The young Timberwolves keep getting compared to the 2009-10 Oklahoma City Thunder. That Thunder squad featured third-year star Kevin Durant, second-year point guard Russell Westbrook and rookie guard James Harden.
The Thunder won just 23 games with Durant and Westbrook in 2008-09, but another year of experience coupled with the addition of Harden resulted in 50 wins and a spot in the playoffs the next season.
Bottom line: It's fair to compare the potential of Minnesota's trio of 20 year olds – Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine – to OKC's former trio because OKC was one of the walking dead teams in the Western Conference prior to the arrival of star players.
Seattle Supersonics/OKC Thunder year-by-year records:
- 2005-06: 35 wins
- 2006-07: 31 wins
- 2007-08: 20 wins
- 2008-09: 23 wins
Question for the Timberwolves: Are Towns, Wiggins and LaVine the next version of OKC's former big three (Harden now plays for Houston), and can they – maybe as early as next season – pull Minnesota basketball out of a decade-long slump?
On Monday in Cleveland, Towns, Wiggins and LaVine became the youngest trio to score 20 points in a game, breaking the Thunder's record when Durant (21), Westbrook (21) and Harden (20) did it in 2008-09.
"I think it’s a good comparison," LaVine said Tuesday, via the Star Tribune. "We want to be as good as them at some point, both individually and as a team. We have to strive for that, or better."
But is the comparison even fair? Durant, Westbrook and Harden are three of the best players in the NBA. In fact, they might be three of the six best in the world, with only the likes of LeBron, Kawhi Leonard and Steph Curry offering as good or better production than the Thunder's former trio.
"They've still got two great people on the team, Westbrook and Durant, arguably the best players in the NBA right now," Wiggins said Tuesday, according to FSN. "So it's never bad to be compared to them, especially at a young age."
All the comparisons in the world can be made, but one thing is certain: Minnesota's trio has a long way to go to reach an elite level.
A good starting point would be beating the Thunder Wednesday night at Target Center.