The Timberwolves have three intriguing point guards on their roster and just tried to trade for the modern-day Steph Marbury. For all of their organizational changes, the perpetually struggling local basketball team still is trying to find the right player to run their show, same as it ever was, Wolves without end.
The two best players in franchise history are power forwards named Kevin, but the franchise history of point guards explains why the Timberwolves have ended all but one season without winning a playoff series.
The first draft pick in Wolves history landed UCLA point guard Pooh Richardson, and he would establish a trend. He would be good enough to market, good enough to keep the job, good enough to play in every Wolves game for seasons, but not good enough to elevate the franchise. So it would go.
As part of a larger deal, the Wolves traded Richardson for point guard Micheal Williams, a dynamic player whose career was ruined by injuries, bolstering the theory that Target Center is built on a burial ground or haunted by the same demons that would cause Wally Szczerbiak to forget instructions between huddle and inbounds play.
Then came the point guard open tryouts. Winston Garland. Darrick Martin. Terry Porter. Spud Webb!
The drafting of Marbury promised to alter the NBA landscape as well as Wolves history. But he finished his career having played fewer games with Minnesota than with New York, New Jersey or Phoenix.
Marbury’s pouty departure destroyed Minnesota’s chance to become an annual power, but Kevin Garnett’s greatness gave the Wolves a chance to win in the short term. Terrell Brandon took over and played well for two full seasons before injuries ended his career. He also mentored Chauncey Billups.
Minnesota was Billups’ fifth team and he emerged as a promising pro in his second season with the Wolves while taking over for Brandon. The Wolves let Billups leave in free agency and he became an NBA champion with Detroit.
Troy Hudson took over at point guard in 2002-03 and the Wolves again lost in the first round of the playoffs. Enter Sam Cassell, the Czar of Crude Celebrations.
Cassell led the Wolves to the Western Conference final, then hurt himself while apparently imitating someone with long arms carrying heavy luggage down a narrow staircase. He took the Wolves to the brink of a title then threw away their chance to win.
The Wolves have been looking for a more responsible version of Cassell ever since.
Marcus Banks. Marko Jaric. Mike James. Randy Foye. Sebastian Telfair. Kevin Ollie. Their short stays or eventual failures led to the pièce de résistance of Wolves history, the 2009 draft.
David Kahn passed on Steph Curry and took two lesser point guards: Jonny Flynn and Ricky Rubio. Flynn was a bust. Rubio has evoked memories of Richardson and many other Wolves point guards as a reasonably effective player unable to elevate his team.
Unsatisfied with Rubio, new basketball boss Tom Thibodeau used the fifth pick in the draft on a replacement, Kris Dunn, who has underperformed his draft status. Thibodeau has used promising youngster Tyus Jones sparingly and just tried to trade for faded star Derrick Rose, who would have brought a U-Haul’s worth of baggage and bum knees to Minnesota.
The Wolves haven’t made the playoffs since Cassell’s celebration. Thibodeau is earnestly looking for his Cassell, or Billups, or unselfish Marbury.
Just because he didn’t trade Rubio this week doesn’t mean he won’t stop searching. Thibodeau probably will trade Rubio this summer, then decide whether Dunn is worthy of the starting job on a promising team, or whether Thibodeau will have to regret his first important personnel move as the Timberwolves’ basketball boss and use the next draft to erase his mistake.
Wolves history tells us that even the right point guard might wind up hurt, jettisoned and belatedly appreciated, or simply problematic.
To fix the Wolves, Thibodeau needs to pick the right point guard to translate his sideline screams into action.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at MalePatternPodcasts.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. firstname.lastname@example.org