The 2019 NFL Draft has finally arrived as 32 franchises will either be looking for the next big thing to help revitalize their franchise’s hopes, or in search of a certain talented piece to put them over the top.
You’ve seen plenty of mock drafts, know the team needs inside and out, and even might even have your own big board. That’s all great.
This isn’t about that. Draft day is also a great time to look back at what could have been. The made picks – and the bad misses – that can trace back to how a certain team got to where they’re at as things presently stand.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have had their share of misses in the draft in recent seasons. The franchise has passed on All-Stars, MVPs, and plenty of other very serviceable players for the likes of guys that didn’t work out in Minnesota.
In honor of the NFL Draft taking place this weekend, let’s venture into the past and see what could have been done better by the Wolves in the first round of the NBA Draft over the last 10 years.
Obviously, Karl-Anthony Towns is everything the Wolves could’ve wanted in the No. 1 overall pick in 2015, so we’ll begin with the 2009 NBA Draft, which was one year after the Wolves selected O.J. Mayo (and traded him for Kevin Love).
The picks: No. 5 Ricky Rubio, No. 6 Jonny Flynn
The misses: Stephen Curry (seventh), DeMar DeRozan (ninth), Jrue Holiday (17th), Jeff Teague (19th)
The Wolves were in great shape for this draft. Not only did the draft feature two Minnesota picks in the top six selections, but it also featured six guys that would go on to make at least one All-Star Game.
Rubio has been a very serviceable pro, even though he didn’t play for the Wolves until 2011. He spent his first six seasons in Minnesota averaging 10.3 points and 8.5 assists per game with the Wolves. The unfortunate thing about Rubio’s tenure with the Wolves is that he was never part of any winning. The high-water mark for the team with Rubio on it was 40 wins in 2013-14.
Flynn played just two seasons for the Wolves and only three in the NBA. It’s fair to say Rubio was a reach in the draft, but Flynn was a complete whiff.
Seeing Curry go the pick behind Flynn might be the most painful miss in franchise history. He would’ve made for an incredible pairing with Kevin Love.
The picks: No. 4 Wesley Johnson, No. 16 Luke Babbitt (traded), No. 23 Trevor Booker (traded)
The misses: DeMarcus Cousins (fifth), Gordon Hayward (ninth), Paul George (10th), Eric Bledsoe (18th)
The Wolves came into this draft with three first round picks and essentially whiffed on the night as a whole. They traded the No. 16 selection of Luke Babbitt for Martell Webster, and the No. 23 selection of Trevor Booker for Nemanja Bjelica and Lazar Hayward. With the fourth overall pick the team took Wesley Johnson.
Cousins going right after the Wolves selected Johnson makes it two years in a row the Wolves passed on a future All-NBA player. Missing out on George might be the most painful from this draft, though.
The picks: No. 2 Derrick Williams, No. 20 Donatas Motiejunas (traded)
The misses: Enes Kanter (third), Tristan Thompson (fourth), Kemba Walker (ninth), Klay Thompson (11th), Kawhi Leonard (15th), Nikola Vucevic (16th), Tobias Harris (19th), Nikola Mirotic (23rd), Jimmy Butler (30th), Isaiah Thomas (60th)
The 2011 NBA Draft was absolutely loaded. There wasn’t a clear consensus for the No. 1 overall pick that was Kyrie Irving, partly due to his injury history at Duke, but even after him there was loads of talent. The Wolves went with Williams, who was very highly touted, but too much of a tweener for the NBA game. This draft did snap the streak of an All-NBA player going immediately after the Wolves’ pick, though.
The picks: None.
The Wolves dealt a pick that was protected in the top 10 until 2011 along with Sam Cassell to the LA Clippers for Marko Jaric and Loinel Chambers. From the date the trade was made in August of 2005 until the protection expired in 2012 the Wolves selected in the top 10 every season. The Wolves would have been picking 10th overall in the 2012 draft if they had a selection. The Clippers eventually sent the pick to New Orleans for Chris Paul and the then-New Orleans Hornets selected Austin Rivers.
In all truthfulness, after the 10th selection in the 2012 draft, there weren’t very many high-quality players, but the notable guys that went were Maurice Harkless (15th), Evan Fournier (20th), Khris Middleton (39th), and Will Barton (40th).
While the deal that was made by David Kahn wasn’t a good one, we can’t fault the Wolves for passing on anyone in this draft.
The picks: No. 9 Trey Burke (traded), No. 26 Andre Roberson (traded)
What they got: Gorgui Dieng, Shabazz Muhammad, and a 2014 second-round pick
The misses: CJ McCollum (10th), Steven Adams (12th), Giannis Antetokounmpo (15th), Rudy Gobert (27th)
The Wolves would like to have several of these draft nights over again. The 2009 edition of the draft might hurt the most right now, but it’s possible that in a couple of seasons the 2013 draft is the worst.
Minnesota traded the rights to Trey Burke for Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad, and the likely winner of the 2019 NBA MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo went one pick after Muhammad. Even had they not made the trade or been high enough on a very raw Antetokounmpo at that point, missing out on CJ McCollum hurts too.
The pick: No. 13 Zach LaVine
The misses: Clint Capela (25th)
After LaVine’s selection at 13th there wasn’t too much the Wolves missed out on. The biggest ‘What if’ scenario from this draft involves the Cavs. They selected Andrew Wiggins prior to LeBron James’ return to Cleveland and then later dealt him to Minnesota for Kevin Love. The best result for that pick would’ve been Joel Embiid instead.
The pick: No. 1 Karl-Anthony Towns
The misses: None
The Wolves had the first pick, took the best player, and he’s had the best career thus far. There were two other All-Stars in the draft in D’Angelo Russell and Kristaps Porzingis, but the Wolves were the winners here.
The pick: No. 5 Kris Dunn
The misses: Buddy Hield (sixth), Jamal Murray (seventh), Domantas Sabonis (11th), Taurean Prince (12th), Malik Beasley (19th), Caris LeVert (20th), Pascal Siakam (27th), Malcolm Brogdon (36th)
The team eventually traded away Dunn as part of the package for Jimmy Butler, but they left a lot of talent on the board. Some of it, like Siakam and Brogdon was tougher to see, but Murray would’ve been a great pick by the Wolves in that slot instead.
The pick: No. 16 Justin Patton
The misses: John Collins (19th), Jarrett Allen (22nd), OG Anunoby (23rd)
The Wolves originally held the seventh overall pick but dealt it for Jimmy Butler and the No. 16 pick. Patton played one game in his career with the Wolves, totaling four minutes scoring two points and collecting a steal. He was then sent with Butler to Philadelphia this past November and was waived by the Sixers near the end of the season. He’s currently a free agent. That pick could have gone much, much better.
The pick: No. 20 Josh Okogie
The misses: None, as of now
Okogie so far looks like a terrific pick at 20th. He contributed as a rookie more than probably was expected, and truthfully, it’s too early to say the Wolves missed on any guys that just completed their rookie seasons. The team also snagged Keita Bates-Diop at 48th overall and that pick looks good based on early returns, too.