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Remembering the Timberwolves’ GOATs

What better way to open the offseason than by remembering the good the Timberwolves have brought us?

Memphis Grizzlies v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

While you could look forward with angst, and possibly hope (if your soul is one this franchise has yet to claim), to the NBA Draft Lottery (which is three weeks from today), you should instead keep reading to take a trip down the Minnesota Timberwolves’ franchise GOAT lane.

Today, we’re recalling the greatest Timberwolves team, player and in/off-season moments of all-time. The common awardees have been rehashed time and again, so we’re going to have some fun with it.

Before we dive into the superlatives, some context:

  1. My “all-time” dates back to 2004, which was when the earliest conscious entries into my 22-year-old memory were made.
  2. You have your GOAT list and I have mine. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, which is what makes life great and all of us invested in the Timberwolves after what we’ve been put through.
  3. Finally, if you have any expectations for what you are about to read, throw them out the window.

Now, let’s get this party started.

Greatest Team of All-Time

First, and foremost perhaps the most contentious for me personally, I am giving the Greatest Team of All-Time award to the 2012-13 Minnesota Timberwolves.

To begin with, this team had six international players from six different countries (France, Puerto Rico, Montenegro, Russia, Serbia and Spain), which is amazing in itself. For context, this season there were 107 international players from 41 countries on NBA rosters (averages of 3.6 and 1.4 per team, respectively). Not only were these players on the same team, but all six of them were in the regular rotation and played fairly well for the team. The exception here was cult hero Alexey Shved, who, despite playing poorly pretty much all season, played his way not only into the hearts of Timberwolves fans, but also into being selected 20th of 20 available players in the 2013 Rising Stars Game Draft to Team Chuck, which also featured Ricky Rubio.

NBA All-Star Portraits Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Next, this team was an excellently crafted melting pot of players with cult-like followings. Kevin Love and Nikola Peković, the Wolves’ 2008 draft class, led the team in scoring and rebounding; Andrei Kirilenko did it all* on the wing (* = on a Wolves-adjusted scale of course); the backcourt rotation consisted of Rubio, Luke Ridnour, Shved, a somehow-only-28-years-old-version of Brandon Roy, and J.J. Barea; Chase Budinger was the bench sniper; Greg Stiemsma and Lou Amundson were possibly the least intimidating the bench enforcers of all-time (averaging 5.5 and 5.8 fouls per 36 minutes, respectively); Derrick Williams top young prospect on the team (No. 2 overall in 2011); best of all, they had a Hall of Fame coach in Rick Adelman, whose performance guiding this team to 19th overall in the NBA standings at 31-51 is a tremendous bullet point for making his HOF case.

As a testament to this incredible fan base, the Wolves were 21st in attendance that year. Man, do our fans deserve to see the playoffs again.

Honorable mention: 2009-2010 Minnesota Timberwolves

Corey Brewer. Brian Cardinal. Three Eastern European players. An offense that was 3rd in pace and 29th overall. An All-Rookie team point guard, but not named Stephen Curry. What more could you ask for in a team?

I’ll never forget listening to Wolves Radio’s Alan Horton while trying to fall asleep during this season. The palpable deflation, pain and genuine confusion (at how things could somehow find new ways to get worse) in his voice will stick with me forever. It’s also a reminder of how blessed we are in Minnesota to have someone as great at his job as Horton is still calling games after what this team has made him watch.

Greatest Player of All-Time

I’ll be honest, this player was in my honorable mention category until I did a Twitter search of his name. It provided me a solid hour of entertainment reading through tweets and articles, which solidified my decision. Some of the best will be embedded below.

Twitter didn’t really become very popular stateside (and in the Wolves circle) until 2012ish, so keep that in mind if you’d like to guess before you scroll.

Toronto Raptors v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

In a close battle, Marcus Georges-Hunt beats out Gorgui Dieng and Corey Brewer (more on him later) to earn my vote for Greatest Timberwolf of All-Time. If you’re wondering “Who on Earth is Marcus Georges-Hunt?” then you must be new here. And that is perfectly okay, because you’ll get a nice introduction.

Georges-Hunt was a member of the Timberwolves for one season (2017-18). He appeared in 42 games, averaging 1.4 points, 0.4 rebounds, 0.2 assists, 0.1 steals, 0.0 blocks and 0.1 turnovers in 5.3 minutes per game.

He played in just one game in the D-League, but made his impression, scoring 34 points (10/16 FG, 12/12 FT), and recording four rebounds, three steals, and a block in 40 minutes.

Despite playing in an NBA game for more than 10 minutes just once in the first half of the season, the Jimmy Butler understudy won fans over in the season’s second half with his physicality on both ends, defensive effort and ability to get to the free throw line. He earned calls from fans to play more after Shabazz Muhammad fell out of the rotation and fans grew weary of Jamal Crawford’s poor defense.

The hysteria began on January 20, 2018, during what is now known as “The Marcus Georges-Hunt Game,” for which Jimmy Butler was out with an injury. He had 12 points, three rebounds and two assists in 29:21 of play. To seal his fate as a fan favorite, he took a game-clinching charge late in the game.

The craze culminated on March 24, 2018. After the Wolves trailed by as much as 29, MGH led a bench rally, during which he had 11 points on 3/4 FG (5/5 FT), two rebounds and two steals. He was a +16 in 14:43 of play in what ended as a 12-point loss at the Philadelphia 76ers.

Canis frequenter Poop Hat captured the essence of the night nicely.

Even though the Timberwolves decided not to re-sign him, MGH left his mark on the Timberwolves.

MGH’s game was compared to that of a young Jimmy Butler, who he appears next to in the now-legendary box score toss GIF.

The two were friends, but Jimmy seemed to enjoy MGH’s son better, especially on Instagram.

Canis superstar Jake Kelly offered his thoughts:

After moving on from the Wolves, he bounced around training camps before going overseas, where he became (and still is) a Chinese Basketball Association legend.

Remember the game in January where Jimmer went for 70 points, nine assists and eight rebounds in 54 minutes? What people won’t tell you is that he went shot-for-shot with Georges-Hunt, who had 68 points of his own (including a buzzer-beating 3 to send the game to double OT) in just 43 minutes en route to a 136-129 win in 2OT.

This season for the Sichaun Blue Whales, MGH averaged 26.2 points on 48.8/39.1/79.9 shooting splits, 5.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.5 steals in 29.1 minutes per game.

Honorable Mentions: Gorgui Dieng and Corey Brewer

Greatest In-Season Moment/Game of All-Time

This was tough. There have been so many all-timers throughout my lifetime as a fan (most of them memorable in more of a funny way than a good, positive way), which made this nearly impossible to choose one.

The indomitable, chaotic spirit of Timberwolves Mount Rushmore member Corey Brewer was just too much to overcome.

My GOAT In-Season Moment: Brewer’s 51-point game against the Houston Rockets on April 11, 2014.

If you need to familiarize yourself with the night, here are the highlights.

I don’t think I will ever witness a more chaotically awesome performance in my life, in any sport. Brewer was out of control for a good portion of the night, making crazy, off-balance layups and floaters, jumping the passing lanes for steals and running out in transition for and-1s, and constantly finding his way to the free throw line. We’ll never see another 50-point game like it ever again.

15 of Brewer’s 51 came in the 4th, with seven coming from the line.

Brewer carried the Timberwolves to a win without three of their four best players (Kevin Love, Nikola Peković and Kevin Martin) in a down-to-the-wire game against the 5th-best team in the league. The Wolves started Brewer, Rubio, Robbie Hummel, Dante Cunningham and Dieng in that game.

The roar of the Target Center crowd was incredible and, combined with the increasing surprise and jubilation in the voices of Dave Benz and Jim Petersen throughout the game, never fails to put a huge smile on my face every time I come across the highlights.

Jim Pete calling him “A powder keg of activity” is exactly how I will always remember Corey Brewer. A powder keg of activity who always had a smile on his face and always did something that made you smile throughout the course of a game. It’s the same reason why I enjoy watching Josh Okogie play so much. They don’t call him Non-Stop for nothin’.

Honorable Mentions:

1) Kevin Garnett interview and win in 2004 WCSF Game 7 against the Sacramento Kings

He backed up his comments, recording a line of 32 points, 21 rebounds, five blocks and four steals in 45:41 played in an 83-80 Game 7 win. I’ll never forget watching this game with my Dad, both of us in awe of the superpowers KG possessed. It was the performance that truly brought about my Wolves fandom.

2) Zach LaVine going back-to-back in the 2015 and 2016 Slam Dunk Contests

The 2016 win was especially incredible, as it is widely regarded as one of the best dunk contests in the history of the league.

Greatest Off-Season Moment of All-Time

For this final award, I tried to think of a transformational moment. A moment in time that restored the love of the franchise into Wolves faithful when they were devoid of hope and direction, asking themselves, “Why?”

I have tried to stave off Recency bias as much as possible, but I am caving here, largely because the buzz around the Timberwolves has seemingly never been this positive since The Big Ticket shipped out to Boston.

Anthony Edwards has breathed more fresh air into the Minnesota Timberwolves franchise than any non-Garnett player in my lifetime. He showed this season why he is on a path to franchise-altering superstardom on the floor, but his personality off the floor is what has truly won over Timberwolves fans.

After being drafted, he was painted as a kid who liked football more than basketball, didn’t love hooping and as a project prospect who needed to be drafted to a patient organization willing to coddle him through his mistakes. That scared Timberwolves fans. Many of those fears about who was incorrectly painted to be as a person were quelled with far and away the best interview of the season and potentially the best interview I’ve ever seen in my life.

The GOAT off-season moment: Anthony Edwards Wolves+ interview with Marney Gellner

Little did we know what we were in for (off the floor) from your favorite Wolves fan’s favorite Wolf. The radiating happy-go-lucky spirit, joy, authenticity and humor we saw from Ant throughout the season genuinely renewed the faith and lifted the spirit of thousands of fans, all while making him one of the most well-liked players in the entire league.

The future of the Timberwolves is extremely bright, mostly due to the ascension of Edwards on the floor, which has driven by the person he is; people gravitate toward him as a leader, work harder because of his attitude and effort, and love being around him because of his sense of humor, spirit, and joy. You can’t help but smile thinking about Edwards being a Timberwolf for the next seven-plus seasons.

Honorable Mentions:

1) Joe Smith Contract Saga

I’m breaking my 2004-present time frame for this one because it’s just too good. If this happened in the social media era of the NBA, it would’ve broken NBA Twitter. Sean Highkin broke it down here, but here are the cliff notes:

In 1999, the Wolves didn’t have Smith’s bird rights, so they agreed off the books to not only sign him to three straight one-year contracts (in order to get his bird rights), but also to a long-term $86M extension that would be inked after those contracts. When his agents broke up, the details came out. The Wolves were fined $3.5M and forfeited their next five first-round picks, whjile Glen Taylor was suspended and VP of Basketball Operations Kevin McHale stepped away for a short period of time.

2) 2008 NBA Draft

If the Timberwolves never had the 2008 NBA Draft, they would be in a different city right now. David Kahn drafted O.J. Mayo with the 3rd pick before trading him with fillers to Memphis for Kevin Love (who was the 5th selection), Mike Miller and fillers. To start the second round, Minnesota took Peković, who was a the top draft-and-stash player in the draft. These two formed a very good frontcourt that was responsible for plenty of great nights, memorable moments and good wins throughout their time together, despite being surrounded largely by below average role players that I outlined in the team section.

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