By: Drew Mahowald
Over the past decade or so, the Minnesota Timberwolves haven't given fans much to be thankful about. I mean, no playoff berths in, what is it, 11 years now? That's no fun.
However, times are a-changin' in the Twin Cities. The Timberwolves have pieced together what looks to be a puzzle of success for the future, and we're seeing glimpses of it so far in the 2015-16 season.
While this season may not halt a large number of victories (and maybe it will, who knows), one thing is certain: The Minnesota Timberwolves are fun and relevant for the first time in years. If you ask me, that's something to be thankful for.
Since it's Thanksgiving, it only feels right to feel gracious for family, friends, food, and, of course, the Minnesota Timberwolves. In honor of what is my favorite holiday, I've composed a list of Timberwolves-related things that I'm thankful for today.
-- First and foremost, I'm thankful for Kevin Garnett and everything he has done for the Timberwolves franchise. I would ask you to attempt to think about what this franchise would be like if he had never been a Wolf, but it really can't or shouldn't be done. He single-handedly took the Wolves to the playoffs annually in the late nineties and early 2000s, including a berth in the Western Conference Finals in 2004.
I'm going to add a note in here about that 2004 team. Without Garnett, that team is less than mediocre. That wasn't a great roster by any means, and Garnett carried them much like LeBron James carried the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals in his first stint in Cleveland.
After 12 seasons with the Wolves, he realized a title probably wasn't happening in Minneapolis anytime soon, so he left to go win one. No hard feelings, no blame on KG. Nothing but respect.
But then he comes back to play the role of player/mentor/coach while Flip Saunders' master rebuilding plan unfolds? That's just too awesome.
If I hadn't grown up watching Kevin Garnett play basketball, I probably wouldn't have been a Timberwolves fan. And today, being a Timberwolves fan and blogger is really fun. Really, really fun. Thank you, Kevin Garnett.
-- I'm thankful for Ricky Rubio. He's the most brilliant unicorn I've ever seen. He sees things that humans aren't supposed to see on the basketball court.
When this guy is on the court, the Wolves are just so much better and nobody can argue against it. The offense flows exponentially smoother, while the defense is as stingy as it will ever be if he's out there. Needless to say, he plays much louder than his quiet demeanor.
Moreover, Rubio is just 25-years-old and he's already one of the most looked-up-to leaders on this team. He appears to be one of the main pieces for this team's success moving forward, and there's not a better combination of leadership and point guard intangibles from a 25-year-old to have for the future than Rubio.
-- I'm thankful for the veteran leadership on this Timberwolves team, from Garnett (obviously) to Andre Miller to Tayshaun Prince to even Kevin Martin. There isn't a much better group of old men to have imposing their wisdom on the tremendous corps of young talent on this team. What these guys are doing for the development of the younger players really is more valuable than we know.
-- I'm thankful for the never-ending talent from young players on this team. Saunders has put together a roster that has, by my completely and totally unbiased calculations, the most talent among young players in the NBA. Whether it's Zach LaVine, Shabazz Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng, Adreian Payne or Tyus Jones, there's talent everywhere on this team.
Yes, I left out a couple guys. Just be patient. You've been doing that for a decade now, you're fine.
-- I'm thankful for Karl-Anthony Towns. I decided to separate he and you-know-who-else-who-shall-remain-nameless-until-he's-officially-revealed from the previous note because, well, they're really, really good and they've earned it.
Towns, man. Where do I start? I'm thankful for his shot blocking ability, which is already scaring teams night in and night out. I'm thankful for his post game offensively, which I thought might struggle in the beginning of his NBA career but NOPE. I'm thankful for his ability to hit the mid-range jumper and stretch defenses. I'm thankful for his demeanor, which, at 20-years-old, is more professional than nearly every player in the NBA.
Lastly, I'm thankful for the way he plays in crunch time. He wants to win, and he wants it badly. It shows in the final stages of close games, when he takes his game to another level.
-- I'm thankful for Andrew Wiggins, the silent assassin that he is. After a rookie season that was very impressive, Wiggins has drastically improved already this season. He can score and defend at an elite level already at the age of 20. He's already dunked over half of the league. His spin move makes me dizzy watching games, but I'm not even mad.
But again, like Towns, Wiggins' crunch time play is more impressive. He, too, REALLY wants to win, and it shows. For the entirety of the game, Wiggins has the same expression on his face. But when crunch time happens, and you watch him put someone on a poster or finish an And-1 at the rim, that emotion comes out of hiding. That hunger and desire to be great is alive and well in Andrew Wiggins.
Wiggins and Towns are the future of the Timberwolves and, as OTP editor Dan Slaubaugh writes, they're poised to take over the NBA sooner than later. I don't know about you, but I'm pretty thankful for that.
-- I felt like I should save the best and most important for last.
I'm thankful for Flip Saunders.
What this man did for the Minnesota Timberwolves organization is incalculable. As a coach, as a general manager, as a president, but most importantly, as a person, Saunders was excellent.
Everything I've put on my list here of things I'm thankful for is because of Flip Saunders. He's the master of it all, and he deserves endless credit for it.
I've said this before and I'll say it again. When the Minnesota Timberwolves win an NBA championship in the next few years (notice I said 'when'), Flip Saunders will be the main reason for it. He laid the foundation and is the inspiration behind this team.
While watching Kevin Garnett was what got me really hooked onto the Timberwolves as a kid, I've now come to appreciate Flip Saunders even more because, without Flip, KG's not a Timberwolf. And who knows? I'm probably not a fan, and I'm probably not writing this very post.
Thank you, Flip Saunders.
Happy Thanksgiving, Timberwolves fans.