Souhan: Winners, not Wolves, write draft history

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 22, 2013 - 10:06 AM

The Timberwolves will make the ninth pick in the 2013 NBA draft. Rodney Williams should be available.

Star forward Kevin Love represented the team at the lottery Tuesday night and carried a Ricky Rubio action figure. Only the Wolves would consider a guy who broke his knuckles doing pushups holding a doll of a guy who blew out his knee to be a symbol of luck.

What’s stunning about the Wolves’ draft misfortunes over the past eight years is that they couldn’t have gone much worse if David Kahn had run all of them. With a little more insight and a tad more luck, the Wolves could have one of the NBA’s best and deepest rosters.

Here’s a look at what happened in the drafts that made the Wolves what they aren’t:

2005

The pick: Rashad McCants at 14.

The mistake: Danny Granger went to the Pacers at 17.

McCants was an undersized guard who needed to score to make up for his lack of size and intensity. He was a terrible pick because everyone who paid attention knew that North Carolina couldn’t wait for him to leave. Granger has become a star-caliber player at a position of great need for the Wolves, small forward.

Had the Wolves landed Granger, they might not have made subsequent mistakes. McCants’ lousy attitude led the Wolves to overemphasize character when drafting Corey Brewer, and later led to bringing in Michael Beasley to fill a scoring void.

2006

The pick: Brandon Roy at 6. The Wolves traded him for Randy Foye.

The mistake: This deal looked silly when Roy immediately became a star and Foye didn’t. Give then-Wolves boss Kevin McHale this much: He didn’t draft Roy because of his bad knees, and those knees shortened Roy’s career.

2007

The pick: Corey Brewer at 7.

The mistake: Joakim Noah, Brewer’s college teammate, went two picks later to Chicago. Brewer became a player valued for his “energy,” code for “He can’t shoot.” Noah has become one of the league’s better centers. The Wolves, with the 41st pick, also chose another “energy” player from Florida, Chris Richard. Seven picks later, Marc Gasol was selected. Gasol might be the best all-around center in the NBA.

2008

The pick: O.J. Mayo at 3. The Wolves traded him for Kevin Love.

The mistake: Maybe it was firing Kevin McHale after his most impressive draft since taking Kevin Garnett. Trading Mayo for Love was brilliant, and the Wolves landed Nikola Pekovic with the 31st pick and Mario Chalmers with the 34th, although they traded Chalmers to Miami.

2009

The pick: Ricky Rubio at 5 and Jonny Flynn at 6.

The mistake: What’s worse, letting Kahn run the draft, or letting Kahn run the draft before he hired a coach who might veto a stupid move like drafting Flynn instead of Steph Curry (to Golden State at 7)?

Kahn also took Ty Lawson at 18 and traded him to Denver. Rubio and Curry would have become the most entertaining backcourt in the game.

2010

The pick: Wes Johnson at 4.

The mistake: DeMarcus Cousins is 12 kinds of trouble, but he’s an immensely talented and productive center in a league with few of them, and he might have responded well to a gifted, respected coach such as Rick Adelman, or brought value in a trade. Johnson was not, is not and never will be an NBA player. The Pacers took Paul George at 10.

2011

The pick: Derrick Williams at 2.

The mistake: “Mistake” is too strong a word here. It’s bad luck to have the second pick in a weak draft, and Williams’ obvious talent justifies the decision. Taking Klay Thompson at 2 would have felt like a reach at the time — he went to the Warriors at 11 — but he developed into exactly the kind of shooting guard the Wolves need.

2012

The pick: The Wolves did not have a first-rounder.

With a little more insight and luck, the Wolves’ roster could currently contain, along with Rubio and Love, some combination of Gasol, Granger, George, Thompson, Lawson and Cousins.

The Wolves coulda been contenders. Quite easily, really.

 

Jim Souhan can be heard weekdays at noon and Sundays from 10 to noon on 1500 ESPN. His Twitter name is @SouhanStrib. jsouhan@startribune.com

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