NBA

D'Angelo Russell.

L.A. Lakers Vs Minnesota Timberwolves: Who will win an NBA title first?

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The landscape of the NBA is forever changing, and that is in part down to the nature of the league stemming from a draft system that seeks to improve the basement franchises.

There are no relegations or demotions. Instead of declining into the abyss - like the Philadelphia 76ers almost have over the past three years - franchises grab the best young talent coming out of college and look to - and here's a famous term - 'rebuild' their way back to contention.

From there, organisations can either trade away their picks/assets for better players or they can bide their time and hope their draft picks grow into certifiable superstars.

If there was ever evidence that the NBA can swing in roundabouts, look no further than the decline of the L.A. Lakers in recent years. Despite being the second most successful team in league history with 16 championships, the Purple and Gold had their worst season in franchise history last year with just 17 wins.

Also in the west, it has been 12 long seasons since the Minnesota Timberwolves last made the playoffs and, ironically, that was the finals loss to the Lakers back in 2003-04.

However, both teams now possess exciting young rosters and look primed to climb back to relevance in the near future. But, who is more likely to win an NBA title first?

L.A. Lakers

One of the most storied franchises in NBA history has been having a tough time as of late and after going 65-181 over the past three seasons, they have acquired some young talent.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Los Angeles Lakers

In the last three years, a couple of number two overall picks in the shape of D'Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram have accompanied the seventh pick in 2014 draft, Julius Randle, but many felt the young talent at the Staples Center was suppressed by Kobe Bryant's retirement tour last season.

Now that the Black Mamba has ridden off into the sunset and Luke Walton - a former two-time NBA champion as a player with the Lakers - has taken over as head coach, their record is already looking a lot better.

Currently sitting at 7-5 for the season gives them a win percentage of .583 and over the course of the campaign, that is playoff form.

Los Angeles Lakers v Phoenix Suns

Their strength at the moment lies in the bench scoring courtesy of Lou Williams and Jordan Clarkson, but Russell and Randle, in particular, have shown their future credentials thus far as well.

Randle has shown he is a plausible triple-double threat and Russell seems primed to succeed in the mould of the Golden State Warrior guards that Walton so recently presided over.

Ingram has been likened to a young and skinny Kevin Durant, and although his defence is already beyond his years, as he grows into his body he will become a more dominant force on the Lakers, too.

Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers need that superstar that will lead this unit in the postseason, and given their exciting start under Walton, free agents will certainly pay more attention to L.A. next summer than they have in years.

Minnesota Timberwolves

The story here is all about Karl-Anthony Towns.

Yes, Andrew Wiggins is a force of nature too and he did drop 47 points on the Lakers recently. And yes, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn are also promising guards that carry plenty of athleticism.

But, Towns is literally a transcendent star. He has the potential to be one of the finest players of his generation and one might argue there hasn't been a big man as dominant as Towns since Shaquille O'Neal.

Charlotte Hornets v Minnesota Timberwolves

On his way to unanimously winning the Rookie of the Year award last term, he led all qualified rookies in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage (.542), double-doubles (51) and minutes (32.0 mpg), and was second in blocks (1.68 bpg) and third in free throw percentage (.811).

He also had the big man best rookie season since Tim Duncan with averages of 18.3 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game.

The 21-year-old has upped his scoring output to an average of 22 points a night this term, but the addition of Tom Thibodeau as coach is the most intriguing.

Charlotte Hornets v Minnesota Timberwolves

As head of the Chicago Bulls, he helped Derrick Rose become the youngest ever MVP and led the Windy City back to contention.

If he can have a similar effect on Towns - without the crippling injuries - then the sky is the limit. In fact, having a scoring partner in Wiggins sparks memories of Kobe and Shaq, ironically.

If they can have that dynamic effect, and Thibodeau can put the correct pieces around them, they have the basis of a team ready made to contend for the title in a few years.

Topics:
Shaquille O'Neal
NBA
Pau Gasol
Chicago Bulls
Central Division
Eastern Conference
Minnesota Timberwolves
Northwest Division
Western Conference
LA Lakers
Pacific Division
Kobe Bryant
Kevin Garnett

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