Ranking the Best NBA Free Agency Signings in Minnesota Timberwolves History

Justin Hussong@@HeatChecksHussContributor IIIJuly 15, 2013

Ranking the Best NBA Free Agency Signings in Minnesota Timberwolves History

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    During a day and age where free agency plays such a huge role in shaping the balance of power in the NBA, the Minnesota Timberwolves remain at a constant disadvantage due to their smaller market of Minneapolis and brutally cold winters.

    Players dream of taking their talents to South Beach and not the Mall of America. Super-teams form left and right, leaving most of the league to fend for scraps.

    It puts pressure on GM's to make the most of their trades and their draft picks because that has still proven to be the most efficient way to effectively build a winning franchise.

    With the T-Wolves' moves this offseason under new GM Flip Saunders, they are bound to make some noise next season. The signings they have made have become something of a revelation to the fans.

    Looking back, free agency was never a huge part of this franchise. Building through drafts and trades has been their motif. It would have been much easier to put together a slideshow of failed free agency acquisitions.

    But, hey! This is a new era of Timberwolves basketball; one with positivity and playoff expectations.

    Despite their tendencies, Minnesota has shown that they are not afraid to lay out some cash when they have to. Here are the best NBA Free Agency signings in team history.

5. Terry Porter

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    Long before serving as an assistant coach under current head coach Rick Adelman, Porter was brought in to run point guard for a struggling Timberwolves team prior to the 1995-96 season.

    At the time, a young point guard out of Brooklyn by the name of Stephon Marbury was getting his feet wet at the Target Center. Porter served primarily as his backup and provided a needed veteran mentality for guys like the often ill-tempered Marbury.

    Porter did come to town a year prior to Marbury, but relinquished his starting spot to the talented guard. During his second season in Minnesota, Porter helped lead the squad to their first ever playoff appearance, followed by their first winning record the following season.

    Porter was well-known around the league after ten very solid seasons as Portland's point guard. He proved to be the perfect short term complement to Marbury and was a calming veteran presence on an unstable team.

    He was let go after three short seasons and signed with the Miami Heat. Looking back, Porter played a supporting role in changing the culture of the franchise at the time.

4. Fred Hoiberg

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    Fred Hoiberg was a vital member of the Timberwolves glory days in 2003-04 when they reached Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals.

    Hoiberg was an unheralded signing prior to that season and only played two years under the lights at Target Center, but his impact lasted quite a bit longer.

    His career seemed to be hanging on by a thread when Minny came calling during free agency after a season that saw him put up a measly 144 points with the Chicago Bulls. Despite that, he found himself having a mini-revival upon heading north.

    His 46 percent three-point shooting in his brief Timberwolves career earned him a spot on this list. The Kevin Garnett, Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell big three would never have ascended to such heights without clutch performers like Hoiberg holding the group together.

    When injuries started mounting in the playoffs for the T-Wolves, Hoiberg kept shooting. He gave them big performances from downtown, burying 15 threes during their thrilling seven-game triumph in the conference semifinals over the Sacramento Kings.

    Hoiberg's two-year stint proved to be the end of his career after he started battling a life-threatening heart condition. He also quickly found his way into the front office as assistant GM shortly after retiring.

3. Trenton Hassell

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    We are continuing to dig deep into the annals of Timberwolves history here.

    Trenton Hassell followed Hoiberg to Minnesota via Chicago prior to the magical run in 2003-04. He gave the team something that they could not live without; a defensive stopper.

    Much like modern-day Tony Allen, Hassell simply would make life miserable for the opposing team's best wing player. The sound offensive output he provided on a semi-regular basis was an added bonus to the glue-like defense he infuriated opponents with.

    Look no farther than the aforementioned '04 Conference semifinals against Sacramento. Peja Stojakovic was having himself an unreal season in which he averaged 24.2 points per game and nailed an astounding 240 threes.

    Hassell locked him up the entire series. Peja shot under 43 percent in each game and shot 34 percent from downtown for the series. Hassell even outscored him in two of the games.

    While their big three was shouldering the offensive load, Hassell was blanketing each team's biggest threat. In the conference finals, he even contained Kobe Bryant, not allowing him to crack 45 percent shooting in any of those six games.

    Lock-down perimeter defense at its finest.

    Hassell produced four productive seasons before being dealt to the Dallas mavericks in 2007 for Greg Buckner.

2. Troy Hudson

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    T-Hud, or more affectionately known as "The Laker Killer", played his way up from the D-League to a 6-year $37 million contract with Minnesota.

    He went undrafted in 1997 and stuck through two separate stints in the Continental Basketball Association before finding his way to Minnesota. He truly defied the odds before succumbing to injuries after many successful seasons.

    Although his contract was bought out early due to declining health, Hudson made his mark in his five-year stint with the Timberwolves. His shining moment was Game 2 in the first round of the 2003 playoffs against the Lakers.

    Hudson exploded for 37 points and 10 assists, officially putting the upstart T-Wolves on the map. He went toe-to-toe with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal alongside Garnett. Despite ultimately falling short in the series, Hudson made a name for himself by averaging 23.5 points per game in the series.

    He topped out at 14.2 points per game in his first year with the Timberwolves, giving the team a big return on their investment. He faded into the abyss after five seasons in Minnesota before heading to Golden State for the last year of his playing career.

1. Joe Smith

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    Joe Smith is the biggest free agency signing in franchise history, while simultaneously representing the team's most embarrassing moment. That does not say anything good about the Timberwolves' past.

    After the 1999-00 season, Joe Smith received an oddly small free agency contract from the Timberwolves by then-GM Kevin McHale. Smith was promised a longer and more fruitful deal if he signed for less money at the time, allowing the front office more room to operate.

    They were caught for tampering, fined $3.5 million by the league and forced to forfeit five first-round draft picks, crippling the team's development.

    On the court, Smith was a menace next to Garnett for two separate two-year stints. He was a versatile 6'10" front-line sidekick who could defend and score mostly anywhere inside the three-point line with ease. His athleticism provided the team with a needed jolt to enhance their rebuilding process.

    His numbers were very respectable in his first season at 13.7 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per contest. They subsequently declined, which made the under-the-table signing look more like a mistake. He also shrunk in the playoffs to the tune of 4.7 points per game over 16 playoff games.

    The scandal cannot be overlooked, but the move did land them a very good player that led to a lot of success at the time. It proved to be very cost-ineffective as the loss of draft picks ended up destroying the team in the mid-2000's, dismantling any chance of building a run of championship contending teams around KG.

    Smith being No. 1 on this list is more of a disappointment than a proud moment. Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic can very easily ascend straight to the top of this list if they perform to even a fraction of their capabilities.

    His tenure ended when he was shipped off to Milwaukee in a deal that landed Sam Cassell and Earvin Johnson in Minneapolis.