It's been an up and down start to the season for the Minnesota Timberwolves but the signs have been encouraging over their 35 games.
They currently own the fourth best record in the Western Conference at 22-14 and seem poised to finally end their playoff drought.
They were already tipped by many to challenge the best teams in the west thanks to their summer acquisitions and they're now clicking into gear.
Minnesota has won seven of its last 10 games and went on a five-game winning streak until that run came to an end on Thursday night against the Milwaukee Bucks in a 102-96 loss.
The Timberwolves possess some of the best young talent in the league but lacked a seasoned star to make them real contenders.
The addition of Jimmy Butler immediately changed that and his impact on the team is now becoming apparent after he had a slow start.
Head coach Tom Thibodeau - who worked with Butler during his tenure with the Chicago Bulls - credits the shooting guard with their turnaround this year and their position at the top end of the conference.
"I hope everyone is recognizing how special he is," Thibodeau said, according to John Meyer of Canishoopus.com. "He’s changed everything for us. Big play after big play. He guards everyone. Hustle plays. Big rebounds in traffic. Passes. Shots. Free throws. Everything."
Thibs gave the Marquette product his debut in the NBA with the Bulls and was extremely keen to be reunited with him in Minneapolis.
They secured a trade with Chicago by sending Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and the 2017 number seven draft pick in the opposite direction.
Butler was tasked by his head coach to help change the culture within the franchise and help them find an identity on both ends of the floor.
Despite being in his first season in Minnesota, the All-Star has often called out his teammates for their lack of defensive effort and has already taken on a leadership role.
Recently, he's done this through leading by example as his production on the court has increased.
In December, he's been averaging 27.0 points per game on 50.4 percent shooting from the field. This includes topping 20 or more points 11 times while scoring 30+ points on six occasions.
Overall this season, he's posting 21.2 points on a career-high 47 percent shooting, 4.8 assists, and 5.4 rebounds per game.
With the 28-year-old hitting his stride and playing at a high level again, the T-Wolves will be a major threat in the west and will only get better as the year goes on.