The 2013-14 Timberwolves were a maddening group. They never were destined for greatness, but they always gave the impression that they were capable of more. Even through all of their flaws, they won 40 games — easily the most by a Wolves team in a decade. But soon thereafter, by necessity in some cases and by choice in others, that blueprint was ripped up in favor of a new one.
The Wolves are a little more than halfway into the 2014-15 season, and their 7-37 record stands in sharp contrast to their .500 flirtation from a year ago. In comparing the rosters and statistics from last season to this season, though, it becomes apparent just how different the two teams are:
• The top seven players in terms of minutes played for the Wolves last season were, in order: Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Corey Brewer, Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic, Dante Cunningham and J.J. Barea.
Since then: Love was traded in the offseason; Brewer was dealt after playing 24 games; Cunningham wasn't re-signed; Barea was bought out before the season started; Rubio, Pekovic and Martin have combined to play just 27 games this season because of various injuries.
Those seven combined to play 75 percent of the minutes and scored 82 percent of Minnesota's points last season. This year the three still on the club have played 14 percent of the minutes and scored 15 percent of the points.
• The top seven players in terms of minutes played this season for the Wolves are, in order: Andrew Wiggins, Gorgui Dieng, Thaddeus Young, Mo Williams, Zach LaVine, Shabazz Muhammad and Anthony Bennett.
And not only are the top seven in terms of minutes played completely different from a year ago, so is their combined experience level. Rubio was the youngest member of the top seven last year at age 23. Everyone else was between 25 and 30, a prime age for a basketball player combining relative youth and experience.
This year's top seven includes four players who are 22 or younger: Muhammad (22), Bennett (21), Wiggins (19) and LaVine (19). A fifth, Dieng, is a second-year player with just over 2,000 NBA minutes played.
The Wolves' trade of Love made their core younger; so, too, did roster decisions on other established players, which freed up more time for inexperienced ones; and finally, injuries to other established players have added to that youth movement.
It adds up to a stark difference — one that is painful in the present but one that the Wolves hope will pay off in the long run.