I wrote this on Thursday, so I did not know at the time how the draft went for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Stating that the Wolves botched the draft yet again is just a reflex at this point.
It does seem like the Wolves did a solid job last night. With the 20th pick they grabbed Josh Okogie, a Georgia Tech guard who has the ability to be a 3-and-D guy. With their second round pick, they were able to steal Ohio State Forward Keita Bates-Diop. Both guys have styles of play that fit great with the current NBA structure, so although it is way too early to tell, it seems that the Wolves did the best they could with their picks.
Often, the best teams in the league are built on draft success and it only takes drafting the right star to become a prominent NBA team for many years (see Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan, LeBron James, Karl Anthony-Towns etc).
For a recent example, take a look at the Golden State Warriors. Most people get angry when you talk about the Warriors, since Kevin Durant, a top 3 player in the league, joined the 73-9 Warriors and have won the past two NBA titles.
However, the Warriors built their team through the draft and won a title without Durant. In 2012, they drafted Draymond Green in the 2nd round at 35th overall. In 2011, they drafted sharpshooter Klay Thompson 11th overall. Lastly, in a year that Wolves fans vividly remember (and have been trying to forget), the Warriors drafted two-time MVP Stephen Curry 7th overall.
I can’t be the only one to remember exactly where I was on that fateful night. I was at my cousin’s house and we were thrilled to have the 5th and 6th overall picks. This is not common in any sport, especially in the NBA, where two top 10 picks can turn around the fortune of a franchise immediately. My cousins and I pleaded with our TV that one of the two picks be Steph Curry. We looked up at the sky and prayed. We promised to change our ways forever if this draft just worked out once for us, because they historically didn’t.
With the 5th pick, we watched David Stern announce that the Timberwolves selected Ricky Rubio, point guard from Spain. A young and promising guard, it was hard to be super upset about this pick. Minnesota needed point guard help and Rubio could maybe answer that call.
Now, we assured ourselves that Curry would be next. “We need the shooting. They don’t really play the same position necessarily, so they can play together. Rubio is the passing guard and Curry is the shooter.”
With the 6th pick in the 2009 draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select: Jonny Flynn, guard, from the University of Syracuse.
Our hearts sunk immediately. Upon missing on the best shooter in NBA history, twice, the Wolves managed to select two non-shooting point guards with two top ten picks.
That is the worst it has ever been, potentially for any team in history. Teams have missed on amazing players many times. One example is Sam Bowie (Who?) going 2nd overall to the Portland Trail Blazers. Some guy named Michael Jordan went 3rd overall to the Chicago Bulls. You know how that story played out.
But nobody has missed on back-to-back picks in the catastrophic way that your Minnesota Timberwolves did.
In the Wolves defense, it has been better in recent years. The Wolves traded for Jimmy Butler on draft night last season, using players we drafted in Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn. They also have traded a disgruntled Kevin Love for the 1st overall pick in 2015 Andrew Wiggins. Lastly, the drafted some guy named Karl Anthony-Towns 1st overall in 2016.
Last night seemed to continue this new trend of draft success. They needed to add some shooting, defense, and bench depth and seemingly did so with Okogie and Bates-Diop. Or they can invest in a time machine, go back to June 25th 2009 and do what every other NBA franchise would have done.
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