With just under three weeks of the NBA season remaining, the Minnesota Timberwolves have already been eliminated from playoff contention with their 24-48 record.
This extends the T-Wolves' run of missing out on the playoffs to twelve seasons, the longest current drought of any NBA franchise.
It was always going to be a difficult season for the Wolves after the side’s GM and coach, Flip Saunders passed away from cancer aged 60 just days before the season opener.
But he should be proud, as thanks to his rebuilding job this has been one of the most promising seasons in Minnesota’s recent history, and it looks like the next few years should be a totally different prospect for the team.
Karl-Anthony Towns, the number one pick in the 2015 NBA draft is most likely going to voted as this season’s Rookie of the Year. He has averaged more than a double-double, with more than 18 points and 10 rebounds per game, and has already shown enough potential to allow people to expect that he will be a serious star in the league for many years to come.
Towns in the perfect modern center, a versatile and agile player with great athleticism, who has proved he can guard smaller positions when switched in defensive sets, and is already shooting 34.4% from three-point range at the NBA level. His performance in the 2016 All-Star Skills Challenge showed he is not your average big.
Another major part of Minnesota's future will be Andrew Wiggins who, now coming to the end of his sophomore year in the league, has made important steps as he aims to become one of the team’s leaders moving forward.
Wiggins proved he could be a solid NBA scorer in his first season in the City of Lakes and has progressed by scoring at a more efficient rate in his second year.
It is likely that the Cleveland Cavaliers may regret opting to trade their 2014 draftee as, combined with his points, he can already guard to a good standard at the highest level and must set his sights on becoming one of the best two-way players in the league.
The third piece to Minnesota’s puzzle is Zach LaVine, who has an opportunity to be a crucial piece in the Timberwolves' future alongside Towns and Wiggins.
He may be more commonly known for his back-to-back slam dunk championships, but LaVine has the ability to be much more than just a dunking machine.
Although his career numbers are nothing to marvel at, for the second season running LaVine is putting together an extremely impressive period following the All-Star break.
According to Dave Benz, TV commentator for Minnesota, LaVine has the fourth best three-point shooting percentage of players with 54 attempts or more since the break and is piling on the points at a higher rate.
Currently playing as the starting shooting guard, the Wolves hope that LaVine can one day take over from Ricky Rubio and transition into their main man at the point, but, for now, LaVine is thriving in his current role.
Those three players can be the leaders of a new team which could one day rule the NBA, but it is not only down to them. Minnesota also have Tyus Jones (19) and Shabazz Muhammad (22) as two of their main contributors off the bench, while their other two starters are Rubio (25) and Gorgui Dieng (26), meaning there is youth running throughout this Timberwolves squad.
If they are to take it to the next level, it is likely that the Wolves will look to bring in some experience around this team next season.
Kevin Garnett and Tayshaun Prince have been the elder statesmen this campaign, guiding their young guys through games, but both are now at an age where they are playing limited minutes, if any at all.
The T’Wolves should aim at adding experienced players who can offer the team productive time on the floor throughout the year, most specifically at the small forward and power forward spots. They will also look to add to their young squad by drafting smartly, and with the right pieces, it would not be a surprise to see them break out into the playoffs next year.
After a tough campaign following the loss of their coach, the youthful Wolves squad has performed admirably under the stewardship of Sam Mitchell, and should take a lot of positives from the season.
It would be a huge disappointment if this Minnesota team cannot, at least, make a charge at next season's Western Conference playoffs as the potential is clear throughout the squad after the bright spots shown during this 82 game schedule.
If Towns, Wiggins and LaVine all come back next season with the determination to kick-on, there are very few limits as to where this team could be within the next couple of years, underestimate them at your peril, the Wolves are coming…