Certain teams over the course of NBA history have dominated their eras. In the 1960s it was Bill Russell and the Celtics, then in the ’80s it was Magic Johnson’s Lakers and Larry Bird’s Celtics. In the ’90s, Michael Jordan and the Bulls reigned over the league, then Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant’s Lakers in the early 2000s. There were also the Spurs, whose supremacy has stood the test of time. And now it seems as though Steph Curry has the Warriors in the midst of a dynasty of their own. There is a common thread amongst all of these teams that have the rest of the league in a headlock at a particular moment in NBA history. They all had a superstar and undisputed top-three player in the league leading the way, coupled with a phenomenal nucleus of unselfish and talented players and an outstanding head coach. The Minnesota Timberwolves have all of the necessary ingredients to be the next team in the lineage of NBA dynasties to conquer the league, not necessarily this year, but surely in the near future.
All of the teams that have been considered dynasties, from the Celtics of old to Curry’s Golden State Warriors, have had an unquestioned alpha dog who is perennially in the discussion for best player in the league. That player for the Timberwolves is second-year big man Karl-Anthony Towns. Yes, he just turned 21 years old on Nov. 15, but Towns is a already a force. He has a skill set that fits perfectly for where the NBA is headed. The University of Kentucky grad is a seven-footer who can score from the block, protect the rim, pass the ball like a point-guard, sink his free throws, and even step out and hit the three. In his rookie campaign, Towns averaged upwards of 18 points per game to go along with nearly 11 rebounds and two blocks. The only other rookie big men to reach those stat thresholds turned out to be two immortals: Hakeem Olajuwon and Shaquille O’Neal. Towns’ potential is unparalleled in the NBA and his ceiling is limitless. In two to three years, when Towns is just 23 or 24, with his entire prime and then some ahead of him, he will be one of the few players in the discussion for the best player in the league. That bodes well for the Timberwolves, but causes the rest of the league to wake up in cold sweats.
The Timberwolves are not just a one trick pony, exhibiting far more talent than just Towns. They have a budding All-Star in Andrew Wiggins. He has an uncanny ability to put the ball in the basket, as he averaged upwards of 20 points per game this past season. This year his offensive arsenal is even larger, and as a result he is top 10 in scoring in the early-goings of the 2016-17 campaign. Not only can he score at a phenomenal clip, but he also can guard the other team’s best wing player. The Timberwolves also have a bouncy guard in Zach LaVine, who is the two-time defending champion of the Slam Dunk Contest. He can do more than just dunk, as he averaged close to 15 points per game last year and he’s increased that number to about 20 so far this year. They also drafted Kris Dunn, a point guard out of Providence who has been compared to John Wall. Dunn, Wiggins, Towns, and LaVine have all yet to turn 23 years old. This potent youth should attract several high-quality free agents who see the young talent and want to help build something special in Minnesota.
The Timberwolves do not only have a heap of young talent, but they also have the perfect man to engineer this team. New head coach Tom Thibodeau is a basketball savant. He is beloved in the basketball community and considered a top-shelf defensive mind. A coach who centers his coaching philosophy on defense is just what the Timberwolves need. Last season, Minnesota’s defense was atrocious. They allowed their opponents to score 106 points per game, which put them in the bottom third of the league. With Thibodeau at the helm, the Wolves should improve drastically. When he coached the Chicago Bulls, he took their team defense from 12th in the league before his arrival to second in his first year. During his five-year stint in Chicago, Thibodeau’s teams never fell below third in team defense and ranked first in two separate seasons. Offense has not been the problem with the Timberwolves; it has been defense, and the hiring of Tom Thibodeau will pay dividends for years to come.
There are many questions that still need to be answered concerning this potentially dominant franchise, such as: Will the young talent continue to evolve? Will the Timberwolves be able to keep all their stars in Minnesota when they hit free agency? Assuming the answers to these questions are yes, under the tutelage of Tom Thibodeau, Karl-Anthony Towns and the Minnesota Timberwolves will be the next super-team in the NBA. This Timberwolves dynasty won’t start this season, and likely not next, but it will begin shortly. They will take the league by storm. Don’t say you weren’t warned.