I know some will be annoyed that I am even bringing this topic up. Even more perhaps will disagree with my conclusion. Hell, I am having a harder and harder time agreeing with myself on this one these days. Still, I am in the mood to write a basketball related post and I have a particular point I want to make and receive feedback on. I should also add that I am not going to bring performance based stats into this as they do not factor into my overall point. It's possible that NCAA performance bases stats do but I really do not have the expertise to use this kind of thing to my advantage. In the interest of keeping this topic from making us all want to break down into a pile of tears I will start with a video that I personally find way funnier than it probably is.
OK, here goes (sorry): What I want to talk to you about today is my ongoing belief that the Wes Johnson pick was worse than the Johnny Flynn pick. In the interest of simplicity I am going to take certain variables out of this equation. I am not going to get into trading out of the pick scenarios nor am I interested in hindsight arguments (I'm looking at you Paul George). In both of these drafts I am looking at the Wolves pick as a two horse race. In 2009 it was Flynn v Curry and in 2010 it was Johnson v Cousins. In my mind (and post) the debate is as simple as that. Please feel free to bring up any other factors in the comment section.
Now we all know that both of these picks have been a disaster. In the case of Flynn the Wolves gave him up for very little in return while in the case of Johnson the Wolves had to actually give up assets to just to jettison him. Still, despite this seeming to be a slight point towards my argument I will maintain that it is irrelevant. Remember that NBA performance does not factor in to my basic point. This is a good thing for me too because Cousins' ongoing immaturity and Curry's recent playoff coming out party are combining to make the Johnson worse than Flynn camp very lonely. Let me be clear- I would choose Curry to be a Wolf over Cousins now in a heartbeat. It's not even close I don't think. Again, this is not relevant to my point.
Fine then, you are probably saying, what is your point? Fair enough. My point is this. The basic idea behind drafting Flynn over Curry makes more sense than the idea of drafting Johnson over Cousins. Here is my reasoning. Curry and Flynn were both drafted to play point guard in the NBA. The Timberwolves decided they liked Flynn better as an NBA point guard. I don't know why they decided this- no one does really. It was a terrible thing to believe- then and now. Ridiculous really. Maybe they saw Curry as an undersized tweener (I admit to being worried about it) or maybe they saw Flynn as the next great floor leader (what????). I don't really know. The point is that for whatever reason the Timberwolves had Flynn ranked above Curry as an NBA point guard. Clearly they were horrifically wrong on this. However, I personally have no problem with using those high picks on point guards. Finding a quality NBA point guard who can start for your team over multiple years is a big deal. It's important.
Let me ask you this- imagine if for some strange reason your favorite NFL team had had the top two picks in the 1998 draft and had used them to select both Payton Manning and Ryan Leaf. One burned out of the NFL immediately and the other went on to be a hall of fame quality player who led the team that selected him to a decade of relevance and one Super Bowl championship. Would a draft that picked both of these quarterbacks onto the same team be a successful draft? I say yes. I use this hyperbolic and ridiculous analogy only to point out that I have no problem with the Wolves drafting Rubio and then drafting their next favorite point guard with the very next pick. This strategy is fine. They got it wrong and that happens. It happens far to often with the Timberwolves but that is a larger conversation.
Now onto why I think that taking Johnson over Cousins was a worse choice. For me it comes down to what they were trying to do and what they had a chance to do. Above I argued that with the 2009 draft the Wolves were trying to find a long term point guard in a point guard heavy draft. They hit on one and missed badly on the other. In the 2010 draft the choices were very different. The Wolves had an opportunity to select a troubled but talented NBA sized center in Cousins. Sure there was risk involved. There is always risk involved with draft picks. Instead they choose a dime a dozen generic NBA wing player. A player for whom the most likely upside was that he would share minutes in the wing rotation with a variety of players over his career. Sure we all hoped he would be the next Ray Allen but that is not a reasonable expectation for very many players. In 2009 the Wolves took two players hoping to secure a long term starting point guard. This is a reasonable expectation. In 2010 they swung for the fence on a player who's likely upside was midlevel starting wing. Contrast this with Cousins and what a team can expect when they draft a player of his size, mobility and skill set. Best case scenario is long term starting center- this is a pretty big deal. We Wolves fans are painfully aware of how hard this is too find. Worse case is that you have a player who retains more value than he should simply because of his size. I believe that this latter position is where Cousins currently is. Johnson did not retain his value because, despite his athleticism, it is an athleticism that is often replicated. Every draft is full of 6' 6'' athletes who will fail int he NBA- that is not unique. Guys like Cousins with real NBA center size, mobility and skills are unique. The Wolves missed badly when they passed on Curry but they missed stupidly when they passed on Cousins.
Thanks for listening. I suspect I am in the minority on this and look forward to hearing why.