In the past five years, the roster of every team that has competed in the Finals has had an average age of 27 years or older. But in their 32-year history, the Minnesota Timberwolves have only had an average age of 27 or above 12 times.
Also worth noting: The Wolves have only made the playoffs nine times. And the Kevin Garnett, Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell-led team that went to the Western Conference Finals, the only one that has advanced past the first round? That was the oldest roster in franchise history.
The main question I want to address, and specifically for this team, is: Why do we continuously see young talent on the roster that does not develop into players who can drive a winning team?
Obviously, if I had the answer to that question, I’d be an NBA general manager. One tidbit I did find interesting, however, is the significance of the number 27.
Here are a few fun facts:
- The Timberwolves are currently one of three teams in the NBA whose average age is younger than 24 years old. Minnesota also had the youngest roster last season and selected first in last year’s draft.
- They currently have the worst record in the NBA (13-40)
- There are currently nine teams that have won 30 games or more this season. Their average age? 27.55
- There are currently six teams that have yet to reach 20 wins this season. Their average age? 25.13.
Despite being young and inexperienced, the Wolves have some things to look forward to. Minnesota’s “core” is rostered for another two seasons, providing a great opportunity for the team to grow together. And they are set up to have a 40 percent chance at receiving a top-3 draft pick this summer — a selection that Gersson Rosas and Minnesota’s front office could get creative with.
Then it becomes a matter of how the average age of the Wolves roster gets to the ever-so coveted target of 27 years old. Well, the obvious answer is to let this team mature and add a veteran piece or two around them. But do fans have enough patience to wait another two or three years to see a formidable playoff team?
Another added benefit to having a wiser team is leadership capabilities. D’Angelo Russell, who turned 25 years young in late February, is often the oldest player on the court this season.
“It’s a fun experience, a fun challenge to try and attack head-on,” DLo said after a victory in early February. “When things are going well it’s even better, but when things are going bad it’s an even harder task to handle. As a young player, you’re going to have ups and downs in the league — might as well put your hands up on the roller coaster while you’re going up and down. Games are full of runs so don’t get too low on it, you can easily make that last shot to win the game.”
As we all know in sports, winning helps everything. The minute Minnesota shows a glimmer of potential, they could attract an established player or two who’s bought out to come and try to make a playoff push.
The Wolves currently roster two No. 1 overall picks (Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards), a No. 2 overall pick (Russell) and a No. 6 overall in Jarrett Culver, all of whom are under the age of 26. With that being said, is adding a teenager to the mix truly what this team needs?
If they were to add a potential franchise-changing teenager in Cade Cunningham or Jalen Suggs, would it hinder Minnesota’s maturation process with their core? It depends on how certain the Wolves are that said rookie will drive winning basketball as the youngest player on a roster. That isn’t to say Minnesota should pass on star talent. We all know what happens to best-laid plans.
Minnesota attempted to pair their uber-talented big man with a playmaking guard in Russell last season. However, since being traded to the Timberwolves a little over a year ago, DLo and KAT have only recently started to share the floor with one another.
A duo of two friends who were supposed to complement each other on the court has succumbed to a series of unfortunate events.
- Minor injuries to both players last February
- NBA suspending the season due to COVID-19
- Towns dislocating his wrist early this season
- Russell with a leg injury that resulted in knee surgery
Nobody can predict injuries or how the pandemic would affect basketball, but so far the on-court partnership between the young stars has yet to have a chance to blossom.
“It’s just unfair that we keep having stepbacks,” Towns recently said regarding the Russell injury news.
In the very limited sampling (61 minutes) that Minnesota has seen when Edwards, Towns, and Russell have been able to play together, it’s been a lot of offense and very little defense.
When the three have taken the court together, Minnesota has a 144.9 offensive rating (111 league average) and 124.2 defensive rating (111.5 league average) for a net rating of +20.7 (league average is 0).
While both of those numbers are quite staggering, it does show that the Wolves have more than enough firepower with the trio playing together. Having multiple scorers who can put up 30 on any given night is obviously great, but the beauty of basketball is that the game is so much more than scoring. Minnesota has part of the ‘winning formula’ solved, now they need to take the steps and try to complete the whole equation.