Land of 10,000 Mistakes

Not every NBA draft pick turns into a Hall of Famer, a five-time all star or even a starter. A lot of making these picks is just luck. However, there seems to be one team who just cannot seem to get it right. The Minnesota Timberwolves seem to manage to blow the draft worse than anyone else in the Association. You might think I’m crazy but hear me out.

Shaquille O'Neal
O’Neal won three straight championships in LA.

The Wolves were founded in 1989 in the heart of the Twin Cities. In the past 26 years, they have found some spectacular ways to strikeout when it comes to the NBA draft. Some of it was bad luck, some of it was stupidity.

Fast forward to 1996, when the T-wolves found themselves on the clock with the fifth overall pick. They drafted a guard out of the University of Connecticut who looked like a promising shooter. However, they were enamored with the player who went the selection before them, a kid named Stephon Marbury. So they swung a trade with Milwaukee to get Marbury, which included the UConn guard. Marbury left Minnesota after three years when he said he wanted to sign somewhere else so the team traded him. Oh and the guard they sent to Milwaukee turned out to be NBA all-time three point leader Ray Allen.

Ray_Allen
Allen joined forces with Paul Pierce and fellow Timberwolves draft pick Kevin Garnett to win a title in Boston.

The year Marbury left, 1999, Minnesota owned the sixth pick and selected Wally Szczerbiak. Szczerbiak was by no means a bad player, but some other notable names that went that year include Elton Brand, Lamar Odom, Baron Davis, Richard Hamilton, Andre Miller, Shawn Marion, Jason Terry, Steve Francis and Metta World Peace. Yet somehow, Minnesota ended up with the kid from Miami University.

After several years of avoiding the lottery altogether, the Timberwolves found themselves with the sixth pick in the 2006 draft. They selected Brandon Roy and sent him to Portland. That ended up being the right move because Roy spent six injury-marred season in the league before retiring. However, the Wolves missed out on Rudy Gay, J.J. Redick, Rajon Rondo and Kyle Lowry. All of those players were drafted after Roy.

Stephen_Curry
Curry is the league’s reigning MVP.

The 2000s just got worse for Minnesota. In 2007, they drafted Corey Brewer. Brewer has had a solid career, carving out a role as a reliable bench player Joakim Noah went two picks later and the Wolves missed out on another All-Star.

2008 went pretty well for Minnesota as they gave up O.J. Mayo and got Kevin Love in return. That small bright spot was quickly forgotten in 2009 when the Wolves managed to have their worst draft ever. The Timberwolves had four first round draft picks. They selected Johnny Flynn, Ricky Rubio, Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington. On draft night, they sent Lawson to Denver, where he became a star point guard. They kept Rubio and Flynn, whom they selected with consecutive picks. Flynn flamed out of the league after three years and Rubio has never developed into a reliable shooter. The player that went after those two: Stephen Curry.

Kevin Garnett
Garnett made it past the first round once in eight years with the Wolves.

The following year wasn’t much better. The Wolves took Wesley Johnson fourth overall and he ended up being a dud. Players who were picked in the top ten after Johnson included DeMarcus Cousins, Greg Monroe, Gordon Hayward and Paul George. Cousins and George have both been All-Stars while Monroe and Hayward have been the cornerstones for their respective franchises for the past few years.

The last two years have brought some optimism to the franchise with the selections of Zach LaVine and Karl-Anthony Towns. Underscored in all of that is the return of the one true draft success Minnesota has in its history. Kevin Garnett was the face of the franchise for the Wolves for many years, becoming one of the league’s best players. Unfortunately, even Garnett’s greatness is not enough to wipe out all the years of draft failure from the Minnesota ledger.

Salvaging the Wolves

The Minnesota Timberwolves are bad. That’s it. Plain and simple. This team is currently tied with the hapless Knicks for the worst record in the NBA with just two games to go in the season. Obviously, the Timberwolves do not have much left to play for this season. That doesn’t mean that these games don’t mean something for the players. In a lot of ways, this is a tryout to see who might be on the team next year. It also could help the Minnesota front office figure out what to do with some of the veterans on the team. Guys like Ricky Rubio, Nikola Peckovic and Kevin Martin have all had good runs with the team but none of them have really lived up to the money they are paid. With some of the guys they have rising through the ranks, it might be time for the Wolves to start looking elsewhere.

Kevin_Martin

Kevin Martin, Shooting Guard
Age: 32
Decision: Sell
Kevin Martin has shown the ability to light up the scoreboard and be a great offensive piece for Minnesota. However, with his age and overall ineffectiveness shooting the basketball, his value significantly drops for this rebuilding team. Martin has shot only 42.3 percent from the field this season. He also provides little when it comes to assists and rebounds on a night-to-night basis. The other major concern for Martin is his health. He only has appeared in 38 games this year, marking the fifth time in his career that Martin has been unable to play in more than 51 games. He simply is not a player Minnesota can consistently rely on. He should be moved, maybe in a deal with the next player on this list.

Ricky_Rubio

Ricky Rubio, Point Guard
Age: 24
Decision: Sell
Despite being one of the most promising point guards when he entered the league four years ago, Ricky Rubio has never really been able to convert the potential into talent. Entering his fourth year in the NBA, Rubio showed signs of being ready to take a big step. Instead, he was injured once again and has spent another injury-riddled season mostly on the bench. The Timberwolves are running out of time to wait on him to develop as well. In his only season where he played a full slate of games, Rubio failed to average more than ten points per game and shot a mediocre 38 percent from the field. And then here’s a scary stat, that was a career-high for Rubio when it comes to shooting percentage. Meanwhile, rookie point guard Zach LaVine has caught fire recently. The athletic freak has averaged 19 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds on 44.5 percent shooting over the past 10 games. It looks like Minnesota might already have Rubio’s replacement in house.

Nikola_Pekovic

Nikola Pekovic, Center
Age: 29
Decision: Sell
While he might be one of their best offensive assets but with one of the top picks in this year’s draft, the Timberwolves can replace Nikola Pekovic. Through five years in the NBA, Pekovic has never played more than 65 games in one season. He shot a career worst 42.4 percent from the field and his season ended very early due to an Achilles injury. The Wolves also owe Pekovic roughly $12 million each of the next three seasons. That’s a lot to be paying for a player who is not on the court very often. He also saw his scoring drop to the lowest since his rookie year and his rebounding totals dip to the lowest since 2011. Overall, Pek is not really improving at this point in his career. With either Jahlil Okafor or Karl-Anthony Towns likely set to wear a Timberwolves jersey next season, Pekovic could be expendable.

Kevin Garnett

Kevin Garnett, Power Forward
Age: 38
Decision: Keep
Even though he is going to be 39 years old next season, Kevin Garnett provides some value for this young Timberwolves team. He doesn’t do a ton on the court anymore when it comes to converting on the court but when he does play, Garnett has been fairly effective. He is more suited as a sixth man or role player next year but after shooting 58 percent from the floor and providing almost eight points per game in limited minutes since returning to Minnesota, he has made a difference. Plus, his veteran leadership and championship experience are invaluable. Garnett can bring a bit of fire to this team and improve them from a mental aspect. He might not be worth the $12 million price tag he has at the moment, but bringing him back would be a smart move.

The Timberwolves are going to look like a very different team next year pretty much no matter what. Gary Neal and Garnett are set to be free agents and if Chase Budinger opts out this club would have some holes to fix. With what is shaping up to be a fairly strong draft class, trading away some of the veterans for a couple of middle of the order draft picks could be a great way for Minnesota to restart and rebuild.

Nets looking to restart?

The rumors have quieted a little bit but apparently, the Brooklyn Nets might be looking to hit the reset button. The Nets front office locked up what was occasionally referred to as “The Big 5.” It began years ago when the Nets picked Brook Lopez in the 2008 NBA Draft. Brooklyn traded with Utah back in 2011 to land Deron Williams. The front office stepped up and traded for Atlanta’s Joe Johnson in 2012. The Nets finished collecting superstars in 2013 when they made a draft night trade to acquire Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce from the Boston Celtics. This group has been together for less than two full years. That is a pretty small window of opportunity to prove that this group win a title, but it seems like they are running out of time fast.

Pierce already jumped ship and joined the Washington Wizards as a free agent this past off-season. Lopez has been injury prone playing only 33 games since the start of last season. Williams’ ankles have rendered him slow and unable to cope with the same number of minutes he once played. Garnett is starting to show his age. Not many players can still contribute at 38 years old. Johnson is the only one who has continued to perform in a Nets uniform into 2014. He is the only one of this starting five (well now four with Pierce gone) that I can see staying with the Nets past this years’ trade deadline. At least the only one the Nets might want to keep. Plus, his contract is difficult to move. Lopez might not be able to be moved because of his injury history. Brooklyn should find suitors for Garnett and Williams. Neither one of them can carry a team the NBA anymore but they can both contribute to a title contending team. Here is where I could see those two moving.

Williams could go to another team in the Eastern Conference such as Indiana who has been devastated by injuries at guard this year. Williams could also move to the other team from the Eastern Conference Finals last season in Miami. The Heat has been looking for an upgrade at point guard over Mario Chalmers for years. Shabazz Napier could become that player in a few seasons but he is not that player right now. Houston has been busy recently with trades but it could potentially be in play for a move for Williams. Having him setting James Harden and Dwight Howard is a scary thought. I think the most likely possibility here is Miami as they are the ones with the most tradable pieces.

For Lopez, if he is moved. I could see him landing in Golden State. The Warriors tried hard to land Kevin Love but instead they could land Lopez and make a title run if he can stay healthy. The Lakers have also been in the market for anyone who is not currently under contract. Getting a big man who can score in the paint won’t get the Lakers to the playoffs but it will get them on the right track and maybe help them acquire another big name player in the off season. The Suns could also be in play for Lopez. Phoenix could use an upgrade at center and could move Eric Bledsoe finally as has been rumored for about a year now.

Lastly, Garnett might find his way back to one of his former teams. I could see him playing for either Minnesota or Boston in his final few seasons as a way for the organizations draw fans while they rebuild. I could also see him joining Toronto if it chooses to add another frontcourt weapon before making a playoff run. The Raptors currently sit atop the Eastern Conference but a deeper team featuring Amir Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas and Garnett rotating in could be scary for teams to deal with.

I don’t know if the Nets organization will definitely hit the panic button and restart but I think it might be a wise move. The longer this team stays together, the more Brooklyn is putting off attempting to find young talent to replace this aging crew. I think the Nets need a fresh start. Building around Joe Johnson for the time being could be the plan. They might also hope that building around Lopez is still an option. Either way, this team needs to start moving in a different direction.