Minnesota Timberwolves: Evaluating ESPN’s all-time Wolves lineup

Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

ESPN released all-time starting lineups for each team this week. Did they get the group of Minnesota Timberwolves’ players right?

We’ve looked at various all-time Minnesota Timberwolves lists here at Dunking With Wolves, but we have yet to try and boil things down to a starting five.

This week, ESPN’s NBA writers put together starting fives for each team around the league, which gives us a fun list to evaluate.

Most recently, we voted as a staff on the top three players at each position throughout franchise history. We’ll compare ESPN’s list to that one, as well as the top-30 all-time Wolves players list yours truly put together back in 2018.

First, let’s evaluate the list in question.

G: Ricky Rubio
G: Sam Cassell
F: Kevin Garnett
F: Kevin Love
C: Karl-Anthony Towns

It’s important to note that ESPN’s criteria for this list are what each of the players did during their career in a Wolves uniform, not before or after. That’s important, for instance, because while JImmy Butler was unquestionably a top-five player in Wolves history in terms of being at the peak of his powers, he spent less than a season’s worth of games in Minnesota.

Cassell, on the other hand, was the second-best player on the conference finals team, making the All-Star team and Second Team All-NBA. That’s enough for him to make the list.

Putting Garnett at the small forward spot is fudging things a bit, but for context, here’s what ESPN said regarding the parameters for their list in the intro to the above-linked article.

"In this era of “positionless” basketball, traditional positions don’t matter quite as much as they used to, so we allowed some flexibility in choosing a lineup — but you won’t see teams with four centers or three point guards. The idea was to dive into each team’s history and create a group that could at least potentially share the floor together."

This list seems right. For comparison, here is the starting five, with substitutes in parentheses, of the exercise we did here at Dunking With Wolves a few weeks ago.

PG: Ricky Rubio (Sam Cassell)
SG: Isaiah Rider (Jimmy Butler)
SF: Wally Szczerbiak (Latrell Sprewell)
PF: Kevin Garnett (Kevin Love)
C: Karl-Anthony Towns (Nikola Pekovic)

Not bad, right? If we had followed similar rules to ESPN’s Cassell surely would have beaten out Rider, and if positions weren’t a thing, Love would have beaten out Szczerbiak.

When we ranked the top 30 players in Wolves history back in 2018, ESPN’s entire starting give was in the top eight on our list. Compared to the position-oriented ranking from this year, Rider is the one outlier, but otherwise things track together fairly well.

Next. Draft profiles of current Wolves players. dark

If nothing else, this is a really run exercise. Would your all-time starting lineup look any different? Let us know your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter.