An optimistic fan would point to the fact that the Minnesota Timberwolves are catching fire towards the end of a lost season after finally getting somewhat healthy.
Minnesota has won six of 10 games and has shown some semblance of an actual team with Chase Budinger's return. Fans are finally seeing why this team was highly regarded as a sleeper in the Western Conference heading into this season.
Last year, the Timberwolves finished the season losing 13 of 14 games. In 2010-11 they ended the season on a 15-game losing streak. Worst of all, they finished 2009-10 losing 29 of their final 31 games. You get the point. Their recent hot streak is a much better sign than the hardcore tanks fans are accustomed to.
The Wolves have been a roster in constant turnover every offseason, inciting Kevin Love's well-chronicled interview with Adrian Wojnarowski questioning the team's direction. He has cause for concern—he is the longest-tenured Timberwolf with just five seasons under his belt.
This team simply cannot afford another offseason of transactions galore. General manager David Kahn has put the pieces in place for this team to be successful and cannot afford to put his fans through another season of watching the team learn how to play as a cohesive unit.
As for players that will not be back: The biggest name that will be excluded from that list is center Nikola Pekovic. He has been pivotal to the team's success and they are noticeably worse when he is not on the floor bulldozing people in the paint...(Brandon Knight sure has had a rough year).
What was supposed to be a fairy tale quickly reverted into a nightmare after five games.
Former superstar guard Brandon Roy looked to be back on track after a brief retirement. While a return to elite status was questionable, Roy was brought in to be a huge asset to the team as a go-to scorer in crunch time, a veteran leader and a dynamic backcourt mate with budding star point guard Ricky Rubio.
Despite a recent report from the Pioneer Press that he is well enough to play, Minnesota simply cannot afford to have that uncertainty on the roster next year. Roy has a non-guaranteed year on his contract at just over $5.3 million next season, money that would be better allocated to a healthier and more reliable option or a shooting guard at the top of the draft.
Roy mentioned months back that his knees have reached level III arthritis in an interview. He then deadpanned, "Level IV is when you get knee replacement."
There is no doubt that everyone across all levels of basketball is rooting for Roy. After his seventh knee surgery this season, it is just hard to imagine him fulfilling his goal of a comeback. Maybe some team will give him a shot, but at $5.3 million, Minnesota cannot afford to take that chance.
Gelabale came on midseason and immediately provided a well-needed spark for a team that was ravaged with injuries.
He arrived on the scene in resounding fashion with fellow D-Leaguer Chris Johnson. The two combined for 23 fourth-quarter points in a win over the Rockets after signing 10-day contracts that morning.
With the emergence of Derrick Williams and the return to health of Budinger, Gelebale's minutes have been reduced to nothing. He has played 13 minutes in the last 11 games.
Gelabale has a team option for roughly $916,000 next season. It would be hard to envision Minnesota picking him up. Small forward is not a major need on the roster, making him expendable.
The Timberwolves brought Stiemsma in this offseason to replace the enigmatic Darko Milicic as an imposing defensive presence.
Where the Timberwolves stand on his contract situation is questionable. Stiemsma is scheduled to make just under $2.7 million next season on a non-guaranteed contract.
Stiemsma has had an up-and-down first season in Minneapolis. When given heavy minutes, he has lived up to his contract at times, providing blocked shots for a team that lacks in that area.
Far too often, Stiemsma has found himself in foul trouble when the Wolves need him most. He has had too many games like in late February against the Lakers when Pekovic went down with an injury in the first quarter. Stiemsma racked up five fouls in 13 minutes in a 116-94 loss.
Stiemsma does bring value to the team as a big shot-blocker off the bench, but he provides little else. His thin frame causes him to get pushed around by tougher bigs and he commits silly fouls at a maddening rate. At $2.7 million, that would be a big investment for a one-trick pony.
This is the move that might surprise some people.
AK-47 has been invaluable to the Timberwolves in his return from Russia this year. Rick Adelman has even gone as far as saying he has been the most crucial to the team's success.
With a $10.2 million player option and at age 32, Kirilenko hinted that he will explore all of his options this offseason in a talk with Wolves beat writer Jerry Zgoda. Getting possibly his last long-term contract of his career with a franchise that can immediately contend for a title would definitely be a possibility for AK.
Bringing Kirilenko back would bring nothing but positivity to the team. However, the team finally appears to be putting more faith into No. 2 draft pick Derrick Williams and could explore that route with him as the starter. D-Will's chemistry with Rubio is uncanny.
Kirilenko is a big threat to head elsewhere this offseason.