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What is Evan Turner’s Defining Timberwolves Moment?

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Since the Timberwolves and Turner still haven’t reached a buyout agreement, let’s revisit Turner’s biggest impact on the franchise.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Atlanta Hawks Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

How many things take seven months to complete? Entire buildings can be demolished and rebuilt in that time. Ironically, seven months is also the amount of time Evan Turner has been a Timberwolf. The veteran was acquired from the Atlanta Hawks back on February 5, but has not played for Minnesota because of a failed attempt between Turner and the Timberwolves to come to terms on a potential buyout (Turner will become an unrestricted free agent later this fall/winter).

I get it — Turner is 31 years old and didn’t really want to stick around for a rebuild (prior to this season, Turner had only missed the postseason once in his career). His playing time in Atlanta was sporadic as younger players leapfrogged him in the rotation. Yet, Turner is still here anyway (at least for another month or so).

Since Turner’s tenure with Minnesota has about six more weeks left (which is the same amount of time as a human baby’s gestation period), there’s no better time than now to recap his most memorable moments with his current employer.

Ah, yes, 2010. The year Katy Perry’s “California’ Gurls” and Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are” dominated the airwaves. “The Town,” “Shutter Island,” and “Black Swan” were a few of the popular new films in theaters. What a glorious time to be alive.

2010 was also the time Turner was leaving Ohio State. Man, was he fun in a Buckeyes uniform. I remember watching Turner on that OSU team and was so enamored with the way he would take over games and the way his teammates deferred to him when it mattered most.

New lottery, same bad luck

2010 was also a dark time for the Timberwolves (sound familiar!). The team won just fifteen games, ten fewer than the next closest team in the Western Conference, but didn’t have the league’s worst record because the Nets won only a dozen games that season. Whatever, the second-best lottery odds in a decent draft is a fine outcome, right?

Then, in true Timberwolves fashion, they dropped to fourth in the draft lottery, which led to the above tweet from Turner (the then-consensus second-overall pick). Falling to fourth was going to make landing Turner very difficult and fans were clearly dejected at the time.

With the fourth pick in hand, the Wolves turned their attention to almost-23-year-old Wesley Johnson, which only made matters worse. Kentucky star DeMarcus Cousins was still on the board at the time and would go one pick later to Sacramento. If I recall correctly, and I think I do, Cousins wouldn’t work out for the Timberwolves because they already had Kevin Love and Al Jefferson in the front court.

Should this have mattered? No, especially since the Wolves would trade Jefferson to Utah just weeks after the draft for Kosta Koufos and a pair of picks they would get no value from. Imagine a world where the Timberwolves draft Cousins, trade Jefferson, and Cousins plays those minutes instead of Koufos the following season. Having Love and Cousins playing with Ricky Rubio could have been fun a couple years later.

Nope. Instead, Timberwolves fans went from thinking “maybe we can get Turner or Derrick Favors,” to falling to fourth overall and still having a shot at Cousins, but eventually going home with Johnson. Wes lasted just two short seasons in Minnesota before he was jettisoned to Phoenix (along with a second-round pick), which only throws more salt on the revisionist history wound. Even if you didn’t (and still don’t) like Cousins, Paul George, Gordon Hayward and several other more impactful players had a better career than Johnson (who would go on to play nine years in the NBA, including last season with the New Orleans Pelicans and Washington Wizards).

Could Turner have made a difference?

Anyway, back to the topic of this post — Evan Turner. He never became the star many expected him to be coming out of college, but from 2015-2019, he was a solid rotation player for both the Boston Celtics and Portland Trailblazers.

During that 380-game sample, Turner started just 123 games, averaging 25.9 minutes per game and posting averages of 8.8 points, 3.9 assists, and 4.3 rebounds (with fairly decent efficiency). Having a low-usage player like Turner to help run the bench and mentor the younger players (i.e. Jarrett Culver) could have definitely helped the Wolves this past spring and been a smart way for him to build some momentum as he (once again) enters free agency. Then again, his time in Minnesota could have been a continuation of his disastrous Atlanta stint, which *could* have resulted in him having little to no suitors latest this year. There’s no real way to know.

What we do know is Turner is still technically a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves (at least for another couple of months), even if he decided against participating in the voluntary in-market training camp/bubble taking place this week. While he may have accumulated as many stats for Minnesota as you or I have, Turner will always have that defining Timberwolves-related moment, one that altered the trajectory of the franchise a decade ago.