The Timberwolves play their first game in what feels like five years Wednesday, and those who have followed the team only casually in recent years might want to do some homework to catch up.
Team president Gersson Rosas has turned the organization into a basketball version of a reality show that chronicles a home's extreme makeover.
Rosas detonated the roster, rebuilt the front office and is attempting to modernize the on-court style of play with a heavy emphasis — driven by analytics — on three-pointers.
Rosas has changed the roster to such a degree that the Wolves should copy a marketing idea once used by their downtown neighbors and unveil a "Get to Know 'Em" campaign.
Hey, look, it's KAT … and a bunch of new guys.
This new regime clearly has no qualms about shaking things up, but the Wolves will not become credible or relevant until they make a real commitment to doing more than jack up three-pointers.
You know, like playing defense.
That applies both collectively and individually, starting with their franchise player, Karl-Anthony Towns, a wondrous talent who has in his five NBA seasons treated defense as an afterthought.
"At the end of the day, it's defensive integrity," coach Ryan Saunders said about the need for overall improvement. "Knowing that it really has to matter if you want to be a good team in this league, especially in the West."
Love that phrase. Defensive integrity. Playing defense against the best players in the world on a nightly basis cannot be halfhearted. Or some of the time. Or with only one or two guys who are committed.
Time will tell if Rosas' implementation of this new offensive identity built around spacing and three-point efficiency will produce desired results. But right now offense isn't their problem. If players don't give the same attention and effort to defense, what's the point? Nothing will change. They will remain one of the league's worst teams.
Since Kevin Garnett's departure, the organization consistently has ranked in the bottom half of the league in defensive rating and points allowed. They have occasionally ranked dead last. They finished 28th in scoring defense last season at 117.5 points per game.
This is not a new problem.
"The thing that's kept us from being great is defense," Towns said.
Towns, now 25, talked about defensive improvement several times in a recent Zoom media briefing, which is an encouraging sign. Perhaps the message is starting to resonate. At some point, that urgency needs to be displayed on the court.
As with everything else, Towns sets the tone — positively or negatively. ESPN created a metric called "real plus-minus" to establish a player's "estimated on-court impact" on both offense and defense.
Towns' offensive real plus-minus (ORPM) last season ranked No. 1 among all NBA centers by a mile.
No one was close.
His defensive real plus-minus ranked dead last. By a lot. He received a negative rating.
By analytics or eye test, Towns' defense has not cut it. Not for a player of his stature, with every organizational decision made with him in mind.
It's not just KAT, though. Improvement requires investment from every player and from management in constructing the roster.
That's why news that the organization had waived forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson over the weekend came as a surprise. Hollis-Jefferson made an impact in the preseason with his defensive intensity. He showed tenacity and the kind of commitment that has been lacking.
Hollis-Jefferson has obvious limitations as a shooter and Rosas craved roster flexibility, but a team that has been terrible defensively got rid of one of its best defensive players. Seems illogical.
The amount of change inside the organization in recent years has been staggering. Everything looks new and different. The new regime deserves time to see if this metamorphosis will result in a big payoff.
So much of the focus has been on offense and three-point shooting. There must be a similar commitment — or integrity, as Saunders calls it — when they don't have the ball.