The transformation was initiated by Flip Saunders.
When Saunders took over as President of Basketball Operations of the Timberwolves in 2013, he ignited the birth of a new era for the franchise.
The new era has not unfolded as smoothly as once planned, as several obstacles have interfered with franchise’s progress since Saunders took over, but the vision remains the same—championship basketball in Minnesota.
The overhaul began when the Wolves narrowly missed the playoffs in the 2013-14 season. Saunders realized his plans required some severe personnel changes, and he acted.
He himself took over as head coach for Rick Adelman and then traded superstar forward Kevin Love to Cleveland for the 2014 No. 1 overall draft pick, Andrew Wiggins. Saunders then drafted an extremely raw but freakishly athletic talent in Zach LaVine.
A disappointing 2014 still left fans for plenty of reason for optimism. Kevin Garnett returned to act as a de facto player/coach for the youthful roster. Minnesota also won the 2015 NBA Draft Lottery, permitting them the opportunity to bring Karl-Anthony Towns aboard.
The Wolves were poised to compete for a playoff spot in the 2015-16 season. Alas, tragedy struck as Saunders lost a battle with Hodgkins Lymphoma before the season. One of the most iconic figures and humble personalities in Minnesota sports history was gone.
The initiation of a new era vision experienced an unprecedented setback. Sam Mitchell filled in admirably for Saunders in 2015-16, but he ultimately wasn’t the guy to bring in the new era in Minnesota.
Glen Taylor hired Tom Thibodeau for Flip’s old job as the POBO and head coach before the 2016-17 season. With undeniable young talent as far as the eye can see and a well-respected coach, the Wolves were set to contend for the franchise’s first playoff spot in 13 years. But more setbacks occurred.
Another new coach meant that over half the roster had learned from as many head coaches as they had seasons played. Zach LaVine suffered a torn ACL just before the All-Star break, forcing him to miss the rest of the season. The immense youth and the complexities of Thibodeau’s systems didn’t click like what was originally hoped, and the Wolves were out of playoff contention before April arrived for a third straight season.
Despite all the setbacks and the delayed success of the new era, the hope is still present. Flip’s fingerprints are all over the current roster and the vision for the return of NBA success in Minneapolis.
The success is taking longer than all of us, including Flip, probably anticipated. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Among the consistent disappointment of the 2016-17 season were flashes of brilliance and dominance. The next step is sustaining those flashes of brilliance into consistency.
At halftime of tonight’s game against Oklahoma City, the Timberwolves will unveil a new logo as another part of the new era that was initiated by Saunders. It might seem silly, but who knows—maybe the aura and energy of a new logo will create enough energy among the fan base and players to water down the playoff drought.
Expected Starting Lineups
PG - Ricky Rubio
SG - Brandon Rush
SF - Andrew Wiggins
PF - Gorgui Dieng
C - Karl-Anthony Towns
INJURIES: Nemanja Bjelica (foot), Zach LaVine (knee) and Nikola Pekovic (Achilles) are all OUT.
NOTE: The Thunder are resting several starters, including Russell Westbrook, so the expected lineup below is a complete guess.
Thunder, who have clinched #6 seed, will rest Westbrook, Gibson & Roberson + McDermott (knee) is out & Abrines (knee) is questionable.— Alan Horton (@WolvesRadio) April 11, 2017
PG — Semaj Christon
SG — Victor Oladipo
SF — Jerami Grant
PF — Enes Kanter
C — Steven Adams
As we always do in game previews, let’s take a look at how the Wolves and Thunder match up using the Four Factors. Reminder, the Four Factors are effective field goal percentage (eFG%), turnover percentage (TOV%), offensive rebounding percentage (ORB%), and free throw rate (FTR).
Factor / Wolves / Thunder
eFG% / 51.0% / 50.1%
TOV% / 14.4 / 14.8
ORB% / 27.4% / 27.8%
FTR / .288 / .297
The New Logo Leaked?
Glen Taylor does own the Star Tribune, so I tend to believe that it was an intentional leak to create more buzz before the official unveiling. But I’m purely speculating.