The Minnesota Timberwolves have reached a plateau that nobody wants to be. That would be the worst franchise in American pro sports. Of course, this was well-known, even before in early March when the Timberwolves dropped to 7-28 on the season to lower their all-time winning percentage to .393, which was the lowest of all major sports including basketball, football, and hockey.
Timberwolves fans shouldn't be surprised by this news. The team has made the playoffs just one time since 2004 and that includes one playoff win. Despite earning the No. 1 overall pick three times from 2014 to 2020, the team remains in the cellar of the NBA.
Let's take a look at how we have reached this point.
Kevin Garnett And The Trade Package
Kevin Garnett in Minnesota. He is the all-time leader in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. When you think of the Timberwolves, you think of Kevin Garnett. He was the savior for the team during the franchise's golden years. From 1997 to 2004, the Timberwolves qualified for the playoffs in every season. Despite losing in the first round six straight years, the Timberwolves rallied to go as far as the Western Conference Finals in 2004 before losing to the Los Angeles Lakers.
In the 2004-2005 season, Garnett recorded a career-high of 47 points and grabbed 17 points in a season where he was All-NBA Second-Team but the team failed to make the playoffs. The following season, frustration began to build as key role players turned down offers, while some older veterans showed their age. The team fell to 33-49 in 2005-2006 and 32-50 in 2007-2007.
In the 2007 offseason, Glen Taylor later admitted he wanted to keep Garnett but eventually listened to offers from the Bulls, Lakers, Warriors, Pacers, Celtics, Suns, and Mavericks. Eventually, Taylor agreed to a deal with the Celtics that included the largest number of players traded for one single player in league history.
The Timberwolves acquired Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Gerald Green, Theo Ratliff, cash considerations, Boston's 2009 first-round draft pick (top 3 protected), and the 2009 first-round pick which Minnesota had traded to Boston in the Ricky Davis-Wally Szczerbiak trade of 2006.
Jefferson gave the Timberwolves some nice years, including 21.0 points and 11.1 rebounds in 2007 and 23.1 points and 11.0 rebounds in 2008. Outside of him, this deal was won by Boston. Minnesota won only 22 games during the 2007-2008 season and none of these players made an All-Star game. As for Garnett, he won the NBA championship with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen in his first season.
They Missed Stephen Curry Even Though They Drafted Two Point Guards
The 2009 NBA Draft class featured some pretty prominent players in Blake Griffin and James Harden, but nobody has been greater than Steph Curry. With the No. 7 overall pick, the Golden State Warriors landed the Davidson superstar, who was coming off leading his team to the Elite 8. Granted, the Memphis Grizzlies selected Hasheem Thabeet with the No. 2 overall pick and Sacramento selected Tyreke Evans, but the Timberwolves didn't have just one attempt to write their wrong, but two picks. With the No. 5 overall pick the Timberwolves selected Ricky Rubio and then followed with the No. 6 pick of Jonny Flynn.
Let's recap here. Curry is a three-time NBA champion, two-time MVP, seven-time All-Star, a five-time All-NBA selection, and a former scoring champion. Rubio's greatest height of fame is making the All-Rookie First-Team, while Flynn fizzled out of the league in 2012.
Forget the fact that Minnesota selected two point guards back-to-back, but the team missed on both picks in a draft that featured other producing players. Outside of Curry, the Timberwolves could have taken Jeff Teague, DeMar DeRozan, Brandon Jennings, or Jrue Holiday and it still would have been better.
They Wasted Kevin Love's Prime
The year before the 2009 draft, the Timberwolves hit on a great draft piece in Kevin Love. After making the NBA All-Rookie Second-Team in 2008, Love grew to a future All-Star and Most Improved Player. By Year 3, Love went on a four-year run of wasted prime seasons by Minnesota. That also included three All-Star appearances, highlighted by his final season where he averaged 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds.
How did Minnesota do during this run? Did the team build around their star player? Instead, the Timberwolves went 17-65 in Love's first appearance as an All-Star. In 2012, the team improved to 26-40. After improving to 31-51 in 2013, Love's best season with the team was his final year when the team went 40-42. Love never made the playoffs until he was traded to the Cavaliers, where he eventually won an NBA championship in 2016.
Speaking of the trade, the Timberwolves wasted yet another trade package. In August 2014, the Timberwolves traded Love to the Cavaliers in a three-team trade. Minnesota received Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett from Cleveland and Thaddeus Young from the Philadelphia 76ers.
Wiggins never lived up to the hype as an N0. 1 overall pick and has yet to make an All-Star appearance. He has since been shipped to Golden State for D'Angelo Russell. Bennett played 57 games and averaged 15.1 minutes per game in his lone season in 2014 and has yet to play in the NBA since 2016. Young played just one season in 2014 as well and has since played for the Nets, Pacers, and Bulls. Essentially, didn't just waste his prime seasons, but traded Love for a future D'Angelo Russell, who has played just 34 games in 1 1/2 seasons.
They Have KAT, But They Played Only Once In The Playoffs
Russell was brought in by the Timberwolves, thinking he could be the complementary piece that Karl-Anthony Towns has longed for. As you can tell, Russell has not yet lived up to the hype, but there is reason to believe that the 25-year-old can change things around when he is 100% healthy.
As for Towns, when paired with Andrew Wiggins and Jimmy Butler, the Timberwolves finished the 2017-2018 season with 47 wins, their most since winning 58 games in 2004. While the team was bounced for the playoffs in the first round, it was led to believe that this could be the beginning of something special. Wiggins was still young and had 20 point-per-game potential. Towns was just 22 years old and averaged 21.3 points per game, 12.3 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game. This was going to be a new rendition of the San Antonio Spurs.
Instead, Butler turned out to be too hard of a leader for Towns and Wiggins, who couldn't handle the tough love. Butler forced himself out, which eventually led to a trade with the 76ers in exchange for Jerryd Bayless, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, and a 2022 second-round draft pick.
Bayless played for two seasons as a role player and is now in the Chinese Basketball Association. Covington bounced around a few teams in trades and is now with the Trail Blazers, while Saric eventually landed with the Suns. Meantime, Butler made the NBA Finals in his first season with the Miami Heat last year.
It's only a matter of time before the Timberwolves trade Towns for a package of players that won't use. After drafting Anthony Edwards with the No. 1 overall pick in 2020, the 13-39 Timberwolves are last in the Western Conference and could get the No. 1 overall pick for a consecutive season. Even if they do get the pick, do we trust that they will make the right choice?
After all, it's the Minnesota Timberwolves that we are talking about here.
Credit for an idea: Courtseat