If you've stuck around the Timberwolves this long, you deserve a round of applause. Through coaching changes, faces of the franchise and nightmare draft classes, the Wolves have done just about everything to reprise their role as the NBA's doormat.
But coming into this season, there's optimism surrounding the team. Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell form the core of a roster that should contend for a spot in the play-in tournament and the development of several young players could make this an interesting team.
An opportunity for Jaden McDaniels, Naz Reid
Dating back to June, the Timberwolves have consistently been linked to Ben Simmons. But heading into the season, the disgruntled star remains a member of the 76ers.
That leaves the Wolves to see what they have in some of their younger players including Jaden McDaniels and Naz Reid.
McDaniels was a pleasant surprise last season and appeared to take a step forward in the Vegas Summer League. While his preseason performance was inconsistent, the Timberwolves are hoping that he can improve defensively and provide another hybrid forward on the roster. It's expected that McDaniels is in the starting lineup Wednesday against the Rockets.
Meanwhile, Reid will look to build off a season where he set career highs in points (11.2), rebounds (4.6) and blocks (1.1) per game.
Both players could be involved in a deal for Simmons but for now, they have an opportunity to play key roles with the Wolves.
An improved D'Angelo Russell
Russell has been a disappointment since coming to Minnesota but was a different player after his return from knee surgery. Russell averaged 18.7 points and 6.5 assists in the final 18 games and showed some of the playmaking ability Chris Finch touted when he was hired last February.
With Ricky Rubio traded to Cleveland, Russell has a clear opportunity to fulfill expectations after coming over from Golden State.
While he may never be the All-Star player he was during the 2018-19 season, if he can stay healthy, he gives the Wolves instant offense from all over the floor.
Patrick Beverley adding some toughness
Throughout their history as a franchise, the Wolves have been a pushover that owns two playoff series wins since 1989. Outside of the Kevin Garnett era, it's hard to argue that the Wolves have lacked toughness.
That's where Beverley comes in. Acquired in a trade with Memphis, Beverley adds a junkyard dog mentality to a team that has refused to play defense over the past several years. He also brings a championship pedigree that can help take the younger players under his wing.
There will be antics involved (Beverley received a technical foul from the bench this preseason) but this should mean good things for the Wolves. If the veteran guard can get through to the rest of the roster, this should be an improved team on defense and one with a valuable veteran presence.
KAT returning to form
It's hard to blame Karl-Anthony Towns for having a rough season. Months after his mother passed away from COVID-19, he admitted he didn't pick up a basketball until training camp. Then he hurt his wrist, contracted COVID himself and dragged through a lost season.
But coming into this year, Towns appears ready to return to All-Star form.
Towns came into training camp over 30 pounds lighter than he was at the start of last season and could play more of a stretch-four role under Finch. While his defense remains a question, Finch has been a big man guru during his time in the NBA and could help Towns get to the next level.
This will become Anthony Edwards' team
When the Timberwolves selected Edwards with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, some wondered if Edwards even wanted to play basketball while others labeled him as a volume scorer after a slow start to the season.
But Edwards finished his rookie year strong and could be on the verge of becoming the face of the franchise.
Edwards thrived when Finch replaced Ryan Saunders on Feb. 23, averaging 23.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists in the final 41 games. He was even more effective down the stretch, averaging 26.8 points and shooting 52.8 percent from the floor in the final eight games.
But it's also what Edwards brings off the court that could make him a true superstar. With charisma to spare, Edwards could be the player who pushes Minnesota into a mix of Western Conference contender.