By: Drew Mahowald
Yeah, I know. It sucks.
This question is asked nearly every year regarding the Minnesota Timberwolves. It's not fun to talk about, but it needs to be discussed because this franchise is on the cusp of something special.
At 18-40, the Wolves have already topped their win total from last season and currently sit fifth in the NBA's draft odds, according to Tankathon. Last season, Flip Saunders engineered a genius tank job that helped them edge out the New York Knicks for the best odds at the first overall pick, which helped them attain future NBA Rookie of the Year Karl-Anthony Towns.
Should the Wolves employ the same strategy this season?
As of today, the Timberwolves are 10 games "back" of the Philadelphia 76ers for the best odds at the number one overall pick, which would be a big hill to "climb" in just 24 games. However, they only trail Phoenix by four games for the third spot in the standings and Brooklyn by two games for the second spot. So, if the Wolves did employ a tank job similar to last season's, I would bet they could move up a couple spots in the draft lottery.
Additionally, Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press told ESPN 99.1 FM Sioux Falls yesterday that it's a very real possibility that interim head coach Sam Mitchell has his interim tag removed if this team ends up winning 27-29 games this season. To put it nicely, Mitchell has not been good as head coach of this squad. I could go into further detail, but a majority of you reading this already know about the details.
With all of this said, however, I do not want to see this team tank during the remainder of the season.
First of all, winning games is important for this team, believe it or not. Bringing that winning culture to a franchise that really hasn't had it in over a decade isn't something that should be pushed off any longer. Putting together some wins and finishing this season strongly obviously won't change the culture completely, but it will build up some serious momentum moving into the 2016-17 season. The youth on this team doesn't need to have that losing mentality brought upon them for a second straight season.
Secondly, as Alex Berg alluded to in this article, the attendance at Target Center has been downright putrid lately. While there are many reasons for it, purposefully losing games will only make this problem that much worse. It's already at laughingstock status, and I can't imagine what tanking would do to the attendance figures during those April home games at the end of the season.
As far as the issue with Mitchell goes, I get it. I don't want him as the head coach of this team at all. He has shown too many bad tendencies as a coach, and don't even get me started on his extremely outdated offensive system. As far as I'm concerned, unless the Wolves wind up winning 35 games or something this season, I would still bet on Mitchell not returning. I don't know, I guess I'm not buying the report too much. If the front office sees what we see, and understands how the fans feel about Mitchell, they'll realize how bad of a basketball move and PR move it would be to bring him back. Regardless, this team needs to win games, or at least play like they're trying to. The head coaching position for next season will take care of itself.
Maybe the fan in me just doesn't want to see a tank job, I don't know. But losing games on purpose is something I have never really believed in. Even looking back at last season for the Timberwolves, I didn't like it. Luckily, the Wolves won the lottery with their 25% odds and were rewarded Towns for it, so it worked out this one time.
A winning identity needs to be brought to Minnesota sooner rather than later, and this team has the opportunity to start the transition of bringing a winning culture to this organization during this final stretch of the 2015-16 season, and it shouldn't be wasted by tanking in order for a better, but still small, chance at a better draft pick.
Drew Mahowald is a staff writer for On The Prowl. He also works as an assistant editor at NFCNorthBarRoom.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @MNSportsDrewM.