This is obviously a little different than best players ever, but it's an interesting talker and gives some perspective on who fans like or don't like, because that often affects whether they think those guys are good. The best example I can think of currently plays for the Twins: Jose Mijares. I cringe when he comes in the game, and no one I know likes him as a player, but his career stats indicate an above-average lefty bullpen guy. My top 10 are below the jump; feel free to list as few or many as you want and provide comments.
In no particular order:
- Craig Smith: The epitome of his strengths and weaknesses were showcased when Kevin McHale became coach and put him in the starting lineup. He was good for a quick burst of points early in the game before the opponent guarded him more seriously and/or started to expose his defensive flaws. Still, he was the ultimate zone-buster with his offensive rebounding and touch around the hoop, and when the Wolves won road games, he always seemed to be in the middle of the action. That's not even mentioning his nickname: besides The Big Ticket, The Rhino is the most apt nickname I can think of for a Wolves player.
- Sam Mitchell: Between he and Ty Corbin, the expansion Wolves at least were able to come up with role players at the 3. His legacy for me is cemented with his second stint; in particular, he stepped up in '98 when Googs went down for the year and ended up catching fire as an undersized 4 in a Game 2 road playoff win at Seattle and in '00 when he took Wally's spot in the starting lineup for 24 games (16-8 record). On his last legs, he always did a decent job guarding young Dirk.
- KG: Despite the way he's currently seen, he was a strong role model when it came to work ethic during the years when he carried a bunch of journeymen to the playoffs consistently. Plus, how many of the top 10 Wolves highlight plays would involve him (dunks/blocks/game winners)? He was Josh Smith if J-Smoove had played the 3 for several years, had a go-to post move, and only took shots inside of 18 feet.
Michael Beasley: Sorry, I have a soft spot for this guy because of his off-court personality and the plays he makes when fully engaged. When he's into it defensively, there's usually at least 1-2 weakside blocks involved (usually an exciting play to watch when the guy has at least decent hops). He's at least not afraid to take big shots (I think his problems have more to do w/his ability to separate from a defender in that situation). And his afro is almost as good as anything Ben Wallace ever grew.
- Terrell Brandon: The guy was just stable, and when he was on the team, stability was very helpful. But I also respected how he played PG; he put more on the table than he took off, and having that type of player is a benefit to the team. His contract allowed the team to get Sprewell after he couldn't play any more.
- Malik Sealy: Obviously, we all remember the tragic ending. Even when he was playing, though, I respected what he brought. Like TB, he knew what his range was and what his role was. He was a decent defender who took on tough assignments (like guarding Scottie Pippen in the Portland series after the aging Pip worked Wally like a speedbag in game 1). Also, the game-winning 3 against the Pacers on MLK Day was one of the best regular-season plays in team history and capped off a great game.
- Gary Trent: He's mainly on this list because my friend's ex-girlfriend (GF at the time) met him when the team stayed in St. Cloud for training camp, and he gave her his phone number. When we called it, this was his message: "This is Gary; leave a message or your ass ain't getting no call back." Beyond that, though, he made one of the clutch plays in Wolves playoff history in Game 3 of the '03 playoffs at LA: after KG had fouled out in OT on a flop by Robert Horry and the Wolves down 1 with 24 seconds left, he pump-faked Kobe into the air with 2 seconds on the shot clock, drew the foul, and knocked down 2 at the line. How they sealed that game with he and Marc Jackson knocking down FTs is probably one of the reasons why the 02-03 team is one of my faves.
- Rod Strickland: I can't explain this one well; there were several others I thought of, but for some reason, this guy sticks out because he was mainly relying on instincts at that point in his career but was still effective.
Corey Brewer: Such a polarizing player. Ultimately, I liked him the last two seasons because he made plays defensively when few or none of his teammates were. Some of the few highlights from the dismal past two seasons involved him stealing the ball in the backcourt or diving for a loose ball and passing it up ahead for a dunk. That's not even mentioning the 3 clutch FTs when they won at Dallas 2 years ago or the game-tying half-court heave at Houston. He's fundamentally flawed as a player, but his effort and intensity are difficult to question.
- Fred Hoiberg: Aside from KG, he was probably the only player who played as well in 04-05 when they missed the playoffs (worst season in team history for me personally) as 03-04 when they went to the conference finals. Like Brandon, he didn't take anything off the table and played to his strengths. He rebounded well for a guard, seemed to make big shots, and his 3-point play while being guarded by Kobe sealed the most-recent playoff win in team history (Game 5, 2004).