Feb 25, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio (9) drives on Phoenix Suns shooting guard Goran Dragic (1) during the fist quarter at US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Will this year's Timberwolves be last year's Suns?

Addition by subtraction is a tricky thing in basketball, but it’s not so uncommon.

We saw it in Phoenix when the Suns went young and traded Jared Dudley, Marcin Gortat and Luis Scola last offseason. The Toronto Raptors’ dealing of Rudy Gay led to a similar twist in fortunes in the Eastern Conference. There very well could be a similar occurrence next season for a team whose success and failures directly impact the Suns.

Phoenix will own the Minnesota Timberwolves’ draft pick if it doesn’t end up being a top-12 selection in 2015. If it does fall into protected territory, the Suns will have another stab at landing the T’Wolves’ first-round choice in 2016 under the same conditions. Phoenix will get two second-round picks if Minnesota’s pick is in the top-12 in each of the next two drafts.

So, as you probably know already, the Timberwolves’ success would be advantageous to the Suns.

The expected trade of Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers certainly gives Minnesota president and coach Flip Saunders a more likely shot of keeping both first-round picks. Depending on how the possible changes to the draft lottery affect the outcome, and depending on luck in general, the trade won’t completely close the door on Phoenix’s chances.

The addition by subtraction the Suns experienced in 2013-14 could happen to the Timberwolves this coming year.

The two-deep rotation is enough to wonder, and Minnesota improved itself in the two areas Phoenix did last year — youth and athleticism went a long way to fixing the problems on both ends of the court. Starting fresh with a new coach could also be fruitful. Ricky Rubio can act as playmaker, Nikola Pekovic will take on more responsibility, and there will be enough scoring talent on the perimeter from Kevin Martin and company. What can change the T’Wolves’ fortunes the most will be in the development of second-year pros Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng, both of whom could push for bigger roles. Add Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine — a longshot to see rotation time this year — to the mix, and there’s a legitimate case for Minnesota to be winning quite soon.

Minnesota is reportedly ready to acquire Sixers forward Thaddeus Young by redirecting Cavs forward Anthony Bennett, who is to be included in the Love deal, to Philadelphia. That, plus the development of players the Timberwolves will retain from last year, should be enough to make them a worthwhile team to keep an eye on.

I’m not the only one who is impressed and intrigued by what Minnesota has in place to remain a very competitive team this coming season despite losing an All-NBA talent.

RealGM’s Jonathan Tjarks also believes the T’Wolves have something positive brewing.

It’s a best of both worlds scenario for the Wolves, as they can grow a group of promising young players for the future without sacrificing wins in the present. LaVine, Wiggins and Dieng can all start their careers in small roles on a team full of veterans, instead of being forced to carry heavy loads on one of the worst teams in the NBA. And with those three on the roster, Minnesota is the rare rebuilding team that won’t have to sweat the results of the lottery too hard.

If this year’s Timberwolves ends up like last year’s Suns, then Phoenix has a shot to cash in on the Robin Lopez-Wesley Johnson trade from a few summers ago. The ‘Wolves surprising by reaching the 40-win mark in the next year or two could just be enough to eek out a bottom-two selection in the lottery.

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