Ranking the Best 5 Draft Picks in Minnesota Timberwolves History
For all the griping (most of it legitimate) Minnesota Timberwolves fans have done about team management over the last few years, especially when it comes to drafting Jonny Flynn and Wesley Johnson, the organization has had a few solid draft picks since its inception in 1989.
After locking up Nikola Pekovic to a five-year, $60 million deal, the Wolves have three homegrown players—Pekovic, Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio—who are expected to bring a championship to Minnesota (a notion that, admittedly, was laughable not too long ago).
There are other players the Wolves have drafted who should contribute next season. Derrick Williams and Shabazz Muhammad possess an incredible amount of talent, and Corey Brewer is back for another go-round.
The team has also drafted Isaiah Rider, who provided some excitement early in the team’s history, Wally Szczerbiak and Kevin Garnett—the Timberwolves’ first bona fide franchise player.
Not included in this list are players who were drafted and immediately traded away like Ray Allen or Brandon Roy (take a minute to wipe away the tears, I know I did) or guys like Luc Longley who had most of their success in another city. On the other hand, players traded for on draft day are included (believe it or not, Randy Foye doesn’t make this list...).
Who is the best draft pick in Wolves history? Hint: First name may or may not be Kevin.
5. J.R. Rider (No. 5, 1993)
Isaiah Rider Jr., who went by J.R., is an Oakland product who brought the East Bay Funk Dunk into the world. His between-the-legs slam prompted Sir Charles Barkley to say that it was best dunk he had seen during the 1994 dunk competition.
If that weren’t enough, he nailed a three-point shot by tossing the ball over his shoulder while falling out of bounds during an actual game. It stood as the greatest blind shoulder toss until Harry hit Cam Neely with a saltshaker in Dumb and Dumber the next year.
Rider’s time in the Twin Cities was short-lived, but his funky dunking and lucky tossing left Minnesotans with enough good memories that he is worth mentioning in the team’s best draft picks ever.
4. Nikola Pekovic (No. 31, 2008)
Pekovic arguably could be higher on this list because he is the best value pick in team history. He was considered a top-10 pick at the time, but the Montenegrin was under contract with Panathinaikos, a Euroleague team, and there was no promise that he would come to America.
In June of 2010, Pekovic agreed to a three-year, $13 million deal to come to Minneapolis and has been an absolute wrecking ball in the middle since.
Considered a cornerstone player in the team’s quest for an NBA title, Pek recently signed long-term with the Wolves and will go down as the best second-round pick in team history.
It took a little while, perhaps because they couldn’t find him while he was wandering the globe, but he was definitely worth the wait.
3. Ricky Rubio (No. 5, 2009)
While the Wolves found Pekovic, a large teddy bear, in Montenegro, there is no telling where Rubio came from. People will tell you that he came from Spain, but I’m pretty sure he was either the fifth member of the Beatles or previously was employed by the Cartoon Network.
After seeing things like this, there is no way this guy is real!
Rubio is the ultimate teammate: He loves to pass the ball, plays on both sides of the court and always offers words of encouragement.
His willingness to create offense with highlight-reel passes makes him a major asset on a team with playoff ambitions.
2. Kevin Love (No. 5, 2008 via Memphis)
There’s something about No. 5 picks, right?
Assuming Love doesn’t have to replace his hand with the claw this season, he should be the team’s most productive player. He can score inside, hit threes and will grab an insane amount of rebounds if he is healthy.
The Wolves didn’t technically select Love; he was part of an eight-player deal that sent O.J. Mayo to the Memphis Grizzlies on draft day. But he has spent his entire NBA career in Minneapolis and is considered a homegrown player.
Love is the best power forward in the game and, assuming he can stay healthy, he should be considered one of the best of all time when all is said and done.
1. Kevin Garnett (No. 5, 1995)
Hold on one second while I bawl my eyes out.
Yes, this one still hurts. While the jury is still out on Love, everyone knows K.G. is without a doubt one of the best forwards of all time. He not only dominated on the court, but also was a leader off of it. He is one of the most competitive players in the game and gave Minnesota every chance to win with him.
Fortunately, the Wolves have done a better job of keeping their draft picks in town during the Love era, and while there have been a couple close calls recently, it appears the team has turned things around.
It still cannot go without saying, however, that the Timberwolves had to trade away their best draft pick to date.
Tom Schreier covers Minnesota sports for Bleacher Report and is a contributor to Yahoo! Sports.