By: Tim Parochka
The outlook and future of sports teams can change drastically by a few small decisions made by a franchise.
The San Antonio Spurs traded their point guard George Hill for a low lottery pick which became Kawhi Leonard; the Patriots selected Tom Brady in the late sixth round; the Minnesota Vikings signed an undrafted free-agent, John Randle.
The decisions listed above were not spotlighted because they didn't feel like decisions worth mentioning, but those small decisions altered each franchise.
The Minnesota Timberwolves' organization have made decisions in the past that have led them to where they are now, but I'm sure you don't pay those small decisions enough respect.
In the 2014-15 season, the late and great Flip Saunders orchestrated the greatest manipulation I've witnessed since Squints kissed Wendy Peffercorn in the movie: 'The Sandlot'. The plan before the 2014-15 season wasn't to garner the worst record in the association, but instead, the plan was to surprise the NBA and win upward of 35-40 games.
The Wolves already had Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin and the team signed Moe Williams in the off-season. They traded for the future rookie of the year, Andrew Wiggins, another hopeful young asset, Anthony Bennett, and an established NBA veteran, Thad Young. The Wolves wanted to prove to themselves and to the league that they could continue to win despite shipping their best player to Cleveland.
The Wolves started the season strong and Ricky Rubio created a fantastic vine after a win on the road against the Brooklyn Nets. However, the very next game against the Orlando Magic, Rubio suffered an ankle injury which plagued him for most of the season.
After the Rubio injury, the original plan died and Flip's new plan was born.
The Wolves would lose as many games as possible while getting their young players, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine, in-game repetitions. Remember, the original plan was for LaVine to sit out a majority of his rookie year because he was such a raw talent out of UCLA - LaVine didn't even start in college.
But getting Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine in-game reps wasn't enough to compete with the Sixers and Knicks for the worst spot in the NBA. Flip traded Corey Brewer to the Houston Rockets for a bench player who wasn't very good; Flip traded Thad Young - one of the best Wolves' player that season - to the Brooklyn Nets; Flip traded Moe Williams to the Charlotte Hornets; and Flip signed six players to 10-day contracts which helped the Wolves lose more games.
My favorite part of the 2014-15 season was when Flip Saunders substituted Arinze Onuaku - a poor NBA player - into the game in the final minutes if it appeared the Wolves were about to win. That's manipulation.
The minor decisions made by Flip Saunders in 2014-15, like signing six players to 10-day contracts, has led the Minnesota Timberwolves' to this point.
Zach LaVine is a full year ahead of his development. Andrew Wiggins development was expedited because he was given the ball on every possession his rookie year. And now the Wolves have the best young talent in the NBA, Karl-Anthony Towns, and a proven coach in Tom Thibodeau. All because Flip made the decision to manipulate the 2014-15 season.
What was the general consensus around Minnesota before the Wolves acquired Karl-Anthony Towns?
Probably something like: "We have a great future because of Andrew Wiggins. Hopefully LaVine continues to develops."
How ridiculous does the above statement sound now that the Wolves have Karl-Anthony Towns? Could you even imagine what the Wolves would be without Karl-Anthony Towns? The Wolves would have been solid without Towns, but the Wolves have the possibility of being great with him.
It's crazy how quickly teams can change in sports.
A few years ago the Cavaliers were a team with a ball eccentric point guard who couldn't get the Cavaliers 35 wins, but LeBron "goes home" and one year later the Cavaliers are in the NBA Finals and a year later they are the NBA Champions. The Minnesota Vikings future was up in the air with Leslie Frazier as head coach, but fast forward two years later and the Vikings are the NFC North Champions with a bright future. Two years ago, the Wolves didn't know if they would get a valuable return on Kevin Love, but remarkably, the Kevin Love trade has led the Wolves' to two of the top young players in the NBA.
Sports are crazy, man