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Souhan: The Timberwolves franchise has never been better than right now

The Timberwolves resume play on Friday after a week in which they re-signed their invaluable point guard, their coach ran the Western Conference All-Star team, one of their former No. 1 picks scored 50 points in the All-Star Game and the other conserved his energy for the stretch run.

They hold the first seed in the Western Conference, have a relatively easy stretch of schedule ahead, have won four in a row, play their next seven games at home and are healthier than any NBA team has a right to be in late February.

This long-woebegone franchise is making up for lost decades, and their new deal with point guard Mike Conley is the latest sign that this is not only a different kind of team, but a different kind of organization.

This wasn't just a great signing.

This was a great sign.

Conley this week signed a two-year, $21 million contract extension. That's a ridiculous bargain for one of their most important players, and their on-court-and-in-the-clubhouse leader.

That deal would not have happened if Conley, 36, wasn't sold on the team, coaching staff, front office and city, and didn't feel optimistic about the future here.

Keeping him also highlights the work of Wolves President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly.

Here is the Wolves' current nine-man rotation: Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, Jaden McDaniels, Rudy Gobert, Conley, Naz Reid, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Kyle Anderson and Monte Morris.

Connelly inherited Towns and Edwards, the former No. 1 picks. McDaniels and Reid have emerged as vital players under the guidance of Connelly and Finch.

The other five members of the rotation were acquired via underappreciated-at-the-time moves by Connelly.

He traded for Rudy Gobert in a deal that was widely panned, and that failed to pan out in Gobert's first season. That deal now looks brilliant.

He traded D'Angelo Russell in a deal that brought back Conley and Alexander-Walker. That's right: He traded a player the Wolves couldn't stand, a player who wears out his welcome everywhere he goes, for two of the seven-best players on the best team in the West.

Connelly signed Anderson soon after he arrived in 2022. And he traded second-round picks and spare players for Morris, who will have to prove himself but has a history of making three-point shots while building a remarkably efficient assist-to-turnover ratio.

Connelly missed on point guard Shake Milton as a free-agent addition this offseason, but he was able to trade Milton in the deal for Morris.

To become the best team in franchise history, the Wolves will have to at least get to the Western Conference finals and put up a fight.

But this is already the best-constructed and deepest team in franchise history.

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The 2004 Wolves — the one true success story in franchise history — was built for a one-year run at a title. Kevin Garnett was at his most dominant, Flip Saunders was at his best, and Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell were on a mission to prove that they deserved one more long, lucrative, golden-parachute contracts.

When they realized the following offseason that the Wolves weren't going to pay them like stars, they mutinied, leading to Saunders getting fired and Garnett getting traded for essentially nothing.

The Conley deal is the latest proof that this Wolves team is nothing like that Wolves team.

Gobert is signed through the end of the 2024-25 season, and has a player option for $46 million the following season.

Conley is locked in for two more seasons.

Edwards is signed through 2029. Towns is signed through 2027, with a player option for the following season at $61 million. McDaniels is signed through 2029. Reid is signed through next season with a player option worth $15 million the following season.

The secret sauce of NBA success, if your team has top-tier talent, involves chemistry and cohesiveness.

With their most valuable players signed long-term, this team should have a fighting chance to stay at or near the top of the West for the next two or three years, without making any major changes.

That's why Conley's deal is a great signing, and a great sign.