Reclamation Projects in (our Minnesota) NBA History

Stop-n-Pop wondered aloud, in the recent game wrap thread after the Boston tilt:

BTW: Since the Randolph trade, I haven't been able to get the following thought out of my head.  How many reclamation projects can you name in NBA history?  Now tell yourself that the Wolves are trying to run three of them at the same time.  What are the odds for something like this working? 

We know the three players he was talking about: Darko, Anthony Randolph, and Michael Beasley

What does it mean for a player to be a "reclamation project"? The sense of S-n-P's question was something like, "How many times can we think of where this really worked out?" What names come to mind?





Concise Oxford English Dictionary © 2008 Oxford University Press:

Reclaim /rɪˈkleɪm/ 

▶ verb

1 retrieve or recover.

2 bring (waste land or land formerly under water) under cultivation. ■ recycle.

3 dated redeem from a state of vice. ■ archaic tame or civilize (an animal or person).


▶ noun

the action of reclaiming or being reclaimed.

– derivatives reclaimable reclaimer reclamation 

– origin ME: from OFr. reclamer, from L. reclamare ‘cry out against’, from re- ‘back’ + clamare ‘to shout’.


In sports one has to "reclaim" fallow talent that's formerly belonged to another team, right? Jonny Flynn won't be a reclamation success story if he now makes good in Minnesota. He would be with Indiana, though. Corey Brewer wasn't a reclamation project with the Wolves, but he is one now with Dallas. 

Michael Beasley was picked up on the cheap, and that's why he counts. Right? His story was partly about his okay-not-great (to paraphrase Pat Riley) on-court performance, and partly about verb sense number 3, the "dated" one: "redeem from a state of vice." (If only David Kahn had chosen those words rather than mentioning a specific recreational drug on KSTP. It would have been more in character anyway, wouldn't it? "A state of vice." Totally him.) 

Here are some names that come to mind, in no particular order. This is a broad net, here, just to kick around how this term might apply.

Wolves History – most of the names I think of as being in any sense an attempt at "reclamation":

Anthony Peeler. Peeler was on the injured reserve list in Vancouver, not playing at all. He had some exasperating qualities, but wouldn't we have to call him at least a modest success story? The guy started 154 games here. 

Chauncey Billups is one guy every team's fans point to when their promising young point guard hasn't quite come through. He was absolutely a bargain bin pickup.

Trenton Hassell: The 50-win Wolves claimed Trenton off waivers after he'd been cut by the Bulls, who were then the worst team in the league. As the Wolves' defensive stopper, he became integral to their only real playoff tear. New hand check rules pretty well scuttled him in that stopper role, and like many of McHale's guys he got too much contract for who he was, but Trenton has to be considered a success story.

How about Tom Gugliotta? Googs was drafted in Washington, and played reasonably well. He was the main piece coming back to Golden State when they dealt Chris Webber out of town, and became something of a pariah there. He didn't perform particularly well on the court for the Warriors, either, and Minnesota picked him up for Donyell Marshall. Undervalued when acquired, and he definitely came into his own here.

Does Sam Cassell count – either when he was dealt here, or when he was sent away? In both cases the pieces going the other way weren't worth Sammy, and he was being dealt for the NBA's version of locker room "vice." Cassell doesn't fit the three examples we're talking about this year, granted.

Cherokee Parks came here in exchange for removing the protections on a previously-dealt first-round pick. Dallas had given up on him.

Bobby Jackson has to be considered a reclamation success story after he left here and went to the Kings, doesn't he?

Joe Smith was definitely a reclamation project: former #1 overall who'd turned down a big extension and then had his game slip. He basically has remained a middle-class player.

LaPhonso Ellis was an 8-year veteran with an injury history. Proven productive, but he'd had only one previous season as generally productive as his first here, and that year he really helped out. Does he count?

Gary Trent had produced some in Dallas and, similarly, had an injury history.

Eddie Griffin (RIP again) never overcame his alcoholism.

Malik Sealy (Requiescat in Pace) didn't exactly emerge and become a star here, and probably wouldn't have done so, but he was a player who'd bounced around with no particular distinction and who seemed to have found a home here.

Michael Olowokandi. Enough said.

Fred Hoiberg had only had a couple of previous years, with the Bulls, where he'd gotten much burn. Would he count?

Anthony Carter had almost dropped out of the league by the time he came here from the Spurs. Both his term here and his relatively decent play in Denver could be described as minor reclamation projects that went at least okay.

Sebastian Telfair. Former phenom, pretty high expectations, and by the time he was traded here we mostly didn't expect he'd make the regular rotation, did we? He'd played himself deep into the benches of two teams, and had the off-court nonsense with the weapons charges. A modest redemption story.

Examples that seem like clear cases that didn't work out at all, or only pretty marginally: Stojko VrankovicMarc Jackson? Dennis Scott did play a bit here. Shelden Williams marked time a couple of years back. Tskita was a former very high pick. Last year saw Stewie Pecherov and Alando Tucker, former first rounders, spend games in courtside chairs at Target Center.

Oliver Miller is among my favorite marginal Wolves ever, for his odd game and great hands. He'd been productive on Phoenix's playoff teams in his first two years, but his weight had killed his career by the time he came here. He didn't stick, but had his moments.

(Add: Cynical Jason pointed out Stanley Roberts in the comments. Classic example.)

Like I said, that's a deliberately inclusive list. I at least glanced at every Wolves roster, looking for castoffs who were trying to turn things around here. Sometimes the prior history is beyond me... What was Thurl Bailey doing before he came here? When a player like Chris Carr didn't seem to fit because his previous team (Phoenix) had valued him as much as the Wolves seemed to, he didn't make the list.

I'm not sure how to handle the NBA as a whole. When Stop-n-Pop said "NBA History" he was basically asking if these sorts of players come out as real stars or even solid starters, I think.

We already know at least two names – Chauncey and Bobby Jackson – who definitely passed through Minnesota on their way to becoming at least "very productive players." Billups was a garage sale free agent here, left as a respectable middle-class one, and became a star.

Several other examples off the top of my head were already pretty productive players but got traded at below market value because of attitude or off-court problems. That doesn't really count so much. Examples:

Baron Davis has been both an injury and an attitude reclamation project, hasn't he?

Jason Kidd has always produced some, though he hadn't really come out as a huge star when he left Dallas originally. Either way he's been dealt at least twice because of off-court or attitude problems. (Dallas originally dealt him when their 3-Js core feuded some. Phoenix traded him to Jersey after the domestic violence charges down there.) 



Ron Artest of Bulls-to-Indy vintage?

(Steve Nash, the other PG every team's fans use as an example when arguing that their young PG will figure it out. He did get traded to Dallas from the Suns for some value; at that point was he a "reclamation project"? Probably not. However, he's a kind of patron saint for players who are...)

I don't know how to proceed from there. Might Hedo Turkoglu count with Orlando this time around? Does Gilbert Arenas count after his injuries? Not really analogous to our trio this season, okay, but those words probably fit.

Look at a given NBA roster. Dallas actually does a fair amount of this sort of project, don't they? Cuban is willing to make the salary-heavy acquisition, that's a big part of the story there.

Maybe I'm just kicking this can again. How unusual is it really for a "reclamation project" to become something like a solid starter? Are there Steve Youngs in the NBA? Young was a former #1 overall pick who languished in Tampa Bay and then, after moving to 'Frisco, became a clear Hall of Famer. Probably not at that level, anyway, right?

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