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Draft day blunders continue to cost
by Matt Krumrie / June 7, 2002

Everybody knows Kevin Garnett is the best draft selection in the history of the Minnesota Timberwolves. The fifth overall pick in the 1995 NBA Draft, Garnett has emerged as a superstar and the Wolves’ franchise player.

But after Garnett, even the most knowledgeable Wolves fan has a hard time listing standout first round draft picks. Wally Szczerbiak (1999) likely comes to mind, and everyone knows about former first rounders Christian Laettner (1992) and Isaiah Rider (1993), but they stand out more for their dismal Wolves careers than anything else.

In fact, after Garnett, the next best player ever drafted in the first round by the Wolves was Ray Allen in 1996. Allen has had a nice NBA career - for the Bucks. Allen was shipped to Milwaukee in a draft day trade for the rights to Stephon Marbury, who now lurks in Phoenix, far far away from a Timberwolves uniform.

Call it bad luck, poor decision making, poor evaluation of talent, whatever. The bottom line is the Timberwolves have about as much luck in the NBA Draft as they have had in the NBA Playoffs - none.

Now with the team reeling from the Joe Smith scandal and only one first round draft pick (2003 was reinstated) between 2000 and 2005, Kevin McHale, Flip Saunders and the rest of the Wolves front office are trying to improve a team that desperately could use a boost from a first round pick. Then again, as history has proved, that first round pick doesn’t necessarily mean success for the Timberwolves. As the team prepares for the 2002 NBA Draft June 26 in New York City, Wolves fans painfully remember previous selections like Felton Spencer, Gerald Glass, Luc Longley, Paul Grant or William Avery.

In 2000, Toronto used the 21st pick of the first round (a pick that originally belonged to the Timberwolves) to select Morris Peterson of Michigan State. Peterson has emerged as a solid scoring option off the bench, something the Timberwolves desperately need (see Anthony Peeler for more information). Minnesota forfeited its 2001 selection because of the Joe Smith contract scandal. Wolves don’t want to hear that the last two picks in the first round of the 2001 draft were point guards Jamaal Tinsley, taken 27th by Indiana, and Tony Parker, taken 28th by San Antonio. The Wolves did get a point guard the previous year - Igor Rakocevic of Yugoslavia was the 52nd selection overall. Who? Exactly.

In the 2002 draft the Timberwolves won’t be selecting until the 52nd turn. Last year the Wolves drafted Loren Woods with the 46th overall pick. The jury is still out on Woods, but let’s just say being seven-foot is his only strength at this point.

Avery is the poster boy for draft day frustration. Not only did the Timberwolves pass on players such as Kenny Thomas (22nd overall), Ron Artest (16th overall), Andrei Kirilenko (24th overall) and James Posey (18th overall) - all serviceable NBA players. They also didn’t re-sign then free-agent Bobby Jackson because they expected Avery develop into Terrell Brandon’s backup -- a decision likely to hurt the team for a long time.

The Timberwolves have never found much success in the NBA Draft. But with a club strapped with salary cap
issues and Kevin Garnett due for an extension in coming years, you can bet Timberwolves management is
relieved to not have to guarantee money to an unproven college or high school player. Then again, without a No. 1 pick the Wolves will only be able to improve the team through trades, free agent signings and second round surprises.

It is no coincidence that a team with a history of draft day blunders has a history of playoff failures. They might not have landed a superstar in the first round, but with some better selections they could have landed more depth. Tinsley or Parker would have fit in nice, especially with Brandon’s career in doubt, and Artest could have been the defensive stopper and athletic body they desperately need. Of course, things could be worse. Remember, the Milwaukee Bucks drafted Dirk Nowitzki in 1998 and then traded him to Dallas for Robert Traylor.

Matt Krumrie is a Twin Cities-based freelance sports writer who covers high school, college and pro sports. He is a regular contributor to HoopsHype.com

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