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The Wolves, The Summer, and a Change In Mindset

Is now the time for the Wolves to progress towards a "win now" mindset?

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

For the vast majority of their existence, save for a few brief occasions, the Minnesota Timberwolves have been mired in mediocrity. The team has not reached the playoffs in the past 12 seasons and has averaged a lowly 27 wins over that period of time. The team has often been bereft of talent or, at least, talent that could develop into anything greater than that suitable for a role player.

However, all of that has changed over the past three seasons. The Wolves have stumbled into a treasure trove of young, high-upside talent that has the franchise and fans drooling at the mouth. They now have the great fortune of having a potential all-time great and franchise cornerstone in Rookie of the Year Karl-Anthony Towns, a potential "best second banana in the league" in Andrew Wiggins, and a ton of complementary pieces—Zach LaVine, Ricky Rubio, Gorgui Dieng, Shabazz Muhammad, to name a few—that have many around the state of Minnesota and beyond dreaming of the Wolves not only making the playoffs, but reaching them sooner rather than later

Those complementary pieces are all quite young and, as a result, are often gazed upon for what they can become rather than what they are. Zach LaVine showed major improvement on offense this season, especially after becoming the starting shooting guard after the All Star break, and Gorgui Dieng shook off his rough sophomore campaign to develop into a solid, if not underrated, commodity. The idea is that these two, in addition to the likes of Muhammad and Rubio to an extent, will only continue improve under new head coach Tom Thibodeau and as they gain more experience. Surely the Wolves aren't the only franchise thinking around these lines, which only increases each players trade value.

This begs the questions: What should the Wolves do this summer and next? Should they hold onto players such as LaVine, Dieng, and Muhammad, or should they package them in an attempt to acquire bigger names and better players? Should they only sign free agents that are valuable role players and, therefore, don't interfere with the starting lineup that ended the season? The answers to these questions could be taken in multiple directions, each being correct in its own way, but I believe that now is not the time for the Wolves to be too passive with their transactions.

What I mean by this is not that they should be hyper-aggressive, spending their money irresponsibly, but that if the Wolves brass happens to fall in love with a free agent—such as Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford or Miami Heat wing/forward Luol Deng, both of whom figure to receive major pay increases this summer—they should not hesitate to sign him, save for if said player is a starting quality point guard (Wiggins can play either wing position, and Towns either the four or the five, so I'm not concerned about them signing a wing or a big). And the same can be said for trades. If a team approaches the Wolves and offers a player that would drastically improve the team, such as the Chicago Bulls with guard Jimmy Butler or the Oklahoma City Thunder with forward Serge Ibaka, for example, Minnesota would be foolish to reject the trade solely because they do not want to part with one of their young players because of his potential (again, save for Wiggins and Towns).

The Wolves are finally on the brink of something special, possibly being only one or two moves away from being a playoff team, so now is not the time to be laser-focused on the distant future and what may be. Rather, the franchise should think about transitioning towards more of a "win now" attitude. That phrase does have its negative connotations, especially when referring to a team as young as the Wolves, but it is the mindset that it takes to not only make the playoffs, but to compete in them, a goal the team will undoubtedly have headed into next season. At some point the Wolves will need to transition from the mindset that they are "too young" and are "rebuilding" into the mindset that they must "win now," and I believe this summer has the potential to be a major step in that direction.