Photo credit: Sports Mockery

The Minnesota Timberwolves are getting plenty of praise from the media and fans due to their draft day trade.

They traded guards Zach Lavine and Kris Dunn, along with their No. 7 overall pick to the Chicago Bulls for All-Star forward Jimmy Butler and the No. 16 pick.

These past 13 years have been pretty rough for the Wolves and their fans. They have not made it to the playoffs since the 2003-2004 season, (longest current drought in the league) when they made it to the Western Conference Finals (first time they advanced past the first round) led by MVP Kevin Garnett, Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell.

Everything went completely south after that. The Wolves went 44-38 the following season and have not had a winning season since. Their best season in the years since was in 2013-2014 when they went 40-42. Kevin Love became frustrated and asked for a trade shortly afterwards. They traded him to the Cleveland Cavaliers and got Andrew Wiggins in return. Wiggins was named Rookie of the Year, but the Wolves had the worst record in the league at 16-66.

No problem though. The Wolves won the lottery for the first time in franchise history and selected Karl-Anthony Towns, who ended up being the Rookie of the Year, as well. Love’s request certainly has helped them.

The Wolves hired Tom Thibodeau last year, but only won two more games than the previous season (31-51). They still had some very nice pieces in Wiggins, Towns and Lavine to build on, despite Lavine’s ACL injury. Lavine was very popular in Minnesota because of his highlight dunks and scoring ability, but involving him in the Butler trade was well worth it and makes them a better team. Oh, by the way they still had a first round pick. Pretty impressive.

Butler was drafted by the Bulls in 2011 (30th overall) out of Marquette. He has been an All-Star the last three seasons, is a three-time NBA All-Defensive Second Team selection and was the Most Improved Player in 2014-2015 (his last season with Thibodeau).

He has averaged 20 points a game or more the past three seasons, including 23.9 this past season, a career-high. He will not only help the offense and defense, but will also give them a veteran presence to help lead the young guys, and his familiarity with Thibodeau’s system will help him. This also injects much more excitement into the fan base.

The Wolves ticket sales staff has been very busy since the trade. They will also have new uniforms this season and will play in a renovated Target Center. The new era of the Wolves looks like it will be very exciting, which is a long-time coming for the fans and organization.

Here are the Wolves attendance averages since the 2003-2004 season:

2003-2004: 17,635 (11th in the league)

2004-2005: 17,181 (15th)

2005-2006: 16,150 (25th)

2006-2007: 15,998 (24th)

2007-2008: 14,476 (25th)

2008-2009: 14,505 (27th)

2009-2010: 15,101 (25th)

2010-2011: 15,242 (24th)

2011-2012: 17,490 (15th)

2012-2013: 16,340 (21st)

2013-2014: 14,564 (27th)

2014-2015: 14,528 (29th)

2015-2016: 14,175 (29th)

2016-2017: 14,809 (29th)

With a better team and arena, the Target Center is going to be rocking this season and give the Wolves a nice homecourt advantage.

The future looks very bright with Wiggins, Towns and now Butler in town. The Wolves look like a playoff team and if they add some nice pieces to come off the bench, they could perhaps win a playoff series or two this season.

The days of hoping for guys like Rashad McCants, Randy Foye, Corey Brewer, Jonny Flynn and Wes Johnson to be stars are over for this franchise. If rookie Justin Patton even turns out to be an ok player, that will really help. They have the main pieces now to build towards and just need some more players to add depth off the bench.

Ali Siddiqui, @asiddiqui15