The three players who scored the most points last night, played the most minutes, have most-defined a three-game winning streak that has the Wolves back to .500 and who seem to be making up the identity and core of this year's team the most can be traced -- like some of their teammates as well -- back to one night: June 26, 2008, and that year's NBA draft. (And yes, that was the last draft under the old regime, which doesn't change our opinion that David Kahn gets a good deal of credit for the turnaround here).
Let's start with the obvious:
*Kevin Love was drafted No. 5 overall by Memphis, then traded to the Wolves as part of a deal for No. 3 pick O.J. Mayo. Love has become an All-Star and top-10 NBA player. Mayo is nice, but he's not that.
*With the first pick of the second round -- a choice that originally belonged to Miami but was obtained from Boston in 2006 in the Wally Szczerbiak deal -- the Wolves took Nikola Pekovic. He was described as a lottery-type talent, but he had just signed a big contract with his team overseas, thus making him a much better fit in the second round instead of the guaranteed-money first round. Several teams tried to pry the pick away from the Wolves in order to get at Pek, but the Wolves grabbed him and are now reaping the benefits.
*Also chosen by other teams that year before arriving on the Wolves: No. 2 overall pick Michael Beasley and No. 14 pick Anthony Randolph, both of whom have been (and can continue to be) key contributors to this year's team. Beasley (somewhat shockingly) leads the team in three-point percentage (40.9) and is capable of scoring 30 points any night. Randolph has the length, if not the strength, to provide valuable minutes down low.
The less obvious:
*The Love trade included two more very important pieces, one going out and the other coming back. Going out: Marko Jaric, who had come to symbolize one of the worst trades in franchise history. He's not the biggest piece of that awful trade that sent out Sam Cassell AND a first-round pick, but more on that in a little bit. Coming in: Various pieces, including Mike Miller. Though Miller no longer wished to do his primary job here -- shooting three-pointers -- he still had enough value the following year for the Wolves to use him as one of two primary pieces (along with Randy Foye) to obtain the No. 5 pick in the 2009 draft from the Wizards. That, of course, turned into Ricky Rubio.
*Knowing Pek was arriving in 2010 and having traded away O.J. Mayo -- who certainly wouldn't be an overall upgrade over Kevin Love but would have solved the team's shooting guard situation -- could have influenced the decision in the 2010 draft to take Wes Johnson over DeMarcus Cousins. Johnson has struggled mightily in many facets of the game this year, but he is tied for the team lead with 30 games started.
*With several guards already under contract, the Wolves decided to trade their No. 34 pick in the second round to the Heat. They selected Mario Chalmers -- taking him specifically for the Heat. Chalmers has been a very effective NBA player, and had he been chosen to stay here, who knows how he could have influenced the 2009 draft (Rubio, Flynn) or future acquisitions (Luke Ridnour, J.J. Barea).
So interestingly enough, Love is the only player who was on the 2008-09 roster who still remains here. But if you look closely, you can see how much the 2008 draft has influenced this team. Their four leading scorers can be traced to it either directly or indirectly. And nearly halfway into this season -- one Wolves fans actually wish could go longer, as opposed to most recent years -- it has the ability to decrease the damage from one more franchise negative. As you'll recall, that first-round pick to the Clippers (since shipped to New Orleans in the Chris Paul deal) is no longer lottery protected and will come due in 2012 no matter what. Should the Wolves make the playoffs, the sting will be far less noticeable. Wouldn't it be nice if the damage from a terrible trade in 2005 was lessened in 2012 with the help of one night in 2008?