As I was watching the Golden State Warriors battle the San Antonio Spurs to match the Jordan's Bulls record of 72 wins I was thinking a lot about greatness, as these are two of the objectively best teams of all time, according to advanced statistics as well as overall win totals. These two teams are, by definition, extreme outliers as they barrel their way to the playoffs. They are by all accounts having a successful season, but one that will be marred for either team if they do not win the championship.
The NBA is built around this mentality, that a team or player is only defined as successful if they win the championship. This has held true time and time again as narratives develop around teams or players that aren't "mentally ready" or "don't want it enough" or are "soft." In the time-eternal words of Ricky Bobby, "You're either first or you're last." It's an adage that has lead teams to ridicule the sort of middle-men of the NBA, those teams that hover around the 8th seed like the Suns and Bucks used to or where Portland will likely find themselves in the upcoming future. This has also lead to the tanking methodology as that is the best opportunity to find and land a superstar in a league where your team potential is almost capped by the level of star that you have.
Even if you are lucky enough to land a star or two, it might not be enough. The Thunder, Cavaliers, Clippers, and Rockets have found this to be the case as all these teams may be going through an intense self-examination process depending upon how the NBA playoffs work out. Teams without the proverbial star like Boston and Atlanta are also seen as not able to make the leap until they somehow land the "closer".
However, this seems ridiculous given the lack of parity in the NBA. Just by looking at the Modern NBA, since around the 2000s or so, 7 franchises have won the championship and a couple of those were outlier years with Dallas and Detroit. For that number to hit 10 total franchises you have to go all the way back to 1983!
All this goes to show is that championship success is of paramount importance in the NBA, yet it is extremely difficult to achieve and takes essentially the luck of landing the right draft picks during the right time while also surrounding those picks with capable teammates through free agency and trades.
Where the Timberwolves fit into this is that we have essentially lucked into probably the most promising young core in the league. Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine are important parts of this and there are definite paths to "star" statuses for both players, albeit potentially murky roads that hinge upon defensive improvement and shooting sustainability. Both Wiggins and LaVine, and to an extent Rubio, are likely going to fit into the almost stars, the players who in their best years will contend for All-Star spots and maybe even an All-NBA team, but aren't going to be seen as "locks".
However with Karl-Anthony Towns the Wolves have found the foundational piece, the blue-chip franchise carrier. This does not mean that the Wolves are immediately poised for post-season greatness or will even have an easy path to reaching the playoffs (the KG years are an all-too familiar memory for that), but rather that we have done the most important part that also has the highest variability.
What Karl-Anthony Towns has done this season in his rookie campaign has been historic for his position and age. He has consistently been improving throughout the year and his mental makeup seems to place him on a easily seen path to greatness. This is not new to anyone here, as anyone watching a modicum of Timberwolves basketball quickly falls in love with his skills and abilities. But it's important to be cognizant throughout the highs and lows of this teams development (although we are on the upswing now, it would be disingenuous to believe that a team this young will not have periods of underperformance in the future) that we are witnessing the development of true greatness on the Basketball court.
We are lucky to be so involved and invested from the beginning as we watch the Timberwolves 2-year pivot from the Kevin Love saga to the Wiggins, LaVine, Towns trio. Ricky Rubio, of course, being the bridge that holds it all together. The 76ers essentially punted three years of NBA basketball in attempt, and failure, to achieve what the Timberwolves have. We have done perhaps the hardest part, drafting the right players, and while the next steps are not quite as clear, the Timberwolves have least made that first step.
This Week in...Things that are Great!
Archer has recently returned for it's seventh season and the show is yet again demonstrating it's ability to dramatically shift from the show's original premise of a spy parody as the crew branches out to set up a detective agency in Los Angeles. While the show's earlier departure from the spy game in Archer Vice was received with mixed reactions, it's truly laudable that the show has such strong characters and writing that it is able to completely remodel the plot on the fly to explore new territory and direction in both character development and joke opportunities. The new season has been stellar so far and the craziness should only ramp up from here on out.