Jeff Teague wasn't even 16 years old the last time the Timberwolves made the playoffs. Taj Gibson was entering his first year at USC. Now they're key parts on a group focused on ending Minnesota 13-year postseason drought.
But it took a patient mindset and accurate forecasting by head coach/president Tom Thibodeau to bring in Gibson, Teague, Jamal Crawford, and according to reports, All-Star Jimmy Butler.
"Last year was unusual in the sense that everyone had money. There were guys that we went after that we didn't get, but we didn't want to box ourselves in because we knew this year would be different, there would be less money involved and there would be better players that might be available to us," Thibodeau explained Monday at the introductory press conference for Gibson and Teague. "We didn't box ourselves in and we felt we were positioned well. The growth of the young guys was important for us last year – building the foundation, that was the start.
"To have the flexibility to go out and add the right veterans to the group was also important, so we felt very fortunate to get these guys."
Basically, Thibs laid in the weeds for a year before going for the kill in free agency and trades.
"Most offseasons, you don't get an opportunity to bring in that many players who have played at a high level," said GM Scott Layden. "This year, so far so good, but we still want to continue to get better."
Embracing high expectations
Teague said training camp and preseason will be "huge" for their development, which Thibodeau believes will be their biggest hurdle. The plan is to bring the team together after Labor Day and bond before camp opens in September.
It'll be a short window to gel, but make no mistake, they're embracing the high win total predictions Vegas and others are making.
"We embrace whatever expectations are coming our way," said Thibodeau.
"It's going to be a huge opportunity for us," Teague said. "I know the West is going to be tough, but I think we're really building a team right now where we can really compete. Being in the playoffs every year of my career I expect nothing less than making it next year."