There is power in continuity. When looking at the Minnesota Timberwolves there are plenty of questions but those inquiries are (finally) of the short-term nature. After years of dismal rosters with little long-term vision, the future is as clear as realistically possible and the immediate future is where the few and fairly trivial questions lie. Such as: What will the bench look like? Will the defense of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns improve this season? Are the new jerseys cool?
The Wolves hired Tom Thibodeau just over a year ago to a five-year contract. The length and price ($40 million) of this contract was a signal that ownership was done with constant change that had continuously led to team-wide dysfunction. The Timberwolves organization needed continuity more than anything and they have finally found it.
That continuity stems beyond the Head Coach and President of Basketball Operations. The Wolves are on the cusp of locking down their two young stars to deals that will exceed the duration of Thibodeau’s deal that carries him through 2022. Andrew Wiggins’ five-year contract extension is imminent and Karl-Anthony Towns’ five-year extension is a given one year from now. This means the 22-year-old Wiggins and the 21-year-old Towns will be under contract in Minnesota for the next six and seven years, respectively.
Looking around the league, there is no other team that has this much of their future insured. The Golden State Warriors current iteration certainly can not exist as constituted beyond 2018-19 when Klay Thompson becomes a free agent.
The Houston Rockets have James Harden locked up forever but Chris Paul becomes a huge question mark a year from now when his contract expires and his age becomes 33.
The Boston Celtics have a treasure trove of draft pick assets which are great but inherently ambiguous in value. Everyone loves the Celtics future but there are certainly some questions to be asked about the future there. Did you know that Boston’s best player, Isaiah Thomas, is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season? Did you know that it will cost $203.5 million to keep him beyond this year if he makes the All-NBA Team next season? Did you know that the Celtics without Thomas and just Gordon Hayward are essentially just the Utah Jazz of 2016?
The San Antonio Spurs have the best player in the NBA 26-years-old or younger in Kawhi Leonard but who is his long-term partner? 32-year-old LaMarcus Aldridge?
And the Cleveland Cavaliers... They are the avocados of the NBA who appear to have ripened in 2015-16. Cleveland is quickly devolving into mush as they are now trying to salvage their future by selling off parts so as to salvage something that resembles guacamole.
Even the Philadelphia 76ers who rival the Wolves’ youth have assets with far more question marks. Beyond Joel Embiid’s health is the question of how good Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons will be. We sometimes forget that Embiid is from the same rookie class of Wiggins. Embiid, like Wiggins, is eligible for a five-year $148 million extension. If you are Philly, are you excited to commit that much money to a player who has played 31 total games in three years? Additionally, Simmons is only one year behind Towns in receiving an rookie extension of his own. (Simmons has played 31 less games than Embiid.)
Sure, the Wolves have question marks. I, personally, have pinned on here all summer about the questions I have with a maximum extension to Wiggins but, in the aggregate, recognize the unique position the Wolves are in. Bright futures come with question marks and locking up Towns and Wiggins, both, removes many of those questions and turns the focus to reaping the benefits of continuity.
I believe the Wolves will need more than Wiggins and Towns to compete as true contenders, but by the time the turn of the decade rolls around the landscape of the league will have changed immensely. When that time comes Minnesota will have two good to great players in their mid-20s and who else, with certainty, will be able to say that? I also have not mentioned the Wolves best player right now: Jimmy Butler. While Butler is only under contract through 2019, he will only be 30 in 2020. If he remains in the picture for years and years to come (very likely) and the Wolves have found ways to surround the new Big Three with the right type of puzzle pieces, look out.
In Minnesota, the dark tunnel of the past decade has been long but no team is better set up to be in the light for the next decade. In the midst of our many questions over the next year and years, we can find solace in the fact that continuity will abide.