Timberwolves

Remember When the Wolves Drafted Shabazz Muhammad Right Before Giannis?

Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch (USA TODAY Sports)

Do we need to go down this road, looking back at when the Minnesota Timberwolves drafted Shabazz Muhammad with the No. 14 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft only to see Giannis Antetokounmpo taken directly after at No. 15? Absolutely not.

Are we going to anyway? Yes.

The 2009 draft will live on in infamy for Wolves fans, of course. Minnesota had the No. 5 and No. 6 overall picks, and not only did they draft two players only to see Stephen Curry get picked at No. 7 and go on to be a two-time MVP and three-time NBA champion, but they drafted two POINT GUARDS ahead of him.

It’s one thing to whiff on one pick by taking Jonny Flynn while getting Ricky Rubio with the other. Teams miss on picks all the time. But that Minnesota took two point guards with those picks only to see the now greatest shooter of all time, a point guard, get taken directly after serves to douse salt into that wound.

Now, the 2013 NBA Draft for the Wolves would like to enter the chat.

Let’s ease into this knockout punch by breaking down that draft.

Looking back on it eight years later, the 2013 NBA Draft up top was one of the most underwhelming classes in years. Anthony Bennett was taken No. 1 overall; he’s not even in the league anymore. Victor Oladipo went No. 2; he’s an oft-injured guard who’s already played for five teams in his eight years in the association. It didn’t get much better after that. Otto Porter Jr.¬†went No. 3, Cody Zeller went next, and Alex Len rounded out the top five.

Sitting at No. 14, the Wolves had acquired the pick from the Utah Jazz. Minnesota had been at No. 9 overall and took Trey Burke, the dynamic guard from Michigan who is still in the league but is a seldom-used reserve. They completed a trade with the Jazz, sending Burke to Utah for the No. 14 and No. 21 picks. The selected Muhammad, a forward from UCLA, with the 14th pick. The Milwaukee Bucks used the next pick on some guy out of Greece named Giannis.

Muhammad is currently 28 years old and playing in the Chinese Basketball Association. He hasn’t played in the NBA since the 2018 season, coincidentally, with the Bucks. Meanwhile, Antetokounmpo is a two-time MVP, an NBA Finals MVP, and an NBA Finals champion. He is probably fighting off a nifty hangover right now after eliminating the Phoenix Suns in Game 6 of the finals on Tuesday night.

It’s the way of life for Minnesota sports fans and one they have dealt with for a long time. And look, 14 other teams passed on the Greek Freak, too. But there are the intricate details that tie in Minnesota and make it so much worse.

Had the Wolves stayed at No. 9 with Trey Burke, nobody is badgering them about Giannis right now. Sure, Burke didn’t pan out, but neither did Bennett, Len, or several other players taken ahead of Antetokounmpo. Minnesota gets roped in because they selected a forward right before Antetokounmpo was drafted. It wasn’t two picks before or three. It was the right before Giannis was taken.

The same idea always links the Wolves and the Curry draft. Had they taken Rubio and Flynn at No. 3 and No. 4, there’s still some link because all three, including Steph, are point guards. It just makes it so much more agonizing to remember it was picks No. 5 and No. 6 where Rubio and Flynn went before Curry went directly after to the Golden State Warriors at No. 7.

If you’re a Wolves fan and you made it this far, a tip of the cap is more than deserved. Let’s finish with the positives within all of this.

In an era in the NBA where super teams dominate, and superstars jump ship from one team to another to create a monster, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and the Bucks did it the hard way. They did it by building through the draft, adding a free agent like Jrue Holiday, and putting the pieces together. And they did it in a market in Milwaukee that isn’t Los Angeles, Miami, or New York. They did it in a “smaller” market that’s comparable to Minnesota.

The Wolves have their star players, pillars that they drafted in Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns. They’ve added a star via trade in D’Angelo Russell. Now, they, too, need to find a way to blend all the ingredients with head coach Chris Finch and start to climb the ladder in the Western Conference.

Milwaukee proved that with a superstar that Minnesota and others passed on, you don’t have to have a super team to win it all. You don’t have to be in L.A.; you don’t have to have Curry and Klay Thompson and then acquire Kevin Durant. It can still be done through draft and development and, most importantly, faith and stability. The Wolves should be thrilled at the blueprint the Bucks have laid out, all while wondering what could’ve been if Minnesota had drafted the Greek Freak.

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Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch (USA TODAY Sports)

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