Basketball season is here. It feels like it’s been forever since the Minnesota Timberwolves have played, and that’s what happens when you miss the playoffs 12 straight years.

The Timberwolves open the regular season Wednesday night at Memphis. It seems somewhat fitting that we’re talking basketball on the one-year anniversary of Flip Saunders’ death. After all, a majority of the players they have now were his vision for what the franchise can become.

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The Timberwolves have two road games before their home opener next week. The experts have the Timberwolves finishing at or just above .500 and contending for a playoff spot. Playoffs? Yes, playoffs. The word “playoffs” hasn’t been in the vocabulary of Timberwolves fans since 2004. They’ve won 40 games once since that run to the Western Conference Finals.

But times are changing. The Timberwolves have a new coach and basketball operations guy in Tom Thibodeau, and a new general manager in Scott Layden. Here are four reasons why fans should buy into the hype going around the NBA for the Timberwolves this year.

Tom Thibodeau (credit: CBS)

Tom Thibodeau (credit: CBS)

Tom Thibodeau, Scott Layden Bring Organization New Energy

The Timberwolves needed a few face to lead their team and their front office after the death of Flip Saunders, and they did both in a big way in the offseason. Tom Thibodeau is one of the big names in NBA coaching circles, and fans should be excited about him leading the Timberwolves. He wins and he emphasizes defense. He’s one of the most respected coaches in the league.

While most fans won’t be familiar with Scott Layden, he’s been a part of winning organizations like the San Antonio Spurs. He’s already made moves to give the team depth after its starting five, something the Timberwolves have sorely lacked in recent years. Most of all, when fans know how successful Thibodeau and Layden have been, it’s hard not to be excited about what they could do in Minnesota.

(credit: Eric Francis/NBAE via Getty Images)

(credit: Eric Francis/NBAE via Getty Images)

Young Players Blossoming Together

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It’s pretty clear that the Timberwolves current corps is centered around Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and Ricky Rubio. They seem to get better the more they are around each other. Towns and Wiggins are potential stars in the league, but the Timberwolves still need that third piece to get to the playoffs and make a run. Rubio isn’t a huge scoring threat, but he runs the offense and can cause problems for opponents with his defense.

It might be LaVine’s time to take that step. He’s an elite athlete and made major strides in his second season. He’ll be asked to do more than win Slam Dunk titles if the Timberwolves aspire to be a playoff team. And let’s not forget about No. 5 overall pick Kris Dunn. They’ll bring him along slowly, but Dunn is likely the future at point guard for the Timberwolves.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Additions of Brandon Rush, Cole Aldrich, Jordan Hill

The Timberwolves biggest issue in recent years has been depth. If anyone in the starting five got hurt or was in foul trouble, the Timberwolves were in trouble. They just simply didn’t have the talent on the bench to stay with a lot of teams.

That could change this year as the Timberwolves acquired Brandon Rush, Cole Aldrich and Jordan Hill in free agency. While they’re not earth-shattering names, they’ll give the Timberwolves better depth than they’ve had in a long time. Rush gives Minnesota a perimeter shooting threat. Aldrich, a “one-of-us” from Bloomington, gives the Timberwolves a back-up center to Towns that can protect the rim and score. Hill is a physical presence that can get the coveted rebounds and play defense.

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Experts Putting Timberwolves Contending For Playoff Spot

The Timberwolves won 29 games last year. It might be hard to believe, but that was a 13-win improvement from two seasons ago. Part of bringing in Thibodeau and Layden was to change the culture in the organization. Losing and being average is no longer acceptable. Now with the young corps that the Timberwolves have, including the last two NBA Rookie of the Year winners, many experts feel this team has all kinds of potential.

A recent survey of NBA general managers found that most teams would build their franchise around Karl-Anthony Towns if they could. Many also feel the Timberwolves are a playoff team this year. That would mean at least a 15-win improvement off the 29 last season.

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Timberwolves fans are tired of being patient. They want to come to Target Center not just hoping for a win, but expecting one. Fans want something to cheer about, something to be excited about. Now is the time to take that step for this franchise and bring some life back to the building.