota Timberwolves franchise is worth $1.4 billion, according to Forbes.
The Wolves are currently owned by Glen Taylor, who purchased the franchise for $88.5 million back in 1994. Talk about a sound investment, right?
During the pandemic-plagued 2019-20 season, Minnesota reported revenue of $214 million and an operating income of $32 million.
The Minnesota Timberwolves play their home games in the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
This stadium is currently one of the longest-standing arenas in the entire NBA, having broken ground in July 1988 and opened in October 1990. At that time, the construction cost of the 18,798-capacity stadium (can be expanded to 25,000 for concerts) was estimated at $104 million.
The Wolves were established as a franchise in 1989, and they have called the Target Center their home since their second season of existence.
Glen Taylor is the owner of the Timberwolves franchise. He is a 79-year-old American billionaire who made his fortune in the industries of printing and electronics.
Taylor purchased the Wolves back in 1994 for $88.5 million. As of February 2021, the franchise is estimated to be worth a whopping $1.4 billion.
Taylor also owns Minnesota's WNBA team, the Lynx. He also served as a United States Senator for Minnesota between 1981 and 1990.
After a 7-24 start to the 2020-21 season, the Wolves decided it was time to part ways with coach Ryan Saunders. In his place, Minnesota decided to bring in Chris Finch, who previously served as an assistant coach under Nick Nurse with the Toronto Raptors.
Prior to joining the Raptors in the offseason, Finch was an associate head coach for the New Orleans Pelicans. The 51-year-old also had stints (all as an assistant) with the Denver Nuggets and the Houston Rockets. Finch has no prior experience as a head coach in the NBA.
There was some backlash to the hiring of Finch around the league. There were more than a few folks -- including LeBron James -- who believe that qualified African American coaches were glossed over in favor of Finch. David Vanterpool, currently an assistant with the Wolves, was one of the candidates some believe should have been given the opportunity by Minnesota's brass.
Chris Finch took over the head coaching job in Minnesota mid-season. He inherited the coaching team of the recently-fired Ryan Saunders, who had several assistants working under him.
The group is headlined by two associate head coaches: David Vanterpool, who is also the squad's defensive coordinator, and retired NBA point guard Pablo Prigioni, who also serves as the team's offensive coordinator.
Bryan Gates, Kevin Hanson, Kevin Burleson, and Joseph Blair are also listed as assistant coaches for the Wolves.
The Timberwolves made another coaching change in 2021, opting to part ways with Ryan Saunders after a poor start to the season. Saunders didn't fare too well in his two-plus years in Minnesota, and unfortunately for him, he won't go down in history as one of the all-time great coaches of the Wolves franchise.
That honor, however, was earned by Ryan's own father, Flip Saunders. Flip took over the helm for Minnesota in 1995 as a rookie head coach. This turned out to be the start of a long and fruitful partnership that lasted 10 seasons. In 2013, nearly a decade after originally parting ways with the team, Saunders re-joined the Timberwolves as the team's head coach and President of Basketball Operations. Not long after, though, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. Saunders passed away in October 2015.
In a total of 11 seasons with the franchise, Saunders amassed a win-loss record of 427 wins and 392 losses. It was also under Flip's leadership that the Timberwolves went all the way to the Western Conference Finals -- the farthest they've gone in franchise history -- in the 2003-04 MVP year of Kevin Garnett. Minnesota's 58 wins that year still stands as a franchise record.
Another name that stands out in the Wolves' coaching books is Tom Thibodeau. Now serving as the head coach of the New York Knicks, Thibs joined Minnesota in 2016 following a successful five-year stint with the Chicago Bulls. In three years with the Wolves, Thibodeau logged 97 wins and 107 losses. In 2018, he guided the Timberwolves to the playoffs for the first time in 13 years. During his time at the helm, coach Thibs also served as Minnesota’s President of Basketball Operations.
The Timberwolves may be a relatively young franchise compared to some of the more storied teams in the league, but there's no denying that Minnesota has its fair share of great players.
At the number 5 spot is legendary point guard Sam Cassell, who spent just two seasons in Minnesota. It was two years well spent for the three-time NBA champ, though, and it resulted in Cassell's lone All-Star season in his 15-year career. The 6-foot-3 guard served as Minnesota’s floor general when they recorded a franchise-record 58 wins during the 2003-04 season.
Another Timberwolves great is Sam Mitchell. The 6-foot-6 forward wasn't the most decorated player around, but the passion and effort he poured in every single night is what makes him a well-loved figure for the franchise. Mitchell played a total of 10 seasons in Minnesota in two separate stints. He currently has his name listed for several franchise records, which include games played (757 - second), minutes played (18,394 - second), rebounds (3,030- fifth), and points (7,161 - fourth).
Despite being just 25-years-old in his sixth season with the team, Karl-Anthony Towns has already established himself as an all-time great Wolves player. Minnesota used their first overall pick on KAT in 2015 and he made an instant impact in the league by bagging the Rookie of the Year award. The 6-foot-11 big man has since been named as an All-Star twice. It wouldn't be surprising if Towns ends up higher (or the highest?) on this list by the time he calls it a career.
Kevin Love, now with the Cleveland Cavaliers, made his name in the NBA during his time with the Timberwolves. In his prime, Love was one of the best rebounders in the entire league (remember his 31-point, 31-rebound double-double back in 2018?). In six years with the Wolves, Love was named to the All-Star squad three times. In 2014, Minnesota traded Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers (for Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins), where he would end up winning the 2016 title alongside LeBron James. Love ranks second all-time in rebounds (4,453) and fifth in points (6,989) for the franchise.
The Timberwolves GOAT has to be Kevin Garnett. KG is as decorated as they come: 15-time All-Star, nine-time All-NBA, 12-time All-Defensive, four-time rebounding champion, and one-time NBA champion, among other accolades (although he achieved some of these after he left the Timberwolves in 2007). Garnett led the charge for the Wolves in their historic 58-win season in 2003-04, where they went all the way to the West Finals. KG spent 14 years with the Timberwolves and he holds Minnesota's franchise records for games, minutes played, field goals made, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, and points.
The Minnesota Timberwolves franchise was established in 1989. To date, the team has been in the NBA for 32 years -- a relatively young franchise compared to some other teams in the league -- and throughout its history, there have been a number of players who left their mark on the franchise.
From the early days we have guys like Sam Mitchell, Tom Gugliotta, Tony Campbell, Doug West, Pooh Richardson, Christian Laettner, and Isaiah Rider.
It all changed for Minnesota in 1996 when they drafted a 19-year-old Kevin Garnett straight out of high school. He served as the team's cornerstone superstar for many years, leading the charge for the most successful era in franchise history. Playing alongside him were the likes of Wally Sczerbiak, Sam Cassell, Terrell Brandon, Lattrell Sprewell, and Stephon Marbury.
In 2007, Garnett called time on his spell for the Timberwolves. He was traded to the Boston Celtics in exchange for Al Jefferson, who made an impact on the franchise in his brief time with the squad.
After just three seasons in Minnesota, Jefferson was traded to the Utah Jazz. The move was made in order to make way for Kevin Love, who joined the Wolves in 2008. An eight-time All-Star and seen by many as one of the best rebounders in the league, Love is also considered as an all-time Wolves great.