Former Minnesota Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders passed two years ago, but Karl-Anthony Towns still intends to end their playoff drought.
Long-time NBA head coach Flip Saunders died in October of 2015 after battling cancer, and Karl-Anthony Towns, the Minnesota Timberwolves budding superstar, is keeping a promise he made to his former coach.
“I made a promise to Flip Saunders that we win and end the playoff drought,” said Towns to the Associated Press’ Jon Krawczynski. “And I intend to keep that promise.”
In total, Saunders spent 11 seasons at the helm of the Timberwolves. He had a 10-year stretch from 1995-96 to 2004-05 before returning for the 2014-15 campaign. Over that time, he amassed a 427-392 record that saw Minnesota make eight playoff appearances. Their longest postseason run came in 2004, when Kevin Garnett, the league’s MVP, carried the team to the Western Conference Finals.
Over the subsequent 13 seasons, the Timberwolves haven’t yet made the postseason, and they’ve had just one winning record over that span (44-38, 2004-05). Saunders coached the team to just 16 wins during his final campaign.
Things have been improving for Minnesota, and a lot of it is because of Towns. The 2016 Rookie of the Year is already of the NBA’s premier centers after throwing up 25.1 points and 12.3 rebounds in his sophomore season. The Timberwolves also have Andrew Wiggins, an electrifying athlete who can put points on the board in a hurry and has improved drastically over his three seasons.
Even with Towns and Wiggins, Minnesota has their problems. A lot of it is rooted in defense, and, outside of the duo mentioned above, their firepower was limited. For support, the front office went out and made a slew of moves this offseason, which included trading for Jimmy Butler and signing veterans Jeff Teague, Jamal Crawford and Taj Gibson.
Butler’s offensive versatility is going to be invaluable, but he’s also going to bring it on the defensive end, where Wiggins is a liability. Gibson’s going to help on the interior. Coach Tom Thibodeau was a huge fan of his when they were with the Chicago Bulls, and he brings a toughness that the Wolves need desperately.
Minnesota enlisted Teague after trading Ricky Rubio. They didn’t have a reliable option to run the point, so they signed the former All-Star to a three-year deal that’s worth $57 million, which isn’t bad for what some other players got.
Rounding out the shopping spree is Crawford. At 37, he’s going to serve as the locker room veteran, but he can still hoop, which is a plus. He signed with Minnesota after the Atlanta Hawks bought him out, and he can be a much-needed spark plug for the second-unit.
On paper, the Timberwolves have one of the most talented rosters in the Western Conference. Now, they have to put it together. Talent alone doesn’t win basketball games. We don’t know how long it’ll take for everyone to develop the chemistry needed to win, but, when it works itself out, this might be the year Karl-Anthony Towns leads them to the postseason and fulfills his promise to Flip.
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