Success is an enigma. A quick google search will define success as accomplishing a goal or purpose, which, on a superficial level, is undoubtedly true, but that definition neglects to recognize the components of success that are a little more intangible; it is only concerned about the results.
I was thinking about this concept of success while laying in bed the other night (you know, as one does), specifically in regards to the Minnesota Timberwolves. What would it take for this season to be considered a success for the oft beleaguered franchise? Would it take a certain amount of wins? Or should the focus be more about the growth and development of the young players? Or what about determining a definitive direction of the team by solidifying the ownership, general manager, and head coaching situations?
In reality, success is a derivative of all three of these aspects that are specific to the Wolves, but should one be more of an indicator than the others? Before the season tipped off, the over/under wins total projection for the Wolves was set at 25.5 for this season; by the strict definition of success, any amount of wins over 25 would be considered a successful season. As it stands right now, the Wolves are on pace to finish with 27 wins (well, technically 26.5, so I rounded up) meaning that despite their struggles all season, the team is still in line with achieving a "successful" season. But what if the Wolves finish with 26 wins? Or 25? or 24? Does falling just short or barely eclipsing the "goal" truly constitute failure or success?
And what about player development? Again, strictly looking at the definition, this season would be considered successful if the young players and franchise cornerstones developed and advanced this season. It can't be denied that that is the case. Ricky Rubio is having the best season of his career, Zach LaVine has taken enormous steps forward ever since sliding over to the shooting guard, Karl-Anthony Towns has produced far more than we ever thought he would during his rookie season and has the appearance of being a once in a generation talent, Gorgui Dieng has taken a huge leap from last year, and, while the numbers don't always show it, Andrew Wiggins has improved or, at least, stayed relatively static in nearly every aspect of his game.
The unfortunate aspect about development is that, like success, it is a fairly nebulous concept. Everyone knows development and progress when they see it, but it is often hard to pinpoint when it is happening until it actually happens. So, if a player doesn't progress as much as was expected on the court in a set time frame (for instance, 82 games), does that mean less development has taken place and, thus, the season is less "successful," though overall it still may be considered a success.
And what about what's going on with the ownership, general manager, and coaching situations? The fact of the matter is, as of right now, there isn't much information available on these fronts so all we are left to do is speculate. We don't know if Glen Taylor will be able to sell a portion of the team to Steve Kaplan, if Milt Newton will be retained as general manager, or if Sam Mitchell will be returning next season. If Taylor doesn't sell, is that a failure? What about the retention of Newton and/or Mitchell; would those be failures? This may be the most difficult area in terms of determining success because its effect won't be felt until years into the future.
So, has this been a successful season in terms of the situations occurring in the management positions? It's tough to say. All we can do is turn to the product on the court to determine success, and, if the above paragraphs are any indication, it would appear as if this season has been at least somewhat successful. The team is on pace to surpass its wins goal and the players that project to be key members of the team going forward have progressed. But then why am I not pleased?
I think what it comes down to is that success, the term so plainly obvious and yet utterly amorphous, has varying degrees. If this season is looked upon only in black and white, yes and no, it becomes clear that this year was a success. The team won more games (potentially as many as 11 more) and the players got better, end of story. But is going from 16 wins with an injury depleted, rookie heavy team to a (potentially) 27-win team with a healthy, still very young roster that big of an improvement? It's tough to say. Yes, the young guys have developed, but could they have developed to a greater degree with a different coach who more often utilizes a modern style of play? It's easy to sit here and scream OF COURSE into our computer screens, but, again, it is tough to say.
To me, the biggest fear is that Glen Taylor and upper management with the Wolves will look upon this season in a black and white fashion and will be content with the status quo. I fear they will be satisfied with the fact that the team lost their coach tragically before the season started and yet the team won more and the players got better, therefore concluding that no major moves need to be made. The fact of the matter is that we will never truly know how in-depth Taylor and company will look into some of the questions I proposed here, but, if the track record is any indication, it would appear as if the Wolves' upper management is more about strict definitions and black and white thought processes.
So, has this season been a success for the Minnesota Timberwolves? As it turns out, the answer is more murky than the definition would lead to believe.