It’s NBA Draft night tonight, and for the first time ever, the Timberwolves have the top overall pick. The widely shared expectation is they’ll use it on toolsy big man Karl-Anthony Towns.
That’s pretty exciting, and I don’t want to go out of my way to be a buzzkill, but fact of the matter is that despite all the losing and high draft picks the franchise has had over the years, the occasion hasn’t brought a lot of reasons for Wolves fans to celebrate.
Some years, however, have been rougher than others. What follows is my quick look at the top five most depressing drafts in Timberwolves history, with the ranking determined by situations that were depressing at the time, not just in hindsight.
5. The scandal years — 2001, 2002, and 2004
These years represent the three first-round picks the Timberwolves forfeited as a result of the Joe Smith scandal.
It was depressing to live through at the time, and perhaps even more so in hindsight — think of how much the relatively bereft roster surrounding Kevin Garnett could’ve been bolstered by three first-round talents!
4. 2003 — Ndudi Ebi
After two years in which the Wolves didn’t have a first-round pick thanks to the Smith scandal, the franchise picked 23rd overall in 2003.
With that selection, Wolves brass selected a player so obscure, even NBA Commissioner David Stern was caught totally off guard:
Ebi’s NBA career went on to last all of 19 games. The three players selected immediately after him were Kendrick Perkins, Leandro Barbosa, and Josh Howard, all of whom went on to have productive NBA careers.
3. 2007 — Corey Brewer over Joakim Noah
Coming into the 2007 NBA Draft, Corey Brewer and Joakim Noah were both raw prospects who had a lot of success as Florida Gators.
But Noah had superior size and the potential to be a rim-protecting defensive anchor, while there were questions about how Brewer’s frenetic game would translate to the NBA. I remember being solidly pro-Noah at the time, with visions of a Garnett-Noah frontline dancing through my head. (The Wolves ended up trading KG about two months later.)
Instead, then GM Kevin McHale opted for Brewer, who struggled mightily early in his career for terrible Timberwolves teams before developing into a solid role player — a far cry from Noah, who has been one of the league’s best big men for the better part of a decade.
Bonus entry — 1992 — Ended up with the third overall pick and selected Christian Laettner when the draft was widely regarded to have two stud players at the top, Shaq and Alonzo Mourning. Losers, indeed.
2. 2010 — Wes Johnson over DeMarcus Cousins
DeMarcus Cousins was universally regarded as having a much higher upside than 23-year-old college senior Wes Johnson at the time, but there were questions about whether he could keep his head screwed on straight.
Johnson was the type of long, athletic prospect that GM David KAAAHN coveted, and so with the fourth pick, he opted for him over Cousins, who went one pick later to Sacramento.
Cousins mostly hasn’t kept his head screwed on straight, but that hasn’t stopped him from developing into one of the league’s elite athletic bigs. Meanwhile, as many predicted, Johnson never really developed and is lucky to still be cashing NBA paychecks at this point.
It was a totally uninspiring selection when it happened and looks even worse in hindsight.
1. 2009 — Flynn over Curry
Speaking of selections that look even worse in hindsight!
I was among the many who were huge fans of Stephen Curry’s game, but Kahn apparently fell in love with Jonny Flynn’s smile and used the sixth pick on the undersized point guard out of Syracuse. Curry, meanwhile, went one pick later to Golden State. We all know how that turned out.
Forget NBA championships and MVP awards — just think, if Kahn made the selection 99 out of 100 NBA pundits would’ve made at the time, we’d be able to claim Riley Curry as our own.
For the record, I hope GM Flip Saunders resists the urge to overthink things and simply selects Towns tonight. In other words, as fun as the video clip is, I don’t want to see this scenario unfold:
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) June 23, 2015