The Timberwolves and Wild, both desperate for young talent, held picks two-thirds of the way through the first round of their respective drafts this week, meaning they had no chance to acquire a sure-thing superstar.
Maybe they got lucky.
What we’ve seen too often from Twin Cities sports teams is that the expected superstar can be overvalued, can prompt an organization to build a blueprint around a player who might prove unreliable as airplane Wi-Fi.
The Vikings spent first-round picks on receivers in 2013 and 2016. Cordarrelle Patterson couldn’t run routes. Laquon Treadwell hasn’t proved he can get open.
Without much help from them, the Vikings have built one of the NFL’s best receiving groups with an undrafted free agent they found at a workout (Adam Thielen) and a fifth-round pick (Stefon Diggs) who fell in the draft because of injuries. Treadwell might be ready to contribute this season, but if he’s not, they will barely miss him.
The Twins just won two series against quality teams without their two most important young players, Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano. They surged into the playoffs last year while Sano was injured. As both try to work through physical and mechanical issues, former utility infielder Eduardo Escobar and fourth-round pick Eddie Rosario have become the Twins’ best position players. The Twins’ best player over the past five years? Brian Dozier, who was taken in the eighth round.
The Timberwolves rely on two dynamic wings, Andrew Wiggins and Jimmy Butler. Wiggins was the first pick in the draft and was given a maximum contract. Butler was a lowly rated high school prospect who went with the 30th pick in the NBA draft. Butler is far more valuable and important to the Wolves, at least for the moment. If Wiggins played with Butler’s hunger, the Wolves would be a force in the West, not a team that had to scramble into the playoffs last year.
The Wild would seem to desperately need a pure scorer. But when they had one, he drove them crazy. Marian Gaborik (drafted third overall in 2000) still leads the franchise in goals scored and headaches caused. Eric Staal (picked second overall in 2003 by Carolina) tied Gaborik’s record for goals in a season while proving an ideal teammate and leader, and he cost the Wild a mere $10.5 million over three years.
As is usually the case, the Lynx vary from the local norm. Two No. 1 overall picks, Seimone Augustus and Maya Moore, became stars, and the team traded for Sylvia Fowles, who was a No. 2 overall pick. All have fulfilled their promise and delivered titles.
That’s not often how it works around here.
Kevin Garnett and Kevin Love are the two most accomplished players in Wolves history. Garnett was considered a reach with the fifth pick in an era when high school players were considered high-risk, and the trade of O.J. Mayo for Love, also a fifth pick, was widely jeered. The acquisition of Wiggins was widely cheered, and the prevalent assumption at the time was that Wiggins was a much better player than Klay Thompson, who has continued to improve and has become a key figure on a dynasty.
This isn’t to say any local team shouldn’t value high draft picks, or be patient with them. I believe Sano and Buxton will become quality players, if blessed with reasonably good health.
But the recent history of Twin Cities sports highlights the uncertainty tied to any supposedly super prospect. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Wolves first-round pick Josh Okogie outperform players taken ahead of him in the draft … or to see players taken behind him outperform Okogie.