The NBA elected not to be overly generous to the Timberwolves and the Orlando Magic in the 1989 draft. The expansion teams were given the 10th and 11th selections.
The Wolves had the 10th and wound up choosing from a trio of point guards: Pooh Richardson, Mookie Blaylock or Tim Hardaway.
They went with Pooh. Blaylock had a better career, including an All-Star berth in 1994, and Hardaway had a much-better career, including five All-Star selections.
This was the start of a trend – defined as, “the general direction in which something develops.’’ Which means, the Wolves have not always been wrong with their first-round selections, just generally.
They did very well with high schooler Kevin Garnett in 1995 and coming away with Kevin Love in 2008. Karl-Anthony Towns was clear-cut as the No. 1 choice in 2015 and has been just a touch disappointing due to his distaste for defense.
The Wolves earned that first overall selection five years ago with the worst record in the NBA. This time, the Wolves had to beat out two other teams with the same share of Ping Pong balls – 14 percent – to go first.
There was not a name-value ticket seller in this draft, but there won’t be customers for a few weeks into a season very tentatively scheduled to start Dec. 22, and who knows?
Come March, fans could be back and Anthony Edwards might have proven to be a rare talent, ready to join KAT in leading the Wolves upward in both the standings (tied for 28th) and attendance (30th out of 30).
Edwards is 6-foot-5 and a mature-looking athlete for age 19. Sort of a Isaiah Rider Jr. quality to him, and let’s hope that comparison doesn’t go beyond the physical aspect.
I know. You’re asking yourself, “Did he have to go there – Rider? The kid just got drafted. Give him a break.’’
Here’s the counterpoint: If we veterans have learned one thing over the past three decades, it’s that there’s nothing more likely to make a sports writer eat his words than serving up optimism about our NBA representative.
The Wolves have played 31 seasons. They have had 16 seasons of 50 or more losses, and were robbed of No. 17 by the pandemic. They have had four seasons with 50 or more wins, and are 2-9 in playoff series.
This has not stopped scribes from desperate attempts to pay tribute to the Timberwolves. I found a column from 1992 saluting general manager Jack McCloskey’s ability to bring in Chuck (The Rifleman) Person and Micheal Williams from Indiana in a trade.
Two years later. McCloskey was being referred to as Trade Winds Jack (based on his fondness for the Maui Classic) and being honored as Turkey of the Year.
On June 26, 1996, there was unrestrained celebration when the Wolves came out of the draft with point guard Stephon Marbury. Immediately, this was declared to be the second straight year the Wolves had gotten the best player in the draft -- Marbury, following Garnett. And they were also alleged to be best buds.
The playoffs were discovered, but the West’s second coming of Malone/Stockton was never achieved. Marbury issued a “trade me or I walk’’ declaration in 1999, the reason being he wouldn’t be allowed under new NBA financial rules to get a contract as enormous as Garnett’s.
That’s the way it works in Woofs-land. Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell come in the fall of 2003 to assist Garnett in reaching the 2004 Western finals. Then, Sprewell and Cassell both complain about their contract situations, and the Wolves hit a bit of a slump -- 13 seasons without reaching the 16-team playoffs.
President/GM coach Tom Thibodeau makes a trade for Jimmy Butler in June 2017, hooray we shout, the playoffs are finally reached, and a column is typed on July 7, 2018: “Thibs due props for gigantic sea change.’’
Ten weeks later, it becomes public that Butler insists on a trade, he storms into a practice and bad mouths executives and players alike, he’s traded, we Minnesotans declare Jimmy to be self-centered jerk, and two years later, he’s putting a young Miami team on his back inside the Orlando bubble and carrying it to a six-game NBA final.
Even when the Wolves do the right thing, it’s the wrong thing.
Except there is now real hope – not only Wednesday’s draft bounty providing reinforcements, but signs of growth among players who took over key roles after basketball boss Gersson Rosas’ roster revamp before and at the February trade deadline.
When law enforcement searched Wolves guard Malik Beasley’s house in Plymouth recently after an “incident’’ involving his display of a weapon, they did find a tidy supply of marijuana, but next to it was also a notebook with specific instructions as to where enjoyment of the herb was prohibited within the residence, what with an urchin residing there.
Discipline. Maturity. Growing up before our eyes, this latest collection of rebuilding Wolves.
OK, not right away, with no fans allowed, but some day over the rainbow, we will be witness to this in-person.
ADDENDUM: This was about to be submitted as a print offering on Wednesday night when the news broke the Wolves had brought back Ricky Rubio in a trade. This was replaced by a salute to Ricky/s return. In other words, within roughly an hour, my own advice about avoiding optimism with the Wolves was ignored.