The Minnesota Timberwolves find themselves in a stage of their rebuild process that the Wizards and head coach Scott Brooks know well. They have stacked their roster with top draft picks, with many showing sky-high potential. Now, under new coach Tom Thibodeau, they are learning how to win as young players in the league.
The Wizards went through that with John Wall and Bradley Beal, who were picked first and third overall in their respective drafts. Those two have since blossomed into stars, leading the Wizards to two playoff appearances and likely many more.
For Brooks, he experienced a similar stage with the Oklahoma City Thunder, They too accrued top draft choices between Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, and became a perennial contender once they learned how to close out and win games.
Brooks remembers those early days fondly.
“You get to mold how they play and how they think the game," Brooks said of young NBA players. "You want them to learn how to be a pro. Being a pro is not just going out there, playing, getting your minutes and being entitled and getting shots and scoring points. Being a pro is how you train, how you prepare, what you put in your body, how you watch film, work out and your warmups. It encompasses so many different aspects of the game.”
For the Timberwolves, who visit Washington on Friday night [6:30 p.m. on CSN], the three who stand out most are Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine. All three are 21 years old and score at least 21 per game. Only two other teams - the Warriors and Cavs - have as many 20-point scorers.
Yet still, at 11-24, the T'Wolves rank among the worst teams in the league. They have some learning to do and Wall and Beal can relate.
"[Playing with young teammates], you both want to be the guy and the hero guy who takes the big shots or make the big plays," Wall said. "You've just gotta trust each other. I think that's something that me and Brad have grown up on. No matter who's hot in the right situation, when it's time to make the right play we are believing in the next guy to make the right play. That's a situation that you have to go through."
"They’re talented," Beal said. "They came in the league at a young age just like John and I and they have a huge upside just like John and I have had. It’s just a matter of time now for them to put everything together with the great young core that they have and figure it out. We were able to do the same thing in two years and ended up making it to the playoffs.”
The Timberwolves haven't quite put it all together yet, but Brooks sees potential for that to happen soon. He led the Thunder to the Finals in 2012 when Durant, Westbrook and Harden were all 23 or younger.
Youth and inexperience can hold teams back, but some groups break through quicker than others.
"They’re as talented a trio in this league. I don’t look at them being young, I look at them as being good. All three of them average  points a game and they got to play a lot of minutes. I told our guys be ready... We can't give them feel-good shots. They’re athletic, they’re skilled, they’re shot-makers and they can put it on the floor. All three of them can finish over the top.”
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