Who Is the Second-Greatest Timberwolf in Franchise History?
After 20 years of existence, the Minnesota Timberwolves franchise has been one of few successes and much mediocrity.
There have been a few great moments in the team's history, but most, if not all, of those have been because of Kevin Garnett, who is unquestionably the greatest player in Timberwolves history, and it's not close.
The 1995 NBA Draft was probably the defining moment of the franchise's history, when they made a skinny 6'10" forward straight out of high school the fifth overall selection.
Garnett averaged 10.4 points per game during his rookie season before quickly morphing into one of the greatest players the NBA has ever seen.
Garnett led the Wolves to their first-ever playoff appearance in 1997. And after seven straight years of first-round playoff exits, he finally led the team to the Western Conference Finals in 2004, where they would eventually fall to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Aside from those relatively great moments, the Wolves have been the model of mediocrity. Few other players really stand out as being great icons of the franchise.
"The Big Ticket" was finally traded to the Boston Celtics before the 2007-2008 season. He left the Wolves after 12 seasons, and is currently the Wolves all-time leader in points (19,041), rebounds (10,542), assists (4,146), blocked shots (1,576), steals (1,282), and games played (927).
Those incredible numbers really got me thinking. Who is the second greatest player in Timberwolves history? Here are some of the candidates:
Anthony (Tony) Campbell - Forward 1989-'92
Campbell was selected by the Wolves in the 1989 expansion draft from the Los Angeles Lakers. He averaged 23.2 points and 5.5 rebounds per game for Minnesota during their inaugural season. He currently ranks fifth all-time on the Timberwolves career scoring list (4,888 points).
He was the Wolves' first offensive star after toiling on the bench for the Lakers behind the likes of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and the rest of the stars in LA.
Sam Mitchell - Forward 1989-'92, 1995-2002
Mitchell, another original Timberwolf, currently ranks second in franchise history to Garnett in points (7,161) and rebounds (3,030).
Besides a brief stint with the Indiana Pacers, Mitchell was a Wolf for his entire career and would be credited by Garnett himself as one of the players who helped mold "The Big Ticket" into the player he is today.
He went on to coach the Toronto Raptors almost immediately after his playing career was over, and won the NBA Coach of the Year Award for the 2006-2007 season.
He was fired as the Raptors coach in December of 2008, and finished as the Raptors' all-time winningest coach in franchise history. Many Timberwolves fans hope that Mitchell will be among the candidates to be the new coach in Minnesota.
Doug West - Guard 1989-1998
West was another original Wolf, and holds the distinction for being the last of the original team to remain on the Wolves (Mitchell left for Indiana then returned).
He was known as an athletic, well-rounded player who was a superb defender and an able scorer. During his best season, 1992-93, West averaged a career-high 19.3 points per game. He has career average of 9.6 points per game, and is ranked fourth all-time on the Timberwolves scoring list (6,216).
West is currently an assistant coach for the Villanova Wildcats.
Wally Szczerbiak - Guard/Forward 1999-2006
Played his entire career with the Wolves in the shadow of Garnett, Szczerbiak actually ranked No. 3 on the team's all-time scoring list (6,777). He was a star at Miami (OH) University and was drafted No. 6 overall by Minnesota in the 1999 NBA Draft.
Many people forget he was actually an All-Star in 2002, when he was a coaches-selection. That season he averaged 18.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game.
He was traded to the Boston Celtics, along with Michael Olowokandi, Dwanye Jones and a first round draft pick, in January of 2006.
Stephon Marbury - Guard 1996-1999
Marbury was drafted out of Georgia Tech in 1996 by the Milwaukee Bucks fourth overall before he was traded to the Wolves for Ray Allen. He teamed with Garnett to form one of the NBA's best and brightest young duos.
He demanded a trade from Minnesota during the 1999 (lockout-shortened) season after a falling out with team management. Many Timberwolves fan still lament Marbury's departure because of the three great years he and Garnett had together as two of the game's best young stars.
Had he stuck around, there is a great possibility that Marbury would easily be considered one the best players in franchise history.
Christian Laettner - Forward 1992-1996
Laettner was the No. 3 overall pick by the Wolves in the 1992 NBA Draft. The Wolves 'won' the third pick in the draft, and of course missed out on the chance to draft either LSU's Shaquille O'Neal or Georgetown's Alonzo Mourning.
Laettner had a very good rookie year, averaging 18.2 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, but never really lived up to the hype out of college. He was voted to the All-NBA Rookie Team and was voted an All-Star reserve in 1996-97, although he was with the Atlanta Hawks by that time.
He continues to be known more for his amazing turn-around jumper to beat Kentucky in the 1992 East Regional Final of the NCAA Tournament.
In my opinion, Sam Mitchell should be considered the second-greatest Timberwolf of all time. He has the numbers and longevity with the club to back it up.
Players like Pooh Richardson, Isiah Rider, Laettner, and Marbury may have been better players than Mitchell, but they didn't stick around town long enough to be considered.
Current Wolf Al Jefferson might be well on his way to this title, but he also needs more seasons of production in the Blue and Green to be considered.
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