When the Wolves make the first pick in Thursday’s NBA draft, it feels like what could be a pivotal moment — for better or worse — in their franchise history. Nailing the pick gives Andrew Wiggins a running mate for the future. Drafting poorly would mean blowing a great chance for a turnaround.
Sometimes these moments are easier to see in retrospect. Here, then, are some of the defining moments in the past 20 years of Minnesota pro sports history, in chronological order — again, for better or worse:
• Wolves drafting Kevin Garnett: On June 28, 1995 — 20 years ago this coming Sunday — the Wolves took a skinny kid straight out of high school with the No. 5 pick in the NBA draft. It was the smartest thing they’ve ever done.
• Vikings drafting Randy Moss: Before Moss, the Vikings were a fringe playoff team that had a hard time selling out the Dome. Everything changed when they drafted him in 1998, and the ripple effect on a new generation of Vikings fans is still being felt.
• Twins staving off contraction: In 2001, there was serious talk of the Twins vanishing — or rather, being contracted into oblivion. Then Judge Harry Crump ordered them to honor their 2002 Metrodome lease, contraction talk died down and Minnesota won the division. Eight years later, Target Field opened — but glorious days like Wednesday afternoon almost never happened.
• Daunte Culpepper’s injury: As a 27-year-old in 2004, Culpepper threw for 4,717 yards with 39 touchdown passes and just 11 INTs while rushing for 406 more yards. He was a franchise quarterback, but the very next year he shredded his knee and was never the same. The Vikings spent close to a decade looking for their next franchise QB and hope they have one in Teddy Bridgewater.
• Wolves trading Garnett: Just as drafting KG was momentous, trading him in 2007 was an admission that their window had closed. It hasn’t opened back up since.
• Justin Morneau’s concussion: Morneau was hitting .345 with a 1.055 OPS in 2010 when, on July 7, he suffered a concussion that knocked him out of the rest of the season and affected him for the rest of his career. Morneau is now sadly dealing with another concussion and hasn’t played since May 13.
• Lynx winning lottery to select Maya Moore: The Lynx had a 27.6 percent chance of getting the No. 1 pick in the 2011 WNBA draft, while Tulsa had a better shot at 44.2 percent. But Minnesota snagged the pick, drafted Moore and the rest is franchise history.
• Wolves trading Kevin Love: Backed into a corner by their star player and his contract, the Wolves and personnel boss Flip Saunders parlayed Love into a trade last summer for Andrew Wiggins, who became the 2015 NBA Rookie of the Year and the main reason (in addition to this year’s No. 1 pick) that the franchise has hope.
• Wild trading for Devan Dubnyk: The Wild was a disaster last season before a midyear trade for Dubnyk. The goalie put up huge numbers, not only helping the Wild get to the second round of the playoffs but preserving the organization’s course. If not for the turnaround, it’s possible this offseason would have brought about much bigger changes in the franchise’s direction.