The Minnesota Timberwolves have been a struggling franchise ever since Kevin Garnett left for Boston in 2007. With only Kevin Love for a true standout athlete, the Wolves have tried this offseason to create a roster with more depth.
Minnesota needs to step up its game in the 2012-13 season, and there are several reasons why.
I don't think it's any secret that Minnesota's president of basketball operations, David Kahn, has been a subject of criticism in past years.
One article from Forbes magazine said the following:
"David Kahn, Minnesota's President of Basketball Operations, has been criticized for both his lack of media savvy and his managerial ineptitude. The latter was highlighted in the 2009 NBA draft, when he selected three point guards in the first round. The result is a team that has lost 80 percent of its games over the past two seasons."
Fortunately for Kahn, recent transactions have caused many fans to take a step back and grant the guy a "second chance." Ricky Rubio certainly looks like he'll pay off when he returns from his injury, and this past offseason proves that Minnesota has every intention of building a winner.
The only problem is this: How much time will Kahn have before the fans'—and most importantly the owner's—patience runs out? If the Timberwolves don't at least make the playoffs this season, Kahn's career may very well be left hanging in the balance.
If Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor hopes to find a successor who will pay an attractive price for the team, that buyer will want to see a squad with a solid record now and strong potential going forward.
According to TwinCities.com, Taylor, 71, disclosed in July that he has in mind an out-of-state prospect interested in buying a stake in the Minnesota team and eventually succeeding Taylor as sole owner.
As of Sept. 18, though, Taylor stated that he has expanded the number of prospective buyers.
"At first I opened it up to just one person and said I would 'hold it for you for a while,' but when we didn't get a deal done, I told that person there are other people who had made inquiries and that I'm going to talk to them, and that's what I'm doing now," Taylor said.
Taylor may not have many people to talk to if the Wolves don't make serious strides during the 2012-13 season.
In the first slide, I mentioned that Kahn is building a team with what it has. What I mean by this is that not many big-name athletes are interested in coming to a small-market team with a losing record.
And for the past several seasons, that's exactly what Minnesota has been. Players like Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, etc. won't be interested in deals with the Timberwolves unless the team shows serious potential of contending for a championship in the next few years.
Minnesota actually has quite a bit of usable depth and some cap space. The small Midwestern team will likely never be an entirely attractive option, but if the Wolves step it up in the 2012-13 season and prove that they will be in the postseason hunt in upcoming seasons, it will widely open up the free-agent market for them.
I can say this being a Minnesotan through and through...
"Minnesota Nice" only goes so far.
The diehard Timberwolves fans will stick by their team no matter what, but in the post-Garnett years, ticket sales have dropped dramatically and murmurs can be heard about poor draft decisions, last-ditch efforts and Darko Milicic.
The arrival of rookie sensation Ricky Rubio in 2011-12 and the acquisitions of Brandon Roy, Alexey Shved, Andrei Kirilenko and Chase Budinger are certainly generating some intrigue, so the 2012-13 season promises to be exciting, at the very least.
Fans want to see their team win, though, and if the Wolves don't show some serious improvement this year, the Target Center is going to be empty.
Maybe even more impatient than the fanbase is Kevin Love himself.
Entering his fifth NBA season, the All-Star forward doesn't want to be another KG. If the Wolves don't give Love some supporting teammates and contend for a championship, don't be surprised if the UCLA alum uses his opt-out clause at the end of his contract.
In July, Love said the following regarding his Team USA teammates:
"It's tough seeing all these guys that are young and older who have all played in the playoffs. When they start talking about that, I have nothing to talk about. If I don't make the playoffs next year, I don't know what will happen."
He's made it clear that he won't allow himself to be taken advantage of in Minnesota forever. If the team doesn't make major strides, he'll definitely start shopping.
Let's hope that doesn't happen.