Timberwolves

The History of the Minnesota Timberwolves Having Multiple First-Round Picks Isn't Great

Photo credit: Brace Hemmelgarn (USA TODAY Sports)

With the Brooklyn Nets clinching a playoff spot in the bubble, the Minnesota Timberwolves have secured two first-round picks.

One pick will be their own (it will land 1-7), while Minnesota acquired Brooklyn’s lottery protected pick at the trade deadline in the Robert Covington/Malik Beasley trade.

This won’t be the first time the Timberwolves have had more than one first-round pick. In fact, there have been six times in team history that Minnesota has had more than one first-round pick heading into a draft.

(This does not include drafts like in 2015 when the Timberwolves drafted Karl-Anthony Towns first overall, and would later trade for the rights to Tyus Jones.)

Let’s reflect on these not-so-fond memories:

1990

6th pick: Felton Spencer

20th pick: Gerald Glass

How the Wolves got the picks:

6th pick: After finishing 22-60, this was Minnesota’s own pick.

20th pick: The Timberwolves acquired the 20th pick in exchange for Rick Mahorn via the 76ers. Minnesota drafted Mahorn in the expansion draft but he had less than zero interest in playing for the Timberwolves. And it made sense. Playing for an expansion team after spending four years playing for the Pistons, who had just won the NBA championship, doesn’t sound like a lot of fun.

I can tell you what also wasn’t very much fun: Drafting Gerald Glass.

How did the picks work out?

Before we go forward, let’s just talk about how bad this draft class was. The player with the most win shares in the draft was Gary Payton. That’s good.

After that we’re stuck with Derrick Coleman, Elden Campbell and Toni Kukoc. Yuck.

Spencer played just three seasons for the Wolves and averaged 6.0 points and 6.6 rebounds during that time. The Timberwolves ended up trading Spencer to the Jazz for center Mike Brown who averaged 3.1 points in two seasons with the Wolves. Fun times, fun times.

Glass was actually pretty okay in his second season with the Timberwolves, averaging 11.5 points per game.The forward ended up being traded to the Pistons in 1992, though, and would hop around the league until 1996.

It turned out Felton and Glass weren’t a great one-two punch. Let’s move along.

1999

6th pick: Wally Szczerbiak

14th pick: William Avery

How the Wolves got the picks:

6th pick: The Timberwolves acquired the pick in the trade sent Stephon Marbury to the New Jersey Nets. Minnesota also acquired Terrell Brandon in the deal.

14th pick: After finishing 25-25 the season prior, this was Minnesota’s own pick.

How did the picks work out?

It’s hard to knock the Szczerbiak pick. While players like Richard Hamilton and Shawn Marion were picked after him (seventh and ninth, respectively), let’s not forget that there were rumors that Szczerbiak could go first overall. In an interview last summer, Szczerbiak told me after a dinner with Chicago GM Jerry Krause, he was convinced the Bulls were going to take him.

Szczerbiak played six-plus seasons with the Wolves and averaged 15.5 points per game during that stretch while shooting 40.4% from the 3-point line. With how good of a shooter he was, it’s hard not to wonder how good he could have been even if he was drafted 10 years later.

Still, he was a one-time All-Star and became a fan-favorite to a fan base who desperately needed someone to cheer for other than Kevin Garnett.

As for Avery, well, about that. Avery appeared in 142 games over three seasons for the Wolves but never averaged more than 8.5 minutes per game in season. After three seasons with Minnesota, Avery never found his way back into the league. Not a great sign considering he was only 22 years old.

What if the Timberwolves had drafted Ron Artest, who went two picks later, instead of Avery? Do the Timberwolves win a championship?

2009

5th pick: Ricky Rubio

6th pick: Jonny Flynn

18th pick: Ty Lawson

28th pick: Wayne Ellington

How the Wolves got the picks:

5th pick: A day before the draft, the Wolves acquired the pick from the Wizards in exchange for Randy Foye and Mike Miller. This was one of David Kahn’s rare good moves! Don’t worry — he’ll ruin it soon enough.

6th pick: After finishing 24-58, this was Minnesota’s own pick.

18th pick: The Wolves landed this pick in 2007 from the Heat in exchange for Ricky Davis and Mark Blount. Minnesota also acquired Michael Doleac, Wayne Simien and a really out-of-shape Antoine Walker.

28th pick: This was one of two first-round picks the Wolves acquired from Boston by sending Kevin Garnett to Boston. Spoiler alert: The Timberwolves lost this trade.

How did the picks work out?

Before we go any further, it’s important you know something here. The TImberwolves DID NOT draft Stephen Curry with the fifth or sixth pick. MY GOODNESS GRACIOUS CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?!

Everyone should tweet that every time Curry does something good in an NBA game, especially if that NBA game involves the Timberwolves.

In all seriousness, the fact that the Timberwolves passed on Curry twice makes this draft a colossal failure. There’s a world in which the Wolves could have drafted Curry and DeMar DeRozan.

To be fair to the Timberwolves, the Grizzlies drafted Hasheem Thabeet second overall and the Kings drafted Evans fourth, so let’s not give them a get out of jail free card here.

Let’s go player-by-player.

Oh, Ricky and your ever-changing hair. How confusing your time in Minnesota was. It took Rubio two years to come over to Minnesota from Spain and when he finally arrived … he was awesome! As a rookie, he averaged 10.6 points, 8.2 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game. Unfortunately, his season was cut short after tearing his ACL. I was at the game and I can tell you it was one of the most devastating events to be at in-person. Everyone knew the injury was something significant. What especially stunk was that the Wolves were eighth place at the time of Rubio’s injury. It would have been the first time since 2004 that the team would have made the playoffs. Of course, they didn’t. They also sold out seven games that season. That might not sound like much, but for the Timberwolves, seven sellouts is a lot! People in Minneapolis were buzzing, but eventually, the buzz wore off.

The problem with Rubio was that he never really got better. He was an elite passer and an above-average defensive player, but he was never a real threat to score offensively, despite him working so incredibly hard on his jumper.

After six never not-quite-good-enough seasons with the Timberwolves, the team traded him to the Jazz in order to sign Jeff Teague.

Even if he fit Tom Thibodeau’s approach better than Rubio, Teague wasn’t the most likable player and was the opposite of Rubio in the way he carried himself. I think that bugged Timberwolves’ fans.

Regardless, Rubio had a solid stretch in Minnesota and he was probably picked where he should have been.

The most ironic thing about this draft is how Kahn thought Rubio and Flynn could play together. Maybe they could have, but they never got the chance to. Flynn played just two seasons in Minnesota before being traded to the Rockets. His last NBA game was in 2012.

This is well-documented, but I think people forget that Flynn actually had a really good rookie season — he averaged 13.5 points and 4.4 assists while shooting 35.8% from the 3-point line. I’m convinced he would have had a really solid NBA career (although not better than Curry, lol) had it not been for a hip injury.

The Timberwolves drafted another point guard, Lawson, with the 18th overall pick. They never had any intent on keeping him (but there were some “wait, is David Kahn drafting three point guards in the first round?!” moments on draft night). Lawson was dealt to the Nuggets for a 2010 first-round pick.

And then there was Ellington, who put together a nice three-year stretch with the Wolves. In his first two seasons, he shot 39.6% from the 3-point line. However, a 3-point specialist wasn’t super useful for a team that couldn’t really do anything else. The Wolves shipped Ellington off to the Grizzlies in 2012 in exchange for forward Dante Cunningham.

If Stephen Curry wasn’t in this draft class, maybe we don’t think of this draft as one of the worst memories for a Minnesota sports fan. But Curry was in this class and it will continue to be a painful, sad, and if you have a few beers, funny moment in franchise history.

2010

4th pick: Wesley Johnson

16th pick: Luke Babbitt

How the Wolves got the picks:

4th pick: After finishing 15-67 the season before, this was the Timberwolves’ pick.

16th pick: The Timberwolves received this pick via the Nuggets in exchange for Lawson the season prior. The Wolves gained two spots by trading it, but that didn’t do them a whole lot of good, now did it?

How did the picks work out?

Going into the draft, the knock on Johnson was that he was already 23 years old and his ceiling was basically the floor. It turns out that when enough people have a knock on a player sometimes you should be worried.

Johnson was fine, but he wasn’t a top-5 pick. In two seasons with Minnesota, he averaged 7.7 points per game. Two years later, the Timberwolves traded Johnson to the Suns along with a protected first-round pick (which THANK GOD became two second-round picks) just to create cap space in free agency.

With that, the Timberwolves signed Andrei Kirilenko. I’m a big Kirilenko fan so I’m not going to hate on the move too much. But it just shows how little value that Johnson had when you had to attach a first-round pick to a trade just for a team to accept it.

Babbit was another “never played for the Timberwolves” hero. On draft night, he was traded to the Blazers, along with Ryan Gomes, for Martell Webster.

Martell Webster gave us this moment so I guess things worked out just fine.

2011

2nd pick: Derrick Williams

20th pick: Donatas Motiejunas

How the Wolves got the picks:

2nd pick: After finishing 17-65 the season before, this was Minnesota’s own pick.

20th pick: When the Timberwolves moved on from Al Jefferson in 2010, they traded him to the Jazz in exchange for this pick, a 2012 first-round pick (which ended up being Terrence Jones) and Kosta Koufos.

How did the picks work out?

Mannnn. . . .

If only the Wolves had landed the No. 1 pick.

Kyrie Irving and Williams were the consensus 1-2 pick, respectively, so it’s not like the Wolves made the wrong move here. Well, they did, but everyone else would have, too. It just so happened that Williams turned out to be neither good nor motivated.

The Wolves gave up on Williams just two years after drafting him which is the ultimate “yeah, we screwed up, let’s move on” trade. Surely the team who acquired Williams just two years after he went second overall had to pay something. Nope! Just Luc Mbah a Moute!

Again, it’s hard to blame the Wolves for this pick. The next six picks in the draft were Enes Kanter, Tristan Thompson, Jonas Valančiūnas, Jan Vesely, Bismack Biyombo and Brandon Knight.

Then again, Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson and Kawhi Leonard were all taken in the top-15, so there’s that.

Montieujunas was traded on draft night along with Flynn for Brad Miller, Nikola Mirotić, Chandler Parsons and the 2013 pick that ended up being Andre Roberson (more on him soon).

2013

9th pick: Trey Burke

26th pick: Andre Roberson

How the Wolves got the picks:

9th pick: After finishing 31-51 in 2012-13, this was Minnesota’s pick.

26th pick: In a wild trade on 2011 draft night, the Rockets traded this pick along with Brad Miller, Nikola Mirotic and Chandler Parsons to Minnesota in exchange for Flynn, Motiejunas and a 2012 second-round pick. Of course, the Timberwolves decided not to keep Mirotic or Parsons. They probably should have.

How did the picks work out?

Well, the Timberwolves didn’t keep either player. The Wolves ended up training Burke to Utah for the draft rights to Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad. This was after Flip Saunders said that he wouldn’t draft Muhammad. I mean, technically he didn’t.

Both of these players showed plenty of promise early. In 2014-15, Muhammad, who was picked 14th overall (one spot ahead of Giannis Antetokounmpo!) averaged 13.5 points per game while shooting 39.2% from the 3-point before undergoing season-ending thumb surgery.

However, the Thibodeau era wasn’t friendly to Muhammad who was off of Minnesota’s roster by the end of the 2018 season and hasn’t played in the NBA since.

Dieng was selected 21st overall and played in 498 games with the Wolves, including 204 starts. During that time, he averaged 7.9 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. While he was never a star in his six-plus season with the Wolves, he was always professional. When it comes to that trade Muhammad was the disappointment — not Dieng.

The Timberwolves traded Dieng to the Grizzlies at the 2020 trade deadline to acquire James Johnson.

As for Roberson, he was traded along with Malcolm Lee to the Warriors for the rights to someone named Alessandro Gentile. He was traded to the Thunder later on draft night. When healthy, Roberson is considered one of the better defenders in the NBA and should play a big role for the Thunder in the postseason.

I would love to tell you that the Timberwolves will take advantage of having two first-round picks. However, history tells us that’s rarely the case.

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Photo credit: Brace Hemmelgarn (USA TODAY Sports)

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