COMMENTARY | It has been 10 long years since the Minnesota Timberwolves have given their fans something to cheer about.
That was the 2003-04 season, when the Timberwolves made their last playoff appearance. Fueled by Kevin Garnett, Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassel, they raced to the Western Conference finals and looked poised to have another couple seasons of success.
The bottom fell out after that with a series of bad decisions that sent the franchise into eight straight losing seasons. However, that wait for a return to the playoffs is about to end come next spring.
That's because the Timberwolves are the most prepared they've been in years for a playoff run, and it's time for the players to put these pieces together and start playing in late-April.
Kevin Love Is About to Unleash an Angry MVP Campaign on the NBA
Last year was one that Love would like to forget. He played in a career-low 18 games after breaking his hand before the season started and never was the same upon his short-lived return.
Fans also questioned his commitment to the team after a December interview with Yahoo, but he looks ready to get back to his MVP form he had in 2011-12.
Ricky Rubio Is Poised to Make an Impact in His First Full Season
Rubio enters his third year in the NBA, but he hasn't been able to put together a full season to date. He tore his ACL two years ago and spent the first month of last year recovering before regaining his form late in the year.
The Timberwolves were a playoff team during his rookie year before the injury happened, and it will be interesting to see how he can impact the team over a full 82-game schedule.
For the First Time in Years, the Timberwolves Have A Legitimate Bench
During their last playoff run, the Timberwolves enjoyed the services of a deep bench that gave them quality minutes when their starters needed a rest.
New vice president of basketball operations Flip Saunders made reshaping the bench a priority by adding quality players such as Corey Brewer and Ronny Turiaf. Adding a quality bench will give this team an advantage for the first time in a decade.
Rick Adelman's Coaching Will Blend Nicely With an Actual Basketball Roster
In Adelman's first two seasons, he had to deal with rosters that looked like David Kahn had attached them with cheap duct tape.
After those two years ended with a thud, his new boss Saunders has done a great job constructing a roster that fits his style of play. It should lead to his best season as the Timberwolves' head coach.
The Timberwolves Now Have Guys That Can Hit an Open Shot
Since Rubio's debut two seasons ago, the Timberwolves have seen the play where he makes a miraculous pass to the corner where the wide open shooter throws it up -- and clanks it off the rim.
Adding Kevin Martin from the Oklahoma City Thunder should eliminate that from the playbook and have the team as one of the highest-scoring offenses in the league.
The Addition of Brewer Will Help the Timberwolves Become a Solid Defensive Team
At the beginning of the offseason, it wasn't a good sign with Andrei Kirilenko left to sign a bargain contract with the Brooklyn Nets. As a result, the Timberwolves needed a defensive stopper and found one when Brewer agreed to return after a couple seasons around the league.
Brewer's length and athleticism will be welcome, and he figures to be a younger (and cheaper) alternative to the 32-year-old forward.
The Timberwolves Possess the Best Frontcourt in the Western Conference
While Love gets all the press, the return of Nikolai Pekovic is huge for the Timberwolves' frontcourt. His display of strength and athleticism is too much for many centers to handle and that allows Love to roam around the court to get his open shots.
This combination will remind fans of the Chris Webber-Vlade Divac connection from Adelman's days in Sacramento and should yield similar success.
Derrick Williams Is Ready to Have a Breakout Season
After being the second pick in the 2011 NBA draft, Williams hasn't had much of an impact with the Timberwolves. That will change in his third year as he has been dedicated to getting himself into shape and moving to more of a small-forward role in order to get on the court.
Williams has possessed the talent to be an impact player since entering the league, but he has yet to put it all together. That changes this year.
The Timberwolves Have the Right Mix of Youthful and Veteran Talent
During the David Kahn era, he tried his best to get young players that could mesh well with some veteran mentors. He failed on both accounts as the youth wasn't that talented and the veterans were more interested in picking up a check rather than teaching the next generation.
Entering this year, the Timberwolves have made sure that they have guys who are willing to show their young guys the ropes while having the talent to make a playoff push.
The Western Conference Is Ready for Some New Blood
The Timberwolves seem to be in the right position as several of the Western Conference's teams are poised to have down years. With the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks not the juggernauts they used to be, Minnesota has a chance to sneak in and end its playoff drought.
From there, it just matters what the team wants to do with this opportunity.
Chris Schad is a lifelong Timberwolves follower who has seen a plenty of losing efforts during the franchise's history. His work has also been published on Bleacher Report and Pro Football Spot. You can follow him on Twitter @crishad.
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