3 Minnesota Timberwolves players are too low in ESPN’s rankings

Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /
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Minnesota Timberwolves, Karl-Anthony Towns
Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Timberwolves might have three players in ESPN’s top 100 rankings, but each of them was ranked too low in comparison to their peers.

The Minnesota Timberwolves have one true superstar. That much is indisputable.

But what Wolves’ brass thinks they have around that superstar clearly isn’t thought of in the same way by the general public. That is, at least not if ESPN’s annual player rankings are any indication.

ESPN ranked three Wolves players in the top 100 (subscription required). But only one player was in the top 25 — or even in the top 50. That came as a bit of a surprise, especially in light of some of the other player ranking exercises out there.

Let’s go through it, starting with Ricky Rubio. Then, D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns.

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio ranked No. 93 by ESPN

Rubio was ranked No. 84 last year by ESPN. Then, he went out and started 65 games (out of 73) for a resurgent Phoenix Suns squad that went 8-0 in the bubble. He helped take Devin Booker from high-volume scorer and terrible defender to true stardom. (Incidentally, Booker ranked No. 30 on last year’s ESPN list. He jumped to No. 17 this year.)

Not only that, but Rubio’s individual game improved, too. He shot a career-best 36.1 percent on 3-point attempts, including 37.9 percent from the corners, and his assist rate clocked in at 39.7 percent — Rubio’s best since 2015-16, the second-to-last season in his first go-round with the Wolves.

By almost any measure this was one of Rubio’s best years in the league, if not his best. In terms of team success, he was a key leader on a rising team in the rough-and-tumble Western Conference.

Just ask Booker himself about what Rubio brings to the table. From Jace Frederick of the Pioneer Press:

"…a reporter asked Booker this week if playing alongside Rubio made life for the elite scorer easier “at times.” “Easier at times?” Booker asked. “Easier at all times.” … From his playmaking to his impact on the franchise’s culture, Rubio changed the trajectories of both Phoenix and Booker for the better. “I’ll never forget what he’s done for my career,” Booker said."

Yes, this ESPN ranking is not being done in a vacuum; just because a player has improved his own game year-over-year doesn’t mean he could not have been surpassed by another player.

But ranking the likes of Mitchell Robinson (No. 92), Buddy Hield (No. 87), and former Jazz teammate Joe Ingles (No. 91) ahead of Rubio seemed to be … suspect, at best. There are some other questionable ones, too, including John Wall coming off a major injury at No. 81 and Josh Richardson at No. 80, to name a couple.

To be clear, Rubio’s ranking isn’t egregious. Something around the No. 80 mark, slightly higher than last year’s placement, seems about right.

Now, on to the most egregious of the Wolves’ rankings…