As a Wolves fan living in Chicago this offseason has been eerie for me. Not just because the Wolves seem to have completely transformed into a legitimate playoff team, but because the offseason reminds me so much of the Bulls offseason two year ago. And I think looking at that offseason, and how it played out, may help illustrate just how much the Wolves could improve this year.
Two years ago, summer of 2010, the Bulls were coming off two straight seasons of finishing exactly .500. They had a future star on a rookie contract (Derrick Rose), a potential all-star center (Joakim Noah), a borderline all-star small-forward signed to a long-term contract (Luol Deng), a promising rookie (Taj Gibson) and a bunch of misfit role players playing for a soon-to-be-fired rookie coach (Vinny Del Negro). In an effort to go after Lebron and/or Dwayne Wade in free agency, the Bulls gutted the roster of the misfit role players. When they struck out with Lebron, they were left with plans B and C, signing a solid starting power forward (Carlos Boozer) and filling out the roster with unsung, productive role players in Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, and Keith Bogans. They also brought in a wildcard (Omer Asik) who no one was sure could play in the NBA. And they brought in a coach with a strong defensive system. Most in Chicago were upset, figuring the Bulls had blown their shot at adding a star and wasted their cap space on role players. What they didn't realize was they already had the stars (Rose, who improved tremendously the next season, Noah and Deng) they just needed productive role players to make it all work. At the end of the season the Bulls were 62-20, finished with the #1 seed in the East, and Derrick Rose was MVP. Success through failure.
Something similar, though not necessarily as spectacular, could happen to the Wolves. They replaced a terrible rookie coach with an excellent coach who has an understanding of the type of productive role players needed to win (okay Adelman has already been with the Wolves a year, but this is his first off-season so just go with it….). They removed over-hyped, unproductive players. They have the stars (Love, Pek, Rubio, health withstanding). They've added a still highly productive (arguably star-level) veteran in AK-47. They have the productive role players in Chase, Stiemsa, Dante, Luke and JJ. They have wild cards in Roy, Shved and even Derrick Williams, any of whom could be great (or injured or terrible) next year.
Now, it would be unreasonable to expect the Wolves to win 60+ games. But if you look at the improvements using all the various advanced metrics, you can easily see the Wolves winning 50 or more games. And if that happens, you could see Adelman winning coach of the year, Love winning MVP (even if he doesn't improve he will get credit for the team's improvement), and even Kahn winning executive of the year (presumably he won't have the humility to give the award to Adelman for all the "recommendations" (read: orders) on who to acquire). The point of this post is that there is a recent example of something similar happening. As difficult as it can be to believe, winning basketball is indeed possible.
P.S. - the fact that AK was signed for only two years means the future Wolves can hopefully avoid being the 2012-13 Bulls, wherein all the productive role players are cast off for salary reasons because the no-longer-as-productive big-name free agent signing (Boozer) is clogging up the salary cap.