As the world watched young teams like the Suns and Hawks reach new heights on their quest to win a title, the Minnesota Timberwolves sat back, believing themselves more than capable of achieving similar levels of success.
Over the past few seasons, the TWolves have been the epitome of failure, struggling to make ground in a crowded Western Conference.
When they finally got some help, in the form of All-Star guard D'Angelo Russell, it was seen as a major turning point for the franchise and a sign they might be on the rise.
Injuries and poor chemistry ruined those ambitions last year, and it remains to be seen if they can ever become a true title contender during the KAT era.
But now, more than ever, there is a strong motivation for them to play like stars.
"There is a deep and genuine motivation by Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell to have their best offseason ever," said Wolves coach Chris Finch, via The Athletic. "And that’s really where it begins and ends, because if your best players aren’t all-in and ready, then you are not going to go very far.
They’ve seen their contemporaries having success. Devin Booker’s in the Finals. Nikola Jokic wins MVP. These are guys who they feel they are every bit as good as, if not better than — or at one point have been better than — in the league."
Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell are certainly talented, and a full, healthy season from the two of them might be all they need to be taken seriously by the NBA community.
No matter your feelings about the franchise, they are certainly stacked with bright young talent.
100 percent. And he still is; he just has to get back to that, right? He has that and he knows that. DLo is healthy, feels good, believes in his team and his teammates. So those two guys.
Then the development of Ant and Jaden. Ant is, as we all have spoken about many times, incredibly gifted, has glimpses of being truly special. He has got to figure out routines. He has got to figure out what it means to be a professional with the right approach, and he is doing it. He cares. His competitive drive might be the highest on our team. But how do we harness that so it becomes productive for everybody, right?
This upcoming season will be a huge test for Minnesota. It might be their last chance to prove this core is capable of stringing together a solid season.
Ultimately, though, we'll just have to wait and see how it all plays out.