As the NBA has moved closer and closer to single-team affiliation with the NBA D-League, the Minnesota Timberwolves have been one of the teams without an affiliation. Given their roster is full of young talent, not all of which can (or should) get playing time at the NBA level, this was a long-standing question mark for the organization.
Possibilities emerged in Minnesota cities such as Rochester or Mankato, but an existing D-League franchise was always going to be an easier sell, and the Timberwolves today announced the acquisition of the Iowa Energy, based in Des Moines, Iowa. The Energy have been affiliated with the Memphis Grizzlies for the last three seasons, and that arrangement will end at the end of the 2016-17 season.
Players like Adreian Payne or Tyus Jones, who have rarely scratched the Timberwolves’ rotation so far this season, could get regular playing time in the D-League in a future arrangement. So too could future first- and second-round draft picks who otherwise may have remained in Europe or left to play with other teams, not remaining affiliated with the Wolves.
This also could be a good move in terms of developing the Timberwolves’ fan base. Iowa has no major league sports teams, and with both the Wolves’ and Minnesota Wild’s minor-league teams now in Des Moines, the opportunity exists to expand the franchise’s appeal to a mostly yet-untapped area.
As a Wolves fan who grew up in Iowa, I’m personally excited to see the Wolves expand into my home state. I’m also excited to see how the Wolves will use the opportunity of single affiliation to develop the future of their roster, both current players and players yet to come. This could and should be a hugely significant development for the future of the Wolves.