The 2021-22 season has been shaping up, for probably the last two years since Gersson Rosas took over as Timberwolves President and at least a year since a massive roster overhaul paired D'Angelo Russell with Karl-Anthony Towns, as a defining season in the franchise's trajectory.
While this year has been a huge disappointment in many ways — I don't think there's any way the Wolves envisioned they would have the league's worst record (14-42), or they wouldn't have traded away a lightly protected 2021 pick to Golden State — next season always seemed like the benchmark year by which the team needed to be competitive.
If the Wolves don't make the playoffs next season — or at least get VERY close while posting something around a .500 record in a competitive Western Conference — it's easy to envision Towns starting rumblings about wanting a trade with just two years left on his max deal after next season.
Russell's deal is even shorter: just one year remains after the 2021-22 season. And if next year doesn't work, why wouldn't the Wolves start over yet again with another rebuilding project — particularly if they could get a significant jump-start by maximizing Towns' trade value?