Falling Timber

The Minnesota Timberwolves have been among the worst teams in the league in the past two decades.

In the last 17 seasons, the Timberwolves have been to the NBA Playoffs once in 2017-2018 where they lost in the first round. In its entire existence as a franchise since 1989, it has only won two playoff series when they went all the way to the Western Conference Finals back in 2004 at the peak of Kevin Garnett’s career. The team’s win-loss record of 39 percent since inception is the worst in the league.

The general dysfunction in Minnesota is really a result of bad ownership, bad management, and bad decisions.

In terms of ownership, Glen Taylor never seemed serious in fielding a competitive team, let alone constructing a title contender. It’s understandable that a small market team doesn’t invest big but the Timberwolves wasted the primes of several transformational players including Garnett, Kevin Love, and now, Karl Anthony Towns.

Garnett, Love, and even Jimmy Butler couldn’t stand the “culture of losing” in Minnesota and were eventually traded to teams where they found success. Garnett eventually won a title in Boston in 2008 while Love got his ring with Cleveland in 2016. Butler, meanwhile, has been driving the Heat’s deep playoff runs.

The team is also notorious for not doing its homework, always coming home with second tier selections despite having high draft positions. Who can forget the 2009 draft wherein they picked two point guards – Ricky Rubio and Johnny Flynn – ahead of Steph Curry. Or in 2011 where they drafted Derrick Williams with the No. 2 pick when Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard and Nikola Vucevic were still available on the board.

And in 2014, the T-wolves picked Trey Burke at No.9 even though CJ McCullum, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Rudy Gobert were still available. They selected Burke, a point guard, even though they have Ricky Rubio, Luke Ridnour and JJ Barea in their roster. Minnesota eventually traded Burke to Utah for Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng.

The dysfunction permeates in the coaching, too, where the team has hired 11 different coaches in the past 17 seasons that led to a fractured culture and discontinuity.

The firing of president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas right before training camp is another symptom of a futile franchise. There were allegations of overworking and general mistreatment of staff and mishandling of personnel movements. But what forced the hand of Taylor was the extramarital affair of Rosas with a staffer. It didn’t help that he only delivered a 42-94 record during his two-year tenure, the third worst during that span.

While the Rosas debacle will definitely produce short-term drama, this is a step in the right direction for the Timberwolves.

Veteran NBA executive Sachin Gupta takes over Rosas. Gupta has been Rosas’ top lieutenant but recently had a falling out with Rosas. It became so bad that Gupta was banned from entering team facilities. He has had stints with the Rockets, Sixers and Pistons. He is best known for inventing ESPN’s Trade Machine.

The Timberwolves can also breathe easy with the entry of new owners e-commerce mogul Marc Lore and the retired baseball star Alex Rodriguez in July 2021 with a 20% stake. They have the option to buy another 20% stake in 2022 and 40% in 2023 when they become majority owners.

The Timberwolves also have a young core built around two No. 1 draft picks – Towns and Anthony Edwards – and 2015 No. 2 pick D’Angelo Russell. So all is not lost as the Timberwolves look to start turning things around.


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