With the talk of the town being around the San Antonio Spurs and Wemby-rama, the Minnesota Timberwolves found themselves in an unusual place: Outside of the NBA lottery. In their 34 years of existence, the Wolves have only been excluded from the lotto 13 times. Not great. If you look at all 30 NBA teams, only three other teams have been in the lottery more than Minnesota.
NBA Lottery Data
|Team||Lottery Appearances||*Years of Existence||%|
|Team||Lottery Appearances||*Years of Existence||%|
Today, we’ll be taking a look at all the players the Timberwolves have drafted with their lottery picks (1-14) throughout their franchise’s history. Keep in mind, we’ll only be considering players that meet the following criteria:
- Player was selected between picks 1-14 of the NBA draft.
- Player appeared for the Minnesota Timberwolves in their first NBA regulation game.
- Player can be acquired by the Timberwolves in a draft night/ensuing offseason trade.
Without further ado, let’s go to Commissioner Adam Silver with the announcements.
With the 14th pick in the NBA draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select...
Shabazz Muhammad (2013); Rashad McCants (2005); William Avery (1999)
Total Win Shares in Minnesota: 9.6
Win Shares per player: 3.2
Aside from William Avery, who I randomly have a custom Beanie Baby of, the number 14 slot is saved for scorers and scorers only. I would pay good money to watch Bazz play one-on-one against Shad. They both just about played out the duration of their rookie contracts in Minnesota before flaming out as offense-first, inefficient scorers. I detailed what they’re up nowadays in a similarly depressing article about ringless former Wolves lottery players.
With the 13th pick in the NBA draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select...
Zach LaVine (2014)
Total Win Shares in Minnesota: 4.9
Our beloved son was just growing into a man before he was shipped off to Chicago as one of the sacrificial lambs to end the Wolves 14-year playoff drought. It was a hefty price to pay, as the Wolves only got to see Zach LaVine begin to learn the game during his rookie contract. Point-LaVine was about as enjoyable as the Point-Wiggins experiment, but Flip Saunders taking a homerun swing on the 19-year-old prospect out of UCLA proved to be one of his biggest front office achievements.
With the 12th pick in the NBA draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select...
The Wolves have actually never picked (or picked for someone else) at slot number 12. However, Taurean Prince was selected 12th by the Atlanta Hawks (via Utah) in the 2016 NBA draft.
With the 11th pick in the NBA draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select...
Though the Wolves did technically “draft” Cameron Johnson in the 2019 NBA draft, it was a pick that was actually made by the Phoenix Suns. The 11th pick was combined with Dario Šarić to move up to pick number 6. More on that later...
With the 10th pick in the NBA draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select...
Pooh Richardson (1989)
Total Win Shares in Minnesota: 14.4
The first ever NBA draft pick by the franchise, Pooh Richardson, ended up being one of the franchise’s best players despite being selected at #10. The diminutive point guard out of UCLA only played three seasons with the Wolves, but appeared in all 82 games for each of them and started almost the entire way. Richardson’s best years were in Minnesota. He’s still all over Minnesota record books, ranking in top 10 in a number of franchise categories such as assists and steals per game, box plus/minus, and Value Over Replacement Player (VORP).
With the 9th pick in the NBA draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select...
Similar to the 11th pick, the Wolves “drafted” Trey Burke in the 2013 NBA draft, but this time it was the Utah Jazz who made the pick. That draft will notoriously be remembered as the one where Flip Saunders panicked after missing out on Victor Oladipo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. The 9th pick was ultimately flipped for picks 14 and 21 and Flip had a doozy of a time word salad-ing his way through the pressers.
With the 8th pick in the NBA draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select...
Okay, I promise you this is the last “No one” entry on this list. Shoutout to former Wolves greats, Jamal Crawford and Andre Miller, who were selected #8 in their respective drafts over two decades ago.
With the 7th pick in the NBA draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select...
Corey Brewer (2007); Randy Foye (2006); Luc Longley (1991)
Total Win Shares in Minnesota: 15.0
Win Shares per player: 5.0
When you first see the graphic above, you may be asking yourself, “Why is that fine gentleman on the right holding a ball that says ‘06’ on it?” Well, if you’re new around these parts, I recommend you read what happened on June 28, 2006. Now that you’ve relived that travesty, let’s hone in on the better part of our former #7 pick. No, not the future two-time champion Luc Longley, who missed the beginning of his rookie season in Minnesota due to contract negotiations, but the other NBA champion, Mr. Corey Brewer. He had a exuberant smile that would put Andrew Wiggins to shame, a John Deere Lawn Tractor motor that would embarrass Josh Minott’s manual lawn mower, and a career-high in points that Anthony Edwards hasn’t even reached yet. He also has the best highlight in all of Timberwolves history.
With the 6th pick in the NBA draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select...
Jarrett Culver (2019); Jonny Flynn (2009); Wally Szczerbiak (1999); Felton Spencer (1990)
Total Win Shares in Minnesota: 48.2
Win Shares per player: 12.1
Yikes. In combined four seasons in a Timberwolves uniform, Jarrett Culver and Jonny Flynn contributed -0.218 win shares. Any current of future Wolves General Manager should be banned from drafting at this spot. That said out of 287 players to have ever played for Minnesota, only 8 have been All-Stars. One of those is none other than Wally Szczerbiak. The man that is as known for his abs and getting kicked in the face by Bruce Bowen as he is for his contributions on the court. A brief Robin to KG’s Batman, Wally had some great years as a Timberwolf.
We also want to recognize Felton Spencer, who passed away from a heart attack just a few months ago. Though he was before my time, he still propped this group of draft picks up by contributing 8.6 WS in just three seasons in Minnesota. “Chief” remains in the Wolves record books, being top 10 in blocks as well as being the Wolves all-time best player in offensive rebound percentage.
Early Wolves legend Felton Spencer passed at 55, and I never saw anything about it on this app. He was a tenacious rebounder and strong finisher. Started 147 games in 3 seasons with some of the worst Wolves teams. He’s #60 on the CnD Greatest Timberwolves of All-Time list. pic.twitter.com/MeotSwCrm1— The CnD NBA Show (bottom 3% OF) (@cndnbashow) March 14, 2023
With the 5th pick in the NBA draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select...
Kris Dunn (2016); Ricky Rubio (2009); Kevin Love (2008); Kevin Garnett (1995); Isaiah Rider (1993)
Total Win Shares in Minnesota: 207.5
Win Shares per player: 41.5
This is the one. Throughout the Wolves 34 years of existence, three of the players drafted number five have been in the franchise’s top 7 in WS and VORP. I would bet all my Hoopus Points that pre-Anthony Edwards era, one of these three guys was probably your favorite Timberwolves player. Perhaps more impressive than the massive impact this trio had on the court and the inspirational effects they had on the fan base, was how they got to the team.
Kevin Garnett was the wildcard of all wildcards in the ‘95 draft, becoming the first player selected in the NBA draft out of high school in 20 years.
Kevin Love was acquired during draft night 2008 when then GM Kevin McHale swapped the number 3 pick, the supposed “Next LeBron James,” for him.
Ricky Rubio was a huge risk-reward prospect with big questions marks such as if his game would translate in the NBA and when he would he come stateside, if ever.
They all remain as some of the most memorable players to have ever donned a Wolves jersey. Even Isaiah Rider spent his days in Minnesota as one of their top scoring threats, winning the ‘94 Slam Dunk contest along the way. Oh, and then there’s Kris Dunn, who will mostly be remembered as a footnote in the Jimmy Butler trade and for being selected over current Jamal Murray, who’s about to star in the NBA finals.
In case you’re wondering, the Detroit Pistons hold the number 5 pick in the 2023 NBA draft.
With the 4th pick in the NBA draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select...
Wesley Johnson (2010); Stephon Marbury (1996); Donyell Marshall (1994)
Total Win Shares in Minnesota: 12.2
Win Shares per player: 4.1
Unlike the holy trinity above, the three players selected with the number 4 pick are quite uninspiring. Smiley Johnson and Donyell Marshall (who only lasted 40 games before getting swapped for Tom Gugliotta) are forgettable, but Stephon Marbury holds down the fort here, as he was traded on draft night for Ray Allen. Marbury was destined to partner up with one of his best friends, Kevin Garnett, to lead the Wolves to the promised land for the next decade plus. Fast forward two seasons, a super duper mega-extension for KG, and some scary black ice later, Starbury demanded a trade to go back closer to his hometown and be the lone star. He left behind 10.4 win shares and a career of non-Timberwolves Ray Allen memories for us to watch.
With the 3rd pick in the NBA draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select...
Christian Laettner (1992)
Total Win Shares in Minnesota: 19.0
Despite having the best chances to win the 1992 Shaquille O’Neal sweepstakes, Minnesota fell two spots and missed out on superstars Shaq and Alonzo Mourning. Their consolation prize was one of the most decorated NCAA players of all-time, Christian Laettner. He lasted just 3.5 seasons with the Timberwolves before he was traded for essentially nothing in return. Despite such a short shelf life, Laettner still finished top 10 all-time in the franchise’s total points, rebounds, blocks, and win shares.
As for the rest of the 1992 draft, there was a fairly lengthy list of Timberwolves Who’s Who, including Latrell Sprewell (24th), Anthony Peeler (15th), Malik Sealy (14th; RIP), and the aforementioned Tom Gugliotta (6th). Laettner wasn’t much of a draft day miss as he was very much the best player available. Speaking of “best player available”...
With the 2nd pick in the NBA draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select...
Derrick Williams (2011)
Total Win Shares in Minnesota: 4.8
Heading into the 2011 draft, Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams were considered to be the top two prospects which many outlets billed as a “two-person draft.” Both were considered “Can’t Miss Prospects,” but one of them certainly ended up as a miss. D-Will came into the league as a decorated college star, single-handedly dragging a University of Arizona basketball team to the Elite Eight in 2011. Some pundits even considered the Timberwolves to be lucky when they missed out on the #1 pick in the NBA lottery, as Kyrie would’ve likely been picked at that spot. That would’ve created a potential positional crunch as they had just selected point guards Jonny Flynn and soon-to-be arriving Ricky Rubio two drafts ago.
Instead, Minnesota drafted the Caged Lion, pairing him with Rubio as an exciting duo of “Rise & Shine” rookies (RIP Hanny). Williams had some awesome highlights in a Wolves jersey, including jumping over a motorcycle in the 2012 dunk contest, but that was about it. His perimeter shooting and athleticism failed to translate in the NBA, though he did help coin the popular Canis Hoopus vernacular; “Mud Run.” D-Will didn’t even make it through the entirety of his rookie contract before he was shipped off to Sacramento, beginning his journey with five different teams in four years.
With the 1st pick in the NBA draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select...
Anthony Edwards (2020); Karl-Anthony Towns (2015); Andrew Wiggins (2014)
Total Win Shares in Minnesota: 92.0
Win Shares per player: 30.7
Although only two of these three players donned a Minnesota Timberwolves cap on draft night, all three have bore the weight of a franchise’s hopes and dreams at one point in time. As mentioned earlier, a presumed star guard that the Wolves drafted number 3 overall in 2008 was flipped for Kevin Love. Fast forward six years later, Love was swapped for a presumed star guard in Andrew Wiggins. Fans enjoyed Maple Jordan’s dunks, tantalizing potential, and unlimited big smiles for five and a half years before he embarked on his All-Star and NBA championship arc with Golden State.
Karl-Anthony Towns became the first “official” number one overall pick of the Timberwolves on draft night. Many of us at Canis Hoopus held our collective breaths on draft night 2015, as Flip Saunders appeared to teeter between KAT or Jahlil Okafor. Safe to say he made the right choice, as Towns has been a dominant force on the court (offensively) and a consistently faithful player off the court. What’s been more enjoyable than anything basketball-related is that he is such a good human, always giving back to the community and being a great role model for younger generations, standing up for things that actually matter in the real world. No matter what happens with his career moving forward, I personally hope KAT retires as a career Timberwolf.
Last and certainly not least may be the player that has the potential to be one of the greatest players to ever play for the Timberwolves, if not the entire NBA. Anthony Edwards didn’t quite have the same fanfare that Wiggins or even KAT had on draft night, perhaps due to the weirdness of the 2020 pandemic draft. The media had more questions about his skillset and “passion for the game” than they had answers. Just 18 years old at the time of the draft, Ant immediately dazzled the fan base with his charming personality which hasn’t waivered three years later. He has staunchly silenced all the negative critiques about what he can or can’t do on the court. There appears to be no limit for high Black Jesus will fly.
Looking at these failed players may make you feel 6. Unlike the GOATs who wear numbers 2 and 3, those number may not always bring fortune. It’s clear that the Timberwolves lucky number has been 5. Will that be the case when both Da 1’s will be done?
Hopefully there’s more 2 just 1 number that will decide who’s jersey will hang in Target Center’s rafters one day.