This year marks the 10-year anniversary of the Wolves' run the the Western Conference Finals. This year also marks the 10-year anniversary of the last Timberwolves playoff run. It's been a rough decade.
The period between NBA free agency's conclusion and the beginning training camp can be long and grueling. During these times, I tend to look back at the best years and players the Wolves have had as a franchise. It may seem tough to look back fondly at Wolves history, and it's true. Wolves fans have had to endure a lot over this treacherous decade. Still, there have still been some good moments. There have still been players that all Wolves fans look back on fondly.
With that comes the challenge:
The Objective: Compile a 15-man roster using only players in Timberwolves history. This will comprise of 12 active roster players, 3 injured reserve players. Also pick a head coach. Attempt to compile the roster that you think would give you the best chance to win.
1. The attempt is to make a good team, but also keep in mind each player's historical impact (or lack thereof) with the Wolves. This means you have to factor in team chemistry. Try to mix and match.
2. Histories between players won't be accounted for. The rift between KG and Stephon Marbury is nonexistent, for example.
3. At least 2 players at each position, no more than 4 at any position. Small forward and shooting guard can be interchangeable when it applies.
Head Coach- Flip Saunders
There aren't too many stellar choices for spot. Flip is the only coach that has any sort of success in his history with the Wolves in terms of getting to the playoffs, but when he got there he didn't do much. I wanted to go with Adelman, but he hasn't made the playoffs yet. Granted, it's not his fault, but the best years in Wolves history have Flip running the show. For that reason, Flip is our guy.
Center- Nikola Pekovic
In order to find the best center in the history of the Timberwolves, we didn't have to dig too deep in the archives to find our man. Never in the history of the Timberwolves has there been a true center as physically imposing on a defense as Pek has been over the last two years. There are other options at this spot, but Nikola Pekovic in two years has already accomplished more than any center the Wolves have ever had. His new contract suggests there is a lot more of that to come.
Power Forward- Kevin Garnett
I could get all gushy and talk about KG's historical impact with Minnesota. I'm going to. No Wolves player has been able to top KG's impact in a Wolves uniform, and it's going to be tough to pull off. No player made scoring 20 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing out 5 assists, all while playing stellar defense every night look so easy. He played 12 years in Minnesota and holds basically every franchise record you can think of. I miss him in a Wolves uniform, but at least we can say we had him for as long as we did.
Small Forward- Wally Szczerbiak
It's tough to find a decent wing player who (happily) played in Minnesota for more than a year or two. Wally Szczerbiak is one of of those players. He's also the only wing player that has ever made an All Star team. Originally, the starting lineup I had was a bit different. Looking it over, there was nobody with any history of success from the 3-point line. Wally always took advantage of Kevin Garnett double teams, and would help space the floor in this scenario.
Shooting Guard- Doug West
No player in Wolves history managed to hold their spot as starting shooting guard as long as Doug West did. He played on almost-exclusively bad teams in Minnesota, but the poor win totals did not take away from his value to the franchise. He played 9 years in Minnesota, starting at shooting guard for 8 of them. During the Wolves' first playoff run in the 1996-97 season, West abandoned his desire to score to focus on other areas of the game. Defense was a big part of that. That would be his role here. That and dunking. Lots of dunking.
Point Guard- Sam Cassell
Like Wally World, Sam Cassell is the only player at his position to make an All Star team for the Wolves. He only played in Minnesota for a couple seasons, but he still managed to make a big impact on the franchise. Kevin Garnett was the undisputed leader on the floor during his time with the Wolves, but Cassell was still an extension of the coaching staff on the court. Putting his leadership, craftiness, clutch play, and winning history into account, he's the easy choice for the starting point guard job.
Bench- Kevin Love
There is plenty of reason why putting Love into the starting lineup would be a good idea. Next to Kevin Garnett, the Twin Kevin's would be absolutely frightening, especially on the boards. Still, I like the idea of bringing Love off the bench, letting KG and Pek strike fear into the opponent to start the game. Love can finish games. Depending on the progression of Ricky Rubio, Love will likely end up being the second-best player to ever wear a Wolves uniform. He's already 2nd all-time in All Star appearances for the franchises with a whopping 2. Let's hope that number increases substantially over the years.
Bench- Ricky Rubio
It was extremely tough to decide between Rubio and Marbury for the backup point guard slot. Marbury had a lot of success in Minnesota, and never missed the playoffs with the team. Seeing how team chemistry does matter, and there's already more than enough scoring power in the lineup, Rubio was the selection. He would be a perfect change of pace for Cassell at the point guard spot on both sides of the ball. Ricky's young, but this year he will tie the number of years Marbury spent in Minnesota. His defense would be much-needed in an offense-oriented roster.
Bench- Latrell Sprewell
It's kind of weird seeing Wally in the starting 5, and Sprewell coming off the bench. But remember, historical impact on the team is taken into account here. Spree had a controversial final year in Minnesota, but he will still the third head of the three-headed monster. He could still play, and it will be tough for anyone to have a hairstyle more interesting than those pigtails he rocked in the 2004-05 season. He was the third option on the best Wolves team ever. That alone gives him more historical impact than just about any other wing player the Wolves have had in their history.
Bench- Tom Gugliotta
The final member of the Wolves All Star club. Googs is in a tough spot on this team, mainly because he plays power forward. KG and Love have those spots securely locked up. Even so, Gugliotta added a lot to the first few Timberwolves playoff teams in the KG era. He made an All Star appearance in the 1996-97 season when he put up over 20 points per game, nearly 9 rebounds and 5 assists. Very KG-like numbers. He only played in Minnesota for 3 and a half years, but nobody will forget Kevin Harlan's classic "Oogli Oogli Oogli baby!!" call.
Bench- Al Jefferson
His time in Minnesota was short, and he came into a Wolves situation that was not easy. He still played well. Some people, including myself, argue that in the 2008-09 season he was wrongfully snubbed out of a spot in the NBA All Star game. When he was at his best, he was one of the best back-to-the basket big men in the NBA. He also improved as a shotblocker during his time in Minnesota. Perhaps the biggest story with Al and the Wolves is just how little Minnesota got in return for his services, but that is a story for another day. I loved his attitude in Minnesota, and would have been plenty happy holding onto him.
Bench- Sam Mitchell (no highlight reel found)
Kevin Garnett is the face of Timberwolves history, but Sam Mitchell is right there with him. He isn't the most talented player on this roster, but his longevity and leadership earn him a spot on here. He played 10 years out of his 13-year NBA career in Minnesota (that number may have been a perfect 13/13 if he hadn't been traded to Indiana). His role on the team changed pretty frequently depending on injuries and the success of the team, but there was never a complaint on his end. He may not be as talented scoring the ball as some other wings on here, but he still ranks near the top in several statistical categories, including points, steals and minutes played.
Bench- Mark Madsen (no highlight reel found, but if you get bored, look up the video of him dancing)
Because no Wolves team is truly complete without a classic Mark Madsen standing ovation after every decent play. That is all.
IR1- Stephon Marbury
Again, it was tough to decide between Rubio and Marbury. Ultimately there seemed to be enough scoring to go around, and Ricky's services seemed to make the most sense here. Marbury, along with Garnett and Gugliotta, helped turn a franchise around and make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Had he stuck around in Minnesota, who knows what he could have accomplished? Well, he didn't, and we'll never know because of it. It still does not take away from three great and exciting years Stephon had with the Wolves.
IR2- Tony Campbell
Tony Campbell was a part of the inaugural Timberwolves team, and he was given the green light to shoot right from the get-go. His career high shooting spectable of 44 points during a game in the 1989-90 season lasted for over a decade, before Kevin Garnett finally broke it with a 47-point performance in 2005. Despite only playing in Minnesota for 4 seasons, he still ranks towards the top in total career points with the team. In fact, he was briefly the all-time leader in points for Minnesota, until he was surpassed by Doug West. Had he stuck around longer, he also would have likely been higher up on this roster.
IR3- Trenton Hassell (no highlight reel found)
The final spot came down to Hassell and Fred Hoiberg, both of whom are all-time favorites of mine. Ultimately I went with Hassell, because before the hand-checking rule, Hassell was one of the premier defenders in the NBA, and one of the main reasons why Minnesota beat Sacramento in the second round in 2004. He held All-Star Peja Stojakovic to 35 percent shooting from the field and 34 percent from beyond the arc. He did similar damage to a rookie Carmelo Anthony in the first round that same year. It's as close to a tie between Hassell and Hoiberg as there can be, but ultimately I went with defense for the last spot.
Obviously this isn't a perfect list, ranking, or roster. How would you do it differently? Post away, Canis.