Earlier this month I was introduced to Jason Patt, the Managing Editor here at Today’s Fastbreak, as “a huge Timberwolves fan” and thus someone capable of covering “the dregs” of the league. Thanks, Hunter (said both genuinely and sarcastically). Much to my chagrin, though, Hunter was right.
This article was started prior to the lottery. It was being written under the assumption that the Timberwolves, yet again, would slide in the lottery and be on the outside looking in at the top prospects. This is what the Timberwolves do: they get the third selection in a two-player draft, the fourth selection in a three-player draft, and so on, ad infinitum.
The result of this lack of luck is Timberwolves fans pinning their hopes on flawed prospects outperforming their capabilities (see “Fourth-Quarter Foye”). In my own family, arguments still arise as to whether J.R. Rider and Stephon Marbury were two of the most physically gifted players to ever play their respective positions. Read that sentence again. This is the plight of the Timberwolves fan. Not what was, but what could have been. If Rider could stay out of trouble. If Marbury had only stayed. If Sam Cassell didn’t get hurt. If David Kahn was never hired. When Kevin Garnett was traded, the majority of Timberwolves fans weren’t mad or upset; they were largely relieved. Garnett deserved better than what the Timberwolves could offer.
I began paying even closer attention to the Wolves around 2008, thanks in large part to the wonderful Britt Robson and the fine folks over at Canis Hoopus. My time closely following the Wolves has thus been filled with Kurt Rambis’s Triangle, Jonny Flynn, Darko Milicic and his extension, and the Kevin Love contract debacle.
Against this backdrop, it was fitting that we’d be watching Stephen Curry and James Harden in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals following the lottery. One player that could have been (we had two chances!!) battling a piece of what we’d hoped to replicate. While the Thunder are lauded for their consecutive lottery picks of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden (even if it hasn’t worked out in OKC as they’d hoped), Timberwolves fans are still licking their wounds for their lottery threesome of Flynn, Wesley Johnson and Derrick Williams. Considering that the Johnson trade required the attachment of a future first-round pick to jettison his contract, those three players must be the least return a team has ever gotten from three consecutive top six picks. I would verify this if I could see through the tears.
This is how the post-KG rebuilding process became re-rebuilding and re-re-rebuilding until I’m not sure exactly what rebuilding phase we’re on anymore. All I know is that each season for the past decade has started with a glimmer of hope for the new players followed by another underperforming and injury-ravaged team playing out the string while I begin looking at draft prospects to watch during March Madness. Hope briefly bubbles to the surface again as we watch a room full of grown men carrying various good-luck charms, only to be followed by further disappointment. And then Tuesday night’s lottery happened.
There are no guarantees that the Timberwolves’ No. 1 pick will help turn the franchise around. If a lifetime of Minnesota sports has taught me anything, in fact, it’s that it probably won’t. And then we’ll look back and think about what could have been, watching Ricky throw Rubioops to Wiggins, LaVine and Karl-Anthony Towns. (Don’t do this to me, Flip.) Right now, though, is different. Right now Timberwolves fans don’t have to focus on what never was. Right now we get to dream of what could be.