In honor All-Star Weekend, HTW wanted to compile a team that truly represents the Wolves’ 25-year history in the NBA. Now, unfortunately, the Wolves haven’t had much of a decorated past. In fact, since we don’t consider the Minneapolis Lakers as part of the Wolves family, the teams of years past and all their players have, well, — how do I put this lightly? — have been pretty damn awful.
From botched lottery picks to “prized” free agents/trade targets and a plethora of attempted “Comeback Kid” projects, the Wolves have failed to put together a lengthy string of good, albeit competent basketball players. Outside of bringing in the cornerstone of the franchise in Kevin Garnett back in 1995 and finding the right formula for just a handful of years, the team’s past has been littered with misery and false hope.
In order to properly celebrate this truly depressing feat, HTW is unveiling it’s Timberwolves Anti-All-Star Team. Filled with your favorites from teams both old and new, we want to show you what it takes to be filled with misfortune and regret. Tom, Derek and myself each compiled a list ourselves of players containing five starters, seven bench players and three worthy of honorable mention to create a 15-man squad. I then weighted the lists to find out who are finalists were and also plugged them in as a starter, bench or honorable mention based on those weighted projections. As a side note, I just want to be extremely clear that this was not even close to easy and for all the wrong reasons. Not only have a lot of poor basketball players played for the Wolves before but many have played for them way too long. Honestly, we should feel lucky enough to have only seen a large percentage of these players play in Minnesota for less than a couple years at best.
So without further adieu, here is HTW’s Timberwolves Anti-All-Star Team:
G, Will Avery (2000-2002)
Avery was a player who took a track to the NBA many kids could only dream of. He spent his high school years with the infamous Oak Hill Academy and then attended Duke University to play for Mike Krzyzewski. Then he was a lottery pick, being selected 14th by the Timberwolves in 1999. But all of Avery’s glory stopped right there and pretty abruptly. He struggled to find a feel for the NBA game in just three seasons, never topping his career-high season field goal percentage of .382 in 2000.
G, Marko Jaric (2006-2008)
The Wolves acquired Jaric back in 2006. It was somewhat of a desperate time, having just come off the franchise’s best season ever just two years prior. Things were starting to fade from that magical run, so Kevin McHale had to make a move that would shake things up for the future. He sent Sam Cassell and a future first-rounder (turned out to be Austin Rivers) to the Clippers for the up-and-coming international combo guard. Jaric was experienced but still young and was improving each year with Los Angeles. Turns out that Jaric’s improvement quickly stopped and he actually regressed swiftly in Minnesota. He practically played himself out of the league by playing for the Wolves, dropping his Win Shares per 48 minutes from .08 in L.A. to .053, .048 and .053 in three years with the team. And he’s married to Adriana Lima, so seriously, f@#! that guy.
F, Wes Johnson (2011-2012)
Fun fact: Wesley Johnson, the Wolves’ fourth overall draft pick in 2011, started 127 games for the Wolves until 2012. What’s fun about that fact? Absolutely nothing now that I think about it. In fact, that’s the complete opposite of fun. Johnson, who was known for his steady stroke in college and cool, calm demeanor on the court, ended his career in Minnesota with a modest 34 percent three-point percentage. But because this is the anti-all-star squad, I also must mention Johnson’s overall shooting percentage, which ended at .398 before being traded (Along with a first-round pick, just to unload his salary) to Phoenix.
F, Anthony Randolph (2011-2012)
Randolph is the type of player you sort of love to hate. He’s uber athletic and long with an abnormal skill set for a man with his physical stature. But it never came together. David Kahn and the Wolves acquired Randolph in 2011 as part of the Carmelo Anthony, three-way deal that sent out Corey Brewer. Both Randolph and Brewer were equally bad at the time and a change of scenery was needed for both. The problem was that the Wolves were already bringing Kevin Love along at the time onto his path to stardom, so room for Randolph’s services were highly limited. He dazzled at moments and greatly disappointed at others. Randolph simply suffered by never getting the shot he really deserved. Or did he ever deserve one to start out with?
C, Michael Olowakandi (2004-2006)
Flash back to 2003; the Wolves were looking strong with KG in his prime. McHale took notice and made the move to make this team good enough for a push at the championship. Enter Olowakandi. At the time, Olowakandi was a wash-up former first overall pick from the Clippers, where he never even averaged a double-double. But it might not have been his fault, considering very few players ever did well in that part of L.A. They let him walk and the Wolves snatched up for bust-labeled Olowakandi, hoping to find a bargain center to pair in the front court with Garnett. Turns out that the big-man injury bug bit him hard and he played just 137 games in two and a half season in Minnesota. For a player with so much promise, being graced with a fresh, new start alongside a league’s superstar should seemingly lift tons of pressure off his shoulders. Instead, Olowakandi flared out quickly and became just another big body soaking up minutes in useless roto-time.
G, Troy Hudson (2003-2007)
It’s a well-known fact that after Hudson’s stint with the Wolves, the point guard turned to the music business. It’s also a well-known fact that athletes who dabble in music before/during/after their careers, seemingly fall flat. Take a gander at this track and let me know what you think. On the court, T-Hud had his moments but his worst moment — at least in the fans’ eyes — was when he inked a 6-year, $37 million contract extension … IN 2004!! I didn’t think teams had that kind of dough back then. Anyways, Hudson only lasted three years on the new deal and only managed to crack 40 percent shooting in one season until he was waived in August of 2007. Mic drop.
G, Jonny Flynn (2010-2011)
Because he’s in the minds of many fans already, you might wonder why Flynn wasn’t pegged in with the starters. Instead, we decided to cut him a break, and really for no apparent reason. The story of Flynn is sad one. Flynn was leaving Syracuse a newfound hero having one of the best senior seasons in recent college history in 2009. Kahn liked that flair and no one could deny the kid’s infectious smile. Turns out that it was all a fairy tale and real life in the NBA hit Flynn pretty hard. After an alright rookie debut, he fell off very quickly due to injury and the touch never came back to him. It actually saddens me thinking about how Flynn’s once flashy game went straight down the can, and a talented young man’s single greatest attribute caused him to lose all confidence. So the man that is now famous for being taken ahead of Stephen Curry in the 2009 Draft is now seemingly completely out of basketball after leaving the Chinese League earlier last year.
G, Sebastian Telfair (2008-2011)
Telfair was a thing of legend back on the play grounds of Brooklyn. He was the guy to put New York basketball back on the map and was doing it at a very young age. We all know that youngsters struggle with pressure — Everyone does, really — especially when it entails putting the pride of people from Brooklyn on your back. In the shadow of his cousin Stephon Marbury, I’m sure Telfair would look back at his career and point out his faults. One would’ve been de-committing from the University of Louisville to go professional. That long, hard road left the Brooklyn Star Child battered and bruised and just in the beginning of his career. By the time the Wolves took a flier on him as part of the Garnett trade in 2007 — the first time around — Telfair was already a mere shell of his tantalizing street-balling ways. Telfair had two stints in Minnesota, and neither were awful, but you can’t help but wonder what if given his amazing talents.
F, Ndudi Ebi (2004-2005)
For die-hard Wolves fans like myself, Ndudi Ebi is a name all too familiar. The funniest part is you could remember his name all you want but you’ll still have to Google it to spell it correctly. Ebi is an Anti-All-Star less because of what he was meant to be but rather what he symbolized to the Wolves’ future bidding. 2004 was the best season yet and the Wolves had the 26th pick (Their first first-round choice since the Joe Smith debacle. More on that later.) There weren’t big names left on the board but some were intriguing at the time including Josh Howard, Leandro Barbosa and Luke Walton. Instead of sticking to contemporary thinking, the Wolves chose Ebi out of Westbury Christian HS in Texas. Two years went by of him seeing little-to-no playing time, at a time where talent development was coming into play for an aging squad, mind you, and the Wolves ended up having to release the young Ebi because the NBA refused to allow them to send Ebi to the Developmental League. My, how times have changed. Makes you wonder if high school stash picks would be worth it nowadays given the stable nature of the current D-League.
F, Antoine Walker (2008)
Walker was a true warrior. He was a fantastic player for Boston for a period of time, averaging 20.6 points, 8.7 rebonds, 4.1 assists on a per game basis. But we’ve seen it before, when a player ages, his production decreases. It’s as basic and simple as supply and demand. The Wolves acquired Walker in 2008 in a bad trade that sent out Ricky Davis and Michael Blount. At the time Walker was already turning 31 and both his yearly averages and even per/36 numbers were dropping off drastically. As the cornerstone of that deal, Walker played in just 46 games, starting only one and averaging a mere 19 minutes per game. He shot just 36 percent from the field and carried around too much weight and way too much attitude. The Wolves simply gambled way too late in Walker’s career — even if they weren’t expecting his prime years — and it certainly bit back.
F, Sasha Pavlovic (2010)
There’s not a whole lot to say about Pavlovic except for that he never should’ve been in the NBA to begin with. In 2010, the Wolves were that bad, though, and had to bring in bodies to suck up minutes. Pavlovic’s talent — or lack thereof — set him on a tour of the NBA throughout his career. He was on a total of seven teams in his 10 seasons as a pro. His career-high in points per game (9 PPG) came in 2006-2007 with the Cavaliers but then followed up that season by posting a 36 percent field goal percentage. Looking back, I’m not even entirely sure what he was ever good at and stats will certainly back me up on that. I wish I could ask why the Wolves had to feature Pavlovic as often as they did in 2010 but it’s depressing that I already know that answer. Wow, they were bad.
C, Darko Milicic (2010-2012)
Ah, it’s Manna From Heaven himself. Having floated down to earth on fluffy white billows of clouds, Milicic was a gift from God. In all his 7-foot glory, coaches and executives were mystified by his talents. But then someone had to go and S#!t on our parade. The Pistons took him second overall in 2003 ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. How do you think Pistons fans feel when we whine and moan about Flynn over Curry!? Milicic’s career was all but over sitting all alone at the end of the Knicks’ bench in 2010. Instead, his own angel, David Kahn, reached out his hand and stuffed Darko’s with a new, shiny $20 million contract. Yippee! Little did Kahn realize at the time that he was not an angel nor was he a miracle worker, as he tried to turn everything to gold that he touched. Darko was an enormous flop, a horrible teammate and not even a competent backup center let alone a starter. The narrative of the Rambis days is littered all over this list, and, boy, does it stink real bad.
G, Alexey Shved (2013-Present)
So here’s a guy still with youth, time and talent to turn his misfortunes around still. Plenty of people like Shved because he’s got that boyish charm that Ricky Rubio possesses. He’s European, all the chicks dig him, and when you actually examine his game, it’s awfully impressive what he’s looking to accomplish on the court. But that’s the problem. He hasn’t been able to pull anything off really. He’s tied with Rubio in career shooting percentage, and we all know how Rubio may go down in history as the worst shooting point guard in NBA history. Shved’s a shooting guard, so how do you think he feels? And his attempts to dribble-drive and dish always end up looking sloppy, even if they are creative and seemingly the right idea. But like I said, Shved still has time to put it all together. Well, maybe unless Flip’s looking to unload the Russian whenever he sees the chance.
F, Eddie Griffin (2005-2007)
The story of Griffin is a sad one. Most of the others on this list, it’s actually hard to feel bad for because many grew up in better-than-stable situations with Godly gifts to play basketball at an elite level. Griffin, in all his glory and exceptional talent, struggled off the court mightily with alcoholism. It affected the way the former lottery pick played the game as well as his mental stability. Once Griffin came to Minnesota in 2004 after his stint in rehab, you couldn’t help but root for the guy to get back on track and hopefully learn in the footsteps of Garnett. Unfortunately, Griffin had just one okay season and fell back in to his old, habitual ways. Griffin passed away after a car accident with a train. Here’s another player you can’t help but wonder what if, but the question regarding to the man’s life, not just his game.
F, Joe Smith (1999-2003)
It was touched on in Ndudi Ebi’s closeup but it must be said: Joe Smith is the most important player in the history of the Timberwolves. Yes, I said it. At a time when the Wolves were gaining momentum in becoming a league force with a newly developed star and future MVP, McHale and the Wolves made a secret deal with Smith to sign him to a guaranteed deal, under-the-table, so to speak. Not in the slightest were they getting away with it, so once David Stern discovered their ways, he slapped the franchise with the league’s harshest penalty to date: Five first-round draft picks (Which was later reduced to three) and a hefty fine. Could you blame him at the time? Of course not. The Wolves fudged up big time and were caught red-handed. The biggest plague of the Wolves’ history herein lies in the Joe Smith punishment; player development has never been the Wolves’ forte, as you can clearly see from the young players listed above, but when you at least accumulate more and more opportunities to find a young piece to add for future development, you’re chances of hitting pay dirt increase. The Joe Smith scandal, although at the time was pretty brutal, is even worse now than it was back then because there’s no telling what could’ve happened in the drafts the Wolves exiled themselves from using their own stupidity. In essence, it set forth all the events that transpired in the dark years starting in 2005 and beyond. Oh, the pain and suffering. Why, Joe? Why?!