Each season in Minnesota is built on hope and optimism towards the future, but this one was supposed to be different. This was the year these Timberwolves were supposed to finally break through and end the playoff drought that has plagued them since Kevin Garnett left.
The team wrapped up another subpar season tonight with a win at San Antonio to finish the season at 31-51. The end result was not pretty, but given all the adversity this team has had to overcome, 31 wins is nothing to scoff at.
If this team is finally going to make the improvements that fans are clamoring for, it needs some fine tuning along with the fortune of good health for once.
The T-Wolves were arguably a torn ACL and some knuckle push ups away from being legitimate threats in the playoffs this year. That being said, there is nowhere to move but forward. Minnesota has a solid foundation on which to build upon and has a few things to take care of this offseason to assure that it wins much more than 31 games next season.
Since the Timberwolves incumbent season in 1989, one position has never been filled by an adequate player for an extended period of time: Shooting guard.
In recent years, fans have had to suffer through the dreadful slew of lottery picks wasted on can't-miss shooting guard prospects who turned out to be busts.
Corey Brewer and Randy Foye have managed to put together solid careers after finding their respective niches as role players on contending teams, but they were anything but cornerstone players after Minnesota drafted them in the top 10. Rashad McCants and Wesley Johnson?
Too soon. Don't even go there.
Sadly, the only good shooting guards the team has drafted besides Isaiah Rider in 1993 were O.J. Mayo, Ray Allen and Brandon Roy; none of whom played a game for the team besides Brandon Roy's five-game failed comeback bid this season.
Get the point? Having a shooting guard who can't shoot has become as understood in Minnesota as cold weather.
Victor Oladipo or Shabazz Muhammad should fall right into David Kahn's lap on draft night. Either one of them would fit right in as a starter alongside Ricky Rubio.
Oladipo improved dramatically this season at Indiana, upping his field-goal percentage to 60 percent while shooting 44 percent from three, erasing many questions about his scoring ability. He also projects as an elite defender at the next level. Muhammad lived up to his hype as a dynamic scoring threat at UCLA.
The bottom line is that this team cannot go into next season with Luke Ridnour as the starting shooting guard. It is blasphemous and an impediment to the team's future.
Who knows, maybe the team will finally get lucky enough to win the draft lottery and land Ben McLemore...but don't get your hopes up.
Rick Adelman is one of the most respected and successful coaches in NBA history. He recently won his 1,000th career game, providing a bright spot in an otherwise forgetful campaign for the 2012-13 Timberwolves.
This team has been constructed around his corner-style offense. He is getting the most out of his players, as Kevin Love has turned into a superstar, Rubio has burst onto the scene, Pekovic has blossomed, Derrick Williams has improved and Andrei Kirilenko had his best season in years.
Although family comes first and Adelman's wife has been sick with seizures during the season, that will likely be the deciding factor in his return. His contract is not up and his job with this team is not finished.
A bona fide shooting guard as mentioned on the previous slide would be the last piece to the puzzle to make Adelman's vision truly flourish. They have shown flashes of their potential but have yet to put it all together as a cohesive unit due to injuries.
The return of Adelman will likely have a big impact on whether or not impending free agents Kirilenko, Chase Budinger and Nikola Pekovic stay in town.
His players love him. They respect him. His calming presence is of utmost important to this team and getting him to come back next season to finish some unfinished business is one of the most important tasks this offseason.
The Timberwolves had a .500 record at 11-11 with a healthy Budinger in the lineup this season. After he tore his meniscus six games into the season, the team immediately went on a five-game losing streak. Take that as you will.
Minnesota is better with Chase Budinger on the team. No questions asked.
Budinger is a prolific three-point shooter, shooting over 40 percent from deep with the Rockets last season. On the worst three-point-shooting team in the NBA, letting someone of his caliber get away would be disheartening.
The Arizona alum is heading into free agency and has stated that he is much more likely to stay in Minnesota if Adelman comes back.
Adelman loved having Budinger in Houston, as he fit his corner offense perfectly. He loved him so much that he was the main reason David Kahn traded the 18th pick in the draft to bring him to Minneapolis this past offseason. Throwing all of that away after 22 games of Budinger would be a bad investment.
Budinger fills a huge need on this team. Along with Kevin Love, he is its best outside shooter. He can also cut to the basket flawlessly and throw down lobs from Rubio with his supreme athleticism.
He is not the best player, but he is a very important one. This team needs to spend the money to bring him back. Plain and simple.
Kevin Love made the term "knuckle push-ups" an all-too-familiar term this season.
Truth be told, as Love crumbled to his living room floor on that fateful October day, he took with him all aspirations his team had this season. Already going into the season without Ricky Rubio and the always-unreliable Brandon Roy, that was the last thing the team needed.
Five games in, Roy was done. One game later, Budinger tore his meniscus. A few games after that, Malcolm Lee was done. Josh Howard then came in and promptly tore his ACL, and so the snowball kept on rolling.
Minnesota must wipe the slate clean in 2013-14. It will have an offseason focused mainly on bringing back players it already has in terms of free agency. There is not much it needs to go out and acquire besides a shooting guard, which should be addressed in the draft. Most, if not all, roster positions are currently filled.
The best way for this team to get better is for it to work with what it currently has. For the first time in years, there are very few holes on the roster. If healthy next season, there is no reason why the Timberwolves cannot compete with the upper echelon of the NBA.
Pekovic has ascended to the top tier amongst NBA centers. He bulldozes opponents in such a way that he cannot be labeled anything short of unstoppable at this point.
The T-Wolves are a dismal 12-27 without him in the lineup the past two seasons. He has as much of an impact on the team's success as anyone. Going into the offseason as a free agent, this is priority numbers one, two and three for David Kahn.
Aside from some team throwing a max contract at Pekovic, there is no excuse to let him leave town. Kahn went through a lot just to get him here after Pekovic stayed overseas a la Ricky Rubio after being drafted.
Pekovic has gone from a disastrous foul machine to a punishing low-post scorer in a matter of two seasons. His level of improvement only stands to increase as he enters his prime at age 27.
Adelman recently stated through the Star Tribune that he believes Pekovic should and will add more finesse to his game this offseason. This only bodes well for his future, as he would presumably suffer less nagging injuries and improve even more as an all-around player.
According to CBS Sports, Pekovic has publicly stated how much he enjoys playing in Minneapolis and he has no desire to leave. Wrapping him up as quick as possible is the first and most important thing the team must do this offseason.