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Connelly plans to stay at the top with soaring Wolves

The Timberwolves made the leap from 42 victories and a first-round playoff exit a year ago to 56 wins and their first Western Conference final in two decades.

Tim Connelly, the president of basketball operations, thinks the next level is reachable.

"When you're a home-court team and a final four team, all those teams can win a championship," Connelly said on Friday. "So I don't know if there is any linear path to that next step. I don't think there is one singular answer. A lot of it is matchups and health."

Connelly spoke the day after his team's 35th season ended with a resounding 124-103 loss in Game 5 of the conference finals to Dallas on Thursday. His team reaches a shortened offseason with its ownership situation messy and near the NBA's punitive "second apron" salary cap level.

The Wolves have their top seven rotational players all signed — three with huge contracts — for next season. They have the 27th and 37th overall picks in the NBA draft on June 26-27. They also have prospects they've groomed on their Iowa G League team.

"There are certainly areas we need to get better," Connelly said. "The roster is never perfect, and we've got to continue to build both externally and internally. Our guys have to come back as better players. The hunger these [postseason] environments create, we'll see a lot of these come back even more hungry and aggressive. … I'm a pretty firm believer when you're in that final four, you've got a chance."

There was some concern in the fan base that Connelly's future with the team could be in flux after it was reported late in the season he has an opt-out clause in his contract.

But Connelly, who came to the Wolves from Denver, said he plans to stay in Minnesota, just as he said last season when the Wizards job was open. The Pistons were reportedly going to court Connelly, but they are set to hire Trajan Langdon as their new president.

Connelly said he is "super excited" about the Wolves' future.

"I mean, moving [from Denver] wasn't fun," Connelly said. "I've had a blast here. Feels like we have roots here. It's pretty special. That's the goal. It has been a great couple years, and hopefully, we can make it a much longer couple years."

The Wolves' three playoff series saw longtime majority owner Glen Taylor and minority owners Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore seated on opposite sides of the court while disputes over the franchise's $1.5 billion sale are litigated.

"Ownership is obviously in a unique place right now," Connelly said. "Whatever happens is kind of a level up. I trust whatever happens will be the right path.

"We've all shared great moments throughout this whole season. There are conversations that we've had, and they'll be ongoing. Now that we're officially in the offseason, we'll get a better sense of what we might do."

All-Star big man Karl-Anthony Towns is guaranteed nearly $50 million next season, Rudy Gobert $43 million and Anthony Edwards more than $42 million on his new contract that begins next season.

Connelly said Towns can be a second piece to Edwards on a championship team.

"Karl was brilliant for most of the playoffs," Connelly said. "He had some tough shooting nights this last series, but that didn't dictate his intensity or ability to do other things.

"We're not here without Karl. The maturity Karl showed was one of the greatest things we all saw. He has been through so much. He has been through 20 of me and 20 head coaches here. He's an unbelievably skilled player. To produce in a really emotionally mature way was a huge step. I couldn't be more proud of Karl."

Veteran forward Kyle Anderson is the Wolves' only unrestricted free agent. But the Wolves might not be able to afford Anderson and possibly others. The projected payroll is likely to surpass $190 million, far above the league's $141 million "soft" cap. A new "second apron" level punishes teams with another tax and can eventually restrict roster building if the salary cap exceeds $190 million.

The Wolves might be able to go past that threshold, at least for one season, in an attempt to win a title.

"It's a big task for ownership," Connelly said. "It's a lot, a lot of money. Relative to the impact on our flexibility, I think the jury is still out.

"It's not a place you want to be long-term. It gets more and more harsh each year. Dipping your toe in it, it could have relatively limited impact on what we can and cannot do. But we're learning it like the other 29 teams."

Staff writer Chris Hine contributed to this story.