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Title track: 105
Fan relations: 88
Stadium experience: 111
Bang for the buck: 93
Change from last year: +17
The perennially wretched Timberwolves won a grand total of 16 games last season, which somehow ranks as only the third-worst total in franchise history. But finally there's some good news: The team broke its 25-year run of unbelievably bad luck in the NBA lottery to land No. 1 pick Karl-Anthony Towns, who will pair with 2014-15 Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins to form potentially the best on-court duo in downtown Minneapolis since the days of Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury.
The Wolves improved in seven of our eight categories due to the undeniable potential of this team. The players category, in particular, jumped a solid 25 spots from last year. Wiggins' tangible development, from timid wing to sometimes-dominant all-around player, spurred the upgrade, along with fan favorite Ricky Rubio. But no move brought the fire back to Target Center more than the homecoming of franchise cornerstone Garnett, whom the team is counting on to mentor the youngsters on the roster.
Rebuilds, even for functional teams, are challenging. We're not talking about smart organizations such as the Spurs, who have the cultural foundation that prevents rebuilds, or the Sixers, who are meticulously acquiring assets for grander dreams later. We're talking about the Timberwolves here -- a sad, long-2s-loving organization that hasn't sniffed the postseason in 11 years, the longest streak in the NBA. Indeed, with Wiggins, Towns, Rubio and a growling Garnett in the background, there's potential -- something Minnesota sports teams love to serve their fans. And hey, the fans seem to be lapping it up. The team's title track jumped 17 spots to a better-than-dead-last ranking of 105.
Turns out, Wolves fans respond to an actual plan. With the franchise-wide changes, especially to the roster, the team's ratings in the players, ownership, coaching and fan relations categories all rose by double digits. And give the Wolves credit -- they're making themselves over as much off the court as on it. In June, the Wolves unveiled a new $25 million practice facility adjacent to Target Center, which itself is undergoing a $130 million renovation (that should help the 111th-place stadium experience finish next year). Catching a game is still relatively cheap too, with an average ticket price of $37.27, or more than $92 cheaper than the NBA's highest ticket price (really, Knicks?). Every aspect of this team, from the product to the brand to the aesthetics, is under construction, and delays -- perhaps long ones -- are likely. But there's direction, a blueprint -- and that's enough for now.